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The Heartbreak of a Sister (Myth of the Onion)
“Why didn’t he even look at me?” The tears were welling up in the eyes of Buyas as she knelt in front of the altar. She couldn’t even pray as she graciously did before. All she could do was struggle to keep the tears from falling down her cheeks.
But her lips were already trembling, she started to bite them. She couldn’t will her face not to look as miserable as she felt at that moment. As she bowed her head, instantly her knees became wet with teardrops.
It was love. That feeling that can be as cruel as it is gentle. That feeling that gives you so much joy that you see yourself soaring to the high heavens and all of a sudden it takes your wings away, sending you crashing to the ground, just so it can try to fix you again in one piece with one sweet embrace. It was love.
But Buyas had never felt the gentle face of love. All she ever tasted was its cruelty. And how cruel it was! What could be crueler than the boy of her dreams and the sister she dearly cared about, the two persons she loved most, loving one another? She couldn’t even be angry at them since she never revealed her feelings to anyone. She wasn’t even sure that Justine knew she existed. All he really saw was her sister.
Sayud was the most beautiful girl in their village. Her beauty encompasses not only her appearance but also her kindness that she wouldn’t even let Buyas kill for her the mosquito that bit her, and her grace that everyone looked at her whenever they saw her smile while smelling the flowers she had picked.
Buyas loved her sister dearly. Ever since their father died, Buyas would watch over her sister when their mother went out to work. She did most of the housework and she never had time to make herself look good.
Once, her mother asked Buyas to prepare a meal right after she took a bath.
“Buyas, your sister has a suitor and I want you to cook a meal for him while I watch over them.” Her mother was smiling excitedly. It was an uncommon sight ever since she mourned her husband’s death.
“Okay, Ma. I’ll prepare it right away. But too bad for me that she’s getting suitors before I am.” Buyas let out a silly laugh.
Her mother smiled to console her. “You know your sister’s getting suitors very early because you have groomed her into this very adorable person, right?” They smiled at each other.
“Okay, I’ll go prepare the meal now, Ma.” And Buyas did so with skill. If there was one thing that her father left for her before he died, it was the knowledge of the different uses of herbs and plants. May it be medicine or seasoning, she could do it with the help of Mother Nature.
Having prepared the food, she started serving it to the guest. Then she realized that it was Justine, the boy she had a crush on since she was a little girl. He was famous with her friends for being the only son of a rich rancher but she liked him for a simpler reason—the way that he smiled with his lips to one side of his face, with one dimple showing.
By the time she noticed that she forgot to comb her hair and that she didn’t even wear a matching pair of slippers, she was already in front of her sister’s guest. She tried to hide her identity by pushing her hair in front of her face. No sooner than she did this than she knew it failed.
“Hi, Buyas,” Justine said smiling, his lips to one side of his face, with one dimple showing.
“Hi...” She felt her face turning red so she set the table faster. In her hurry, she accidentally got wounded by a knife.
“Ow!” She looked at her finger, the red dot on it getting bigger. She got angry at herself for being so clumsy.
Then Justine grabbed her hand and put a cloth around the wound.
“You have to be careful when handling sharp objects, Buyas.”
She could see the concern in his eyes. This was the moment in her life that she thought that the gods had immortalized her. It was as if she stopped breathing. She couldn’t feel the blood running through her veins. She couldn’t even feel her heart throbbing. All she could feel were Justine’s hands holding her hand.
“Have the gods turned me into an immortal vampire?” She looked from his eyes to his smooth neck with bits of sweat on it. She looked at his fair body then at their hands holding. She snapped out of it.
“Uh, e-excuse me. I’ll just c-clean the wound.” She stuttered through the sentence and ran away from sight.
She spent the remainder of Justine’s visit eavesdropping over their conversation. In this way, she got to know more about Justine.
After that day, Justine never left her mind. Tinap, the dream goddess who first introduced Justine to Buyas when she was a little girl, had bound Justine to her dreams. Whenever Buyas slept, she would surely see Justine.
Then one day, while she was at the meadows with her sister, she heard the sweet sound of Justine’s voice.
“Buyas, wait for me!” Justin was running towards her.
“J-Justine... Hey there...”
“I went at your house and your mother told me that I would see Sayud here?”
“Yes, she’s there picking some flowers.”
Then they heard laughter. They both walked towards the voice and found Sayud dancing around in the meadows smiling at the flowers in her hand. Then suddenly she lay flat on the ground and rolled over, still laughing.
“Isn’t your sister amazing?” Justin gaped at Sayud, love evidently in his eyes.
Well, she wanted to say yes but instead she saved her breath, as Justin was clearly not listening. Justin ran towards Sayud while Buyas ran away from them.
“Sister, I am going to visit the ranch of Justine’s father today. Justine invited me. I want you to come with me.” Sayud said to Buyas one day.
“Do I have to go too?” She wanted to go.
“Of course, sister, you have to go! I want you there with me. Please, sister.”
Buyas looked to one side with indifference. “Sure.”
When they arrived at the ranch, they looked everywhere for Justine but they couldn’t find him. And then they heard men’s voices shouting.
“You forgot to tie it right!”
“Hurry, throw the rope!”
“Perhaps we must use some carrots and milk?”
“Don’t be stupid!”
“Don’t let it get away!”
After that a monstrous black horse appeared in front of her and Sayud. Before they could even dodge, the wild neighing animal ran over them. Both of them were injured fatally.
“Nooo!” It was Justine. Buyas saw him running towards them. But he ran past her and embraced Sayud with tears of genuine concern running through his face.
After that, Buyas fainted.
Both Buyas and Sayud survived but Buyas’s heart was devastated. She decided to end her pain by talking to the gods.
“Why didn’t he even look at me?” She cried bitterly. “All I want is to see him look at me like that. That sweet look... He even cried...”
Then she took the bowl in her hands and took in its contents. This bowl contained the necessary herbs that will put a person to eternal sleep, sending whoever ate it forever in the realms of Tinap.
The goddess Tinap had always favoured Buyas among the mortals. And because of this, she turned the sleeping Buyas into a plant that, when cut, it made people cry. Tinap talked to Palayao, the god who gives names, to name the plant, “Sibuyas,” the nominative form of the name “Buyas.”
“Sibuyas” is the Filipino word for onion.
After Buyas disappeared, Justine found it hard to sleep at night. Tinap had banished him from her realm and he never dreamt again.
In one of these sleepless nights, Justine went out for a walk. He noticed a new plant growing near their house. He tried to uproot the plant and when it got separated from the ground, he saw that it seemed to have a round edible part. He went back inside their house to try it.
As he was removing the peel and cutting the plant, tears rolled down from his eyes.
Why do onions make us cry?
Cutting an onion damages its internal structure which causes several enzymes in it to be mixed up and to cause chemical reactions. This produces a volatile gas, the onion lachrymatory factor, which reaches the eyes. The gas creates a stinging sensation and in return the eyes produce tears to get rid of the irritant.
This is not really harmful but if you want to avoid watery eyes while cutting onions, you may submerge them under water while chopping. You may also use a fan to waft off the tear-causing gas produced by onions, or wear goggles to block it.