Survivors

UST Publishing House 2012
Historical novel     No. of words: 49,015

Extracts

The Survivors

              by Antonio Enriquez

Chapter 1

Before dawn that day, hundreds, maybe thousands, of civilians had gathered on the mountain tabletop, fronting the valleys below. They were farmers, carpenters, coconut-gatherers, corn- and rice-shearers, and laborers. There were former civic officers, sabes tu, like Mayor Agustin Perez and minor officials and civil servants and Philippine Constabulary officers like Captain Pedro Santos.

Somebody along the line, not me, said: “But why are we going with the Japanese Forces?”

“To keep them company …. ” said another, laughing a bit beside me.

“They’ll miss us … the blank Japanese,” said still another, in our row, but did not laugh;

“if we don’t go with them.”

Ay, will they miss us,” I said.

“It looks that way, hoy!”

We all made light of the forced “evacuation,” to relieve the tension and worry gnawing at our minds.

“Move!” the kempeitai cried. “Move. Move. Move.”

Grro, grro, grrooo,” screamed a  Japanese officer from the other end of a column in Engrish, reddish in the face as only a red hue can show in yellow skin.

“He means let’s go,” a man said to me, and jerked me gently when I did not move from my line.

“I know … no need to push,” said I, pretending anger in spite of the gentle push.

Ay. But I did not, you know … ”

O, o,” I said, a trace of false anger noticeable in the harsh tone of my voice. Turning toward the man, whom I had recognized earlier — “Ay, it’s you, Captain Santos.”

“Yes-yes,” he replied. “And the mayor is with us … somewhere. The Japanese officer thought of bunching us together, those who worked at City Hall … sabes tu.”

Pues we started down from the mountain tabletop to the valley below.

“A  division … some 20,000 Japanese troops,” someone said, in a loud voice, in front of the line.

“No.”

“Yes, that’s what I heard.”

Gende yo cre,” said a Chabacano-speaking farmer. “I don’t believe.”

No; si no quiere bos,” he replied. “No … if you don’t wish to.”

“That’s too many soldiers, imagine 20,000. That’s why I don’t believe.”

A voice behind us said, “Come on, move.”

“Move, move,” the Japanese kempeitai shouted. “Waatts da mat ter?

Ahead, a flabby, slow-footed man did not move.

“Did you not hear the kempeitai, hah?” said a fellow next to him. “You want to lose your head, amigo? Come on, move already.”

Said the flabby man sternly, “Who wants to lose his head, do you?” The fellow spun around, and recognizing Mayor Perez, immediately apologized.  “I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize you, Mayor.”

No reply from the mayor but he moved several breast-lengths from his place.

Captain Santos’s aide, Sergeant Arcilla, leaning from his line peered out and said, “Mayor Perez is in front of us. Heard him talk to someone there, over there.”

Neither Captain Santos nor I bent in front of our line to where Arcilla pointed. We were all of us together, and here we had a common denominator: all servants and lackeys of the kempeitai captain.

Chapter 2

We rested in the middle of the slope. An hour or so later, the kempeitai captain came to our group, a young native woman in tow. She was maybe in her early twenties, dressed in native garments, colorful though tattered, with anklets round her shanks, which made gleeful ringing sounds everytime she moved them. Her name was Talibon.

Yu kip ‘er,” said the Kempeitai. “Tayk ker of ‘er.”

“Yes,” we said.

Dun’t forgit.”

“All right.”

He went off without another word.

She stood there before us, scrubby but proud. Though a bit unsure of herself as we were strangers to her, she never lowered her head to us, as common native women would, bowing in respect before Christians and city officials. But likely she didn’t recognize the mayor. But how about the constabulary men who were still in uniform? Living out there in the mountains the closest sight she had of military men was when they raided her barrio or went after a tribesman for thievery or murder. Usually murder.

She is astonishingly beautiful, I thought. Never have I seen a more beautiful native woman.

Later, sitting on a treeroot, she told us what happened. Her husband was a native chieftain, who, with some of his forest warriors, was killed in an encounter with a Japanese patrol. Armed only with long knives, blow guns, slingshots, poison-tipped arrows, and spears, the chieftain and his forest warriors were massacred. They stood no chance against modern weapons which spat fire.

As she fled, conscripted Filipino “volunteers” captured her and turned her over to the kempeitai. For reward the secret police promised them leniency and an increase in their food ration.  No longer would the kempeitai bash their heads  for forgetting to bow at a passing Japanese officer and serve last week’s gruel topped with swarming flies.

Chapter 3

The orphan boy Tibo was running down the slope and crashing through the bushes and thickets. He shouted, “Oy, oy, oy.”

He ran several times up and down the slope. Soon he got tired, and you could see it as his feet started to wobble in a sort of a funny way.

Much aware of the steepness, I descended slowly and carefully. I had no wish to slip. Behind me my wife Emma followed, going down much slower. An extra packet with her jewelry and a small statue of the Virgen Milagrosa swung from her hips. Other trinkets too, which she had  not told me she had brought with her, hung in the other packet.

We halted a while to catch our breath.

“You don’t need them, Emma,” I said to my wife, “none of those trinkets.”

“We’ll need them when we get back … to barter for food.”

“If! For food .… ?”

Really, I could not believe what I heard.

Soon she will have to discard them, even the Virgin’s statue. I swore, “May I die!”

The further we were from the mountain tabletop and lower down the steep, the heavier became our camp packs on our backs or shoulders. Without making a sign, everyone halted to rest, not just us, the Bocaviejas, but the other evacuees too.

After half an hour’s rest, we started going down the mountain side again. At this point, the Japanese troops having marched earlier and faster were over the first hills, and no longer could they be seen leading the march. After climbing up and down the mountain sides and cliffs that morning found us in a valley that was verdant with plants and wild flowers.

Behind the green vegetation and wild orchids, and outlining the edge of the valley, were clayish mounts of rocks. This as far as your eyes could see. Isolated brush, with little blades of leaves, and small clumps of scrubby woods grew nearby.

As my wife Emma and the orphan boy were crossing the shadowed part of the valley, I sat down on a rock and waited for them. That part was flat as a pan, and the two would have made quicker progress if not for some clusters of rock blocking their way.

Bending a little, I massaged my bad left foot, sabes tu, without the small toe. I had crushed it with a hoe, there at our small farm, some years ago, so I did not have to report back to work. That was two or so years ago at the construction of the Japanese airfield in the seashore barrio of Calarian.

Self-inflicted.

It was beginning to hurt me.

Will I be able to endure the pain? I asked myself. We’ve just started and already my bad foot is hurting so much. Rayo!

Not hearing her approach, I did not lift my head until Emma spoke. “Is it your bad leg again?” she said. “Is it again bothering you?”

Not lifting my head at her still, although now I heard her clearly. “Si, Emma. It’s my toe again.”

The little toe was hurting although it had been amputated. What a big joke.

Mutilated. Self-inflicted. Cut off. It’s all the same. No toe.

Ironical! I said to myself, smiling and twisting my lips at her. Now, I lifted my head, and looked up at her. In disbelief, the irony unfading. “How can a toe hurt when it’s not there, gone for  two years already,” I said. Come on, tell me!”

“It is just in your mind, Paolo.”

“Don’t you tell me … just in my mind. ”

I continued massaging the muscles of my bad foot. Emma went to a spot behind another rock where she hid her jewelry and the little statue of the Virgin Mary. Before walking back to me, she gazed about her looking here and there. Maybe if she sees anyone suspicious, she’ll unbury them, I thought.

Then I heard a murmuring sound, not much farther down the slope. It came into my ears, like a soothing balm, making me forget the pain in my left foot: thinking, I’ll cool myself a bit, and skip among the rocks toward it.

Going down the slope, I slid a little although it had not rained, not in the cool sunny month of May. What made it slippery was the eternal shade from the forest foliage, which kept the ground damp the whole year round, even during the dry months.

Grabbing at shoots and stems of thickets and undergrowth to prevent from slipping down the steep, I continued my way down slowly. Ahead of me a stream of pebbles rolled down fast, and   ceased  rolling seconds after I reached the bottom of a gorge.

Along the bank I halted to listen to the murmur of the stream grow louder. It hummed in my ears, while on its bed ran clear and crystal-like water. Up ahead the land before me, farther from the cluster of rocks, were stunted thickets and brush. The ground was and level flat as one’s palm once again.

I wrenched my head up toward a mount of rocks along the river bank.

Hoy, Emma, come down here …”  I shouted at my wife. “The water is very clear and beautiful.”

“No-no,” she shouted back.

“Yes. Come down. Why not?”

Behind the rocks where I had left her she raised her head but ignored me.  The orphan Tibo was on the other side of the clump of rocks; he could not see me, even if he were to stare down the slope. There were just too many jutting rocks between us.

I did not call her again. Instead, I gazed across the stream at a high bank. On its head stood a patch of woods with more trees of very small trunks than there were on the slopes. The small-trunk trees grew straight up with little branches at the end of which were bundles of green leaves. But I did not cross the stream to get to the high bank, for the cool and clear water here was more tempting. I put both my feet — even the foot without the small toe — into the water.

Frio, bien frio el agua, I said aloud in my mind,  Won’t it  be great if I cool my bad foot the whole morning? Cool them until the pain is gone.

Just then, from the slope overlooking the gorge, I heard the kempeitai captain calling us. We were to join those others evacuating, too; they were now starting the march into the jungle.

O, o, to the Japanese we were just evacuating, not retreating and hiding from the American airplanes — thinking, But whom is the kempeitai making a fool of — at the wild cats and monkeys here!

