Sa Kalsada

by Paul Randy P. Gumanao (Fiction)

(This story won 2nd Place in the Saturnino Apoyon Tigi sa Mubong Sugilanong Binisaya and was first published in Banaag Diwa and in Dagmay.)

Wala na gihurot ni Stella ang iyang kape.

“Lagi, kuya. Padulong na ko. Apurado man kaayo ka uy,” maoy sulti ni Stella samtang ginataktak ang toothbrush sa gripo. Mga alas sais y media kadto ug padulong sila ni kuya Lucas niya sa eskwelahan.

“Pasensya gyud, hud. Naa pa mi asaynment sa Araling Panlipunan. Mangopya pa ko sa akong klasmeyt, mao’ng dapat ta magdali. Tara na.”

Gibira ni Lucas ang iyang sling bag nga naa sa lamesita duol sa ilang TV. Nakalimot diay siya sa pagsirado sa zipper sa bag ug nangahulog ang iyang mga sinsilyo pati ang iyang cellphone.

“Na, na, na… paghinay pud, nak! Naunsa man ka nga mura man ka’g gigukod og manok? Wa man ka gaamping sa imong gamit uy! Huna-hunaa biya ha nga dili ta dato. Swerte na man gani mo kay napalitan pa mo’g cellphone, dili pa gyud ninyo ampingan? Hay nalang!” Mao’y sulti sa ilang inahan nga nagpugong-pugong nga mangasaba sa sayong oras sa buntag.

Mingisi lamang si Lucas samtang gipunit ang iyang nabungkag nga cellphone. Gibalik niya og taod ang battery, keypad ug casing niini. Dayon gipindot-pindot niya kung moandar pa ba. Namatikdan ni Stella nga naratol ang iyang kuya tungod kay hinay-hinay nga nagtubod ang dagkong lugas sa singot sa agtang ni Lucas, ug daw nangurog ang iyang mga kamot. Mitabang na lang si Stella sa pagpamunit sa mga sinsilyo.

Sa dihang nahuman na sila, nanamilit sila sa ilang ginikanan ug nanggawas.

Samtang paspas nga gabaklay ang magsoon pagawas sa eskinita aron mopara og jeep, namatikdan ni Lucas nga nagbaguod si Stella sa pagdala sa backpack niini. Naluoy si Lucas sa iyang second year high school nga manghud. Unsaon kay honor student man si Stella ug dili gyud niya gustong ibilin ang iyang mga libro ug notebook. Kung puydi lang ganing magpatahi siyag mga sanina nga naay built-in nga bag, dugay na unta niyang gibuhat. Pero dili man sab gud niya gustong ma-mura siya’g tanga tan-awon. Siyempre, ang mga ingon anang edara, conscious na man sab sa ilang itsura. Dalagita na raba si Stella. Naa nay mga nakagusto ug naa na puy nagustuhan.

“Ako na lang dala sa imong bag, hud bi. Kambyo na lang ta.” Mihunong sila pagbaklay ug gitunol ni Lucas ang iyang sling bag samtang gikuha ang backpack sa iyang manghud.

“Uy, palangga daw ko ni kuya.” Mingisi si Stella samtang gituslok niya’g tudlo ang dimple sa tuong bahin sa aping ni Lucas. Mipahiyom lang pud ang maguwang.

“Ngeks. Palangga daw? Pataka ra man ka uy. Ako lang ganing gikuha kay para paspas ka makalakaw kay para sayo pa ta makaabot sa eskwelahan. Haha… abi nimo’g palangga gyud tika, ha?” Gisunglog sa maguwang ang manghud ug gilitkan niya ang walang dalunggan niini. Dayon, midagan si Lucas.

“Agay! Bantay lang gyud kang kuyaha ka ba. Isumbong tika kay ate Lea ba. Ingnon nako nga bulagan ka na niya. Hahaha.”

Sa pagkadungog ni Lucas sa bahad sa iyang manghud, kalit lang siya miundang sa pagdagan. Gikuot niya ang iyang cellphone ug hinay-hinay nga nagbaklay samtang duna kini ginabasa nga text. Gigukod siya ni Stella ug gibalosan og litik. Apan namatikdan sa manghud nga walay reaksyon si Lucas. Nagpadayon lamang kini sa pagbaklay nga diretso ang tinan-awan. Paspas. Mas paspas.

“ Magdali ta labong naa pay jeep. ” Mando ni Lucas.

Sa wala madugay, nakaabot na sila sa City-high. Alas sais singkwenta na kadto ug giuli na nila ang ilang tagsa-tagsa ka bag.

Nagbulagay na ang magsoon padulong sa ilang tagsa-tagsa ka klasrum. Misinggit si Stella, “Bye, kuya! Hapiton tika unyang ulian ha?”

Mitando lang si Lucas. Wala mitingog. Wala mingisi.

Midiretso siya sa fourth year building, dayon sa ilang klasrum. Didto, naabtan niya ang iyang mga klasmeyt nga nagtapok ug nagkamamo sa pagkopya og asaynment. Sa huna-huna ni Lucas, dili na lang siya moapil sa flag ceremony kay kulang pa ang diyes minutos nga nahibilin para mangopya. Essay type pa raba gyud ang asaynment.

Gitawag siya sa iyang klasmeyt nga si Ben. “Uy, Cas! Kani na lang akoa ang kopyaha kay nahuman na man ko’g anser.”

“Pag-sure diha, Ben. Kanus-a man sad daw ka nakahibalo maghuna-huna, be? Haha…ilaron pa gyud ko nimong kagwanga ka. Ambi daw be, akong tan-awon kay basig mali na imong gikopya,” matod pa ni Lucas. Mibalik ang mga ngisi niya. Sa makadiyot, nakalimtan niya ang iyang gihuna-huna kaganina.

“Mura pud kag korek. Wa kay salig nako, parts? Pers klas ang gikuhaan nako ana uy! Dili ka? Aw, kuhaon nako nang papel.”

“Hmmm… murag tama man ning imong gikopya. Parehas mi’g idea. Brayt ang nianser ani, brayt. Payts, puydi na ni.” Gipaspasan ni Lucas pagkopya.

Ambot lang pero gagmay gyud og mga grado si Lucas ug mosugot lang kini nga magsige’g pangopya. Line of seven halos tanan niyang grado. Sa Math ug MAPEH ra gyud tawon siya nakakuha ug 80. Maayo na lang intawon.

“Pagpaspas, parts kay naa pa ko’y isulti nimo. Important very much,” matod pa ni Ben.

Mihangad kadali si Lucas ug nangutana kung unsa kadtong isulti ni Ben.

“Ah, basta tiwasa sa na’g kopya kay basig mag emo-emo ka inig isulti na nako. Mabasa og luha akong asaynment. Basta, unya na.”

Pagkahuman ni Lucas og kopya, giipit niya sa iyang notebook ang papel ug gibalik kang Ben ang asaynment niini. Gipangutana dayon niya si Ben bahin sa gusto niyang isulti. Gidala ni Ben si Lucas sa ilang garden sa likod sa klasrum.

Nilingi-lingi si Ben sa palibot aron siguruhon nga way laing makadungog sa ilang istoryahan. Ug miingon siya, “Cas, naa na gyud kay rason para moapil sa Spiders. Kung madunggan na nimo ni akong ingnon, dili na gyud ka magduha-duha ug apil sa amo.”

“Unsa man lagi nang imong ingnon? Dalia ba. Samoka uy.” Apurado na kaayo si Lucas.

“Imong uyab. Si Lea.”

“Si Lea? Naunsa diay, ha?”

“Kagabii. Sila ni Paclar. Nakita sa tropa nga….”

“Kinsa pud nang yawaa nang Paclara na?” Atat na kaayo si Lucas samtang gikaptan ang mga abaga ni Ben. Namula na siya ug ang mga kunot sa iyang agtang nagtagbo, lisod masubay ang sinugdanan ug ang sumpay. Sama ra usab ang kalibog ni Lucas.

“Si Paclar. Kristofer Paclar, kadtong right-hand sa lider sa kalaban namo nga gang, ang Bloods. Dugay na na siyang ginamanmanan sa tropa. Ug kagabii,” nilingi-lingi pag-usab si Ben, “nakita sila sa tropa nga nagpalami og… kuotanay didto sa covered court. Silang duha sa imong uyab.”

Napungot pagtaman sa Lucas sa iyang nadunggan. Taliwala sa kabugnaw sa buntag, nitulo ang iyang mga singot ug nisurop sa balasong yuta.

Mao diay nga wala na nireply sa iyang mga text si Lea. Mao diay nga ginalikayan na siya ni Lea kung makigkita siya. Nahinumduman ni Lucas nga kadtong niaging semana, mitext si Lea kaniya ug miingon nga init ang iyang lawas ug gusto niyang tagbawon siya ni Lucas. Nalibog kadiyot si Lucas niadtong tungora usa pa niya nasabtan ang buot pasabot ni Lea. Imbitasyon diay kadto nga may dalang timtasyon.

Misandig si Lucas sa punoan sa talisay ug mihangad siya aron silipon ang dan-ag sa adlaw taliwala sa mga dahon ug sanga sa kahoy. Mihangad siya aron pugngan ang pagtulo sa iyang mga luha ngadto sa basa nga yuta. Gaumog pa ang yuta tungod sa ulan adtong niaging gabii.

“Parts, unsa man? Unsa’y plano? Andam ang Spiders motabang sa imo,” pasalig ni Ben. Usa pa man makatubag si Lucas, mibagting na ang bell sa eskwelahan, sinyal nga magsugod na ang klase.

“Pwede ko makig-istorya sa inyohang mga Spiders unya? Unyang ulian?”

