Charlson Ong’s “How My Cousin Manuel Brought Home a Wife” in THE BEST PHILIPPINE SHORT STORIES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

The narrator’s cousin stayed away from his family for 20 years.  Suddenly, he re-surfaced, a Brazilian wife in tow.  The narrator was given the task of picking them up from the airport.  Upon arriving home with the romantic pair, mayhem ensued (P.S. The narrator’s and his family are Filipino Chinese):

Mother threw something at me, missing by an inch while Mei Lu wailed.  “You call that a daughter-in-law?”


“Ah Jiyet, just shut up.”  Mother was all set to explode.  You could tell she was loading up whenever she took to call me by my Chinese name.  “Why did you bring them here, you idiot?”

Mother’s query clawed away my last skin of good humor.  “What?” I nearly choked.  “Where was I supposed to bring them?”

“To a hotel . . . anywhere . . . “

“This is just great,” I blurted.  “So now it’s all my fault.”

“When will you ever grow up?” Mother countered my exasperation with what seemed like genuine disgust.

“I think you’re both crazy,” I nearly screamed and Mother was about to hurl another projectile my way when Mei Lu wailed:  “O ke kiam tua kno waah . . .

“Big and black . . .  big and black,” the woman moaned like some professional mourner weeping over a mutilated corpse.  “She’s bigger than the Great Wall and blacker than the pit of my kettle.”

“She’ll bear big children,” I blurted and Mother had more or less given up on trying to control the whole scene.  “Big and black . . . ” Mei Lu kept on.  “Big and black children.  Oh . . .  Ah Di ah . . . what have you done?  Why didn’t you look after your only son?  Are you too busy laying women in the netherworld of burning in hell that you should allow this tragedy?  What will your ancestors say?  They will tear me to pieces in the afterlife and curse me till eternity’s end . . . “

“You know how much they make these days in the NBA?” I rambled on, but Mother was beyond railing.  “Carlos, please.  This may all seem very funny to you, but it isn’t.  It really isn’t.”

“She’s a healer,” I said.

Mother scowled:  “What?”

“She’s a psychic healer.  You know, voodoo stuff . . . zombie specials . . . “

Mother attacked me with the folded 20-page ads of the Sunday Bulletin, forcing me out of the room.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


  1. Jayde-Ashe said,

    September 9, 2013 at 4:56 am

    Sounds like a great story so far! Can’t wait to read the next bit 🙂

  2. September 9, 2013 at 5:05 am

    I’ll try and post more. I tend to read very VERY slowly. I thought this part was just too good not to share.

  3. paul said,

    March 5, 2017 at 12:04 am

    will somebody compare and contrast the charlson story and manuel arguillas story. i cant get it

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