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July 5 2013 6 05 /07 /July /2013 19:47


Antonio Enriquez: The Betrayal, historical novel, 387 pp. NBDB 2012 grant research & title    



Weeks past of  September, 1899, the people poignantly felt the gruesomeness of the blockade. A bad harvest in July because of torrential rains and the lack of workers to work the rice and corn fields made the situation worse.            

            General Alvarez rode into Curuan barrio, an old settlement, with a largely Christianized population, some 30 kms. southeast of the plaza of Zamboanga. As he entered the barrio he smelled it, and a sour taste  pricked his tongue, turned his stomach; suspecting its worse source, a ball of revulsion emitted from the pit of his stomach, jabbed the balls of his eyes.

            By the narrow trail a farmer, a lean stick in his hand, stood staring at a bonfire.

            ‘What is that burning?’ said General Alvarez.

            ‘Corpses, señor,”said the farmer.

            ‘Did you say ---- ?’

            ‘Yes, señor.’

            ‘You know, hombre, that it is heathen and blasphemous to burn the dead! They should be buried decently, and a prayer said for their soul. A priest … for the last sacrament.’

            ‘Too late … the mother, children, and the father were found decomposed many days ago maybe,’ said the farmer with the stick in his hand. ‘Far from here … out there on the mountain slope in a hut. On a cart a relative took the bodies here, looking for a priest. He told us the family died because of hunger, no food there in the mountains … h’mn, No road there to bring in food, much needed food since the harvest was worse in a decade.

            ‘When no priest came he left the corpses there, they lay there, then, abandoned for more days. And the corpses began to rot more, the smell unbearable … becoming worse every day, so I burnt them to stop the smell.’

            ‘Are there more dead near here?’

            ‘None, señor. The dead from starvation are found only in the sitios and barrios of Tripa Manok and Vitali, far from here, up there in the mountain ranges. Yes, too far from the plaza if it happens a venturous merchant gets through the blockade with his cavans of rice and corn … But the people are hungry. It is the blockade, señor, that makes them hungry.’  

             A gust of wind blew a wisp of burnt rotten flesh to his nostrils, and General Alvarez spun his horse and rode back toward the plaza; as the farmer, staring at the burning corpses, stuck his stick into the bonfire.

             Quick sparks lifted and fell back on to the bonfire without dying.




General John Bates some time ago had returned to Zamboanga from Jolo. A week after his arrival, he made arrangements to talk with General Alvarez.

            He vigorously urged General Alvarez to surrender Zamboanga peacefully, and as peace offering again offered $75,000, presented earlier by General Otis through the Chinese emissaries Macrohon and Cañazares. General Alvarez gave an almost identical reply of his earlier rejection.

            Later, Bates told Captain Very: ‘They consider their cause identical with that of Aguinaldo on Luzon. They’re waiting for results of events in the North and wish to  be left alone by the United States.’


Blake had better luck with Surigao on September 30, he did not need to offer or  bribe; for General Garcia himself there offered the surrender of Surigao to the Americans.  But General Bates declined. He did not  say why he turned down Surigao’s surrender offered to him on a silver platter, without a drop of blood to fall,  a bone broken, or a head bashed in.

            This distressed the men of the 23rd Infantry and the troops who had looked forward to the bountiful marine food the town was famous for.

             ‘It is said that the pompanos and eye-like dotted groupers are as big as your thighs and longer than an arm,’ the sailors said to the infantry men of the 23rd; ‘and the sea crabs as big as a wok and the turtle as wide in width as  this mess table.’

             ‘And I’m President McKinley,’ said the infantry men consoling themselves. 

            ‘And I’m President Lincoln,’ said an infantry man in a dull voice. 




There was some sort of peace between Rebel President General Alvarez and proud and arrogant Alcalde Midel of the rancheria of Tetuan. Each had control of his own barrio, like it were a king’s turf ironically after they had totally driven away the last vestiges of Spanish kingship and imperialism. It was mid-October, 1899.

            But the peace between the two rebel leaders did not mean peace and quiet in Zamboanga. For neither controlled the peninsula completely, and there lay an imbalance; while in the hinterlands it was ‘every man for himself.’

            Rebel deserters roamed the hinterlands, robbed and rustled cattle in isolated villages, and the regular troops without an enemy to fight fought among themselves out of rivalry and faction, Alvarez’s and Midel’s.