Nitando si Ben ug nanulod silang duha sa klasrum. Si Lucas, wala sa maayong buot.

Mga alas tres sa hapon, nagsugod na og panggawas ang mga estudyante gikan sa mga klasrum. Mideretso si Stella sa canteen duol sa fourth year building aron didto hulaton ang iyang maguwang. Samtang gapaabot, nipalit si Stella og duha ka panwich. Iyang gikaon ang usa. Ang usa, iyang gisulod sa iyang bulsa kay aron ihatag sa iyang kuya Lucas inig abot niini. Sigurado siyang gigutom na gyud ang iyang maguwang.

Nag alas kwatro na lang apan wala pa miagi si Lucas sa canteen nga gitambayan ni Stella. Kabalo si Stella nga moagi gyud didto ang iyang kuya kay wa na may laing lustanan pagawas. Nakadesisyon siya nga iyang adtoon sa klasrum si Lucas.

Hinay-hinay nga galakaw ang dalagita samtang gakanta-kanta. Medyo mingaw na didtong dapita kay nakauli na ang ubang estudyante. Usa pa siya nakaabot sa klasrum sa iyang kuya, nakadungog na siya’g mga tingog sa lalaki nga gaistoryahanay, ug nadunggan niya ang tingog ni Lucas. Wala mipadayon si Stella ug duol sa klasrum ni Lucas. Hinuon, mituyok siya sa likod sa room aron maniid kung unsay ginabuhat sa mga batan-ong lalaki sa sulod.

“Dili ka magmahay nga niapil ka sa Spiders, Lucas. Andam ming motabang sa imo kanunay. Basta wala lay traydoray.”

Gitan-aw ni Stella kung kinsay misulti adto. Pagtan-aw niya, si Louie Reston diay. Ang iladong lider sa Spiders gang. Nakulbaan siya. Nahibal-an niya nga miapil na iyang kuya sa maong notorious nga gang sa Davao.

“Mga Brad, mangadto na ta sa hideout para didto nalang nato i-initiate ang atong bag-ong kauban. Didto na lang sab nato planohon ang pagtodas kang Paclar,” maoy sugo ni Louie.

Nanghawa ang mga batan-ong lalaki. Nagbulag-bulag sila. Sa grupo ni Ben mikuyog si Lucas nga niadtong higayona, hilom ug wala kaayo gaistorya. Apan maklaro sa iyang nawong ang kalagot ug ang kagustuhang makabalos kang Lea ug kang Kristof Paclar. Andam na siya, bisan sa pagpatay.

Samtang nanglakaw ang mga Spiders, nagsunod si Stella. Apan gaamping-amping gyud siya nga dili masakpan. Kahibalo sab si Stella nga ang maong gang, wanted na sa kapulisan sa lungsod. Sayod sab siya nga ang DDS padayon sa pagpamatay sa mga myembro sa bisag-unsang gang sa lungsod.

Miabot ang grupo didto sa usa ka abandonadong bilyaran sa Jacinto. Mao kadto’y giila nilang hideout. Sa dihang nakasulod na tanang Spiders, mipaduol si Stella sa bilyaran. Pagsilip niya sa gamay nga bangag, nakita niya nga nanaka ang mga lalaki sa second floor. Sa kagustuhan ni Stella nga makahibalo, misulod siya ug gibilin iyang bag sa usa ka lamesa sa silong. Mikamang siya pasaka ug gisilip ang gihimo sa mga Spiders. Nakita niya ang iyang kuya Lucas nga dunay taptap sa mga mata ug nakaluhod samtang nagpalibot kaniya ang ubang myembro. Sa atubangan ni Lucas nagtindog si Louie ug dunay mga gipangyawyaw. Nakadungog si Stella sa mga pulong apan wala na niya gipaminaw. Ang iyang tuyo mao ang masayran kung unsaon ang iyang kuya.

Taud-taud, gitunol ni Ben kang Louie ang usa ka injection nga puno og berde nga likidong. Gituruk ang maong droga kang Lucas. Mipiyong lang ang mata ni Lucas samtang ginapaak ang iyang ngabil. Gikuha dayon ni Louie ang usa ka baseball bat. Gihalok-halokan kini ni Louie, dayon gimandoan si Lucas nga motindog.

Mitindog si Lucas. Sa wala madugay gibunal ni Louie ang maong bat sa paa ni Lucas. Gibunal niya ang bat nga murag namunal og punoan sa kahoy. Dili lang kausa. Kaduha. Katulo. Sa paa. Sa hawak. Sa lubot.

“Aaaaaahhh….aaahh! Agaaayy!” Mao lamang kini ang nasiyagit ni Lucas samtang natumba kini sa salog.

“Kuya Lucas! Kuyaaa!” Wala makapugong si Stella. Sa iyang kakurat, nakasiyagit siya.

Nabungkag ang pundok sa mga batan-ong lalaki ug ilang gikuha si Stella. Naghilak ang dalagita kay ginapuga man sab ang iyang bukton. Naghilak sab siya kay naluoy sa iyang kuya.

“Stella! Nga..nong naa man ka.. diri? Pauli na!” Giduol ni Lucas ang iyang manghud bisag nagtakiang kini.

Miduol lang og kalit si Louie. “Unsa man ni bay? Nganong nakabalo man na imong manghud, ha? Dili magsilbi na dinhii sa Spiders. Kinahanglan na siya silotan!”

“Ha? A..ambot nganong nakahibalo na siya nga naa ta dinhi. Basig gisundan ta niya. Nganong naa man ka diri, Stella ha?”

“Kay naguol man ko sa imo kuya. Ha..hadlok ko ma..maunsa ka… Nganong nag-apil man ka..a..ani nga mga ga..gago man ni sila?”

“Ayay! Mga gago daw ta parts. Ayay!,” Mipalag ang mga lalaki.

“Wala ka kasabot nganong miapil ko. Ayaw nag labot-labot bi! Puta!”

Natingala kaayo si Stella nganong ingon ato ang pagtratar sa iyang kuya kaniya. Nakahilak na lang siya. Dayon, miduol si Louie kang Stella ug gisinyasan ang ubang mga naggunit kang Stella nga ipahigda kini sa salog. Duha ka lalaki ang naggunit kang Stella sa kamot, ug duha sab sa tiil. Nakamatikod na si Lucas kung unsay himuon ngadto sa iyang manghud. Apan huyang siya ug mas nagpatigbabaw ang gahom sa droga.

“Puslan man nga nakasala ka, atong gamiton na imong pagkasexy ug imong pagkagwapa. Sayang lang nang imong hamis nga panit. Hehehe…”Mao kini ang bahad ni Louie kang Stella.

Grabe na ang hilak ni Stella samtang gapaningkamot kini nga makaikyas gikan sa mga gang members. Nagsagol na ang mga bahakhak sa katawa ug ang danguyngoy sa hilak sa usa ka dalagita. Gitanggal ni Louie ang sapatos ni Stella ug gibuklad ang palda sa dalagita samtang gipagawas niya ang iyang dila ug gipatulo ang iyang laway. Alang kang Stella, animal kaayo si Louie.

Gipabilangkad pa gyud pagtaman ang dalagita ayha pa gihubo ni Louie ang panty ni Stella gamit ang iyang ngipon. Grabe ang kasadya sa mga lalaki. Samtang si Lucas, nakaantigo lang sa pagtan-aw sa pagbusabos sa iyang manghud.

Human og hubo sa panty sa dalagita, gipamaskara kini sa iya. Nangatawa silang tanan. Apil na si Lucas. Mas labaw pa gyud silang nangatawa kadtong nakita ang nalata nga panwhich sa bulsa ni Stella. Ang panwich nga iya untang ihatag sa iyang kuya Lucas, nga karon apil sa mga lalaking nagkatawa nga nagtan-aw sa iyang kahimtang. Ang gibuhat ni Louie, gipahid-pahid ang panwich sa kinatawo ni Stella, gisuksok sa sulod, gikulitog, dayon gikaon kini.

Gitanggal sad ang blouse ug bra sa dalagita. Ang nabilin nalang mao ang iyang nakasaka nga palda ug ang mga medyas sa iyang tiil. Ug nihilom kadiyot. Naghubo kalit si Louie ug gihap-an ang nakagapos nga lawas sa usa ka batan-ong babaye. Sugod sa ulo paubos. Paubos. Gibaboy. Gibusabos. Gilugos.

“Aah..ahh…aaaaahhhhhhh……mgaaaa haaayyooppp!!!” Wala na’y kusog si Stella nga mosiyagit pa. Huyang na siya.

Minaog na lang si Lucas ug nigawas gikan didto sa hideout. Ngitngit na ang palibot. Pula kaayo iyang nawong ug luya sab siya. Wala siya’y nahimo alang sa iyang manghud nga nagpalangga sa iya. Mipalit siya og sigarilyo sa duol nga tindahan samtang ginapistahan pa sa ubang mga lalaki ang iyang manghud. Gipuli-pulihan. Giabusar pagtaman.

Taud-taud dunay motorsiklo nga mihunong sa gawas sa ilang hideout. Duna kini’y sakay nga tulo ka nakabonet nga lalaki ug ang duha ka sakay niini diretso nga misulod sa bilyaran. Nakamatngon na lamang siya sa dihang nakadungog siya og upat ka buto sa pusil. Dayon, nakita niya ang ubang mga myembro sa gang nga nanagan. Sa wala madugay, may miabot nga Police Car ug gigukod ang mga myembro sa gang. Ang uban, nadakpan. Sa iyang kahadlok, midagan sad siya og apil samtang dunay lima ka pulis nga nagagukod kanila.

Nakasabay ni Lucas si Ben ug miingon kini, “Dagan! Dagan! Ayaw sa mog lingi-lingi. Magbulag-bulag ta!”