______________
TO BUY

Contact:

Antonio Enriquez
Ramiroville cor. Macanhan UCCP Church Compound
Macanhan, Cagayan de Oro City 9000
celfn: +639235242746
emails: antonio_e36@yahoo.com;
antonioenriquez@outlook.com
antonio-enriquez.blogspot.com

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No matter how long you’ve been blogging, there is always more to learn. As part of the Weekly Writing Challenges, once a month, we’ll highlight a feature in the WordPress.com Dashboard and challenge you to incorporate it into your blog. We want to help you take full advantage of all the tools available on WordPress.com to make your blog the best it can be  — and to make your friends jealous of your web wizardry. 

To participate, tag your posts with DPchallenge or leave a link to your post in the comments. Please be sure your post has been specifically written in response to this challenge; obvious attempts to link-bait will be deleted. We’ll keep an eye on the tag and highlight some of our favorites on Freshly Pressed each Friday.


As bloggers, we scan through photos and descriptive tales from our fellow writers who share their travels with us. We…

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GIRAFFE BOOKS: Antonio Enriquez, short stories & novels

Painting by Saudi

Antonio Enriquez

Soft cover books: Giraffe Books, 7 DANR –Visayas Avenue, 1128 Quezon City, Philippines, Tel. 928-92-69

1) Green Sanctuary (former title Surveyors of the Liguasan Marsh, UQP, Queensland, Australia)

Carlos Palanca Grand Prize, novel, 1982. A Literary Quarterly of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, 73019 U.S.A. Summer 1982 issue: ‘South of the city of Cotabato lies the famed Liguasan Marsh, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.  It is probable that the author, who worked for a time with a surveying company in the province of Cotabato, has taken his material from actual experience, but the episodes in the novel  whether in the city or in the hinterland  depict less of the charm and hospitality of Zamboanga in particular than of the tensions and frustrations of people in that part of the world. A strong antagonism is seen between            Christians and Muslims, and the novel  while not at all sentimental  reflects the point of view of the Christians.’

2) The Living and the Dead.1994. 184 pages.  Novels provide us with an alternative source of history.  They allow us to enter into a particular world and glimpse the worldview of a specific culture and time.  The Living and the Dead, narrated from an omnipotent view point, brings the reader to an understanding of the culture of local aristocrats, particularly in the immediate post World War II Philippines.’ by Eric Z. Aragones, S.J.

3) Unseen War. 2000. A collection of short stories, landscaped in Zamboanga Peninsula and Maguindanao, in the 17th century Spanish colonial days; conflict with traditiion, custom, and religion; and a war in between fought with spears, arrows, and long knifes, as only war could be fought between Moro and Christian warriors in the olden days.

4. The Voice from Sumisip and Four Stories.2003 / 124 pp. ‘With The Voice from Sumisip, Enriquez leads us further on, deeper into the forest. The experience would invariably remind the reader of a well-known and well-read journey into the wilderness, written by a world-famous writer to whom (as it is to Enriquez) English was not a first language.

 ‘But any reading of Conrad’s Heart of Darknessyields for us almost nothing at all about the African region of the Congo—the tale’s purported setting. It lies, even as we write, in darkness.In Voice from Sumisip, Enriquez’s tale takes us there, to the inner sanctum of tribal innocence and wisdom. Tony Enriquez, hunter, big-fisherman, cusser, drinker, and devotee of fictional art spent much of what he calls his “most beautiful years” in Basilan. That is to say, in Yakan country.’ by Francis C. Macansantos

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They Made Footprints Without Toe-Marks

 

They Made Footsteps Without Toe-Marks & These Four Oldeb Tales

cover design: anton vladimir

Antonio Enriquez

Voice from Sumisip and 4 Short Stories — They Made Footprints Without Toe-Marks                     

by the same author

Short Stories

Spots on Their Wings and Other Stories, Dance a White Horse to Sleep and Other Stories, The Night I Cry and Other Stories,  The Unseen War and Other Tales from Mindanao, and The Voice from Sumisip and Four Short Stories.

Novels

Surveyors of the Liguasan Marsh, (new title, Green Sanctuary), The Living and the Dead, The Subanon Massacre at Karpok (original title, Subanons), Samboangan: the Cult of War, The Activist, and The Surviors.

_____________

They Made Footprints Without Toe-Marks & These Four Olden Tales

Excerpt below these few paragraphs. 

The year was 1976. Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippine dictator, had declared martial law four years earlier and himself as the strong man.

To mollify the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) rebels, Marcos laid down two policies: the policies of “attraction’ and “assimilation.”

A researcher of  the state university in ZamboangaCity, Professor Jose, gives up his dignity by accepting funds from Southern Command chief, a wily military general of the Dictator Marcos, for his research project on the culture and tradition of the Yakans of Basilan, a war-torn island, southwest of Zamboanga. As he digs into the Yakan way of life, he, at the start a mere observer, gradually becomes a participant and a conduit to tragedy upon an isolated group of Yakan, as well as his own ….

Thrillingly plotted, intriguing, and utterly moving, They Made Footprints Without Toe-Marks and These Four Olden Tales is A. R. Enriquez’s semi-biography account of his research on the Yakan tribe, under a government program on cultural revival. In this project, and as chief of an information office during martial law in the ‘70’s, he witnessed the suffering and horror that plagued the different ethnic tribes during the fratricidal war between the Christian forces and the Moros rebels.

What they say…

With [They Made Footsteps Without Toe-Marks and These Four Olden Tales], Enriquez leads us further on, deeper into the forest. The experience would invariably remind the reader of a well-known and well-read journey into the wilderness, written by a world-famous writer [Joseph Conrad] to whom (as it is to Enriquez) English was not a first language.

Francis Macansantos, critic and poet.

Americans with an interest in anthropology will doubtless find the content rewarding:  from the point of view of storytelling, there is a certain monotony in the presence of violent death and sordid sexual encounters.  The writer is a master strong situation and language, both of which impress the reader’s mind indelibly.

E .C. Knowlton, World Literature Today, University   of Oklahoma, U.S. A.

________________

 

Excerpt: Part I Chapter 1

1.

Now there was this terrible fratricidal war in Mindanao, deep south, at the tip of the Philippine archipelago. It was between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine Government Forces. A very bad war, Filipinos against Filipinos, brother against brother, though one was an infidel Moro and the other a Christian. They were two poles apart in faith and culture. The Moros were prohibited by their faith to eat pork, being Islam believers, while the Christians, believers of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, were voracious  pork-eaters, just like the pagan Yakans and the Subanons. The latter were the aborigines of the Zamboanga peninsula, its capital in ZamboangaCity, which was the oldest Christian city of Mindanao. And the fratricidal war was worse in Jolo, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan, and save for Tawi-Tawi, which was a string of islets, the two others were hump-like, forested islands, deep south of Mindanao. However, in Zamboanga peninsula, it wasn’t so bad, although before this no one had experienced a worse war. Not even in the wars against the Spaniards in 1888 and the yellow-skinned Japanese in 1941.

But here was this fratricidal war, which was not given the dignity of being called a ‘war’ by the Tyrant Ferdinand Marcos. After imposing martial law in 1972, he ruled the Philippine Islands with an iron fist from its capital in the north, Manila, over 800 kilometers from the island of Mindanao. Instead, the wily dictator hid from the Filipino people the reality and truth of the war and its devastation in euphemism. So they would believe there prevailed peace and order in his Mystical Paradise—where he was the Más Macho and his wife, Imelda, the Más Hermosa, he dubbed the fratricidal war a mere ‘pocket disturbance.’

However, almost every day, the Moro rebels and the Christian Forces were killing each other by the hundreds and putting each other’s village to the torch. Incredibly, either force was doing it very well and with great passion. Before it was over, not less than 150,000 islanders would be dead, countless wounded, and over 800,000 Moros and Christians would flee their homes. They’d live in evacuation camps all over Mindanao. Some fled to the distant capital city of Manila in the north.  In poverty and destitution, the evacuees lived with relatives, friends, or in government welfare shelters, which had no electricity or water.

By early 1975, the war here turned in favor of the Tyrant Marcos, who called himself the Enlightened Dictator, and the Christians.

Ironically, it was the Moros who had won the fratricidal war. Marcos at MalacañangPalace made this possible. Three factors, which he conceived likely after a séance, folk said, assured this would be so. One, and foremost, was the April 1976 Peace Talk between the Government and the MNLF secessionists. The talks were held at the historical Normal School, built by the American occupation forces in the old city of Zamboanga, in the first decade of the 20th century. Out of the peace talk, the Dictator Marcos created vaudeville show to entertain the Moslem countries’ threat to plug oil supply to the Philippines, if local Moslems were not given preferential treatment. The show then produced two minor scenes: the ‘‘policy of attraction’’ and the ‘‘policy of assimilation.’’

This made the Moslems, a minority tribe, locally called Moros (an affiliation to the Moors, who ruled Spain for nearly eight centuries) first-class citizens in the so-called Mystical Paradise of the Ilocano dictator Marcos. The majority of the population of over 14 million in the island of Mindanao, the Christians, now were second-class citizens.

From the city of Manila, north, to appease the Moslem countries, which composed the oil cartel, the despot showered bountiful gifts and privileges on his ‘brother Moslems.’ Safe in his artificially elevated throne in MalacañangPalace, he was flanked on either side with giant paintings of himself and his wife Imelda, as the Más Macho, and the Más Hermosa, respectively. To depict the Philippine myth of origin, the equivalent of the Ancient Book’s Adam and Eve, were the purpose of these huge paintings in acrylic oil…

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Subanons

 

 Extract

Subanons

                                by Antonio Enriquez

 PART I

                                                                          1.

Against the flickering petrol torches on a piece of land in Guipos,

Zamboanga peninsula, Mindanao, 400 or so nautical miles from

Manila, was the camp of an Army unit from the 10th IB. Here and

there, stumps of coconut trees protruded, and alongside a rutted

dirt path were the petrol torches of tattered cloths attached to the

ends of bamboo poles. In the soft wind, the flames slanted away

casting shimmering light and long shadows on the ground. Filled

with potholes the wheel-rutted path ran diagonally toward the

camp before making an abrupt slant, then went on in a straight line

for several meters, then ended where an empty uncovered

six-by-six Army truck was parked.

