I remember the first time I went to America in 1986. After a week of arriving in San Francisco, I noticed that I was missing something in my person. I checked my neck, it wasn’t there. I checked my wrist, it wasn’t there. My ankle, elbows, even the back of my ears. It was gone. I lost my libag.
It was remarkable. Libag had always been with me all my life in the Philippines. I tried to perform a simple rite — not taking a shower for two days — to see if I can resurrect it in America. The rite wasn’t hard to do since the air in San Francisco was chilly even inside the house. But it didn’t work. The cold dry air might have scared it away. It was truly gone.
Honestly, I was happy that it had gone away during my stay. The cold air in San Francisco was so uninviting for showers even with hot water. With libag gone, I can just take a shower every other day. And there’s no more scrubbing off that grime that gathers on the folds on my wrist. No more scratching of that itchy dust that cakes on my neck during hot and humid weather. No more picking of that dirt on my finger nails. No more libag.
I guess it decided to stay behind in the Philippines. But like the Japanese dog, Hachiko, waiting for its master, my libag was there waiting for me when I landed at the airport in Manila, as it has always done that every time I leave for America. As I now live in the Philippines with my family, it has stuck like a loyal pet, despite the discouragement of frequent showers. And my American husband and son now too have their own libag.