Pagtipas nila sa kanto, sa banda sa Freedom Park, nakakita si Lucas og pundok sa mga raliyista nga nag-candle lighting. Nakahuna-huna kini nga moadto didto ug mag-atik-atik nga apil sa rally aron dili siya dakpon sa mga pulis. Nagpasalipod siya sa mga estudyanteng aktibista ug nagpakaaron-ingnong kauban sab siya sa rally. Nakita niya ang ubang miyembro sa Spiders gang nga gipangdakop. Ang uban tingali, mao kadtong gipusil sa sulod sa bilyaran.

Kalit lang misinggit ang lider sa rally.

“Hustisya alang sa mga biktima sa pulitikanhong pagpamatay!”

“Hustisya! Hustisya!” Sabay-sabay nga nanubag ang mga raliyista samtang nakataas-kamao. Paglingi ni Lucas sa unahan, nakita niya si Ben nga nadakpan sa mga pulis, ug ginatudlo siya. Aron ingnong aktibista pud, misabay-sabay sab si Lucas sa pagtaas sa iyang kinumo ug sa pagsinggit og “hustisya.”

“Hustisya alang sa mga biktima sa tanang pagpang-abuso!”

“Hustisya! Hustisya!”

Sa wala madugay, nahuman na ang rally. Nanghawa na ang mga aktibista. Mihawa na sad si Lucas. Hinay-hinay siyang naglakaw samtang namalandong sa kahulugan sa pulong nga iyang gisinggit-singgit bag-ohay lang —ang pulong nga “hustisya.”

“Si Stella! Tama, ang akong manghud.”

Midagan si Lucas sa direksyon sa Jacinto aron balikan ang iyang manghud. Apan naglisod siya sa pagdagan kay sakit man ang iyang lawas ug bug-at sab ang iyang kasingkasing.

*

In the Streets

Translation by Karlo Antonio Galay David

Stella didn’t get to finish her coffee.

“Yes kuya, I’m on the way. Really, how impatient you are” said Stella while rinsing her toothbrush on the faucet. It was six thirty in the morning and she and her kuya Lucas were about to head for school.

“Sorry about that. We have an assignment in Araling Panlipunan, you see. I still have to copy from my classmates, that’s why we have to hurry. Let’s go.”

Lucas took his sling bag, which was on the table near the TV. He apparently forgot to close its zipper, and some loose change and his phone fell from it when he took it.

“Oh will you be careful, son! What’s wrong with you, you’re running around like a beheaded chicken. Take care of your things! Remember, we aren’t exactly rich. You’re lucky you get to have cellphones, but you don’t even take care of it? Goodness.” so said their mother, who tried hard not to start a sermon that early in the morning.

Lucas merely smiled as he picked up his disassembled phone. He reassembled the battery, keypad and casing. Then he pressed the buttons to see if it worked. Stella saw that her brother was agitated, observing the large beads of sweat on his forehead, and his somewhat slight trembling of the hand. She could only help pick up his loose change.

When they were done, they said good bye to their parents and went out.

While the two were walking in haste out of the narrow alley to wait for a jeep, Lucas noticed that Stella was lugging with her backpack. He felt sorry for this second year high school little sister of his. She’s an honor student, and she refused to leave any of her books and notebooks behind. If she could just have clothes with a built in bag sewn, she would have done so long ago. But then she didn’t want to look stupid, either. After all, those of that age were already beginning to be conscious of their looks. Stella was a young woman now. By now she should already be having admirers and crushes.

“Let me bring your bag. Here, let’s swap.” They stopped walking and Lucas handed his own sling bag while taking his younger sister’s backpack.

“Uy, kuya cares about me.” Stella smirked while poking Lucas’ right dimple teasingly. The older brother just smiled.

“What are you talking about, hahaha. I just took your bag so we can walk faster and get to school earlier. You thought I was being doting, huh?” He teased his sister and struck her left ear with his fingers. Then, he trotted ahead.

“Ouch! Just you wait kuya, you’ll see. I’ll tell on you to ate Lea. I’ll tell her to break up with you. Hahahaha.”

When Lucas heard his sister’s threat, he suddenly stopped running. He took out his phone and walked slowly while reading some messages from it. Stella caught up to him and retaliated with an ear-flick of her own. But she got no reaction from Lucas. He just continued walking, looking straight. He walked briskly. Brisker.

“Let’s hurry while the jeep is still there.” Lucas said.

Before long, they arrived at City High. It was six fifty and they had returned each other’s bags.

The siblings parted ways to head to their respective classrooms. Stella said aloud, “Bye kuya! I’ll head to you after class, okay?”

Lucas just nodded. Without a word. Without a smile.

He went to the fourth year building, then to their classroom. There, he came upon his classmates huddled together and hastily copying their assignment. Lucas decided not to join the flag ceremony that morning, there wasn’t enough time to copy. The assignment had to be an essay.

His classmate Ben called him. “Hey, Cas! Copy mine, I’ve finished answering it.”

“Oh come on, Ben. And when did you ever learn to think, huh? Haha. You can’t make a fool out of me. Give me that, let me see, you might make me copy something wrong.” His smile returned. For a while, he forgot what he was worrying about a while ago.

“And you’re to talk. You don’t trust me, man? I copied that from someone in pers klas! You don’t want it? Well, let me have it back.”

“Hm… it looks right. We had the same idea. Whoever answered this is smart, yup, smart. Payts, this’ll do.” And Lucas copied it hurriedly.

For some reason, Lucas always had low grades, and he kept on just copying. Almost all of his grades were line of seven. He really only got 80 in Math and MAPEH, thankfully.

“Hurry man, I still have something to tell you. Important very much.” said Ben.

Lucas looked up and asked what it was.

“Just finish that first, you might turn emo after what I tell you. I don’t want you to go soaking my assignment in tears. Later.”

After copying, Lucas tucked his paper in his notebook and returned Ben’s assignment. He asked Ben what the latter wanted to say.

Ben brought him to the garden behind their classroom.

Ben looked around to check if no one was listening to their conversation. Then, he said, “Cas, now you have a reason to join the Spiders. When you hear this, you won’t hesitate to join us anymore.”

“What is it, then? Will you hurry.” Lucas was growing impatient.

“Your girl, Lea.”

“Lea? Why, what happened?”

“Last night. She and Paclar. The gang saw…”

“And who the hell is that Paclar?” Lucas was really impatient now as he held Ben by the chest. Blood was rushing to his face and his forehead wrinkled. It was difficult to see where the brow started and where they joined, and Lucas was just as uncertain.

“Paclar, Kristofer Paclar, the right hand man of the leader of our enemy gang, the Bloods. The gang’s been tailing him for some time now. And last night,” Ben looked around again, “the gang saw the two of them… fondling each other there at the covered court. He and your girl.”

Lucas was pissed off at what he heard. In spite of the coldness of the morning, a drop of his sweat dripped down to the sandy earth, which absorbed it.

So that was why Lea didn’t reply to his text. That was why Lea was avoiding him whenever they met. Lucas remembered how the other week, Lea texted him that she was feeling hot and that she wanted Lucas to satisfy her. Lucas was confused for a while before he understood what she meant. Now he knew it was an invitation with temptation.

Lucas leaned against the Talisay tree and looked up to glimpse the gleam of the sun from behind the tree’s leaves and branches. He looked up to suppress the falling of his tears on the wet earth. The earth was still damp from the rain the night before.

“So, what about it, man? What’s the plan? The Spiders are ready to help you,” assured Ben. Before Lucas could reply, the school bell rang, signifying the start of class.

“Can I talk to you Spiders later? After class?”

Ben nodded and the two went into the classroom. Lucas, in no sound state of mind.

Around three in the afternoon, the students began filing out of the classrooms. Stella proceeded to the canteen near the fourth year building to wait for her older brother there. While waiting, she bought two pieces of panwich. She ate one. The other, she put in her pocket to give to her kuya Lucas when he arrives. She was sure her brother was hungry.

It had already turned four but Lucas had still not passed by the canteen Stella was in. She knew he would pass by there, for there were no other ways out of the building. She decided to go to Lucas’ classroom.

The young girl walked slowly while humming. It was already a bit quiet in that part of the school as most students have gone home. Before she arrived at her brother’s classroom, she heard the sound of boys talking, and she heard Lucas’ voice. Stella stopped heading towards Lucas’ classroom. Instead, she went around to the back of the room to see what the young men were doing inside.

“You won’t regret joining the Spiders, Lucas. We are always ready to help you. As long as you don’t betray us.”

Stella sought to see who said these words. When she looked, she saw that it was Louie Reston. The leader of the Spiders gang. She grew worried. She understood that her kuya was joining this notorious gang in Davao.

“Bros, let’s all head for the hideout and have this new friend of ours initiated there. Let’s plan on how to take care of that Paclar there too,”  so ordered Louie.

The young men left. They broke into groups. Lucas went with Ben’s group, which at that time was quiet and spoke little. But hatred and the desire to get back at Lea and Kristofer Paclar were clearly seen on his face. He was ready, even to kill.

while the Spiders went ahead, Stella closely followed. But she took care not to be noticed. Stella knew that this gang was wanted in the whole city. She also knew the DDS was still out killing members of any gang in the city.

The group arrived at an abandoned billiard hall in Jacinto. That was what they called their hideout. When all the Spiders got in, Stella came nearer. She peeked into a small hole and saw that the young men were going up the second floor. In her curiosity, she went in and left her bag on a table downstairs. She tiptoed up and peeked to see what the Spiders were doing. She saw her brother blindfolded and kneeling while the other members were around him. Louie stood in front of Lucas,saying something. Stella heard the words but she did not listen. The only thing on her mind was to know what they were about to do to her brother.