With dark clouds of petrol-smoke curling up toward the moonless

sky, throwing shadows that danced crazily on the stumps of coconut

tree-trunks, a pale-orange expanse of light shuddering about the

fringes of the coconut-lot—the camp looked more like a hideous

devil-worshipper cult camp than an Army barracks.

Into this camp, one dark night in July of ’85, the Subanon village

chief Datu Amado Bualan went quietly, unarmed without any sort of

weapon. Unlike his predecessors before him. Just about its

entrance were a bunker of coconut trunks and nipa-shingles, and

three layers of sandbags rose several feet before it, that served

both as a guardhouse and machine-gun nest. However no sentry

was in sight. As he went past the bunker he met no soldier and the

camp looked empty.

He only saw the first soldier when he was a few meters from a

nipa-roofed and sawali-walled building, shaped incongruously and

irregularly. For some portions, as if as an afterthought, jutted out

of the main structure and the building was the only temporary

structure there. Of course there was the usual outhouse and latrine,

which you couldn’t miss in military camps a distance away from the

entrance gate, and a small unused shed, and two unrecognizable

structures of light materials. Looked like it was about to collapse

any moment or its nipa roof down any second on your head. The

latter served as soldiers’ quarters as well as a room for operations,

where they plan to shoot either combatants or noncombatants. This

could mean anybody. Looking extremely bored was the man who

sat on a bench before a table. He didn’t turn his head as Datu

Amado had expected when he walked toward the barracks. Much

less raise his eyes to acknowledge his presence. You know what I

mean, not even when he almost brushed against the bench set close

to the barracks narrow door. The door was a mere hole in the

building and probably its single door-leaf had been discarded or

burnt as firewood by its former occupants. The hinges of the

missing door-leaf was still there and already rusty.

Inside the quarters was a ladder with rungs of round-wood. It led

to a bamboo-split platform that rose several feet from the earthen

floor of the barracks, a little over a man’s head. On it a number of

soldiers, mostly half-naked, were sleeping soundly. Barracks had

windows only on one side, left, opposite the raised platform, and so

the hall was damp and airless and suffocating.

On the wall hang some five oil lamps. Of empty milk cans. They

were the only source of light in the entire barracks, and so the

place was in half darkness and the side where the sleeping quarters

where was unlit full of unsteady shadows. If you were not to look

closely you would miss seeing on the wall above the oil lamps two

framed copies of oil paintings of the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos and

the First Lady Imelda Marcos. The couple was pictured as a royal

couple, complete with sash and emblem and crown, from an old

autocratic European country. Everyone knew Marcos came from a

barren dry, little place called Batac in Ilocos.

Before the ladder in sleeveless camouflage shirts stood three

soldiers, talking aimlessly with each other, in that sort of idle talk

to pass the hour. A third, with beer-belly and fat arms, was looking

toward some activity going on at the other end of the narrow hall.

There, two more soldiers, who unlike the three were naked to the

waist, were pushing a man against the wall, delivering blows to his

head and body.

Right away Datu Amado recognized him as the farmer he was

looking for–the unfortunate Rigîd, who had come looking for his

carabao late that afternoon. Every time the farmer lowered his

arms to cover himself –he had been stripped naked –to ward off the

blows, the two soldiers pounded his flanks with their fists and

jabbed them in the pit of his stomach. On the wall, their shadows

flitted crazily about, drawing a variety of shapes and images. From

the core of Rigîd’s tormented body flowed a stream of

aahed-screams like this: Ahhh-yayaya-ggaaayyyy!

‘Your hands up, up, up!’ said the two shirtless soldiers. Their

muscled arms swung viciously and hammered at the farmer’s naked

body with their fists.

‘No, no, no!’ the farmer cried. His arms came down, clipping his

flanks to ward off the blows, and at this the two shirtless soldiers

started punching and kicking him more viciously: from his flanks

and chest and belly came thud sounds as the blows fell. Again

through Rigîd’s bruised lips sprang a stream of cries.

‘Ahhh-yayaya-gaayyy!’

‘Up, up, up with your hands!’ the two half-naked soldiers

commanded. ‘You mother-fucker, son of a communist whore!’

‘Aahhh-yayaya-ggaaayyyy!’

On the raised bamboo-split platform, the soldiers, used to scenes

of beatings and torture, slept on. Not one was awakened by the

cusses and cries for mercy. They were all drunk and satiated with

food taken during their drinking binge. Like logs they slept, many

snoring loudly, through their mouths and noses chugging sounds

emerged as from a tug-boats. Seemingly oblivious and deaf to the

farmer Rigîd’s groans and screams were the three camouflage-clad

soldiers by the ladder. A moment later, as if awakened from a deep

sleep, the two, who’d been talking earlier with each other,

seemingly ignoring the third soldier, walked quickly out of the

barracks. Left alone by himself the beer-bellied soldier continued

looking down one end of the hall, where the poor farmer was being

beaten. Flabby and immobile he stood there by the ladder.

Everything in him was in a state of momentary suspension: the only

sign of life were the rise and fall of his beer belly, and the whoosh

of his heavy fat man’s breathing.

Rigîd screamed in pain and for mercy. He begged: ‘Have pity

have pity on me! I only came looking for my carabao. It’s the truth.

Aayyyiieee, have pity!’

‘You mother-fucking liar.’ The two bare-breasted soldiers thrust

their elbows into his rib cage, ‘You’re an NPA, are you not? Hah?

You mother-fucking communist liar!’

Rigîd cowered and went down on his rump onto the earthen floor

of the hall. ‘No, no, no!’ he said. ‘Have pity have pity! I was only

looking for my carabao. That’s the eternal truth…’

But with kicks and fist-blows the soldier-tormentors forced him

to straighten up against the wall and raise both hands over his head.

Afterwards they commenced hitting him again.

‘Your hands … up, up over your head,’ his tormentors said. ‘Son

of a mother-whore! Mother fucker communist liar! What? What did

you say?’

‘—only looking for my carabao. That’s the truth honorable

soldiers. I’m just a poor farmer; not an NPA, good soldiers.’

‘What! You no-good lying communist! Pretending to be a farmer

hah? You won’t amen you are an NPA hah-hah? So you’re

hard-headed too.’

After accusing him of being a member of the communist New

Peoples Army, the two soldiers struck him on the head with their

knuckles, slapped him not hard with the shell of their palms, as

when one slaps a boy around to call his attention. This last they

hadn’t done before. It was just as if they had discovered a new trick.

Slapping him in mockery, they now timed the knuckle blows on his

head to fall simultaneous with their cussing. So delighted the

soldiers became with this discovery, that hideous laughter rang in

their throat.

All this while, not once had the poor farmer looked toward Datu

Amado Bualan. Shame and humiliation, not unmixed with confusion,

had held him back from returning the datu’s-village chieftain’s

gaze. But now exhausted, and in unbearable pain, he turned his

head to him and said, ‘Ay datu help me …’ but a cry involuntarily

rose in his throat and gagged him.

Ignoring now his own terror, Datu Amado stepped up before the

beer-bellied soldier. ‘Sarge, excuse me,’ he said. ‘But I know this

farmer personally … he isn’t an NPA, not a rebel. He’s from my

village … Karpok. What he says is true, that he came here to your

camp to look for his carabao—’

The datu’s soft apologetic voice aroused in the beer-bellied

soldier contempt and anger, instead. He was that sort of a man you

meet quite rarely. To such a man human kindness is a weakness.

Right there, he rose from languor. His brows knitted, below them

his eyes, dark and fiery, pierced into Amado’s face.

Rapidly he said, ‘What, what –what!’

Datu Amado repeated, ‘He’s only looking for his carabao. Please,

Sarge, understand the poor farmer. It’s the only working animal he

owns …’

The fat soldier shouted into his face, ‘Fuck you! If you don’t shut

up we’ll beat you up too.’

The fat soldier’s lips pursed bulbous, on his forehead folds of

flesh swelled. Looking like termites trenches. From a silent, unalert,

beer-bellied man, he had turned into an angry tuba wine-smelling

brute. It looked as though a magic wand had touched him, turning

the soldier into an ogre before the datu’s eyes.

Quickly Datu Amado turned his head away. He had never been

spoken to so hideously and shamefully. But the brute’s sour breath

of tuba palm wine stung his nostrils still. ‘These soldiers are

drunk,’ he thought. ‘Likely, they’ve feasted on the farmers missing

carabao already.’

Just then a clanging sound was heard by the entrance. There

followed the reappearance of the two camouflage-clad soldiers.

They were the same soldiers, who had earlier stood by the wooden

ladder with Datu Amado and the beer-bellied soldier. In their hands

swung a big battered pail of slops. As the pair set it down before

Rigîd, the contents slapped round the side of the pail. Swishing

threatening to spill onto the earthen floor.

Into this pail the two camouflage-clad soldiers plunged their

hands. When they withdrew them, coils of huge slimy entrails were

strung round their arms and wrists. Pieces of animal meat oozed

between fingers, a few slid down on to the earthen floor.

Ruthlessly, the pair jammed the intestines and pieces of meat

into the farmer’s mouth.

‘Eat eat these now,’ said one of the two camouflage-clad

soldiers. ‘Lets see if this meat comes from your carabao … you

big-balled son of a communist whore!’

More handful of slops was forced into the poor farmers mouth by

the second soldier, who commanded, ‘Eat, eat, eat! What’s the

matter? Hah? Even a datu eats carabao meat! Are you more

delicate than a datu, hah-hah?’

‘No-no ayiieee mother!’ cried Rigîd, bringing his cupped hands

over his mouth.

A vicious fist crashed into it breaking the skin of his lips.

