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With your hosts, myself, Clif Knight and Dev Ramsawakh
On Jumbie, we’re going to hear dark and haunting stories from local storytellers that are inspired or about the spirits, monsters and other cryptids from colonized places.
These are stories that don’t often get to be told on larger stages.
Not everybody grows up with stories of vampires and werewolves, or at least like the ones you can buy books about.
Then we’ll sit in conversation with our storyteller to explore their relationship with their story with horror and how colonization ties into any of that.
On this episode, we have Patrick Salvani, or in drag, Ms. Nookie Galore. Having been raised to fear everything. Patrick has an uncomfortable relationship with stories that haunt us. Creator of shows like Scary Stories People of Colour Tell in the Dark, Ms. Galore’s storytelling reminds us that dreaming is part of our survival and that nightmares are dreams too.
And Patrick or Ms. Galore will be telling the story, Pasalubong.
Pasalubong by Patrick Salvani, AKA Ms. Nookie Galore.
My grandmother once told me when the kumakatok come there wulang pugasa: no hope.
I stand in front of my past, my parents, my baby sister, distant relatives, old friends, and recognizable strangers. They all stare up at me as they wait for me to start. The warmth of the lights only make me think of how tight my pants are and how my tucked in shirt makes my stomach pop out.
I hate it here. I pulled the mic closer to my trembling lips.
“I miss you so much, grandma,” I stutter as I let my tears flow the sound reverberates throughout the church. I pause, trying to regain my composure, my eyes fixate on three tall white candles burning beside the podium. I watch as the wax drips along the candlesticks and pools around the base.
I want to tell everyone of how I grew up listening to my grandma’s stories in the Philippines. About her washing clothes where the caribou drank water. How her mother taught her how to make candles for All Saints’ Day. Frightening stories of Aswang, Multo and bad omens. Or how she conceived my father to some asshole during the Second World War thinking she wouldn’t survive.
I want to tell them that every time she held my hand, I knew I was safe. Instead, all I can mutter was, “Grandma, I learned so much from you about family. Though I could always tell you long to be home. You were home. I was home when I was with you.”
Knock, knock, knock.
I grumble, “What the fuck?” and roll side to side in bed.
It’s my first night in Toronto from Calgary, back from the funeral back from being with my family. I was back alone and scared.
Knock, knock, knock.
A loud gust of wind blows against my blinds and my eyes snap open.
Knock knock, knock.
I feel a chill seep into my room as my muscles tighten and instinctively my body starts to curl into a ball under my sheets. I wait silently and without moving. After half an hour of complete stillness, my fear turns into tiredness and my tiredness turns into uneasy dreams of my grandma. I’m surrounded by narrow walls, lit dimly by candles on the ground. It’s quiet and eerie. I feel a sense of familiarity. As I looked down to see my hands holding tight to the handlebars of a wheelchair, where my grandmother sits, her head resting on her chest.
Every step I take is slow and with intention. I’m at my grandma’s nursing home, the screams and bellows of other seniors on the sound of scurrying nurses are only faint echoes within the dark emptiness. My grandma’s stares ahead as her voice finds life.
“I heard them knock last night. When the kumakatok come, there is wulang pugasa. Someone in our family will die and there’s nothing you can do.”
My throat clenches tightly. Unexpectedly, my grandmother raises her small and fragile hands toward me. I suddenly find my hand cradled in hers. She grasped my fingers and lifts her head.
“The kumakatok are here.”
Ring, ring ring!
I wake up, half consciously placed my phone against my ear and blurt out, “Wulang pugasa!”
“What? You okay, buddy,” a familiar voice beckons.
I mumble, “huh?”
“You okay? Remember we made plans. We’re welcoming you back. We’ll be there in an hour to pick you up.”
I shake off my lingering dream. “Yeah, yeah. I remember. Can’t wait.”