            A couple of houses in town and the aduana were nearly burnt down were it not for the local Chinese, who, favoring no one, stoic and non-participant during the adversity, put out the fire.

            ‘I do not understand,’ said the new vice-president Calixto, ‘why the arrogant mayor of Tetuan seems unbothered by his not having any role in the new republic of Zamboanga.’

            ‘Do you not see?’ said Don Camins, who had refused any political or military appointment President Alvarez offered him. ‘To him, if he shows he does not mind us, it means he does not recognize our authority and this republic. Uh-huh, that is how that goat-headed  ranchero thinks.’  

            ‘That could be,’ said the old man Macombong, holding up an old cane, who stopped by to join them in their talk. ‘But only too hard to tell what is in the mind of that upstart who would only be happy as president of this republic, nothing less will satisfy him. Yes, he himself … Ha, ha, ha. Nobody can see what is that man’s next mischief … what he plans to do next.’

            ‘Mischief?’ said Don Alvarez. ‘His mischief … of that failed assassination. If it had succeeded  would have sent me earlier to St. Peter’s door. Mischief, grandfather!’

            To this, Datu Macombong, the oldest warrior there, gave this consoling reply:

Ay, yerba mala, nunca muera, y si muera no hace falta!’ — obviously also referring to Don Alvarez reputation as a woman’s man. ‘A wild vine never dies, and if it dies it faults no one!’  

            ‘Now you are sure it is Alcalde Midel — not Datu Mandi?’ said Calixto, shaking his head at the president of the Republic of Zamboanga, Don Alvarez.

            ‘H’mn, both of them,’ he said reluctantly.




The Bates Treaty with Sultan Kiram II was approved by U.S. President McKinley. It was October 27, 1899.

            There were a few cries against it in the U.S. Senate; easily it was drowned by the thunderous ‘ays,’ and McKinley, imperialist apologists, fanatic missionaries, and the chest-thumbing Indian-fighters, military bullies continued their knee-jerking march in the Pacific.




Some six months after the rebels’ capture of the Fort of Our Lady of the Pillar and the liberation of the people of Zamboanga from centuries of Spanish bias and oppression, November 14, an officer from Alcalde Midel’s camp rode to the rebels’ general headquarters in Barrio Mercedes. The courier delivered Mayor Midel’s message and, without another word, rode right back to Tetuan.

            Said General Alvarez to Don Camins and Major Calixto, who came in just after the messenger left, ‘Mayor Midel believes the Americans will attack the town tomorrow, and wants more guns to defend  Tetuan.’

            ‘What —? General Alvarez, more guns!’ said both Don Camins and General Calixto, incredibly. ‘It is still the same thing … he wants all the guns of the revolution for himself.’

            ‘Uh-huh, that is nothing new, General,’ said Colonel Ramos, without entering the room but stood on the main door. ‘And what was all the rush of the messenger to return so quickly to his master?’

            General Alvarez did not reply. Instead, he said, ‘Mayor Midel wants me also to inspect his guns in Tetuan, the ordnance that you and Don Camins captured from the Spanish gunboats last June. He wants me to see — the messenger said, and Midel wants this emphasized — that he badly needs more guns, badly need now against the Americans, than before when we drove away Governor Delos Rios from Zamboanga. To prepare, you know, Tetuan from a North American attack. ’  

            ‘So, he has he not forgotten Captain … Colonel Ramos’s objection,’ said Don Camins, gazing round the room for an empty chair, ‘about those guns in Tetuan, eh?’

             ‘No, he has not forgotten yet,’ said General Alvarez.  ‘Now he wants me to inspect them, so we can see for ourselves that he indeed badly needs more guns to defend Tetuan .…’

            ‘It is the same story told in a different manner,’ said Colonel Ramos through the door.

            When Don Camins saw a chair nearby, the conversation on the subject had cooled down, and none wished to pick it up. Ramos, at the door frame, looked back at a group of artillerymen idly conversing outside; he showed no interest to come in.


‘Well, what did  General Alvarez say?’ said Midel, impatiently waiting outside his office, to the messenger, who, upon his arrival in Tetuan, had hardly taken his second breath.

            "‘Yes" — he said “yes” he is coming, Alcalde Midel.’