Methodically, blows were delivered to his stomach and flanks, and

thuds resounded from his rib cage, as if his ribs were made of guitar

strings.

The first two half-naked soldiers screamed at him: ‘Up, up, up

with your hands. You mother-fucker of a communist!’

With both hands raised to his face Rigîd’s body was left

unprotected and exposed to the kicks and blows. From one end of

the hall, the thud sounds could be heard as the blows fell on the

half-naked body. ‘No no I won’t eat the meat of my own carabao!’

said Rigîd. ‘Ayiieee mother help me!’

‘What?’ said the first camouflage-clad soldiers. ‘Did you say this

is your carabao’s meat? Did you say that you communist!’

The one camouflage-clad soldier thrust his hand into the pail for

more and more entrails and pieces of meat. With a look of scorn

and contempt, he pushed the intestines into Rigîd’s mouth with his

fingers. Then, in a slow and deliberate motion, he wiped them off

his hand on the farmers face.

‘Your carabao …’ he said. ‘Did you say? Ah-hah then eat it! Go

on and eat it. Go on! Prove to us this his meat from your carabao.

Eat it!’

‘No-no ayiieee mother!’ Under his cupped hands, his pleas were

muffled like this: Pfff-leeshhh, pfff-leeshhh, pfff-leeshhh.

Augh-uagh!

‘You mother-fucker of a communist liar!’ the one went on.

‘What were you doing sneaking around here hah? You’re a

communist spy. Oo, o.’

On the raised bamboo-split platform, the drunken soldiers slept

on, their chests rose and fell like bellows with their snoring.

Four-five soldiers fidgeted or tossed round on the platform. One

with trouble in his bladder rose and went to the side of the building,

where he pissed. Not one of them gave any sign they’d been

bothered by the farmers beating and pleas for mercy.

Finally, after fistfuls of entrails and pieces of meat went down

Rigîd’s throat, his strength left him. Suddenly, his battered naked

body collapsed on to the earthen floor. Alongside his flanks, his

arms lay limp and elbows bent awkwardly by his body. Rigîd no

longer pleaded or complained. Only animal-like groans came

through his lips, on his naked body thud-sounds resounded like a

sounding board, because, methodically and mercilessly, the

soldiers continued beating him. Not hard enough or as frequent now

as to kill him. They knew their work well, and just how much

torture and pain a man could stand a hairbreadth from death,

having honed their skills through practice and brutality on helpless

victims. They inflicted just enough damage to his lungs and kidneys

before he would collapse.

Rigîd swayed forward on the balls of his feet. Up and down, his

head bobbed on the end of his neck, making funny spasmodic

movements before falling upon his bare chest. All at once, from

the very core of his body, it seemed pieces of meat and coiled

intestines flushed out through his mouth. Splattering on to the

earthen floor in an incessant flood. On the ground, before him, a

small pool of slops started to grow, expanding its fringes while the

entrails and pieces of discarded meat lay there in an uneven lump.

Realizing Rigîd couldn’t take more punishment; the second

camouflage-clad soldier flung him back his shirt and pants; though

his clothes missed him and instead fell in the pool of slops. The four

soldiers climbed up the upraised bamboo-split platform. Soon

afterwards, the four tormentors fell asleep. Snoring as loud as the

other drunken soldiers. Meanwhile, the beer-bellied soldier joined

the one at the door of the barracks. The latter looked just as bored

as before, when the datu came to the camp earlier that evening.

With his head in the shell of his hands, Datu Amado sat on a lower

rung of the ladder; the light from the oil lamps flickered on the mop

of his grey-streaked hair. Never had he felt so powerless, so

unworthy of being the datu of the Subanons.

Rigîd, stark naked, on his haunches on the earthen floor, was

finally left alone: his spirit broken and physically humiliated. By his

side lay the pail of slops, now half-empty, with the entrails of his

working animal. Inside it his trousers soaked in the pool of slops.

It was quiet now in the camp. No sound except for the drunken

snoring and occasional creaking of the bamboo-split platform. Up

on the wall, slightly to one side of the farmers head, the pictures of

the Despot Ferdinand Marcos and his First Lady Imelda Marcos hung

crookedly having been jarred during the beating of the poor farmer.

In the flickering oil lamps, Marcos’s confident and benign-dictator

disposition never faded, and the ‘Iron Butterfly,’ as the First Lady

was called, wore the knowing smile of a Mona Lisa on her lips.

Datu Amado patiently waited for the soldiers to allow him to take

Rigîd home. He wouldn’t dare to ask before he was told: had he not

just seen what animals they were! However the soldiers seemed to

have forgotten them. The beatings and cries of pain from the poor

farmer had never happened! The existence of the native Subanons

meant nothing to the 10th IB soldiers. At worse, their attitude was

that of a spoiled child, who got tired with his playthings.

But a quarter of an hour later, what seemed forever to Datu

Amado, the beer-bellied soldier told him to take the ‘trash’ away

back to the village. He growled at him to do it right away, as if it

were Amado’s fault they’d not left. Maybe, he would put the datu

in the camp’s stockade for the night.

So Datu Amado went to the other end of the hall, where the

farmer sat on his rump on the earthen floor, his legs spread out.

Against the sawali-woven wall, he had propped up his head and

shoulders. He couldn’t get up. He was inert and unable to move to

dress himself, when he saw Datu Amado approaching him from the

hall.

Datu Amado said, ‘Let me help you, Rigîd’ slipping the trousers

up the man’s legs. ‘Turn the other side … Oo, o—that’s it.’ After he

wrung the slops out of the old patched shirt and pants, Datu Amado

helped him put them on.

‘It … it’s all right,’ said Rigîd. ‘I can do it datu.’

But his arms were useless. They didn’t have any strength even

to button up his pants. Stabs of pain lanced at his flanks every time

he strained and flexed a muscle. ‘Aahhhh-gaaayyy!’ His voice low

as he held back the cry. ‘Wait, wait, my sides … so painful.’

‘All right,’ said Datu Amado. ‘Don’t move. Let me do it for you:

but we must hurry.’ Before these devils change their minds, he

wanted to add.

Very slowly this time, he pulled the man’s trousers up to his

waist. He had not once looked at the farmers nakedness; of course,

he had seen men –and women too, ayiiee– nude before, but not like

the farmers nakedness that bared not just his uncovered body but

his very soul naked as well. It forced embarrassment and shame

from the onlooker too, though he himself the datu was a man.

‘I’m sorry very sorry … my arms they’ve no strength left. I

cannot move them,’ said Rigîd as the datu helped him put on his

shirt, slipped an arm through its sleeve. ‘Aahhh-gaaayyy,

aahhh-gaaayyy!’

Datu Amado didn’t immediately take the poor farmer away. He

had to be sure the beer-bellied soldier wasn’t just making fun of

them. With his right hand around Rigîd’s waist, the other gripping

the farmer’s forearm slung over his shoulder—Datu Amado raised

him up from the earthen floor, and then dragged him toward the

door. ‘Sarge, sir, can we go now?’

But the beer-bellied soldier, by the side of the table, behind

which on a bench sat the bored soldier, seemed to be now playing a

game with them. He simply ignored the datu. A few anxious

moments passed. His heart knocked against his rib cage. When it

seemed both of them might be placed in the stockade, he once

again heard the beer-bellied soldiers growl: O what are you waiting

for? Are you deaf hah? Didn’t I tell you to get out of here? Go on,

move! Get this “trash” out of here now! … Shit!’

Quickly, Datu Amado went past the door and the table, outside

half-carrying the limp Rigîd. Neither of the two soldiers by the table

so much as nodded or glanced at the passing figures. Once out of

the Army camp, the datu went as fast as he could on the path, while

Rigîd leaned heavily against him, holding back his cry of pain and

humiliation.

 §

On the back of the house, on the open porch, Amado left the

poor farmer Rigîd. The latter after he set him gently down on the

bamboo floor insisted that the village chief leave him there alone in

the dark outside the back door. No words were needed to explain

this to Amado, nor for him to have light to see it in Rigîd’s eyes:

that the soldier’s insults and blows delivered savagely to his naked

body had reduced him to a shameful unhuman pulp. He wouldn’t

wish his woman to know that his battering and humiliation was

witnessed by another being, though it was the village chief himself.

Instead of relieving the shame and indignity he had suffered, her

knowing that in their village someone had witnessed her man’s

debasement, would only add to his monstrous loss. Quietly, Datu

Amado walked off the open porch, unnoticed, and slid away into

the dark outside.

2.

A little before midnight, weeks later in August in Karpok,

Lapuyan municipality, the dogs began to bark and howl. A light

sleeper, Datu Amado Bualan was awakened right away. Getting up

from bed, he slipped his feet into his rubber slippers and was about

to cross the room to the sala –receiving room– when he heard his

wife Rosing say:

‘What is it Amado?’

Keeping his voice low and tranquil, he said, ‘I will see why the

dogs are barking. Just stay in bed meanwhile, until I find out what’s

bothering them.’

She asked with a hint of alarm in her voice, ‘Shall I wake up the

boy?’

‘No not until I’m sure …’

The datu –village chieftain– suspected that the dogs were

barking at the ‘nuay sapatos’ –‘shoe-less ones’– as the communist

rebels were called in those parts. They’d stealthily crept into the

village under the cover of darkness. Had expected them since the

barrio –village– failed to ‘contribute’ to the communists half of

their crops and animals and fowls as ‘revolutionary tax.’

The man who had come to the village to collect the

‘revolutionary tax’ didn’t look anything like a New People’s Army

rebel. He wore a dirty shirt, with rolled up pants, a buri hat, and

was barefooted. Anyone could have mistaken him for a farmer, that

maybe he was in earlier times.

Seemingly, he was alone, though once every minute he would

glance around, as if checking the presence of his comrades. Or

maybe of soldiers or the citizens’ home defense forces affiliated

with Dictator Marcos military auxiliary unit.