As I get dressed in my room, the memories, the knocking and fear for both my sister and parents safety weave into a routine of me pacing, calling, pacing, calling, pacing. No answer. Where is my family?
My friends Raph, Nadine and Kari arrive an hour later to pick me up. I opened the door as they all hugged me tightly. I didn’t care that my hair was a mess with sweat dripping down my forehead, because at that moment it felt good to be held in their arms.
Before I can say anything, my friend, Raph whispers in my ear, “Sometimes the only good place to be is to not think at all. We’re going to enjoy today, period.” He pulls me closer. “Seriously hoe, let’s get drunk.”
His words sink in so I decided not to trouble my friends with my Filipino superstitions. I quickly zip up my backpack trying to conceal a gift for them.
“What’s that?” Raph asks, trying to peek inside.
I chuckle. “It’s like give you life kind of gift. It’s called pasalubong. You’ll see.”
As we bike to Trinity Bellwoods I call my family at every traffic crossing. Still no answer. I casually tell my friends to ease their curiosity. “I just have to check in, you know?”
We find a spot in the park framed by tall luscious cedar trees, surrounded by hipsters, lovers and launderers. Nadine sits next to Raph. They tell us a story with their usual pitchy enthusiasm about the cis guy they’re dating and their tumultuous love affair. I can’t help but say, “It looks like you guys are in love.” Nadine waves their hands dramatically uncovers their ears.
Our conversations go from random hookups, bad pickup lines, fuck the police stories to dreams and parties. We laugh, cuddle and cries or bodies, the heat, the sun. It felt like I was back in the Philippines. It feels like home. At moments I catch Kari peering at me and quickly averting his eyes away. He awkwardly sits beside me, not saying a word. I grin. “What?”
“What, nothing,” he replies with a nervous giggle.
We all stopped for a moment and just smile at one another. I close my eyes towards the sky and let the light fill me with so much warmth that I don’t want it to stop.
“Oh, yeah. I have a gift for you all,” I say excitedly. I unzip my bag and pull out a gift wrapped in banana leaves. I start unraveling it. “This is what Filipinos call pasalubong. It’s a gift to those that welcome you home. This belonged to my grandma and my mom said I can have it.” I pause as I hear Raph clearing his throat. Nadine lovingly reaches for my hand. “I miss my grandma. I miss my parents. I miss sharing our memories of the Philippines. Like we’re back there again. I miss feeling safe.”
I see Raph bite his lower lip as he holds back words. He clears his throat again. Kari stares at the ground, anxiously picking at the grass. I see his eyes twitch.
“Filipinos always ask me when’s the last time I’ve been back home. And when I’m with you guys, I am home. This is home. I feel safe here.” I spread open the banana leaves to reveal three rose colored candles.
“In the Philippines, my grandma would sit by a huge tin bowl filled with melted wax. The bowl was almost half her size.” I spread open my arms, outlining the vastness of the bowl. “She would pour the wax over the strings, which were attached to a large ring made of bamboo. Before the wax set, she would straighten into the strings by pulling down on them tightly. My grandma would repeat this for hours to get the perfect size candle.” I pass the candle to each of my friends. “She made these in the Philippines and this is my gift, my pasalubong to you all.” I take a deep breath in anticipation of their reactions.
Suddenly Raph begins to cough uncontrollably. He claps his hands against his mouth blood sprays from his lips and splatters on his shirt. He looks into his palm. Look at him. Chunks of fleshy blood- soaked guck rests in his hands. Raph’s body begins convulsing.
“Oh my God,” Nadine gasps. “Oh my God. Oh my God.”
My heart begins to race and my stomach starts to turn. The fear in Raph’s eyes disappear as his eyes roll back into his head. Kari reaches for him, trying to calm the ferocity of his shaking body.
“Oh my God!” Nadine starts screaming as they abruptly jumped back from the group. “Oh my God, help me, help me!”