            ‘Fool! Presidente. President Midel. Repeat, repeat it! Cunt!’

            ‘Yes, sir: “President Midel.”’




An hour or so after dark, Rajah Muda Mandi boarded the USS Manila anchored on his island of Manalipa, east of Zamboanga to meet with its skipper, Captain Nazro. Datu Mandi and the Alcalde of Tetuan, Don Midel, were already ‘Americanistas’ — a euphemism for ‘collaborators.’

            Not far from shore were some 100 Moro sailing canoes. Datu Mandi offered the American commander Nazro to capture rebel General Vicente Alvarez for the Americans.             ‘I will do it myself,’ he said. ‘With no help from you I will capture El General.’

            And Commander Nazro said, ‘No-no, thank you, Datu Mandi. Will take care of this business ourselves.’ And so Datu Mandi waved off his warriors.


In Sailing the Sulu Sea: Belles and Bandits in the Philippines (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1940), David Potter wrote this account:


On Tuesday, November 14, 1899, pursuant to instructions received by Commander Nazro during the Manila's last stay in the harbor of Manila, our good ship threw her weight into the scale of things Zamboangan.

            About four o'clock that afternoon, we ran into a cove of the small island of Sakol, which lies to the eastward of the southern end of the Zamboangan peninsula. There the USS Castine [1,177 tons, length 204', four 6" guns] lay at anchor. Commander Very came on board, and dined with our captain.  At dinner he informed Commander Nazro of the situation of affairs.

            An hour or two after dark, the Manila weighed anchor, and stood away to Malanipa, an island still smaller than Sakol and a few miles farther east. Here, with every appearance of secrecy, a canoe manned by Moros came alongside. From it there climbed to the Manila's deck a tall man who, although clad as a Moro chief, had the features, the complexion, and the bearing of a Spanish gentleman. The word was passed around among us juniors that the visitor was the renowned Datu Mandi himself.

            Mandi was the son of a Spanish officer and of the daughter of a Moro datu or duke. He had traveled in Spain and France, and was equally at home in the culture of his father and in that of his mother.  When a grown man he had chosen to share the lot of his mother's people  hence, he was regarded as a Moro.  He was the only Moro I ever saw  and he was only half a Moro! who impressed me ….




Wednesday, early in the morning, the next day, the insurgents flag, as it had since mid-May 1899, was flying proudly and gallantly over Fort Pillar.

            Bunch of clouds, heavy with curls, like eyelids newly awakened, slowly drifted on the Basilan Strait, scudding lazily at the first wisp of wind from the west, where the sun was rising in a landscape of multicolor. Its flapping and waving excited peace, peace on earth! 

            From the deck of the USS Manila, Lieutenant David Potter, unable to resist the graceful flapping of the insurgents’ flag, raised his eyes to it. Years later, as rear admiral, supply corps, U.S.N, he wrote in Sailing the Sulu Sea: Belles and Bandits in the Philippines:


But certain it is that ballads have been written about Zamboanga, and songs have  been sung           of it!  And, without subscribing to the claim of its being the lovelies town in the Philippines, for I remember Jolo, showered by the vermilion blossoms  of its fire-trees and Surigao, inked to the seashore by its splendid rows of palms, and Davao, made glorious by the  ten-thousand-foot bulk of Mount Apo behind it, not to mention the mountain capital of Baguio with its forest of noble pines nevertheless, Zamboanga was pretty enough to charm the eye of the most fastidious.

            The village lies at the extreme southwest point of Mindanao.  In 1899, not only was it a depot for the copra country behind it, but it was the entrepot for the hemp produced about  the Gulf of Davao in the southeast of the great island. Furthermore, and perhaps a more           important thing in the eyes of the American higher command, it was the point of all others, barring only Manila itself, where the Philippines came in contact with the outer world.

            Through Basilan Strait, which separates Mindanao from the not inconsiderable island of  Basilan twenty miles to the southward, British, German, French, and Japanese vessels passed in appreciable numbers. Whenever streamers from Hong  Kong, Chefoo, Saigon, or Nagasaki, visited Manila, and thence proceeded to Australia or New Zealand, to New Guinea or New Caledonia, they passed through Basilan Strait into the Moro Gulf and on into the Celebes Sea. All such vessels came within a mile of Zamboanga even if they did not stop there. And yet, by the time our gunboat Manila was ordered to lend a hand toward the  advancement of American interests thereabouts, the flag of the Filipino insurgents,             commanded by ‘General’ Vicente Alvarez, had flown defiantly over the town for six or seven months, and had flaunted in full sight of every passing steamer. The situation became a hissing and a wagging of the head!