He, sitting at the porch of the datu’s house, had said, ‘I bring a

message from Commander Ka Oca. He’s very angry with you Datu

Bualan. He said he would give you until next week to come up with

the barrio’s ‘contributions’ to the peoples cause.’

Datu Bualan had said, ‘But we had a very poor harvest last season.

We’ve given you all the rice and corn and crops we could without

starving ourselves. It’s impossible for us to give more!’

The NPA rebel leaned forward on the bench and said: ‘This is

your last warning. It’s not our problem if your harvest was bad.

Remember you’ve until next week.’

Indeed, it could be nobody else but the NPAs, he thought, as he

made his way slowly across the sala, groping for a chair or their

dining table for a marker to tell where he was in the dark. He didn’t

want to bump into them and make any noise. He stopped at a

window, the one by the door, cocked an ear through a crack;

listened for any footsteps or voices.

The only voice he heard was his wife’s:

‘Amado … Do you hear anything?’

He said, ‘Ssshhhhhhhh. Be quiet … just stay in the room.’

She stood inside the door, framed like a dark blob against their

unlit room, waved her back. He wasn’t sure if in that darkness she

could see his hands waving. Standing still and not returning to their

room, she said, ‘Oo, o.’

So she had heard him. Once again, he tried to listen through the

cracks of the window. All he could hear was the incessant barking

and howling of the village dogs. No rustle of leaves, footsteps, and

voices, but the dogs were barking more fiercely now, making such a

frightful racket. No doubt, in his mind, it was the ‘nuay sapatos.’

Turning away from the window, he no longer could he see his wife’s

dark figure inside the door, and assumed she had gone back to their

room. But he thought he felt someone behind the dining table,

wasn’t sure since it was too dark to tell.

Uncertain, he said, ‘Rosing? Is that you?’

Her answer came, ‘Oo, o.

He told her, ‘Better get yourself and the boy ready. Just in

case …’

To make her way out of the receiving room, Rosing had to grope

in the dark toward the boy’s room and helped the boy pack a pair of

pants, shirt, and rubber shoes. Into a thick blanket she placed her

clothes and things, also of her husband’s, and the little money they

had saved she twisted it inside the waist of her malong –tubular

sarong-like cloth. Then she and the boy, their things in the bundles,

crawled out and crouched on their heels on the floor, just outside

the door.

Datu Bualan joined them, and the three of them listened to the

dogs barking, howling, and making such a racket, that by this time,

thought Datu Bualan, it must have awakened everyone in the

barrio.

Rosing, speaking hardly above a whisper: ‘I’m scared …. What if

the NPA rebels come into the house. What shall we do?’ She put her

hand out, trying to feel for the boy in the darkness.

Datu Bualan spoke toward the place, where he guessed came his

wife’s voice, ‘We’ll skip out through the back porch. The moment

the NPAs come near the house, you and the boy go ahead of me and

slip out … very quietly. You understand Rosing?’

Rosing said, ‘Ooo-oo, husband, what have you done?’ her voice

squeaking and breaking into a stifled cry. ‘Why don’t you give in to

what they want from our village! They’ll come here, Christ help

us… and take you away from us!’

He, a finger over his lips, said, “Ssshhhhhhhhhh. Be quiet woman.

You want the “nuay sapatos” to hear you?’

She said, ‘What will happen to us? We’ll never see you again,

uah-uah!’ This time her voice rose and she wasn’t able to control

her weeping. How could she forget the young boys and men that

were taken away by the ‘shoe-less ones’? Some later on found

buried in the ‘killing fields’ or common graveyard of tortured

victims of martial law or the New People’s Army liquidation squad.

Leaning forward on his heels, he hushed her, Ssshhhhhhhhhh

ssshhhhhhhhhh ssshhhhhhhhhh! Please, please, be quiet Rosing.

Just do what I told you … go out through the open back porch,

ahead of me, in case the rebels come and get me.’

He couldn’t see her face, as she sat hunched forward by their

door.

‘They’ll kill you,’ he heard her say. ‘I can tell husband. They

won’t respect that you’re a datu … not these beasts!’

‘Sss-hhhhhhhhhhhh. Sss-hhhhhhhhhhh.’

Then, as abruptly as it started, the dogs stopped barking.

In the dark, Datu Bualan rose from squatting on his heels, with

his hands stretched out at a chair or their dining table, crossed their

receiving room and back to the window. Again, he put his ear to the

cracks and listened for a minute. Indeed, the dogs had quieted

down. He went back to his wife before the door of their room.

‘Are they gone?’ she said. ‘The dogs are not barking anymore …

why do you think they’ve stopped?’

‘The rebels must have already left. I didn’t hear anything. It has

been very quiet.’

All of a sudden, a great yelping rose from the depth of the night,

near their house, then the next, and then beyond the empty lot to

the slopes of the hills; a stream of yelping and frightful cries filled

the night.

Rosing threw her arm around the boy, missing his shoulders,

brushed her elbow against his brow, instead. With her other hand

holding her bundle of clothes, she grabbed him and pulled the boy

to her, who leaned against her. Frightened, she dropped the bundle

of clothes on the floor, and on her haunches began to sway back and

forth.

‘Lord Jesus help us thy faithful servants!’ she began to crying in

a pitiful voice. ‘The Lord Jesus have mercy on us! Our god gulay

–most powerful Subano god– and the diwatas –lesser gods– take pity

on us!’

Datu Bualan didn’t hush her this time, he tried to help her up

and the boy too, and guide them to their open back porch. He

couldn’t move her away, she was so frightened that her entire body

had become stiff. Both of her legs were cramped, and she felt

needles pricking her toes.

‘We must go to the open back porch-now!’ he said to her.

Then, as quickly and silently as he could make it in the dark, he

went to their room and took his kampilan –long knife– handed down

to him from his father the great Datu Lumok.

Bent to the waist, the boy started toward the back porch,

abruptly he halted, turning round to the room, retrieved the bundle

of clothes he’d almost forgotten to take with him. To avoid being

seen through the window cracks and bamboo slats of the dirty

kitchen, he continued half-crouching his way back slowly.

Back to the sala from getting his kampilan, Datu Amado said,

‘Rosing … Rosing. We’ve to go to the porch, do you understand?

We must be ready …’ He had given up trying to raise her on her

feet, her fear having had made her stiff. With his hands on her

shoulders, he pushed her toward the kitchen. On her knees and

rump, she was dragged behind the boy, past the window, and

bamboo-slat wall. There, the three of them stooped, just behind

the door of the open back porch.

Datu Amado said, ‘We wait here. You know what to do if the

NPAs come to the house.’

She, half-crouched by the barred door, said, ‘And you husband?

What will you do?’

Oo, o, what will he do? Fight them off alone with his kampilan,

and one World War II pineapple hand grenade, that may not even

explode! Ay, an old hand grenade, indeed, about seven years short

to be half a century old, and a long bolo, inherited from his father

over two generations ago, against modern weapons, like the U.S.

M-14 or the Russian-made AK-47! he thought, gripping the handle

of his long knife.

He told her, ‘If the NPAs come to the house, you go ahead of me

with the boy. I’ll be right behind you. There’re those guava bushes

at the back of the batalan … you hid there. But if they go there to

look for you, then you run to the woods beyond the stream. Do you

understand me well, Rosing?’

She prayed to both to her Christian God and pagan gods, ‘Lord

Jesus, protect us! Ooo-o gulay and the diwatas protect us from

these evil ones!’

More dog-yelps and that sudden choking shuddered the village,

as when a knife is thrust into an animal’s gullet. From one end of the

barrio to the other ran the dying yelps, howls of the dogs, and then

up the slopes of a range of hills, where, leaning precariously down,

stood many Subanon huts. And then, near their house came a very

loud howl, another and another, and one not too far away, maybe

just in the corner of their yard.

The boy Alawi said softly, ‘Ma’am Rosing it’s our dogs they’re

killing …Whitey and Soraya. Maybe the first one … it could be

Sultan.’

She kept her head down under the window, so she wouldn’t be

seen by the communist rebels outside. Softly under her breath she

said:

‘No-no not those poor dogs those innocent dogs … like Sultan.’

Datu Amado had to say something to allay their fears and loss. He

said:

‘How do you know Alawi? There’re too many dogs being killed

and Sultan as his namesake suggests is too much a fighter to be

killed so easily.’ Alawi crawled closer to the door of the open back

porch and said, ‘They’re our dogs, uncle.’ Slowly, he started to slip

the wooden bar off the door’s lobes and a creaking followed as the

wooden bar slid half-way out. Over the boys shoulder Datu Amado

placed a hand.

‘No not now yet.’ said Amado. ‘We mustn’t be drastic. We’ll go

when we’re sure the NPAs will come to the house. Maybe they’re

just waiting for us now to come down the back porch. Then they’ll

only have to…’

Half-crouched with his bundle by the open porch door not

listening to his uncle. ‘I cud tell Uncle,’ said the boy said. ‘That was

Sultan’s voice … they’ve killed him.’

As if to confirm this a stream of new yaping and howling broke

and split the night. Outside with relentless fury the ‘shoe-less

ones’ stabbed and hacked the dogs with their jungle bolos and

knifes. Helpless and unable to do anything but keep as quiet as

possible the Subanon couple and the boy silently squatted on the

bamboo-split floor. Outside the howling and yelps of the village

dogs being butchered went on.

A quarter of an hour passed maybe less Datu Amado couldn’t tell

in his fear and terror before once again silence came to Karpok.

Not a single howl or a yelp was heard again from the village dogs

save for some dying moan from one or two dogs some distance away

on the slopes. Had the ‘nuay sapatos’ killed all our dogs? he asked

himself. Are they as thorough as us farmers when we with our

scythes cut down our rice stalks!