I turned to see Nadine starts grabbing their ears while blood forcibly seeps through their fingers. My momentary wonder switches into complete terror as Nadine’s body buckles and their lifeless body collapses onto me. I hold them as their blood starts to drip down my arm.
I look towards Raph and see his body’s completely still. “No, no, no, no, no,” I plead.
The peaceful murmur of the park evolves to shrieks of panic. Dogs bark, lovers hold each other tightly as they scurry away. Children, tortuously wail and cry and the wanderers start to trample each other in hysteria. My body sits frozen.
Kari grabs my shoulders and stares into my eyes. “What the fuck is going on?” His voice trembling. “I’m so scared, please.” My eyes lock onto his bloodshot eyes as red tears begin to flow down his cheeks. One by one, I analyze each drop falling from his chin down to the ground, forming a growing puddle of blood by my feet.
I am no longer in control of my body or my soul. I sit in a catatonic state as the blood of my friends continue to drown me. My body sways, mimicking the leaves rustling in the wind while my lips begin to murmur repeatedly, “Wulang pugasa, wulang pugasa, wulang pagasa…”
The last thing I hear before my entire world becomes silent is the incessant ringing of my cell phone.
One week later, I sit alone in the church, watching the sobbing families hold each other as they take three coffins out to the cemetery. I hate this.
I begin kicking the church pew in frustration. I pull out my phone from my pocket, hoping to distract myself from my own sadness. One new message. I slowly bring the phone to my ear and listen. It’s my mom.
“Did you forget we went to Banff?” She laughs. “Now you know how I feel when you don’t answer your phone. Also dad found a note for you in your grandma’s things. Hopefully it will comfort you. Your grandma wrote, ‘Mahal kita, I love you so much. Remember, life is a gift and so is death.’ Okay anak, gotta go. Call us back if you’re not too busy. Oh, and I hope your family in Toronto enjoyed their pasalubong from grandma.”
And we’re here with Jumbie. Thanks for joining us today. We’ve got a very special guest Patrick Salvani. How are you doing today?
Yeah, I’m doing well. I’m happy to be here.
Awesome. Thank you. Thank you very much. That was a thrilling story. Is it based in anything true? Like, is that a true story for you?
Um, like parts of it are true. I think just like the way my friends are and just kind of that kind of like mystery and magic that my grandma had. Like a lot of it in terms of like the funeral is how the story started and that was like from my grandma’s funeral, of me processing my own grief from that time and like, yeah, that kind of truth.
A lot of artists would do exactly the same sort of thing. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your performing background, your cultural background.
My performing background, I guess I’m a horror storytelling drag queen. And I know I have to keep repeating it usually people are like, Whore Story? I was like, no horror, horror storytelling, drag queen.
Yeah. I like to tell stories. I like to change the meaning of songs into something scary. Like you might think it’s just an Ariana Grande song, but it’s actually like a demon possession with the same lyrics. And I like to have fun with that. Um, what was the other question? Sorry.
Yeah, a little bit about your background and like how that’s woven into this story.
I think for myself, it actually started with this pasalubong, where I was trying to process the grief of my grandma, of missing her and like, just like the relationship that my mom and my grandma had, where they really hated each other, they called each other, like, witch, and like all these things all the time too.
And like that, that relationship really affected me. Like, I always love talking about like, they, they honestly, like, they threw basketballs at each other’s heads. It was a story. So yeah. Family, family stuff, like they’re pretty intense. So I kind of wanted to represent that in this story. And then also just like, cause I was very close to my grandma, so my mom was very like jealous of her too. Cause like, while my mom was working like three jobs, when I’m like my grandma’s the one taking care of me. So then she become very jealous of that.
And then I’ve always connected to horror. I’ve watched horror movies all my life, I wrote horror stories since I was like a kid. And I think this story in particular was the first time I was just like, oh, why am I not just writing a horror stor– why can I not process my own grief through horror, kind of thing. And just took kind of like clear with the idea of like queerness and chosen family actually is too, which is like friends and like that relationship between our blood family and then chosen family.