            For half a year, Zamboanga had been blockaded from the sea side by the United States Ship Castine. The Castine was a real man-of-war in design, although a gunboat of even less displacement than the Manila's.  Her captain was Commander Samuel Very, well known in the Navy for his scientific attainments. He was the inventor of the Very signal pistols, a contraption something like a Roman candle. This fired colored lights so regulated as to form a code, visible at night for a long distance.  During the World War, the Very lights became famous along the battlefront in France, although the inventor had been dead some years.

            For whatever reason, after six months of blockade, the town of  Zamboanga  remained as untaken as Troy at the end of the ninth year of siege. Two things of importance, however,  the hovering of the Castine had brought about. First, they had kept up a blockade so effective that the food resources of the sub-province were much diminished, and, second, they had secured a sort of allegiance….


Potter also wrote that Datu Mandi was busy interviewing 'President' Midel at Tetuan hinterland.  This  interview was hardly mentioned in journals and reports, as it did here in Potter’s book, as if for lack of  content and importance.

            The time factor and a second gunboat’s, USS Manila’s, appearance, Potter continued, was a big change in whatever the US had in mind for Zamboanga, although the rebels ignored her and thought her as just another gunboat besides the first, the USS Castine.




Mayor Midel was treacherously waiting for General Alvarez himself to inspect the artillery  in his district of Tetuan.

            A clear, bright day. Ardently, with eager heavy-eyebrowed eyes, Presidente Midel — he who had proclaimed himself el presidente, it was said, even before the expatriation ship Leon XIII disappeared from sight on the western horizon — stretched his neck and watched the Zamboangueño Voluntarios enter his district ...



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August 30 2012 5 30 /08 /August /2012 15:42

DSC 0057

         ADZU President Rev. Fr. Antonio Moreno, S.j., welcomes guests at the book launch of 'The Activist.'  

We launched "The Activist" at Ateneo de Zamboanga University, March of 2011, sponsored by the Ateneo and Climaco Foundation. The historical novel is based on the real life story of Cesar C Climaco, the figting mayor of Zamboanga City, once dubbed "Mayor Lacson of Mindanao," after the fearless mayor of Manila, who fought against crime and corruption, when mobsters ruled that city. He was a staunch and relentless critic of the P.I. dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. Inevitably and not surprising he was assassinated in broad daylight right in the heart of the city and her people. His murder, like the President's father, Benigno Aquino, has remained unsolved all these long years.

The book is available at UST Publishing House, National Bookstores, and in Cagayan de Oro City at Museo de Oro, XU (Irene), and Ramiroville I, Macanhan UCCP compound, Macanhan(Tony). 

The next day, before lunch, President Ferdinand Marcos, now a protean dictator under martial law, declared from his Malacañang Palace by the Pasig: You are free to campaign for or against the final draft of the constitution. Free debate shall be its character. You are wrong if you think I have curtailed your freedom and your right to speak. Let no man from this day on doubt it. Go out and campaign for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote, as all men will in a democracy! After he had made the statement, Dictator Marcos sent out his intelligence men to monitor those critical and campaigning for a “no” vote.

Lorenz Diaz, Jr. scoured Luzon and Mindanao campaigning for a “no” vote. By land and water, in the pueblos and far-flung villages of Mindanao, on the back of horses and carabaos. A mockery of the people’s will is what the new constitution is, my brothers and sisters, he cried, in his throaty, rasping, often high-pitched voice. From the top of a wooden-cart, he said this new constitution did not represent the heart and soul of the people, because their delegates in the convention were forced under threat of imprisonment or death to draft it. One man alone had written the new constitution: he told them the village folks, and that is the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It is no doubt a bastardized version of our constitution! Many of the folks came on foot or on the back of horses and carabaos. Farmers with bigger fields of corn and rice rode on oxen. It was the first time they saw a “very high official,” they came not particularly to hear him, and they told him so We do not understand so much, what this constitution is. But it is the first time that a high official of our land has come to our barrio. Before you, there was no one who came, and gave such importance to us. We are humbled, and wish to thank you!