After some more moments Datu Amado said: ‘Come let’s go back

to our room. They’re gone. I don’t hear anything anymore.’

Back in the room neither the woman nor the boy unwrapped their

bundle of clothes.

‘Are you sure they’ve all gone?’ said Rosing.

‘O o they’ve accomplished what they’ve come for,’ said Datu

Amado. ‘They’ve sowed fear and terror in our village to force us to

give in to their demands and pay the communist revolutionary

taxes.’

Underneath the mat at the head of the bed he slipped his fathers

kampilan. After a while the boy went back to his room which

actually was the family’s bodega –storeroom – . For in the room

besides the boys bed and clothes were sacks of rice and corn grains

and some antique jars and knick-knacks.

As he lay there on the tikog reed-woven mat beside his wife who

still was holding onto her bundle of clothes and trinkets (did she

think the ‘shoeless ones’ were coming back?), he recalled the happy

happy days before martial law. He and his people knew no

oppression. How free men the Subanons the river people were!

Night or day in the fields on the cogon hills and woods and forests

there were no soldiers or NPAs to take them away and ‘salvage’

them. No fear or terror beat their heart nor drenched their bodies

with cold sweat. This freedom and well-being the Subanons of

Karpok and Guipos and Tipo and Bato-bato and Pinighaling and

Bulawan and Margosatubig and Dumalinao and in fact in the whole

Zamboanga peninsula he remembered very well and clearly.

And the Subanons though poor never went hungry. Life was easy

and carefree and they were contented and happy. Only to their

datu or thimuay –gatherer of people– were the Subanons to account

for transgressions in the tribe.

Even police officers seldom came to the village, he recalled. His

eyes wide open in the dark. When they did it was to ask the

assistance of the datu in catching cattle-rustlers or bandits raiding

the villages. The Subanons were seldom bothered and were left

alone to handle their own affairs. Only when a murder was

committed would the police chief come to the village. He would

however always see the datu or thimuay before arresting any of his

people. ‘Those were the days when we were free men indeed!’ he

told himself lying there under the mosquito net with his head filled

with old memories and recollections. ‘But the tyrant Marcos

imposed martial law and changed everything.’

Check-points along the way and at crossroads suddenly grew like

mushrooms on rotten trunks and on moist damp patch of soil. On

their way to the marketplace to sell their crops the Subanons were

harassed and often times harmed at those check-points . So that

they would be allowed to pass there unharmed or without their

crops confiscated the Subanons gave ‘tong’ that is bribe in money

or kind or ‘tribute.’

A lucky man indeed was a farmer who reached the marketplace

with still half his crops of vegetables and maize and livestock. And

the NPA rebels also put up their ‘check-points’—the moment the

military lifted theirs. Besides of course imposing heavy taxes

deceptively called ‘contributions’ such as a third or even half their

harvests of corn and rice. ‘It’s for your protection,’ a young rebel

usually a college intellectual from a StateUniversity or from a local

college in the city of Zamboanga told them. ‘From now on your

cattle and crops and your homes will be safe from cattle-rustlers

and bandits and from soldiers also.’

Abuses of military men would be a thing of the past from now on,

the Subanons were also told. And for a while this was true. In all

the sitios –hamlets– and barrios there was peace and the Subanons

content and happy once more.

Then after recruiting some young boys from the villages the

young rebel left. A new group composed of farmers and farm

workers and discontented laborers came to Lapuyan. Their leader

was a former hired worker in a sugar-cane plantation a sacada

–contractual– worker from the island of Luzon and some three days

away on an interisland vessel. On the first day of a ‘teach-in’ the

NPA commander called in the all-purpose shed in Karpok the barrio

folk were told why he became a rebel.

‘Dogs and animals in the sugar-cane plantation in Tarlac where

I worked are better fed and ‘housed’ than us sacada-workers,’ he

said with a .45-cal. pistol in his leather holster. ‘Our clothes were in

tatters with patches everywhere. You couldn’t tell at a glance the

difference between the rags we wore and the sacks of sugar-cane

stalks carried on our backs.’

But he and his kind as well as his comrades had none of the

idealism and unselfishness of the young rebels and university

intellectuals and student leaders, thought Datu Amado. His was

simply a hatred for the system that had ignored and forgotten his

kind. And how the former sacada-worker hated his Spanish and

Chinese mestizo bosses—most couldn’t even speak his dialect—ay,

for breaking his back with work he said to the Subanons during the

teach-ins in Karpok. They’d enslaved him with so many debts in the

hacienda general store, that his children and the children of his

children would always be in debt throughout their life time, he

said.

Datu Bualan couldn’t sleep and was still awake and his mind

lingering in the recent past thought aloud: ‘But does that give

the NPA reason to murder and burn villages and impose cruel

‘revolutionary taxes’? No respect for human lives or for dogs.

There’s no difference and are the same as the abusive soldiers and

communist rebels!’

Under the eyelids his eyeballs started to roll up in half

wakefulness. His mind slipped farther into the past. How simple life

was then, thought Datu Amado. Long before when the Subanons

were the only people in Zamboanga peninsula they’d their king or

gomotan: not just a datu or head chief which title was acquired

only recently that is when the Muslims came and told them that

henceforth their chief would be called datu like the Muslims chief.

Calling the Subanons highest leader a king would belittle the Moros

whose highest leader is only a sultan not a king even. So to keep

peace between them the Subanons called their highest leader datu

no longer gomotan and they embracing Islam as well.

He reminded of the butchering of the village dogs by the NPAs a

little before midnight that night said, ‘Sultan poor Sultan. If only

the Moros knew why I named him “Sultan,” ha-ha!’—although really

the dog was brave and the villages best dog-fighter.

At the supper-table when Sultan was still a puppy his wife Rosing

had asked him why he had named it “Sultan.” And so he told her.

‘No-no, it’s not true!’ she said with an incredible look in her

face. ‘All this time you’ve not forgotten the belittling of our

Subanon title of gomotan to datu or sultan.’

He a grin tweaking in the corners of his mouth he said, ‘O o

Rosing…I just a datu now have a sultan for a slave. At a mere

whistle or I will just tsk tsk tsk’—making that tsk-sound through his

lips—“Sultan” comes running. At an angry look from me he crawls

on all fours and whimpers with fear thinking his master is angry. Do

you see why I’ve named our puppy “Sultan”?’

‘O-ooo, you, Amado,’ she had said. ‘How clever! But “Sultan” is

such a handsome puppy. Is he not? He’s big the biggest of the brood

and bullies all the others.’

‘Yes indeed he’s a bully!’ and again he began to grin at what he

thought was a clever joke.

As he lay on the tikog reed-woven mat Datu Amado’s eyelids

began to flicker. It was as if he were dreaming in his sleep although

he was half awake not so unlike a dog dreaming. But this

comparison would be unkind. His mind was filled with the coming

of the American missionaries and the American soldiers called

‘Volunteers.’ With powerful weapons and guns they drove the

Moros away from the island. The Subanons heaved a sigh of relief

but it was a short asthmatic breath. Because now in turn it was the

Christian missionaries telling them to replace their diwatas and the

all-powerful god gulay with theirs: the Lord Jesus Christ and the

Virgin Mary and the Holy Ghost.

He suspected that the women secretly welcomed the coming of

the American missionaries. For the American missionaries had told

them that they shouldn’t walk behind their men as an inferior as

they’d always done. Wasn’t she made in Gods image too? So eager

to make changes, Amado recalled the American missionaries had

overlooked this fact: that there was no way two persons could walk

abreast in the very narrow footpath or trail in sitios and barrios of

Lapuyan. Walking two-abreast one would certainly bump the other

and send him either tumbling into the bushes or reeling and falling

down a mountain cliff. ‘For is it not,’ he thought ‘that the women

fill up the churches and we the men stay away?’

How well he remembered when the Subana women put on the

long gowns and high-heeled stiletto shoes. These came in

fresh-smelling packages from their foster parents in North America.

There they were on their way to church early one morning

walking under the coconut trees. In the breeze the fronds waved

here and there. There was Aunt Sigbe and the Subanas behind her

who had all discarded their Subanon malong. With brambles and

thorny brush along the footpath the tough tubular sarong-like piece

of hand-woven cloth was the practical garment to wear there.

However the Subana women were ecstatic with the new Western

dress. Heads held high they wore their long gowns of fine silk that

reached down to their ankles. Of two colors only either white or

yellow were the gowns the foster American parents had sent the

women of Lapuyan. The poor Christian souls couldn’t picture how a

tropical land looked like. That all over the coconut lot was tall grass

and brambles with long sharp thorns. When the women then went

through the coconut lot their smooth silk gowns got caught in the

brambles and thorny brush. Desperately arms jerking they pulled

at the hem of their gowns some tearing them. From a distance with

the early mist hanging above the ground and the grass reaching

halfway to their knees Aunt Sigbe and the Subanas going through

the coconut trees in long gowns looked like apparitions haunting

the ancestral lands of their forefathers.

On the new trail shorn through the woods with long bolos leading

to the church on top of a hill (whereas the Subanons place the

temple of their god called Mansakada by their nipa huts the

American missionaries had a penchant of building wooden

structures on top of hills as if the higher the place of worship the

closer to the Lord Jesus they were in heaven) were upturned rocks

and loosened soil. Upon reaching this trail with its soft and damp

ground the Subana women made strange quick movements with

their arms and feet. Like mechanical dolls gone haywire. Because it

happened that this was the first time Aunt Sigbe and the Subana

women ever wore stiletto-heeled shoes or any shoes for that matter

whether high heeled or flat. Unaccustomed to such a new covering

on their feet they wobbled left and right and forward and backward

while strutting along the trail. One imagined them to be like a flock

of ducks harassed by all the dogs in the town. Worse yet with the

loosened soil and upturned rocks everywhere the steel

stiletto-heels lanced into the soft new trail like stakes or broke

against a rock. Here and there a woman stumbled or fell. On top of

the hill sat the newly-built church of the Christian Alliance

impervious and wooden. Before it the American missionaries a

certain Rev. Patrick Rafolls and his wife Jocelyn, Datu Amado

recalled she with yellow hair like corn silk and long cranes

neck—both urging and cheering Aunt Sigbe and the flock of

church-goers on …

‘Ha ha ha,’ he laughed in bed and then beginning to mumble and

say something detached and irrational. Now he was sinking into

sleep. ‘Aunt Sigbe … yes Mrs. Rafolls of the cranes neck what?’

