My mother-in-law angrily stood with a bolo in her hand, poised and ready to strike her 13-year-old niece Shaina whom she had suspected of stealing 200 pesos from her. Only my sister-in-law Alida's firm grip on her mother's arm prevented the crazed lola from striking the terrified girl. My wife was nearby desperately urging her mother to calm down. My spouse was pleading with her mother to determine if the money was just misplaced since lola has been forgetful lately. Her nanay was adamant that the money was stolen, and she was positive Shaina was the thief.
After Alida and my wife finally managed to separate my agitated mother-in-law from Shaina, I took the young girl aside and asked if she had stolen her lola's money. With tears in her eyes and looking me straight in the eyes, she replied “no.” I assured her that lola or no one else was going to hurt her if she had taken the pesos, I just wanted to know the truth.
Again, she looked me in the eyes and said “no.” I believed her. “Did Sherwin (her ten-year-old brother) take lola's money?” I asked. Shaina shook her head “yes” and replied “maybe.” “Are you sure?” She again shook her head “yes.” Was she just trying to shift the blame to her sibling to take the pressure off her? I honestly didn't think so.
I was off to find Sherwin, lola's favorite, that had slept in the same bed with his grandmother since he was three years old and continued to do so. I went to our back yard area, literally on the edge of a jungle, and caught a glimpse of my young nephew attempting to hide by a coconut tree.
I called out to him, and asked if he had taken his lola's money. Sherwin looked down and said nothing. I did not raise my voice to him, but firmly asked again. He barely squeaked out a “no”, still refusing to look at me. I asked one more time, and again did not get a response. I took him to the nipa hut in our front yard where my sister-in-law lives, and where my wife was discussing the situation with Alida, so they could question our nephew in his native Hiligaynon language.
I told them that I had spoken to Shaina and Sherwin and what Shaina had said about her brother. Sherwin merely kept his downcast look and barely whispered a “no” to his two titas (aunts.) My wife also felt that Shaina was innocent and couldn't say if her mother had actually been robbed or not. My asawa felt that she would broken under the extreme pressure her grandmother had displayed. We both suspected Sherwin of the crime.
Lola kept her money locked up in a wardrobe dresser in her room, but both Shaina and Sherwin knew where the key was kept. So the mystery remains unsolved. If the money was not actually stolen, just misplaced, the accusation of being a thief is a harsh one. However, if the money was taken, thievery would not be tolerated in this household. A very unsettling ending to our Christmas Eve.
My wife has now determined that she believes a theft has occurred, so she is having our niece and nephew polish our floors throughout "The Compound" today. The floor wax, "Star Wax" brand, is a paste wax that has to be applied by hand. She believes some kind of punishment has to be meted out. As " King" of "The Compound", I concur with her. A wise king always agrees with his queen.