Lorenz came to his hometown Zamboanga some weeks after the constitutional campaign, after the arrest and detention of his friend Fidel Imbing.

It was sometime in November 1973, they say, one year and two months after the declaration of martial law, when President Marcos issued an ASSO (arrest, search and seizure order)  for Constitutional delegate Lorenzo (“Lorenz”) Diaz, Jr. He was then arrested, detained, and right away flown to Camp Crame, Quezon City.

How did this happen?...


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August 30 2012 5 30 /08 /August /2012 14:45


Surveyors of Liguasan-cover CD

Cover drawing and design Floreta



By Antonio Enriquez


Chapter 1

The two of them—Alberto Gonzales and his cousin Francisco—were on top of the papaya tree by the house in Zamboanga. They were then still boys. Suddenly, the papaya tree started to sway toward the house. Before he and his cousin could climb down, the three fell. The papaya top broke off against the edge of the galvanized iron roof and came down upon both of them: fruit, flowers, leaves, and all. They were too shocked and scared of his mother and Tia Isabel, who were in the yard near by, to cry.
―What was that, Albertito?‖ said the mother, using his pet name.
―Nada, mama,‖ he said. ―Nothing‖—although they were standing there, the papaya tree trunk still between their legs, for they had had no time to climb down because the tree fell so quickly.
―Ooohhhh,‖ she said. She never once looked at them, not even to turn her head for a glance, since she was too busy talking to their aunt. ―Then what was that racket I heard?‖ She went on talking, not looking at them still.
―It was nothing, mama,‖ he said. ―Nada, nada,‖ although the leaves, flowers, and fruit were still coming down on them like rainfall.
The two squatted there under the eaves, Alberto and his cousin Francisco, not moving a hair, really scared to move so as not to catch his mama’s or their aunt’s attention.
They were then still boys.

Chapter 2

For was he not a Zamboangueño, born and raised in Zamboanga, with Moros as his childhood playmates? Quite often, outside of his home town, in the Visayas or in Luzon, he was mistaken for a Moro.
―You must be a datu –chief,‖ the dimpled whore from Culi-Culi, a haven for worn-out prostitutes in Manila, had said to him while putting the money away under her elastic panty belt.
He had tipped her generously for one lay and treated her more gently than he would a decent girl. ―No, no, I’m not a datu,‖ he said, sitting up on the side of the pallet and gazing at the icon of Christ on a tiny altar up against a wall. ―Why do you say I’m a datu?‖
She sat up on the pallet too, and, wrapping her arms round him, leaned her head on the small of his back. She said, ―Did you not say you were from Zamboanga?‖
―It does not mean I’m a Moro,‖ he said. Her hair brushed against his back. Under a glaring electric ceiling bulb he was naked but for his socks, which he had not taken off. While screwing her he had felt silly and had even once turned his head to look at his stockinged feet. ―Much less am I a datu,‖ he said, ―justbecause I gave you a big tip.‖
Because Alberto had treated her decently, gently, the whore said she would give him an extra lay. He said, ―No, no, no, thanks,‖ and immediately felt so proud for having self-control and strong will. And yet one lay was truly enough, because before the week was over he had the clap, and while pissing into the toilet bowl in his boarding-house in Sampaloc, Manila, to relieve the burning sensation, he broke the toilet bowl cover, and two days or so later he nearly broke his head when he slipped on the bathroom tiles. He made up his mind then to see a doctor who had his clinic on the unlit ground floor of a half-demolished building in front of the University. The doctor gave him a long sermon on morality and the virtues of Saint Ignatius Loyola, the soldier saint and patron of fornicators, but after over half an hour had not written any prescription for his social disease. Alberto stood up to leave, and the doctor nonchalantly asked him where in the devil’s name he was going without the prescription. Alberto changed his voice to an effeminate’s, and said, ―I’m going to see a preacher.‖