His wife turned toward him placing a hand lightly on his shoulder.

‘Amado Amado wake up,’ she said. ‘You’re dreaming … wake

up!’

‘What what,’ he opening his eyes in the dark and unseeing said.

‘What? Huagh, huagh!’

‘It’s all right. You were just talking in your sleep.’

He turned his head on the pillow. Was drowsy still like when you

haven’t had any sleep for days. For some moments his thoughts

refused to leave the past and lingering there in its chasm.

‘I was just recollecting the old days Rosing. Its nothing really

important … and I was about to fall asleep when you woke me up,’

he said pausing and without turning toward her added, ‘Remind me

to call the council of elders for a meeting.’

‘O o,’ she said turning to her side of the bed. With her fingers

she tucked in the fringes of the mosquito net underneath the

reed-woven mat.

She thought of the boy whether he was able to sleep after the

butchering of their dogs. How he loves the dogs, she thought

especially Sultan. Suddenly she realized that tonight’s incident was

just the beginning and that it wasn’t all over. Her husband Amado

could be murdered tomorrow or the day after. No one could tell

when the communists would come and execute him through their

New Peoples Court.

‘O Lord Jesus,’ she prayed softly, ‘keep him safe for me.’

She began to cry into her pillow. Her shoulders and limbs shook.

She thought she had rocked their bamboo-slat bed and tried to stop

it. She knew that her husband though in bed for sometime was still

much awake.

3.

Early the next morning in a crude structure alongside a dirt road

which cuts across the village of Karpok, the Subanon council of

elders met. Made of bamboo and nipa palms the structure is an

all-purpose shed and rectangular in shape with round-wood as posts

with no walls. It can accommodate some thirty people. Here the

Subanon folks settle family and tribal disputes and perform ritual

dances during offerings and weddings and hold the village council

meeting.

A quarter of an hour before the council meeting began women

and children from the houses nearby and those as far as four

kilometers were already at the all-purpose shed. On the earthen

floor they either stood or sat on their heels some with heads bare,

many with turbans wrapped round their heads. Up the bare posts of

tree-trunks and on beams some boys had clambered wrapping their

legs round them like little monkeys so as not to fall.

Datu Amado Bualan began by telling them what they already

knew: that the New Peoples Army rebels were responsible for the

slaughter of the village dogs the previous night. Obviously this was

meant to warn the villagers of their failure to give half of their

crops and animals as ‘contributions’ to the cause or else! What the

village chief dint tell them they already knew: that the communists

would come back to slaughter their working carabaos and

‘confiscate’ their crops which they had hidden for the rainy days

and maybe take a score of village men with them—after executing

their datu.

Other villages from beyond the hills and across the river Lapuyan

which had balked had paid dearly. And the sitio of Tipo and barrio

Bato-bato which were adamant and refused to ‘contribute’ half

their crops to the revolutionary cause were burnt to the ground.

He Datu Purok Bualan now to his people not just the man called

by the Christian name Amado was asking what was the wish and

opinion of the council elders. Should they give in and see their

children starve their women’s suckling breasts dry up? And their

men too weak to work in the slash-and-burn farm or kaingin?

A man called Nacio at fifty or so the youngest among the elders

said, ‘No! We shouldn’t let our children starve to death. Without

the children who’ll work in the kaingin when our young men have

become old like us?’

Another elder the oldest with a gray turban wrapped round his

bony head and crouching on his heels on a straw mat on the dirt

floor said, ‘The “shoeless ones” are never satisfied. First it was

only a few sacks of rice and corn two-three of our goats and a dozen

of our chickens. Then it was one third of all our crops and also a

third of our goats, pigs, and fowls. Even our ducks which we seldom

butcher they also demanded as “community tax.” And did I forget

to say that in the beginning the NPAs told us that these were only

“voluntary contributions”?’

A third elder said, ‘Hear, hear, hear!’

‘Listen to the old man Salay.’

The rest of the elders about seven old Subanos nodded and made

agreeable sounds in their throats.

Up on the round-wood posts and beams the boys between seven

and ten peered down at the group of elders some leaned way down

to see better. Round the posts or beams they clutched with their

hands and wrapped their feet. It was some fifteen-feet fall to the

ground more than enough to break a boy’s head or leg. No one

either asked the kids to come down or send them home.

Not two generations ago sadly recalled the oldest one Salay

ninety or so years old by the Christian calendar, no boys or

unmarried women were allowed during the council of elders

meeting.

A fourth elder who like the other elders sat cross-legged on their

mats lifted his head toward Datu Bualan. He gestured with his hands

sometimes pressing them over his breast said,

‘O o the NPAs told us since we are all brothers we should help

each other. We belong to one community one tribe “everywhere.”

They said they’re not changing anything we can go on living the way

we always have in our tribe. Everything in the tribe we share.’

A fifth elder called Bayang of Pinaghaling shifted his weight on

his haunches. Though over sixty now his shoulders were still broad

and so was his chest. Soreness and wrath rang in his voice.

‘They fooled us … like the Visayans who came here decades ago.

First they said they came to help us work in the farm and take care

of our animals. Then afterwards they showed us papers which they

said were titles to our ancestral lands,’ said Bayang waxing with

anger. ‘Now they own most of our good lands especially the fertile

fields in the flat land below the great river.’

The other elders said, ‘Hear. hear. hear!’

A crowd of women and children gathered behind the elders. In

front of the crowd several women stood or squatted with suckling

babies wrapped round long and big kerchiefs slung on one side of

their hip. The rest of the crowd along the back of the shed pushed

forward pressing the others in the middle against the ones in front

who wouldn’t batch an inch.

Datu Purok Bualan gazed over the heads of the council of elders

toward the restless crowd. Behind him without looking back he

could tell that the Subanons were no less unquiet.

Datu Purok said, ‘Let’s not speak of the Visayans’ veering the

talk back to its track. It’s the “nuay sapatos” who are now troubling

us. One problem at a time …’

The elders in unison said, ‘Hear, hear, hear!’

In a sort of a blur Datu Bualan appeared in the old man Salay’s

eyes for a film of cataract covered his eyes lens but his sight dint

affect a bit his old wisdom.

“—O, o, and now they want half of everything we harvest half of

everything we raise such as goats pigs chickens and ducks,’

continued the old man Salay as if he had not been interrupted. ‘No

longer are these things given voluntarily for now we’ve no choice.

We are forced to give all these.’

Tembe the third elder said, ‘When will it stop?’ He it was who

had suggested the previous month in July to give in to the

communists demands for a third of their crops. He thought it would

appease the NPAs and now he was confused and ashamed.

On his bare feet Nacio the youngest elder rose and his eyes fixed

at the third elders face. Nacio in a sarcastic tone said:

‘It’ll stop when they’ve everything. Not even if we give them half

of our crops. You should know hah?’

Tembe turned his head away gazing above the heads of the

crowd. To avoid the others eyes he stared emptily in the space

between two round-wood posts.

An elder whose grandsons had been the first to leave Karpok to

look for jobs in the faraway city of Zamboanga said: ‘Many of our

young men have gone away and left our barrio. They say, “What’s

the use of planting and raising animals? When the NPAs or the

soldiers come they take away what we’ve just harvested and

butcher and our healthiest animals.’

The fifth elder said, ‘Can we blame them for leaving? They know

there’s no future for them here that life in Karpok is hopeless. I

believe our young men know better than us elders.’

‘Hear, hear ______ ’

‘Even if we want to give more of our crops there’re not enough

men to work in our fields. Our crops and cassava won’t last until

the next harvest … even if we were to keep all these to ourselves

and not give anything to the NPAs.’

‘What’re we to do?’

An elder who had not spoken before and addressing Amado in his

Subano name and title said, ‘O o Datu Purok. It’s for you to tell us.’

It wasn’t just the communists that drove the young men away

from Karpok or the other Subanon barrios and sitios in Zamboanga

peninsula a fact known by every Subanon in Karpok. During military

zoning after the country was placed under martial law by the

Despot Marcos in ’72 when soldiers conducted house-to-house

search for firearms and deadly weapons the young men were

brutalized. For the slimmest reason the Dictator’s soldiers would

kick and strike them with rifle-butts those suspected of aiding or

sympathizing with the communists were taken away and brought to

the Army camps from where not a few ever returned and were

believed by the villagers to have been ‘salvaged’ (a word coined by

the barrio folks to mean the execution of suspected communists or

informants whose corpses were later buried in abandoned fields).

The young men who returned to their village were barely alive to

tell of the torture and humiliation in the hands of the despot Marcos

soldiers.

Most of the young Subanos go to Zamboanga city—from

Margosatubig the twelve-hour trip by launch means pitching and

rolling for at least ten hours in the rough South China Sea—seeking

for jobs that are few and often times ‘unavailable’ to the natives.

They soon discovered that prejudice and discrimination for being

native Subanos mean a door shut in their faces even for those who

had become Christians and shedding off their culture and tradition,

becoming ‘invisible’ in Christian society.

Of them or other highlander tribes no one in the city trusts

everyone is suspicious they learned too late. So they lie. Visayans

they become speaking in the tongue of their hated enemy. In the

canning factories of Zamboanga they hold the lowest jobs—washing

off the slime and seawater and fish guts from the cement floor. At

Chinese restaurants and hotels washing dishes and collecting slops

in pails are their usual chores. Lucky indeed is a Subano who gets

himself a job as a help in the city.

