First a little bit about Isobelle.
Isobelle Cate is a woman who wears different masks. Mother-writer, wife-professional, scholar-novelist. Currently living in Manchester, she has been drawn to the little known, the secret stories, about the people and the nations: the English, the Irish, the Scots, the Welsh, and those who are now part of these nations whatever their origins. Her vision and passion are fueled by her interest and background in history and paradoxically, shaped by growing up in a clan steeped in lore, loyalty, and legend.
Isobelle is intrigued by forces that simmer beneath the surface of these cultures, the hidden passions, unsaid desires, and yearnings unfulfilled.
It is 1607. The Spanish have landed on the shores of the Philippines to pacify the natives, convert them to Christianity, and mine the islands for its gold.
Headstrong and loyal, Lakam, a Babaylan, refuses to submit to Spanish imperial authority and convert to Christianity. With her village destroyed and her people killed, she seeks refuge in the Cave of Rituals in the jungle vastness of the sacred mountains, but she is caught, raped and tortured. On the eve of her execution, she regains her freedom with the help of her jailer, Joaquin Santiago, who refuses to see her killed. Now a remontada (outlaw), Lakam realizes the old ways will cease to exist unless she finds a way for it to continue in the ruined ashes of the world she knows
“Will you convert?” Fray Moreno’s disembodied voice came from the shadows after one session of whipping.
“You expect me to convert after what all of you have done to me?” Lakam asked, hysterical laughter bubbling inside her. The gash on her lower lip opened bringing sharp pain. She continued, “I’d rather die than join you.”
“Then you will rot in Hell.”
Lakam looked up. “If what you call Hell is filled with never ending torture with people who find pleasure in the pain of others, I am already in it. You are the evil one in the flesh.” Fray Moreno walked towards the battered and bruised Lakam.
“Why do you persist on doing this to yourself?” his voice was as thin as a reed.
“I have done nothing wrong!” Lakam cried.
“Not believing in God is a sin.”
“And who gave you the right to purge this so called sin by violating me? Does this man on the cross you call God allow you to rape my people and take our wealth in the guise of saving souls? How many more do you have to defile?” she lashed.
Lakam thought her head would crack from the force of the slap on the side of her head. Her head lolled from side to side before it stopped and remained bowed. Her once flowing and shiny hair, now mottled with sweat and blood, partially covered a face nearly beaten to a pulp. Her arms, tied around the chair she was sitting on ached painfully at the tightness of her bonds; but she refused to give her torturers the satisfaction of seeing her in pain. She forced herself to remember the chants that would deaden the pain and that would take her partially out of her body to give her a chance to think.
“Bathala will speak to your God to damn you to the land of all evil. Then you will truly know what Hell is.” She murmured through her hair.
“If you convert and pay tribute in gold to the Crown as subjects of the king, all this pain will stop.” Fray Moreno knelt in front of her bloodied form. She looked at the vile object in front of her through the crumpled curtain of her hair. With all the strength she could muster, she spat at his face catching him off guard.
“What are you after exactly? The conversion of my people or the coveting of our gold? No matter what you do you will not get anything from me. Nunca!” Lakam hissed.
Fray Moreno grabbed a handful of hair jerking her head, forcing her to look at his face filled with hatred and lustful longing. Lakam winced.
“Then you will die.”
Fray Moreno shoved her back so hard her chair tipped backward and remained on one side. She screamed in agony as the fall dislocated her shoulder.
“Prepare her to meet her Bathala, Teniente.” Fray Moreno said without emotion to the lieutenant who had watched everything from the dark corner of the cell. “She dies at dawn.”
Tears trickled down Lakam’s cheeks. It crossed over the bridge of her nose before creating a puddle on the stone floor.
Lakam smiled through her cracked lips.
It would finally be over.
Here are some places you can find Isobelle.
Thank you, Isobelle, for joining us in the garden today. I enjoyed getting to know a little about you and your new story.