Zurrika, the wild woman cannibal!
It was certainly far from enchanted kingdom. There were no gleaming plastic statues of wizards or instantly recognizable characters from America. The ground was not paved with expensive blocks and there were no expensive snack bars in sight. What was plenty that night were trannies, which littered the four corners of the sorry-looking perya. It was almost one in the morning and for the gehls the day seems to be just starting. I could only surmise that the dark, grassy, empty lots along the congressional area serve as a make-shift motel for these gays and their lay for the night. The place, after all, was notorious for being a cruising ground during the 90s.
But no, I wasn't there to look for a lay. I was looking for something to amuse myself and to my delight, the perya featured these Fellini-esque shows.There were mermaids! acrobats! Daredevil motorcyclists! And a South African cannibal! It was titillating to say the least. The cannibal's name was Zurrika, which the cheap cardboard billboard introduced (in bold red letters) as, "The wild woman cannibal! Eat anything alive and drinking blood!" On the wall of the tent, the advertisement screamed: "Zurrika! Ang babaing gubat!" And in yet another part: "To see is to believe!". The show also proclaimed that Zurrika came "From the Iguik Island, South Africa!" Apparently, the graphic artist still perceives South Africans as barely covered beings with wild stringy hair in dire need of a shampoo and conditioner. In his (or her?) illustration, Zurrika was wearing a necklace made of human bones while her eyes were wild, searching for people to hunt and to cook in a large pot. It was a rather sinister version of Bedrock.
Zurrika's tent was small. Upon the entering, the first thing that we saw was the barker / hostess, a gaunt old woman in sleeveless shirt and pants. She held a burning cigarette in one hand and a coffee in another. Her voice was harsh and evidently tired. After a sizable audience was crammed inside the tiny box, the barker left her seat and went near the stage. Her face showed years of hardship and it was obvious that she looked older than she really is. Her shoulders were bent forward and her legs, spread wide apart as she walked around, attested an impoverished life. She appeared weak but at the same time there seem to be toughness in her.
The old lady stood before an expecting audience and without any enthusiasm uncovered the left side of the stage. And there she was, the wild woman from Africa, the cannibal herself, Zurrika! I was shocked to tell you honestly. Maybe my dormant (reprehensible, if i might add) middle-class sensibility kicked in. Jed whispered that the girl beside us was going to puke. I looked at the girl and hoped to heaven that she hold her dinner tightly shut between her lips. I just had dinner myself and I somehow felt a little woozy too. Maybe it was the claustrophobic atmosphere: the trapped pungent heat that began to envelop the sweaty crowd or perhaps it was Zurrika herself.
Zurrika sat on a cage with her two hands held by rusty cuffs, her face completely devoid of any emotion. It wouldn't have been shocking had she not been naked from waist up. Her crotch was covered with leaves but her breasts, old and saggy, were laid open for the public to see. Instantly, I thought of the little kids with us in the tent and how that night they would go home haunted not by the cannibal woman but by her breasts, dangling carelessly before them. The cannibal woman nibbled on the half-eaten, rubbery chicken. She must have been eating it since six that morning because the meat looked stale and a little yellowish. What I found fascinating, however, was the woman's seeming indifference towards what she was doing. I wondered how embarrassed she must be after her first show. Embarrassed not only of her nakedness but also of the indignity of her job. But I could still see an ounce of shame in her dead eyes but her tears were already calcified by time. After fifteen minutes, the old lady unfurled the cover again.
I left the tent a little boggled. i couldn't quite tell what i was feeling. I was stunned not at the ferocity at which Zurrika attacked the dead chicken but at the ferocity of life itself. Indeed, sometimes hunger is so deep that we are willing to strip down to our bare selves and swallow whatever, no matter how abominable it is, that life throws at us. Now that I have thought about it, the old gaunt barker is old enough to be zurrika's mother. Perhaps, it is even possible that the barker was once Zurrika herself.
- January 11, 2006