And you put it in, it basically becomes like a linchpin of this story. You know, it’s sort of this reveal as to like why this is happening that really, I think that, you know, a lot of horror stories do have that kind of like we’ll wait until the end for that explanation to kind of come out. I liked the way that worked.
I did want to kind of like dive in to that a little bit more. I like the way that you sort of had this modern translation of family, uh, within this. And I was just like, wondering how you felt about, or if it was intentional to try and modernize this cultural story or this superstition. What is the word?
Well, it kind of seems from the story that you are a little bit closer to your chosen family than your actual family. So the whole time that you were worried that your blood family is the one that’s in danger, it turns out to be that these really close friends, that you feel more at home with are the ones that are actually in danger. And, uh, yeah, just wondering, not only like whether was it important to you to show that yeah, normalize it a little bit, but also to make sure that people remember that not just their relatives are their family who, you know, might be at risk for this sort of thing.
Yeah, I think like, especially because our blood family lives in Calgary and then I came here to Toronto to get away from them, basically a little bit.
Very dangerous place by itself, Calgary, yeah.
When I was grieving, when I need… you know, like I grew up with a family and a community. So if I was to leave home, like I did, that’s what I would be looking for. And like, I found that in like friends and like, they would hold me through my grief. They would, you know, make sure I have a good time and, you know, cause they’re chosen it’s just like, it’s kind of, yeah, we, we feel closer.
Like I feel like a lot of times with my blood family, I spend my time with them fighting and arguing and just being like, oh, reverting back to like a 12 year old kid. That’s like, “this is so unfair” kind of thing.
Yeah, that’s the only way blood family can see you.
Yeah. So I feel like, and that’s the thing to be seen, right. So it’s just like with your chosen family, like they see you for who you are and like, rather than just seeing you as a kid, you once were, kind of thing. So, yeah and like, for me, killing them is like for a horror… like I was just like, should I just kill one? Like, I think that was actually what I was thinking of, like editing. I was like, oh, maybe we’ll just kill one. But I was like, oh, it’s more romantic if everyone is like,
Yeah, I was kind of like, are they all gonna die? Yeah, there is a mention of your grandmother having this experience during World War II, you know, thinking that she was going to die. Do you feel like there’s any impact, you know, that’s been, you know, either translated to you, uh, some sort of impact of the war on Filipino superstition in general.
Yeah, for sure. I think actually even the kumakatok, I think that started around the Second World War. I think like a lot of superstitions you can find like very like colonial roots of like way of click controlling populations. And sometimes like, if you believe a superstition long enough, like it kind of becomes truth, right? So I think the actual origin of that was like Second World War, people would be like knocking on people’s doors, because basically you were going to die. Like when Japan occupied the Philippines, it was like, there was no tomorrow. Uh, so it was kind of like…
That something that’s happening to you is happening right now.
Yeah, so that’s when that happened with my grandma and conceived my dad, but, just sidenote: I later found out that they actually, it wasn’t just a one-time thing. It was actually a long-term affair, which I just found out.
Changes the story, but this a story that I wrote in the past and I’m like, I’ll correct it in the future.
Is there some sort of more like woven in significance of the pasalubong? Like the, of course it’s, it’s a gift that you give to your people who are welcoming you back. Like, is there more of a, is there more behind that?
Like it’s definitely a family thing. Like something you bring back to your family because you’ve been away and come back. And like, I think for me, it’s just like part of being a good guest in someone’s home. Like maybe that’s the way I was raised, kind of thing, where you’re just like, okay, here’s a, here’s a little token, you know. It could be drugs, it could be whatever it is.
I see, so it doesn’t specifically have to be the candle.
No, no, please, please don’t give me a candles. I don’t trust them.