However this isn’t their first choice. Ironically to the

consternation of their parents and the council elders almost all of

the young men want to become soldiers. For they have seen what

power there is in the barrel of a gun. The military call them ‘fodder

for the Moro rebels.’ Still being natives not Moro rebel returnees

-the ’75 and ’76 Peace Talks in ZamboangaCity gave the Moro

National Liberation Front secessionists full amnesty-, they’ve to

bribe the recruitment officer or sign off a year’s pay. It affects not

just the Subanon natives but Christians and Moros as well who

haven’t joined the MNLF rebels. The recruitment officer takes their

money and promised them enlistment in the military. But often

this promise isn’t kept especially not to the ignorant Subanons.

Ignorant and pagans is what the recruitment officer thinks of them.

Disgruntled and ashamed to go back to their village after failing to

recruit many have joined the NPAs whom in the first place they’d

fled from.

A sixth member of the council of elders who saw his neighbors’

pigs and goats being taken away by the communists but was

helpless to do anything said:

‘Surely the NPAs will come back to terrorize the village. As

before they’ll take some of our young men … maybe burn our

houses if we don’t give what they demand from us.’

A council elder beside him gazed up at the datu. He rapidly

chewed on his betel -nut-mascada-chew saying: ‘You yourself are

in great danger Datu Purok. You know this very well as you know the

fate of Datu Kumanglag of Balarek. He was tried before the

Communist People’s court and immediately executed.’

Now the council of elders asked the datu for his decision. They

said: We must send word to Commander Ka Oca whether we’ll pay

the new increased revolutionary taxes. Or ask him for a compromise.

But it must be decided now before it’s too late.’

Silence fell in the all-purpose shed as the council of elders and

the Subanon folks waited. Now and then a child’s cry could be

heard. But right away also came the mothers hush. Even the kids

who had clambered up the beams and round posts made no sound

that would disturb the silence.

Datu Bualan searched deep deep in his mind and heart for a

solution. To ask them for their crops and animals meant further

starving his own people. How could he do that? Even the baluno an

old Subanon fruit tree on his fathers old land whose mango-like fruit

it is believed have saved the Subanons from hunger since ancient

times couldn’t bear enough fruit to feed all his people. Though

he’d the authority and powers as their datu not just as the barangay

–barrio –captain or village chief his conscience and heart couldn’t

let them starve or send them to their death.

Briefly he recalled the buklogs the spiritual rituals his dead

father and his fathers father the first Christianized thimuay labi

Takulan Bualan had held in Karpok. Always there was so much gasi

–rice wine –and food. Over fifty pigs and goats and a dozen or so of

chosen calves were roasted there were sixty earthen jars full of gasi

that were buried underneath the earth months ago to inebriate the

entire barrio and its guests. About the ground where the chickens

were butchered lay a pool of blood and a carpet of feathers several

inches thick. Sacks and sacks of aromatic upland rice steamed to

feed all the people of Karpok and the sitios and barrios of Bulawan

and Marewing and Guipos and Bato-bato and Tipo and Pinighaling

and Sitio Ubo.

Ay so much food and gasi wine then! he thought. More than

enough to feed the Subanons from all the sitios and barrios of

Baganian peninsula if they’d all come to the buklog. But now

there’s so little—his gaze falling upon the young mothers with their

half-naked babies wrapped in big kerchiefs saddled by their hips

how flat and sapless their breasts were! he noticed. The babies …

many of the babies already bore signs of hunger the lack of food:

their eyes starting to pop out of their sockets a blank look in their

pallid faces and bloated stomach bulging from the big kerchiefs.

Some were crying and were being hushed by the mothers. Why are

you not helping us gulay! Don’t you see our children starving and

yet the NPAs want more of our grains and animals! He shifted his

gaze looking around him at the crowd thinking still, O gulay and our

diwatas what must I do? They’ll all die if I tell them to fight if I tell

them to leave the village to run away won’t I and my tribe be

forever branded as cowards!

For himself he would stay even if he knew that the NPAs would

put him before a mock trial and execute him right away. He feeling

so helpless thought then, Maybe there’ll be a miracle. Like that

time in ’74 when some one hundred MNLF rebels were repulsed in

Lapuyan which they’d planned to raid and loot. You may call it

superstition but whether you believe it or not it happened. He

remembered the incident very well more than one hundred Moro

rebels were trapped in a ravine and the Lapuyan police and citizens

home defense unit positioned themselves strategically on each side

of it shooting dead more than half of the rebel force. Many many

rebels were wounded and a number were carried back by their

comrades to the safety of the mountains. Two years later one of

the raiders who ‘returned to the folds of the law’ during the

Zamboanga Peace Talks in ’75 told him an incredible story.

‘I’m a distant relative of Hadji Yusob of Jolo,’ he had said with a

tinge of awe and respect in his voice sitting on a bench in a

carinderia –eatery– at the marketplace in Lapuyan. ‘They tell me

that one of Hadji Yusob’s wives was from Lapuyan who was

kidnapped as a child by Yusob’s men in PhingiBay.’

‘O o I heard about that old story,’ Datu Amado Bualan had said.

‘The child when she was kidnapped was the only daughter of my

father’s eldest grandfather thimuay mangura Lumang.’

Blowing onto his cup of black coffee to cool it the Muslim

rebel-returnee had said, ‘As a traveling merchant I’ve been here

several times before the incident that’s why I was chosen as the

guide in the raid of Lapuyan.’

Suddenly he lifted his face from his coffee-cup and turned to

Datu Bualan. ‘So from Mt.Thumahub I guided my brothers to

Lapuyan proper using the river Lapuyan as a guide-route,’ he went

on. ‘Because I know that the river Lapuyan cuts through here at the

centro of the municipio. Is it not datu?’

Watching the steaming cup of coffee wrapped round the former

rebels hand Datu Bualan was worried that the Moro might though

lightly burn his hand on the steaming cup. ‘Yes yes of course,’ he

said, ‘before it flows into PhingiBay.’

He said, ‘Would you believe it that we never got to the centro?

We never lost sight of the river even for a second we always

followed it closely. But instead of ending here in Lapuyan’—he

looked up toward the old galvanized-iron ceiling of the marketplace

his lips lightly trembling forming the word: Allah—‘we found

ourselves at the other side in a narrow ravine below the police

station where there was a military outpost. But I swear datu to

Allah and over my mother’s grave that we never for a moment left

the side of the river. Always we could hear it’s flowing and

rumbling and never left its side for more than a minute. It was only

when the shooting started and my brothers falling dead here and

there like flies did we realize that the river was gone and we were

trapped in a ravine at the other side of town.’

‘It was the giant Minanga guardian at the river’s mouth,’ said

Datu Bualan. ‘Minanga with the help of another giant Mati who lives

on Mt.Thumahub where the Lapuyan rivers source a spring is found.

They’d moved the direction of the river. These are mischievous

giants especially Mati whose body is made of stones from the river.

They’ve always helped the Subanons of Lapuyan since ancient times

against Moro pirates and marauders.’

‘So I heard datu from my relatives in Jolo,’ said the Moro

rebel-returnee slurping at his coffee.

His cup of coffee as well as Datu Amado’s wasn’t so steaming hot

as before. But a pleasant aroma was still rising from them in the

cold early morning sea breeze.

§

 Not believing himself what he was saying, he advised them: ‘Lets

be patient. Wait a while … for some magic from our guardians.

Perhaps the giant Phingi possessor of the spirit of Balan the

guardian of the Bualans and Minanga guardian of the River and

Dagot giant of the creek and Mati who lives on Mt.Thumahub and

all the guardians of the Subanons of Lapuyan will again come to our

assistance. Had they not helped us time and again during the

Japanese time and the present in these martial law days?’

He rose to his feet from sitting on his haunches on his straw

mat. His eyes shone under heavy eyebrows and rose like a rock was

his chin. ‘You all remember when Phingi repulsed the Japanese

soldiers who tried to land in our ancestors’ land in Sunglupa in

1944—especially you the elders who were already men. How with

the powers of Balan’s spirit Phingi hypnotized the Japanese

invaders into believing that hundreds of well-armed Subanos were

sending continuous and voluminous firing from a ridge down to the

beach. You remember that well, hoy, Salay … you too Tembe

though you were yet a boy,’ he said turning his head to one side of

his shoulder to gaze at the crowd in the all-purpose structure.

And then stirred and inspired now he reminded them of the MNLF

rebels who were led into an ambush in a ravine by the giants

Minanga and Mati. Now Datu Bualan was seemingly possessed by the

spirit of Balan. For he couldn’t stop telling more stories and myths

now. Such stories or tales as they’re called by Christians—hah! had

always captivated him. Straight as a reed now before the council of

elders and his people his chin raised like a thimuay mangura –young

gatherer of people –Datu Amado Bualan imagined himself as a youth

listening to his fathers the great Datu Lumok’s stories of the

Subanon people and their great great ancestors.

However slowly the crowd which was more concerned about the

present began to disperse. The first to leave were the young. Boys

and girls of not less than fifteen and then the young men and

women and the middle-aged who suddenly found need to be home

to do some household chores and to plow the fields. By the time

Datu Amado was finishing telling his war stories and of the magic of

the guardians of the Subanons there were left only the children and

the elderly.

So he stopped. On his face a manifestation of grief and sorrow

showed as his eyelids fell over his eyes and his jaws loosened in

their joints opened like a dying clam.

Thus the elders and the village townsfolk left the all-purpose

shed and once again griped in frustration and fear. Their shaking

claws clutched their hearts. The Subanons had been warned by the

communists to ‘contribute’ to the revolutionary cause a week ago.

Then only recent as last night the rebels had slaughtered all the

village dogs.

_____

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