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  • I told the following story, which is based on a couple of true events, to (re)enchant my high school classmates, including an old flame, during our high school reunion in the mountains. I don’t think the enchantment, if there was one, lingered, but the campfire memories built were well-worth it.
    There was this young woman who lived at the foot of the mountains, by the sea, before the war broke. Although she was the daughter of a fisherman, she preferred the mountains, where the abaca trees grew, to the sea. The abaca fiber allowed her to make the ropes and the nets that the fishermen used. She also used it to weave clothes and simple crafts.

    In one of the town fiestas, she met an out-of-towner who also loved the mountains rather than the sea. They fell in love, and decided that they should elope one night (as she is already betrothed to another fisherman, whom she didn’t love)

    But the war broke. And the man had to go to the city and fight. But not before the woman wove a delicate knot from the fiber of her abaca leaves and tied it onto the wrist of her beloved, to remind him to come back for her, that they are forever entwined.

    The war came and went. All the men who could come back had come back, including the fisherman to whom her hand was promised in marriage. Determined to find the beloved, and not to be doomed to a loveless marriage, she escaped to the city, where, she heard, her beloved was last seen.

    While looking for her beau, she found, through her cousin, a job as a cleaning lady in one of the churches that had a parochial school on its grounds. One of her duties is to maintain the girls’ washrooms.

    Not long after settling in, though, she finally learned the truth: her beloved was killed in the war. Grieving and hopeless and not wanting to go back alone to the mountains by the sea, she turned to the last sinews of abaca from which she made a knot for her beloved and made a knot for herself — a much longer and stronger one. The following day she was found hanging from the ceiling of the girls’ washroom in the school.

    She was, at last, entwined with her beloved — forever.

    To this day, it is said that the girls’ washroom is haunted, that sometimes sobbing can be heard from one of the empty stalls.

    The truthful elements of the story are these:

    I had a great aunt who hanged herself using abaca rope, that she herself twined, up a mountain because she was being forced to marry a man she didn’t love

    One of the girls’ washrooms of the Catholic school I attended was rumored to have been haunted by a lady.

    My mother grew up in the mountains where she learned to extract abaca fibers from abaca trees and wove them into useful things, including fish nets, tennis nets and clothes.
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