After a while, Ben handed to Louie a syringe filled with a green liquid. This was injected into Lucas. Lucas merely closed his eyes while biting his lips. Louie then took a baseball bat. He kissed this before ordering Lucas to stand.

Lucas stood up. Suddenly, Louie hit his legs with the bat. He struck as if he was hacking a tree. Not just once. Twice. Thrice. The legs. The waist. The rear.

“Aaaaahh….aaah! Aaaaargh!” This was all Lucas could scream as he fell down to the ground.

“Kuya Lucas! Kuyaaaa!” Stella could not restrain herself. Out of surprise she screamed.

The group of young men were disassembled and they rushed to grab Stella. The young girl cried as the men squeezed her shoulders painfully. She also cried out of pity for her brother.

“Stella! Why… are you… here? Go home!” Lucas tried to draw near his sister though he was already limping.

Louie suddenly came near. “What is this, man? Why does your sister know about this, huh? We can’t have that here in the Spiders. She has to be taken care of!”

“Huh? I.. I don’t know how she knew we were here. She must’ve followed us. Why are you here, Stella?

“I  was worried about you, kuya. I.. I was scared that.. that something might happen to you.. Why did you.. you join these bastards?”

“Damn! We’re bastards, she says, guys! Damnit!” the boys were furious.

“You don’t understand why I joined. Don’t get involved, god damn it!”

Stella was bewildered how her brother could treat her like this. She could not help but cry. Then, Louie came near her and gave a sign to the boys holding her to make her lie down on the floor. Two boys were holding Stella by the hands, two by the feet. Lucas understood what they were about to do to his sister. But he was weak, and the drug’s potency was overwhelming.

“Having done us something wrong, we might as well have fun with your sexy body and pretty face. We don’t want to waste this smooth skin of yours, now do we. Hehehe…” Louie said threateningly to Stella.

She cried violently as she struggled to free herself from the hold of the gang members. The menacing laughter of the boys and the sobbing of this one young girl melted into one another. Louie took of her shoes and opened her skirt with his tongue out, drooling. To her fearful eyes, he looked like a beast.

He opened her legs more before taking of her panties with his teeth. The boys were howling with delight. Lucas merely watched as they molested his sister.

After they took of her panties, they had her wear it as a mask. And they all laughed. Even Lucas. They laughed even louder when they saw the flattened panwich in Stella’s pocket. The panwich she was planning to give to her brother Lucas, who was now with the boys laughing while looking at her like this. Louie wiped it repeatedly on her genitals, stuffed it in, thrust it in and out, then ate it.

The young girl’s blouse and bra were taken off. All that was left were her skirt and the socks on her feet. There was a momentary silence. Louie took off his clothes and desecrated the body of this bound young girl. From head down. Down. Devoured. Desecrated. Defiled.

“Aah..ahh…aaaaahhhhhhh……animaaaaaals!!!” Stella had barely any strength to scream. She was drained.

Lucas merely went downstairs and went out of the hideout. It was dark. Blood still lingered in his face and he felt weak. He could not do anything for the sister who loved him. He bought a cigarette from the nearby store while the boys were still feasting on his sister. One after the other. Defiling her again and again.

Suudenly, a motorcycle stopped in front of their hideout. Three men with bonnets were on it, and two of them went directly into the billiard hall. He was only alerted when he heard a gunshot. Then he saw the other members of the gang scurrying away. After a while, a police car arrived and went after the members. Some of them were caught. Fearfully, he ran away too while five policemen chased after them.

Lucas was fleeing with Ben, who shouted “Run! Run! Don’t look back, let’s split up!”

When they parted at a corner, near the Freedom Park, Lucas saw a gathering of activists having a candle lighting activity. He suddenly thought of going thither and pretend to be part of the rally to avoid the police. He conversed with some of the student activists and pretended to join the rally. He saw the other members of the Spiders gang being caught. Some of them were those who were shot at the billiard hall.

Suddenly, the leader of the rally shouted.

“Justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings!”

“Justice! Justice!” The rallyists answered together with fists up. When he looked back, he saw Ben caught by the police, pointing at him. To really look like an activist, he raised his fist too and joined in the shouting of “justice.”

“Justice for the victims of all abuses!”

“Justice! Justice!”

After a while the rally ended. The activists all left.

Lucas set off as well. Slowly, he walked while thinking about the meaning of the word he was just shouting a while ago – the word “justice.”

“Stella! Oh God, my sister!”

Lucas ran towards Jacinto to go back to his sister. But he struggled running, for his body was aching and the heaviness in his heart was weighing him down.

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Killing the Issue

By Karlo Antonio Galay David

(This one-act play won the second prize in the 2014 Palanca Awards.)

 

CHARACTERS

Hon. Emmanuel “Manny ” Reyes Sr. (80s): congressman of the second district in the province of Bajada

Hon. Emmanuel “Manny ” Reyes Jr.  (60s): governor of the province of Bajada, Manny Senior’s son.

Ruth Cipriano–Reyes (60s): daughter of mayor of municipality of Bacudo, and sister of mayor of municipality of Santo Tomas, Manny Junior’s wife.

Hon. Raymond Paul Cipriano–Reyes (20s): chair of the League of Barangays, Bajada Chapter and ex-officio member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan

Arthur James Cipriano–Reyes (20s, about two years younger than Raymond): younger son of Manny Junior and Ruth­­­

Insp. John Paul Aladin (44): provincial chief of police

 

PROPS

Tables, overly expensive looking furniture, a TV, some food, maids and henchmen

 

GENERAL SETTING

In the Province of Bajada, somewhere in Christian Mindanao, Philippines, the present time and consciousness, noon up to afternoon

 

The action of the play is completed within twenty-four hours.

 

MISE-EN-SCÈNE: In the living room of the Reyes Mansion, Municipality of Santo Tomas, Province of Bajada. There are expensive-looking chairs and a coffee table at center with a flat-screen TV of the most expensive kind nearby. A door leading outside is to the left, while one leading to the rest of the house is to the right. There is a desk upstage and a radio to the right near the door. A white carpet dominates the floor. The room is furnished with luxury. Maids are constantly sweeping the floor or dusting the tops of shelves and tables.

ARTHUR REYES is sitting on one of the chairs in front, texting. He has a beautiful face, with shoulder length brown hair tied neatly in a pony tail. He has an elegant slenderness that goes well with the long sleeved polo shirt he is wearing. He moves with some degree of femininity. He speaks articulately with an indifferent nonchalance.

Enter RAYMOND REYES, with a number of maids bringing some papers and food. Raymond is taller than Arthur. The two bear some resemblance, but Arthur has smoother skin and Raymond a more tanned complexion. Raymond’s hair is in a short barber’s cut parted to the left. He is also more muscular that Arthur. The maids bring the food to the coffee table and the papers on the desk.

 

Raymond: (To a maid) Turn on the TV. (To Arthur) You’re going somewhere already, Arthur? Why, you just arrived from Davao.

Arthur: Kuya Raymond! I have a date. It’s not my fault I’m popular.

Raymond: But it will be your fault if something happens to you because of that popularity, so be careful.

Arthur: True. In every crime, the victim’s stupidity is the lead culprit. But by the way—

Raymond: Wait. (Points to the flat-screen TV)

TV: Journalist and public intellectual Celestino Fernandez is expected to arrive today in the Municipality of Santo Tomas in the Province of Bajada to begin his nationwide intellectual symposium tour entitled “Violence in the Mind: Human Rights Violations on the Level of Thought.” Fernandez’s decision to begin the tour in the province, stronghold of the Reyes Clan, was not without controversy. Not a year has passed since the acclaimed political theorist first criticized the family, which has been in power in the province for five generations, and includes current Governor Emmanuel Jr. Aside from fears for Fernandez’ss safety, low participation in the symposium, in the face of high public approval for the Reyes Clan is also feared.

And to bring us the showbiz news— (Raymond turns the TV off.)

Raymond: Our tiktik was right, it was aired nationally . . .

Arthur: So, Kuya Raymond, what will the family do?

Raymond: I can’t tell you. Have you unpacked? (As they converse he is signing papers)

Arthur: No, I haven’t yet. I’ll do it when I get back.

Raymond: Oh, nonsense. (To maid ) Beng, you can unpack Arthur’s things now.

Maid: Yes, kuya. (Turns to leave)

Arthur: No, wait. Beng, stop. I’ll do it na lang lagi, you can go.

Maid: Yes, kuya. (Exits to the right)

Reymond: What’s in your bags anyway that you don’t want the maids to unpack it for you?

Arthur: Nothing dangerous. I just don’t like the idea of having people do things for me. But come on, tell me. What are you going to talk about with Lolo today?

Raymond: Now how did you know I and papa are going to tell him something? I told you, you can’t know. It’s for officials only.

Arthur (scowling): Really now, you politicians just can’t be reached anymore.  Whatever happened to transparency.

Raymond: I owe you no transparency, you’re not a registered voter. I wouldn’t owe you any transparency if you were.

Arthur: Oh come on, Kuya, spill. For affection’s sake, if not for an FOI law.

Raymond: No.

Arthur: Even if I say please? (Walks slowly to position himself behind Raymond)

Raymond: I said no. If you want to be in the know, enter politics. And besides, you’re tabian. If you know something, everybody ends up knowing about it.

Arthur: Ah yes, having the knack for talking is one of my more flattering defects.

Raymond: How lovably vain you are. (Laughs. Rolls eyes. Scowls at paper he is holding) Domestic violence in Bacudo is up again. When will this end? (Realizes Arthur is peeking at his papers) Oh you’re as nosy as a journalist, will you stop it!

Arthur: (Laughs) I like being curious, it dispels the boredom.

