The following is a retelling of a writing assignment I did in high school:
The story begins when all of the old Filipino legends force-fed to gullible students begin: the time of Spanish Subjugation. In this case, Manila was already Christianized, but not yet industrialized (will it ever be?). It means that Manila was then a literal walled city, housing the nation’s elite. The Chinese, the tradesmen and the Indios had to be out of the walls (extra muros) before nighttime or face one of the human rights violations exposed by the late Jose Rizal.
Back then, there was no National Capital Region. There was only Manila, surrounded by a variety of provinces with mountains and forests such as San Juan, Morong, Mandaluyong and Makati. Tondo back then was a suburban neighborhood. Let that sink into your brain.
It was a time when the Pasig River was a place where trade flourished and people swam. It was also a time when roads started to suck that the water was a major thoroughfare. Towns clustered around the banks of the Pasig to benefit from the trade from Manila Bay to Laguna. Among these towns is a small village. In this village lived a family of Indios. This particular family’s name consisted of a father, mother, and a daughter. They were poor, and forgotten, as poor people go. Nothing was ever known about them, their jobs, their names, or their eventual fate except that they were very devout to the worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
It was then said that the waters of the Pasig rose one evening, defying the effects of Global Warming by 300 years. The flood caused unhappiness and destruction over the land, with people caught unprepared as they were awakened by the rushing waters. The family was no stranger to floods like this, but they were caught unawares. The water had risen up to the father’s neck, and he had to carry his daughter on his shoulders. They went outside and climbed up the nipa roof to await the morning. There was no rescue until daybreak.
No one knows what happened. Perhaps there was a prayer. Maybe someone saw fit to help them. But lo, they saw, in the dim purple light, a flat thing like a raft, floating to them. With the naivete of poor people, they decided to take a risk and ride the table, for it was a simple piece of wood, where it may take them.
Maybe it was a natural coincidence. Maybe it was divine. For the family, and their friends, it was a holy thing. They called it a holy table, a symbol of the altar in church when the priest says Mass. In today’s language it gave its name to the place, Sta. Mesa.
The original assignment in Filipino – Panitikan was to write our own legend. What I wrote was a very simple story, written on the spur of the moment, and very forgettable than the one scribed here. In fact, the only things I included from the original story was the flood and the floating table. But my Filipino teacher, a hardcore “born-again Christian “(he is a member of Foursquare Calvary Church), liked the story so much that I never forgot it either. Thank you, Mr. Maniago.