So that does bring me back to another question that I had is in the story, your grandmother says ” life is a gift, but so is death,” and then, this is something that you remember right after this horrifying deaths of all your friends. Do you think that there is a way to interpret those deaths as a, as a gift in some way? Or was that something you were exploring at all? Or was it just the, the horror, the need to be like, let’s kill the friends.
I think when I wrote the story, I think I was processing it. Like I think sometimes when we look into like grief and death and just like, oh, what lessons am I learning? Kind of thing. What do I need to figure out? And like, people are like, oh…
I didn’t say what the gift like, you know, death is a gift kind of thing. Like I also thought of Buffy because Buffy had that in like, and I think it was like season five or something like that. Like death is a gift and I’m like, what kind of things? So.
Evil Willow time.
And like, those are things I’m constantly reflecting on. And I can’t really be specific about what that actually is. But like, like I think of life sometimes as just like…
and like, I’m a Scorpio too. I’m like, I think part of our thing is just like rebirth and I’m like rebirthing, something’s dying off, starting up a new again. So think of it as like a metaphor kind of thing. But like, my grandma was always like that she had like these like lines and you’re just supposed to read so much deeper into them and I’m like I don’t really know…
Figure it out for yourself. For sure. Uh, is there some way that somebody brings on the kumakatok like, is it like something that they do, something they forget to do? You know.
From my understanding, no, it was more like, it’s literally like these ghostlike figures that are, that kind of represent the fates. It’s just like the grim reaper basically knocking at your door and just saying, sorry, it’s time.
And you know, like we’ve like Final Destination.
Like Final Destination is just like, no escaping. It’s just like, you could do whatever you need to, but it’s like, it is what it is, so.
And even that was like, yeah, is there some way, like there’s some blessing or something, a lot of other superstitions, there’s a way to confuse this spirit or like ward them off for whatever time or is there just none of that?
Yeah, none of that. And I think that’s what made it scarier for me to like, think of that sort of just like, this is just how it is. And like, that’s kind of how people that are close to us sometimes die and that’s, it’s like horrible, but things are just as is sometimes.
Yeah. Even in the story of making sure that they die this kind of like gruesome public death, is this sort of like a way of like making it more futile, even just like, yeah, there’s not really much that’s going to happen here. They’re going to die in the middle of Trinity Bellwoods and there’s nothing you can do about it.
And no one there is going to help. That’s basically
Yeah. And I think I really wanted to play, cause I think it was just like blood, right? Like they’re all like bleeding and it’s just kind of like that idea of family
There’s no explanation. You didn’t even get to light the candle,
Yeah like literally passed it, like, oh, I hope the mail person didn’t die from touching these either. So like…
That would be the Final Destination way to do things, just whoever wrapped it is also dead. Yeah. We sort of have this similar thing in Guyanese and I guess wider Caribbean culture is when there’s some sort of omen that happens and there’s not really much that you can do, you know, either it be the crow that comes and lands outside your house and won’t leave for five days or something like that. You know, even when it comes to, you know, or sort of mentioning of how things used to be with a grieving period when somebody dies and now we kind of shorten that no one really has time for any of that. You know. Although I would say a bit of whatever our traditions are, some of it does come from like being with the British or, you know, there’s the specific Dutchman myth that we have where it’s the Dutch man, it’s the scariest thing ever. And it’s like, that’s not even a monster. This is a real person, you know? Yeah. Those similarities I feel are going to run through a lot of colonized cultures.
Yeah. I feel like a lot of like superstitions, it’s just like how like superstitions shift also like change with like capitalism and like, I don’t know.
Lucky underwear. Yeah.
But that kind of like brings me back to yeah, your, your mentioned of how the, the, I can’t even say it,
was really just about the knocking from World War II. I think it’s really telling how some of our, yeah, like our folklore and mythology, some of these horrors that are supposed to be passed down generations are really from so recent, like that is less than a hundred years ago really. And I just think that’s just informative of how deep the horrors of colonialism really run.