Raymond: You wouldn’t be so bored if you weren’t wasting your time being idle, you know. And be careful with that curiosity of yours, curiosity kills the journalist. (Laughs at his own joke with a sinister air)

Arthur (distractedly): Yes, it can be quite dangerous . . . (Snaps back to attention) Well, about that domestic violence problem of yours.

Raymond (exasperated): It never ends, really. And there’s barely anything we could do to solve it, taking the men into custody could only do so much.

Arthur (after a moment of contemplation): What if you provide livelihood seminars to the poorer areas?

Raymond: What does that have to do with domestic violence?

Arthur: (Distractedly gets some papers from Raymond’s pile) I’m guessing the main cause of instances of fighting is livelihood related?

Raymond: Yes, apparently, husbands beat their wives when wives begin nagging about their husbands’ not working.

Arthur: And I’m guessing husbands always say as an excuse that working is difficult and pointless because you can never be rich with the menial sources of income available to you?

Raymond: Now how did you know that? Board Member Balasabas did say that.

Arthur: If you start livelihood seminars, that will help change their mind-sets about small-time businesses. And you can include seminars on sensible saving practices as well as counselling for unhappy marriages in that budget. (Seems happy with himself)

Raymond: (Sees the merit of the idea but is sceptical) Hmm . . . I’ll think about it.

Arthur: (Laughs, returns to his seat) What a typically politician response. By the way, Kuya, don’t you have classes? We have a saint’s feast day in the Ateneo de Davao, but aren’t you from a state university?

Raymond: Asus, I have much more important things to worry about. Well, education is still important of course, but my duties as an SK Chairman come first.

Arthur: Of the whole province, you never mentioned. When mama arranged it with the COMELEC to let you run for SK even though you were overaged, I thought that would be the end of it. But to reach the provincial level!

Raymond (with affected vanity): It helps, I guess, that I look youthful.

Arthur: And you say I’m vain. (Laughs) But in any case, you never mentioned this to me when I arrived.  Imagine how I felt when I was told that my kuya had become the chairman of the SK Federation for the whole province. (Theatrically) How poorly, I thought, do people regard their familial relations.

Raymond: Oh, don’t tell me nangluod ka. (Laughs) Well, I figured you’d know about it anyway.

Arthur: Still, when first meeting someone after a period of time, it is only proper courtesy to mention a fact that has not yet been established between the two of you, regardless of whether both of you are aware of it or not. You didn’t even mention it when I came home last night. (Feigns luod)

Raymond: Ah well, I’ll be leaving the courtesy to you, that would be your department. But point is, I have the SK and the board to think about now—though admittedly there’s nothing much to think about with the SK—so going to class wouldn’t be that important. And besides, what’s the use of having Tita Jane as our dean? If I’m right, she’s even ninang to our PolSci chairperson’s wedding. So heck. I’ll still have high grades.

Arthur: (Laughs resignedly) The youth is the future of the Fatherland!

Enter Gov. Manny Jr. and Ruth with another entourage of maids and with some henchmen. Manny Jr. is shorter than Arthur. His big stomach is bulging out from behind his barong tagalog. His wavy hair is in an army cut. In general he looks like a bulldog. Ruth is around the same height, and she looks like a ripe rambutan. Her curly hair, as brown as Arthur’s, is shoulder length. Her clothes and makeup look expensive and churchy. If Manny Junior is a bulldog, she looks like a chowchow.

Gov. Manny Jr. (obviously not hearing the preceding conversation): If you know that, why don’t you make something out of your own future, you buang! (Arthur makes obeisance. He kisses the boy on the forehead) You know that your kuya is now the provincial SK chairman?

Arthur: Opo, Pa. I’ve heard of it back in Davao.

Ruth: And what about you? You wouldn’t even try to be club president! Oh, you’re wasting your potential, dear! (The couple sits down.)

Gov. Manny Jr.: (To Ruth) Make me a cup of coffee.

Ruth: Raymond.

Raymond gestures to maids to make coffee. A maid obeys.

 Ruth: (To Arthur) What time did you leave Davao yesterday?

Arthur: Around six, Ma. I had something to do before that.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Flirting with someone again? Uwagon! (Laughs) I was not able to meet you last night, I had to attend an SK Federation meeting—pastilan, those kids were stupid. Their parents have done nothing to make them intelligent.

Arthur: They’re still the first generation, Pa. Give them a few more generations and they’ll learn the trade.

Gov. Manny Jr.: True. But you are not one to talk, you opted out of politics—you are wasting your privilege. (Theatrically) You, dong, happen to be the issue of five generations of politicians! (Gets one of the newspapers from the coffee table) Well, at least you are not causing trouble like those stupid aktibistas. (Glares at Arthur) Are you?

Arthur: Don’t worry, Pa. I have my convictions, but I’m not so in love with them as to throw stones at policemen for them.

Ruth: Now it’s a good thing you only look like an activist—oh, would you fix that hair of yours, dear!

Arthur: Oh no, Ma, activists don’t wear their hair long anymore, the hippies of the seventies realized conditioner is too bourgeois. One-inch to skinhead is the new hair range for activists these days, political detainee coiffure. In fact they don’t think much of me. I’m far too stylish to sympathize with the masses. Besides, I like this long hair, it’s allowed me to experience many things.

Ruth: What kind of things, if I may ask?

Arthur: The kind I wouldn’t tell my mother, of course. (Pecks her on the cheek as she giggles)

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Laughs) Well, it’s a relief too that you are not making noise like these pinisting journalists. (Opens the paper he is holding) Mga yawa. They don’t see anything good, all they see are the mistakes.

Arthur: Ah, that’s true, Pa. In the Philippines, all that those in position are saying is that they’ve been doing everything right, while the opposition and the media say that the administration is doing everything wrong. Nobody seems to want to listen.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Laughs) Exactly!

Ruth: Oh, would you reconsider for me, ’Nak? You’re far more articulate than many of the baga’g-nawongs that have the gall to run. Try running for some office for me, will you?

Arthur: I dare not do so, Ma. I might win.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Ay you are hopeless. (Laughs. Sips coffee but finds it too sweet) Leche. This is too sweet. (Slams it on the table, much coffee spills. To maid) Clean that, and make me another cup. (The maid obeys tremblingly. He reads the papers again) Putang ina, this Celestino Fernandez! All he knows is to attack LGUs. If he is not accusing them of making useless projects, he would be calling them useless themselves for not doing anything. What will you do to impress this yawa!? And what he said on the radio last night—oh, your lolo will be so angry!

Arthur (with some anxiety): What he said last night, Pa?

Gov. Manny Jr.: Ay, you tell him, dear. My blood pressure will go up again.

Ruth: Well he was implying something during the press con about this symposium of his here. When he was asked if he was not afraid of the family, he answered—now how did that go? “I am afraid of neither the bolo of the Old Reyes’ past, nor the tank of the younger Reyes’ present. I am even brave enough to uncover them.” I was at Epifania’s this morning for a meeting of the Couples for Christ wives, it’s the talk of the town.

Arthur is visibly aghast, but his family does not notice it.

Gov. Manny Jr.: The putang ina knows  about the tank, but he knows something else, I tell you.

Arthur (after a pause. with composure): I have to excuse myself, Pa, Ma. I have to meet someone. I’ll try to come home early.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Raises eyebrow) Going off to flirt again? (Laughs) At least you are spreading our genes. Go on, leave now. We have to talk to your lolo later. You’ll just be distracting him again.

Ruth: Do come home early tonight. I want to take you to Salud’s dinner party. Her daughter Terry has just returned from Manila with her Chinese boyfriend. You remember Terry dear, don’t you?

Arthur (in a rush): Well, not as much as I should, perhaps.

Ruth: You were always very warm with Terry, I thought you had something going on.

Arthur (with sentimental amicability, still in a rush): Well, we find new people to be warm with. (Motions to leave. With great anxiety) Now I really must excuse myself.

Ruth: Oh wait, have you unpacked?

Arthur: (Stops on his tracks) Not yet, Ma, but I’ll just do it later.

Ruth: Oh, let the achays do it. What’s the use of having achays.

Arthur (almost consternated): Oh no, Ma, I insist. I’ll be unpacking them myself.

Ruth (affectionately):  Are you ordering me!? (Giggles) Just go, already!

Arthur: (Kisses mother and father) Okay. Kuya.

Raymond: Yeah, take care.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Take one of the cars. (Gestures to one of the henchmen)

Arthur: Oh no, Pa, I prefer commuting. I haven’t commuted here in Santo Tomas for a while, I want to reminisce. (To the henchmen)You can stay here, Boy. (To the family) I’ll go ahead.

(Exeunt Arthur in a rush to the left)

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Follows Arthur with his eyes. Affectionately) Ay, that boy is hopeless. (Reading the paper) Putang ina this Fernandez. Kahilas! Listen to what he wrote on this column of his: “The underlying elitism that manifested itself in the Magdalo–Magdiwang rivalry crippled the Revolution and it still cripples us today, because the elitists (note that I do not use here ‘the elite’) never consider the capabilities of those whom they perceive are below them.” Funny, because he himself is an elitist! Inglisero! (Puts down the paper violently) I hope papa agrees to the plan!

Ruth: I’ve been nothing but tears and hurt feelings in front of the Couples wives and with the Gabriela people. Have you dealt with the Federation, Ray?

Raymond: Not without difficulty. Arthur’s the only actor among us, you know!

Ruth: (Laughs) What did you do, dear?

Raymond: When Fernandez was mentioned in the Federation meeting, I pretended to be unaffected. But in a few moments, I pretended to be bothered. When they fell silent, I explained to the idiots that “I was just hurt because all the family gets after five generations of service is criticism.” I also brought up the issue of extrajudicial killings, and I said if I had only known they’d suspect me and my family, I should never have taken the responsibility of chairman. Finally I apologized for digressing from the order of business of the federation. Basically, I just did what Tito Edward pulled off in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Laughs) And what do they think of Fernandez now?