Chapter 3


In a way crudely, that was his life—always going crack, crack, crack. Or perhaps more like a duck’s nervous quack, quack, quack. But there was always a crack a cleavage, a break, and somehow he was always responsible for it. He was never conscious of it happening at the time. The exact moment could only be traced back—or, sometimes, foreseen—but at that infinitesimal moment when the break, aayyiiieee, the crack came: never!
He left some girls (not so many as he would like to boast or pretend to have had to his friends by his non-committal silence when the subject of girls and prostitutes was brought up)—before that rumble near the school, over a girl, in Zamboanga. He would like to think he left them, but now looking back and being true to himself, it seemed they had drifted away when that crack came.
And as for Myrna, that moment came some two years ago. They were standing by the side of the Liberal Arts building, in half darkness, the concrete parade-ground walk hard and firm under his feet.
―I have mother’s jewelry and some money I saved in my handbag,‖ she said. She smiled, so sweetly, and her face seemed to light up in the half darkness. It was as though she had smiled into his face, sending radiation of light into his with her love and trust in him.
He wanted to ask what she was doing with her mother’s jewelry, with the money. But then it suddenly came to him that her reply might force him to a commitment, irrevocable and implacable—to say yes to her. So, instead he said, ―Won’t your mother be angry if she discovers the loss of her jewelry?‖
―Does it matter when we are gone?‖ she said. And he saw the light in her face begin to dim. Still, she looked radiant standing there before him in her green-and-white school uniform, so beautiful and desirable. He ached wanting her. But was he ready to pay for tonight’s and all the night’s screwing for the rest of his life by running away with her now and eventually marrying her?
He tried not to look into her face when he said, ―Maybe we should think more about this. Why don’t we talk about this again tomorrow?‖
Finally, the light, the glow in her face, dimmed: but oh! she was so beautiful still. And then, suddenly, quiet and pitiful, she stood there with her mother’s jewelry and the little money she had saved in her bag. She did not say anything, although her eyes said, painfully, to him—or so he imagined—―You goddamn coward! You pitiful (how ironical), goddamn coward!‖
And then crack, crack, crack! And nothing he could say or do afterwards would change that scene or bring back the light, the radiance in her lovely, innocent face. Crack, and that finally was lost. O that I shall die!
And then there was Baby. He called her Baby, although her real name was Concepcion. She was a quiet, silent young girl, very dark, not so tall as Myrna, but more vivacious, easily excited: more soft in your arms, liquid-like, the moment you touched her. The two of them were in the unlit operating room of the town hospital, in the
darkness, and she was in her immaculately white nurse’s uniform, since she was on night-duty.
―You mean do it here?‖ he said, incredibly, holding both her hands in his and looking round for the operating table. He hardly could see it in the darkness; and there, in the unlit operating room, only her white nurse’s uniform reflected the shafts of faint moonlight coming through the windows.
―Why not?‖ she said, as she withdrew one hand and quickly thrust it inside his pants. She was panting then, and he thought he saw her red lips parting, hot, moist, falling like dewy rose petals.
But he was not ready: trembling and scared that if he gave in he would have to be tied up with her every moment for the rest of his life. Or, perhaps he wanted to show her he was much more gallant than other young men, mas galante; and had more dignity by refusing her: to quell her soaring passion on the operating table. ―What if the head nurse sees us!‖ he whispered, stalling for time. ―She comes in here during her rounds.‖
Really, she did not say anything, but in the closeness of her mouth and her breasts he felt her silent laughter begin to rise, to tremble as much as he trembled then—and to soar up her throat before breaking with contempt and hate for him. This he had not expected. And now, viciously, he heard her say, although she never said a word above a hiss, heard her say, spitefully, lashing her hiss-words like a horse-whip across his face: ―Miss Lydia Tamparong! She lays more men here on the operating table a night than there are patients operated on by Dr. Carreon in a week!‖
He lost her. He tried to capture the falling petals, to open her red roughed wet lips with his, but catlike she withdrew; hiss-falling away silently, invisibly, wafting down in the air-current of her hissing when he tried to kiss her again. And he swore just as silently: Dear God! Dear, dear God!

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February 9 2012 5 09 /02 /February /2012 13:05
Antonio Enriquez. Subanons (historical novel set during martial law, '70s), UP Press, Quezon City, Philippines, 1999. 
        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.
‘Up, up, up with your hands!’ the two half-naked soldiers
commanded. ‘You mother-fucker, son of a communist whore!’
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
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.
‘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
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,
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. ...
To buy: contact, Antonio Enriquez
 Ramiroville cor Macanhan UCCP Church, Macanhan, Cagayan de Oro City
mobile: 09235242746    
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