Yeah. We have this idea that a lot of myth and superstition is supposed to be old. You know, it kind of gives it this reverence, like, especially in the Caribbean, a lot of our superstition is based on African stuff, you know, and it’s changed ever so slightly. And that gives it a little bit more, I would say, yeah, you know, not just relevance, but authenticity. Even, yeah, I think that’s just two generations now that’s become an entire piece of horror. Like, you know, either those were, you know, the Japanese soldiers that have been branded this name, or that could even be Americans, you know, anything could happen, but now it’s been polished and glossed over so much to just become this sort of myth is just very likely that’s that’s still happening today. Somebody’s definitely, you know, building superstition based on cops or something like that.
Yeah. And like from experience too, right? So it’s kinda like…
A hundred percent, don’t wear black Air Forces. That’s an omen. They’re going to take you away. Where? Whitby like, I don’t know.
I think that’s like kind of what I wanted to do with the kumakatok too, is just kind of like place it, cause it was very World War II specific, in like a time now. And then also like, what does it mean for like the diaspora that have heard these stories from like back home. Do those stories stay location-wise. Like are they’re meant to keep us in this specific place or like, what does it mean when your story is actually travel across cultures?
The geography or the bloodline or something like that. Yeah.
Yeah. I, I was actually really interested in that idea of do these mythologies follow us, and then it sort of this, uh, now that I’m saying it out loud, a little bit of an analogy of intergenerational trauma a little bit and how you might leave the place, but the horrors don’t necessarily leave you.
Yeah, they don’t leave right.
There is a really good movie on Netflix that we watched that kind of perfectly illustrates that, it’s called His House. And it’s based on this, I think it is Rwanda, is either Rwanda or Ghana, uh, where they leave and they go to England but the guy has been cursed. And so it doesn’t even matter that they left. He kind of goes crazy within that house. I feel like it perfectly illustrates that our trauma haunts us. Even if you leave, even if you think you’re doing better, but if something has happened to you, that is so invasive in this sort of way. And in the movie, it’s sort of different because you know, it had to be Hollywoodified. But I feel like it still does a really good job of making sure that people understand that you are, who you are, uh, you know, no matter where you are.
And that’s why I always say, I was like, I think some people are always like, oh, I don’t really get the horror or stuff like that. But then I’m just like, aren’t you haunted though all the time about something? You seem a little haunted.
You wanna burn a little bit of sage?
Uh, to be able to live a life where you don’t feel haunted and aren’t searching for a way to, to deal with that. I think that’s a great way to put it.
Exorcise those demons, right?
Yeah. That’s why I’m running. So they have to catch up.
It’s true. We have to,
by the time I’m done, there’ll be too tired to deal with me.
No, like I said, this was a very thrilling story. Hope to see more stuff from you. Do you have any pluggables? Things? Upcoming projects? That sort of thing?
Well, I just finished a play, a short, like one act play called The Abuleria (sp?), which is like a faith healer, spartista, like someone who could like heal based on faith and then it’s like a drag horror play. So hopefully I’ll be able to develop it more and then, because it was performed online. So hopefully I’ll perform in person.
Yeah pretty much everything
Is there, uh, anywhere else, folks can check out your work, both in drag or horror. That lovely combination of both.
You can see me on Instagram. I love Instagram because I love the superficiality of it. So @santotricks, St. Tricks basically is what it is, and then also have a website MsNookieGalore.com.
Cool. Well, yeah, thanks so much for, uh, sharing the story with us today. Really appreciate it.
Thanks for having me.
You are listening to Jumbie. Produced by Dev Ramsawakh. Hosted by Clif Knight. Music by Zee Thompson. Sound effects are creative common sounds from FreeSound.org. Make sure you’re subscribed so you can catch our next episode. Our next episode features Ryan Persadie or Tifa Wine. We can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and a bunch of other different directories.
Thanks for joining us. And don’t forget to check those dark shadowy corners.