Raymond: Hilas, an elitist who never understood their sufferings.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Good! Now we are no longer the sole suspects, the angle of a privately motivated directive could be seen. It is a good thing our appeal is populist while Fernandez is seen as being hilas. (Gestures to the maid to hand him another newspaper)

Ruth: Everything seems to be in order. I think we ought to call Papa. (Rises. To Raymond) Come, let’s get your lolo.

Raymond: Yes, Ma. (He and Ruth exit)

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Reads papers. After a short while, he gets his cellphone) Hello, John Paul. Come over . . . What, and where did Cocoy take the men? What happened? (Listens)

Re-enter Raymond and Ruth, with Cong. Manny Sr. The congressman is old, but he is just as plump as his son Manny Junior. His army cut hair is entirely white. His face is ruddy, making him look like a mastiff. His age, however, imposes a high amount of respect from all the other characters. They crowd around him like little children clambering up a scowling Buddha.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Stands up to greet father) Papa, have you had a good sleep?

Cong. Manny Sr.: Yes, but dios mio, I really cannot deny it anymore, I am old. Just walking is becoming tiring! (Laughs)

Raymond: Tito Cocoy took some of the men with him, Pa?

Gov. Manny Jr.: Yes. Apparently the idiot could not control his urges. He did the wife of a policeman in his city. Now the policeman found out!

Ruth (condescendingly): Oh, men!

Raymond: Now where did I hear that story before!?

Gov. Manny Jr.: Yes! It is familiar, isn’t it?

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Looks at the maids and henchmen and dismisses them to exit. They exit. Laughs suddenly) You young people have terrible memories! Have I not shared with you boys that the same thing happened to me when I was young? Ah, that Lucretia was one woman. (To Gov. Manny Jr.) Even your mother was no match for him, Jun! (Laughs)

Gov. Manny Jr.: Do refresh our memories, Pa.

Cong. Manny Sr. (with a glint of nostalgia in his eyes): I was right around your age, Raymond, and was just a capitan de barangay—yes, you have outdone me, I was not the provincial chair of the Federation! That Lucretia was the wife of a policeman, Collatino. When the tonto was out I did her. Well, she liked it (laughs) but she ratted to him anyway, the puta.

Ruth: (The feminist in her is aghast) Oh, Papa!

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Eyes her authoritatively, silencing the feminist in her. Continues as if she did not interrupt) The gago of a husband threatened to kill me, said it would be easy since I was just some kid. But the neighborhood was for me, exactly because I was young—they could not believe a young man like me from a buen familia could do something like that. And to protect me, this neighborhood thug named Dionisio—I forgot the family name—went so far as accusing the policeman of stealing his goat! And the neighborhood’s attention was diverted to the goat! (Laughs) One night, I drank with Dionisio and made him drunk. When the idiot was asleep, I took his bolo and went off to take care of the couple. It was his bolo, and he had a known grudge against the victims, so Dionisio was in prison until he died!

Gov. Manny Jr.: Ah yes, now I recall. It’s been some time since you’ve told that story! (He realizes. Suddenly, he looks aghast.)

Ruth: Manny?

Gov. Manny Jr.: Papa! We have to kill that Fernandez! (Almost to himself) It was just a countermeasure about the tank, but now we have to do this! We have to kill him!

Cong. Manny Sr.: Wait, wait. Calm down. (Takes a deep breath)  I knew we were coming to this. But let us talk about it properly before deciding. This is a big decision. Inhale, exhale (Gov. Manny Jr. obeys.) Okay, let us decide on this properly. (To Raymond) Ray, hijo, could you lead us a prayer so God can enlighten us?

Raymond: Opo. (Stands up) Let us all be reminded that we are in the presence of God. (Sign of the cross) Father God, thank you for giving us a new day. Please guide us as we make this very important decision. These we ask in Jesus’ name, amen.

All: Amen. (Sign of the cross)

Cong. Manny Sr.: Okay, now that the Espirito Santo has blessed us with prudence, speak.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Stands. Clears his throat) Papa, Celestino Fernandez will come to the province today. We have devised an operation to get rid of him and his entourage.

Cong. Manny Sr. is surprised but seems passive.

Cong. Manny Sr.: How will you pull it off? How will you hide it from the police?

Gov. Manny Jr.: That is easy. (Looks at window) Ah, John Paul’s timing is admirable.

John Paul enters with an entourage of henchmen. He is as tall as Raymond, with army-cut hair and a well-built body. He has a stiff expression on his face. His complexion is much darker than that of the other men. At a gesture from the old man the henchmen exit.

Gov. Manny Jr.: John Paul. Before all else, tell us, do you promise to be loyal to the family with respect to its plan I already mentioned to you?

John Paul (a bit surprised): Yes, sir.

Cong. Manny Sr.: So you have the provincial chief of police with you. Good. Okay, let us continue.

Gov. Manny Jr.: As you can see, Papa, the provincial chief of police is ours. In fact, it will be the provincial police who will be doing the deed.

Cong. Manny Sr.: But what about the national police? How will you avoid blame? You should pass the blame on others.

Gov. Manny Jr.: We have thought of that, Papa—yes, Edward, Celinia, and Boboy are in this as well. We have specifically chosen to do the deed in our NPA hotspots here in the province. Edward and Raymond here too have been talking in their respective assemblies to rally sympathy for us. We have also stirred a considerably high amount of public dislike for Fernandez that the angle of private action is more than likely.

Raymond: Yes, Lolo. Tito Edward’s been the one negotiating with the NPA, and things are going well. But Tita Cely says the people in Congress still think we have little control of them. The possibility of rash action from them to please us—and also because Fernandez has been criticizing the NPA too—will make them very convincing suspects!

Cong. Manny Sr.: I see. (After a pause that makes the other characters tense) But really, is his criticism all the reason why you want to get rid of him? What are you hiding from me?

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Hesitates) Well, Papa, when Fernandez was speaking on a radio station last night, he was asked if he was not afraid of the family. Well . . . he answered, “I am afraid of neither the bolo of the Old Reyes’ past, nor the tank of the younger Reyes’ present. I am even brave enough to uncover them.” (Cong. Manny Sr. starts up) I only remembered about it when you retold the story a while ago!

Cong. Manny Sr.: So you think he knows? How? What is he planning to do?

Gov. Manny Jr.: One of our assets speculates that Fernandez’s men might have already found your bolo. It was taken to the police for evidence, was it not? It would be very easy for an inquisitive man to look it up. He might be planning to meet with the henchmen who got it when he arrives—that is why he chose to start that tour of his here!

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Stands up) Kill that putang ina and everyone in his convoy! He dares dishonor me and this family? Get rid of him! (Raymond tries to calm him down and leads him back to his seat) How do you intend to do the deed?

Gov. Manny Jr. gestures to Ruth.

Ruth:  (Wipes sweat) This will be how things go po, Papa: Fernandez’s convoy will enter from Davao into the municipality of Bacudo. Daddy, Mayor Pablo Cipriano, gave us his policemen to act here.

Cong. Manny Sr.: So Cipring is in it too?

Ruth: Opo, Papa. SPO3 Tirona of Bacudo will meet the convoy and pretend to escort them to Buduan. Here, the policemen of Buduan and Bagong Quezon will pick them up. They will ask the convoy people to give their communication devices to secure the area. They will say there is an NPA-related conflict. After these communication devices are to be taken and destroyed, they will be brought to Santo Tomas, far from the town, and they will be disposed of there.

Cong. Manny Sr.: Disposed of? How?

Ruth: Shot po, before being chopped to make burying them convenient.

John Paul raises hand. Ruth looks at him and nods in consent.

John Paul: Let me just add, sirs, ma’am, that for the whole operation, SPO3 Ervic of Santo Tomas, my wife’s cousin, will be in charge. He’s a newbie, sir, but I trust his capability.

Cong. Manny Sr.: That bolo worries me. (To himself) How on earth did he find out? Are you sure if we kill Fernandez, we will get rid of that bolo?

Gov. Manny Jr.: We will make the convoy stop for a few hours in Bacudo before they are picked up to let Fernandez’s man come after them. That way whoever that tiktik of his is would be included in the shooting. Besides, Papa, we are still not sure if Fernandez really has found it, or even if he actually knows what happened.

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Breathes deeply) Yes, I should not worry too much. But it’s best to be certain. (Smiles) It is a well-made plan! Who thought of it?

Gov. Manny Jr.: It was Ruth, Papa.

Cong. Manny Sr. (smiling):   You are very clever, hija.

Ruth:  (Bashfully accepts his beso on the cheek) I learn from the best, Papa.

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Laughs. Notices Raymond’s pale face) What’s wrong, Ray?

Raymond: I don’t know, Lolo, but I have a bad feeling. We’re dealing with lives here, I realized.

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Laughs) You have weak guts, boy. This is how you kill issues and problems: you kill the people making them.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Even better, reverse it: think that you are not killing a person, you are killing the issue.

Cong. Manny Sr.: Is that how you do it, Jun? Yes, you can do that too. But to be sure. You ought to make this boy’s guts stronger. (To Raymond) Go to the site today after the whole thing is done, hijo. That will give you guts, a lot of it, I can imagine! (Laughs) Report to us if the plan was successful.

Raymond: (Loses his cool) But . . . but I might throw up!

Cong. Manny Sr.: Oh, it will be nothing! Just think they had slaughtered pigs.

Raymond: But . . . but, Lolo, Pa—Ma! I . . . I really don’t think this is right. These, these are lives we’re dealing with—

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Shuts him up with a gesture) Elders say, you obey. Okay? (Raymond nods with a mixture of continued reluctance and fear) Good. Jun, make me a cup of coffee.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Distracted chatting with John Paul) Oh, Ruth.

Ruth: Raymond.

Raymond (loudly): Beng!

Enter a maid. Raymond gestures to her to make coffee. The maid obeys.

A cellphone rings. It is John Paul’s. He answers it.

John Paul: Hello, Vic . . . Yes, yes—what, you’ve began moving? (The family is startled) It’s a good thing the congressman agreed! Wait . . . (To the family) They’ve started, sirs. The convoy arrived early.

Ruth: Where are they now?

John Paul: Heading towards Santo Tomas.

Cong. Manny Sr.: Did you make them wait in Bacudo?

John Paul: Let me ask, sir. (Phone) How long did you stay in Bacudo? (To Cong. Manny Sr.) just as was planned, sir: about two hours. They just started the plan early.

Gov. Manny Jr.: You mean to say even though the plan was out of schedule, they still went accordingly? This is a useful bata you found, this Ervic!

John Paul: I know, sir. He’s a clever man. Oh, he was asking about the women and children.

Ruth and Raymond: Women and children?

John Paul: Yes, sir, ma’am, there are women and children in the convoy.

Ruth: Violence against women!

Gov. Manny Jr.: Oh drop it, Ruth. Women should get equality in everything, even the things men have to suffer.

Cong. Manny Sr. laughs.

Raymond (unable to restrain himself): Lolo, the children, please, not the—

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Again shuts Raymond up with gesture) Get rid of them too to keep things clean. That’ll get rid of the NPA too. Imagine the public outcry! (Laughs)

John Paul: Okay, sir. (Phone) Include them. Call me if it’s done . . . Okay . . . (Puts phone down)

Cong. Manny Sr.: Brilliant! I was hesitant that a newbie is taking care of this, but now I am glad!

John Paul: We really don’t have too many old-timers now, sir. Many of them have retired by now. In fact most of the people in this operation are newbies. Sir Cocoy somehow took all the old-timers with him.

The family laughs except Raymond. Ruth observes his silence and tries to comfort him. He cheers up a bit.

Cong. Manny Sr.: At any rate, we do need to secure more bata.

John Paul: Yes, sir. I was going to suggest that.

Gov. Manny Jr.: John Paul. When you recruit more bata you should mention the tank we’re about to get. That’ll draw them in!

John Paul: A tank, sir?

Gov. Manny Jr.: Yes! I was able to bribe this general, he even gave us some ammunition to go with it. It was a real bargain.

John Paul: This is sure to attract more men, sir!

Cong. Manny Sr.: (To John Paul) Really, boy. I am glad I took you in. The family’s future depends on your able action.

John Paul: (Smiles humbly) I do my best to repay your kindness, sir—my son is graduating thanks to your support!

Raymond (with hesitation): By the way, Lolo, can . . . can I request something?

Cong. Manny Sr. (with pronounced gentleness this time): Yes, Ray?

Raymond (encouraged by the display of gentleness): You see po, barangays don’t have any budget to support domestic violence victims. Could you lead the legislation on this? (Ruth perks up at hearing this.)

Gov. Manny Jr.: Why? Is not the DSWD doing anything? Stupid national government.

Raymond: I don’t know, Pa. We always direct complaints to the DSWD, but they always answer that nobody is in the DSWD Office. And besides, right now the DSWD is just acting like a juvenile prison. (Gov. Manny Jr. shrugs his shoulder). Domestic violence is a big problem in barangays. But the women aren’t the only victims, men too are also indirectly affected. Poverty is the main cause of instances: usually when we ask, we are told that the battering begins when the wife complains too much to the husband—the image of the demure battered wife is far from true! For there really is no such thing as a demure housewife anymore. Really, poverty is a big problem: we had this family who resorted to catching mice and lizards to eat.

Ruth: Ugh, why didn’t they just ask from their neighbors!?

Raymond: The neighbors don’t want to help. The family would just rely on them, they say. This is usually what happens

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Shudders) What a relief we are in power.

Raymond: (Misinterprets what his grandfather said. Face brightens with hope) That’s why I believe if we give free vocational training, it will really help. And if we incorporate counselling on anger management and marriage counselling, it will solve two problems at once. It will be a long-term solution.

Cong. Manny Sr. (dismissive): Okay, okay, draft the articles and I will pass it when I go to Manila—I  have to go soon, anyway. I’ve been absent in the Camara for months already.

Ruth: Oy, my friend Bibeth is also asking about that House Resolution on allowing mining in Buduan, Papa. Her husband has foreign investors willing to fund operations already.

Cong. Manny Sr. (slightly annoyed): Yes, I’ll check that, too.

Ruth: Oh, and Luz wants your vote for this bill Gabriela is planning to pass next month. It’s about women’s health.

Cong. Manny Sr. (annoyed this time): Okay, okay, I’ll check that too. Where is that stupid secretary of mine when you need her.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Remember you gave her a leave?

Cong. Manny Sr.: And right before I’m to go to Manila. What a bad idea.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Mischievously, adding to the list) Oh, and Papa, we seriously need to increase Bajada’s IRA. We want to set up an intelligence fund

Cong. Manny Sr. (very annoyed): Why don’t you just tell Lotlot at the NSO to magic the province’s birth rate for the coming fiscal year! (The family laughs, and when Cong. Manny Sr. realizes the joke, he laughs too)

Ruth (remembering her tasks): Oh, I have to prepare for tonight’s party, and I have to read those papers Salud sent me! But I’ll go unpack Arthur’s bags first. (Gestures to maid, and maid waits by the door for her. To Manny Jr.) Update me if the plan was successful.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Okay.

Exit Ruth with maid.

Cong. Manny Sr.: I think that maid heard too much. (To John Paul) Take care of her after Ruth’s done with her. Go have fun while you’re at it.

John Paul: Yes, sir.

John Paul’s phone rings again, and he picks it up.

John Paul: (Phone) How did it go? Okay . . . (Puts down the phone. To the family) It’s done, sir.

Gov. Manny Jr.: It was fast! (To Raymond) Go, ’Nak, take a look and call us to confirm that Fernandez is dead.

Raymond (hesitantly): Okay, Papa. (Stands up)

Cong. Manny Sr.: Wait. (Takes some money from pocket and gives to Raymond) Here, treat the men to something!

Raymond: Opo, Lolo. (Exits to the left)

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Follows Raymond with eyes. To Gov. Manny Jr.) You have a hardworking son.

Gov. Manny Jr.: I’m proud of both of them—even if Arthur’s being a useless dandy, he has remarkable insight too.

Cong. Manny Sr.: Yes, very good with his words that boy, hopeless case that he is. But what worries me about your panganay is that he does not seem to have the sense of responsibility for his “duty of privilege.”

Gov. Manny Jr.: Duty of privilege, Papa?

Cong. Manny Sr.: I am certain you know what I mean. You feel it too of course. Though it is stronger with Cocoy and Edward. (Laughs) Not only is Raymond a public servant himself, he was born into a family of public servants—that makes him doubly superior to the ordinary people. And because he is better than them, it is his duty as it is ours to enjoy things in behalf of them. He must enjoy the privileges of power that are not given to everybody.  We as leaders are obliged to be happy in behalf of the suffering masses. As Arthur would put it, noblesse oblige.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Ah, I am still so young, Papa.

Cong. Manny Sr.: Of course. You have a lot more rice to eat, dong. (Laughs. Looks around) But dios mio, how on earth can we enjoy for the masses when our house is this small? (Sighs)  you know what, in our five generations of service we have gotten very little, compared to some upstart who happens to be in Manila. We are just LGUs in faraway Mindanao, unfortunately. You are planning on becoming congressman, right? Try to be as conspicuous as you can in the House so you can aim for Senator. The local politician’s resources are really not enough to support us. (Sighs) As for me I’m too old now. The reigns are yours, dong.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Ginoo, don’t pressure me, Papa. (Laughs)

Cong. Manny Sr.: (Laughs along) If I do not pressure you, what kind of a father would I be!

Gov. Manny Jr.: True! (Laughs. He shouts the name of a maid, and maid enters. Gestures to the papers on the desk. The maid hands it to him. He dismisses the maid after receiving the papers) Raymond has been bothering me to sign these ordinances for months now. (He begins signing the papers while Cong. Manny Sr. reads newspapers)

Cong. Manny Sr.: (After some minutes reading) Punyeta!

Gov. Manny Jr.: What is it, Pa?

Cong. Manny Sr.: Have you read this Zayd Suleiman? A new writer, it seems. Here, read this column of his on Davao Star (Hands the paper. Maid takes it and hands it to Gov. Manny Jr.)

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Reading) “The continued hegemony of the Reyeses in Bajada in spite of their decades of atrocities just goes to show that Mindanao politics is predominantly ‘makatao’ (personality based) rather than idea-based: There’s too much focus on personalities and not enough emphasis on ideas. But it must not be said that this problem is limited to Mindanao: This is a national problem. During People Power 1, for instance, the ‘fight’ was between then-president Marcos (a personality) and senator Ninoy Aquino (another personality). Was it not the case that the personality of the latter ‘party’ was transferred from Ninoy when he died to his widow Cory? It can even be said that this may very well be the reason why Mindanao Secession as a movement was unsuccessful: it was too focused on concepts. It took a P-Noy to sign the Bangsamoro deal, and a defeated villain in the person of Misuari to make it all the more a success.”

Cong. Manny Sr.: His tone infuriates me, as if he knows everything. Who is this m——, writing as if he is somebody! He shouldn’t be speaking, he’s just a moro. In my time, we killed Muslims before they started bombing things. And now they’re giving these cockroaches an autonomous state of their own!? Where is this country going—Ah, now I remember! Was not he that terorista who criticized the SK sometime ago?

Gov. Manny Jr.: Yes, I recall, it was him. What a headache that was.

Cong. Manny Sr.: Oh, I hope he’s part of Fernandez’s convoy!

A phone rings. Gov. Manny Jr. answers his own.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Phone) Hello, Ray? I’ll put you on loud speaker so your lolo can hear you (Presses something on the phone). Hello?

Raymond (voice): Hello, Papa. I’m here in the area now. I can see it all . . . scattered everywhere . . . chopped to bits . . . I feel like I’m going to throw up.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Giggles) Wait, wait: think those are toys, just props for some pelikula.

Raymond (phone): Opo . . . I feel better now

The sound of a car stopping is heard from the phone.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Laughs) Have you arrived?

Raymond (phone): Yes . . . Ah, I’m starting to get sick again. It’s so rancid.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Laughs) Then use a handkerchief, idiot!

Raymond (phone): Opo. (The sound of rustling cloth is heard. A bit less clear than before) Can you still hear me, Pa?

Gov. Manny Jr.: It’s is a bit muffled, but yes. Look for Fernandez’s body. You know what he looks like?

Raymond: Yes. Wait a moment . . . (Momentary silence) I’m in front of his head, Papa. I don’t know where the rest of him is—Ugh! They hit the back of the head with a bolo, and the brain’s oozing out!

Gov. Manny Jr.: Kaarte! (Laughs) Have Ervic wrap that up and bring it here—you do not have to touch it, have it placed at the back of the Fortuner! (Laughs)

Raymond (phone): Opo.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Oh, and was anyone bringing a bolo among there?

Raymond (phone): I’ll just ask . . . (To Ervic) Bossing, was there anybody here who was bringing a bolo? Okay. (Phone) They didn’t find anything, Papa. A few people followed, but they didn’t find anything. They’d have noticed it immediately, because they took all the journalists’ possessions.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Okay. Ah! The journalists and their families will be wearing formal attire, of course. Try to look for a body without of place attire there, Ray.

Raymond (phone): Opo . . . (Momentary silence) Where did I see this polo . . . No . . . (Breathing becomes rapid. The sound of running is heard) No! (The sound of the phone being thrown away is heard)

Gov. Manny Jr.: Hello, Ray? Ray, what happened?

The continued shouts of “no” from Raymond are heard. He suddenly falls silent, with someone asking a hesitant “sir” heard. “That’s the one who followed,” the other voice can be heard saying. Violent sounds are heard and a gunshot. Raymond shouts “A sack! Putang ina, give me a sack!” and the rustling of a sack is heard. The sound of running, then the loud sound of a vehicle starting up. Then the line is cut: the car has crushed the phone.

Gov. Manny Jr.: What happened to him? (Jokingly) Oh, someone he knew was included! Tsk. He’ll learn, that boy. But to be sure, could you meet him, John Paul.

John Paul: Yes, sir. (Exits to the left. In a short while, the sound of a vehicle leaving is heard)

Gov. Manny Jr.: What could have happened to that boy? Oh well. (Returns to signing papers)

Cong. Manny Sr.: (After a while, stands up) I think I will take another siesta. Tell me when Raymond has returned.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Opo, Papa. (Gestures to maids. Maids assist Cong. Manny Sr.)

Exeunt Cong. Manny Sr.

Ruth enters suddenly, holding some worn-looking sheets of paper in one hand and a black attaché case in the other.

Ruth: Punyeta! Manny!

Gov. Manny Jr.: What is it?

Ruth: That Arthur! Look at this!? (Hands the papers to Gov. Manny Jr.)

Gov. Manny Jr. reads, his face growing livid, while Ruth continues to curse.

Gov. Manny Jr.: (Furious) Draft articles—Arthur—Arthur is that Zayd Suleiman? Putang ina! (Tears the bits of paper to pieces, unable to speak out of anger) He was that warik-warik? He nearly cost his brother the SK post!

Ruth: (Controls Gov. Manny Jr.) Dear, your heart! (Leads him back to the seat)

Gov. Manny Jr.: That boy! We have allowed him to do what he wants, but he has gone beyond the limit, I say! What else is in that attaché case?

Ruth: I don’t know. Here. (Hands him the attaché case. He takes another piece of paper inside and reads it). My temper rose when I saw these papers, so I didn’t bother looking at the rest. (Notices the gesticulation on her husband’s face) Why? What’s in it?

Gov. Manny Jr.: It’s from that Celestino Fernandez! (Reads it silently) Putang ina, how close they are, it is almost indecent! (Reads quietly again) “ . . . follow the convoy on time . . .”

Ruth: “Follow the convoy on time”?

The sound of a vehicle is heard.

Gov. Manny Jr.: Ginoo, Ruth! So that means . . . (Insanely) Ginoo!

The violent slam of a door and the shattering of car window glass is heard. The couple looks to the left.

Raymond (voice): (In a lachrymose roar) Pa! Ma! Arthur!  It’s Arthur!

Curtain

Touch Move

By Karlo Antonio Galay David (Fiction)

Gina-twist ko ang Rubik’s Cube pagpasok ni Dad sa sala. Pag-upo niya sa harap ko kalalim ng buntong-hininga niya, halos hangak na. Nakabarong siya na green na may arabesque na design sa gitna. Kakagaling lang siguro sa korte. Nagpiko siya ng likod palapit sa akin, nakapatong ang mga siko sa mga tuhod, at nakatago ang bibig sa mga kamay na nakalabid ang mga daliri.

May tatanungin siya.

“Len, ayos ka daw ng upo be.” Hindi ito yung iritable na tono niya, ito yung malumanay. Gibaba ko ang mga paa ko mula sa sofa, pero hindi ko giwala ang tingin ko sa Rubik’s Cube. Gisimula ko siya solve.

Nagbalik siya sandal sa upuan niya.

“Problema talaga yang lolo mo . . .”

Gihagisan niya ng tingin ang malaking picture ni Lolo sa ibabaw ng bookshelf ko sa kabilang gilid ng sala. Ito yung masamang tingin, makitid ang mata, pero nagalisik, ganito yan pag galit ang tingin.

Yan si Lolo ko. Jaime Saavedra, tatlong beses governor ng North Cotabato. Noong panahon ni Marcos gitawag siyang strong man ng Cotabato kay halos lahat ng pulitiko dito sa amin hawak niya.

Strong talaga yan siya noon, kahit ako matakot. Noong buhay pa siya, six pa ako, gipakita ako sa kanya ni Dad sa big house sa River Park. Matagal na yun masyado, twenty na gud ako ngayon. Sabi niya pagkakita sa akin, ano man itong anak mo Jerry, abnormal.

Natapos ko na ang Rubik’s Cube. 6.32 seconds.

Nakangiti si Dad, nakatingin sa Rubik’s Cube. A, dapat ako magtanong ano problema niya.

“Bakit, Dad, ano problema?” tanong ko pagyakap ko sa kanya. Gawain man gud yan ni Dad pag may problema, i-distract niya ang sarili niya. Minsan kailangan mo ulit i-remind sa kanya na may dapat pa siya atupagin. Joke minsan ni Mom na sa kanya ko siguro nakuha itong sakit ko.

“Tulungan mo ulit ako, Len, ha . . .”

Tango lang din ako.

Six years, three months, four days ko na ito ginagawa. Nung una ko ito gigawa kakamatay lang ni Tito Pat habang nakaupo na mayor ng Kidapawan. July 14. Tatlong bala sa dibdib, dead on arrival sa Madonna Hospital. Nagplano si Tito Jojo na gamitin ang timing para magtakbo. Pero mainit pa ang dugo ng mga rubber baron kay sila ginadiin ni Vice Mayor Balajadia na nagpapatay kay Tito Pat.

Nakasalampak din sa harap ko noon si Dad, yang pagod ang mukha niya. Siya ang gusto gawing campaign manager at legal adviser ni Tito Jojo. Naga-Rubik’s Cube lang din ako.

Sa desperasyon daw yun sabi niya sa amin ni Mom pagkatapos. Gikwento niya sa akin ang nangyari tapos gitanong niya ano daw gawin ko kung ako tanungin.

Ang tao parang Lego, ang mga kalagayan nila parang Rubik’s Cube, o kahit anong puzzle. Mga piyesa na maiba mo ang kalagayan pag alam mo anohin sila pagposisyon. Posisyon lang talaga, posisyon.

“Bakit nagpunta sa Paco si Tito Pat, Dad?” Gibaba ko na ang Rubik’s Cube.

“Gipakiusapan siya ni Balajadia na magpunta doon sa ribbon cutting ng golf course sa Balindog na gi-commitan niya pero hindi niya mapuntahan kay may meeting siya bigla with an investor sa Davao.”

“Si Balajadia malamang ang nagpapatay kay Tito Pat.” Nakataas na ang mga paa ko sa sofa, pero sa gulat niya hindi ako napagalitan. “Pero walang evidence,” dagdag ko. “At mahirap, malakas si Balajadia, hawak niya ang masa.”

“So . . . so ano suggestion mo gawin natin, Len?” Unang beses yun na pagkatiwalaan ako ni Dad magdesisyon, na sinali niya ako sa trabaho ng pamilya.

“Konsehal muna si Tito Jojo. Kausapin niyo ang mga may gomahan, ipaalam niyo na hindi sila ang ginapagbintangan niyo. Isali niyo ang ikaunlad ng mga gomahan sa platform ni Tito Jojo.”

One year tapos manalo ni Tito Jojo pagkakonsehal, nagbalik si Dad sa harap ko. Nagabasa ako noon tungkol sa Tagasatzung ng Switzerland. April 19.

“Hindi mataas ang ratings ni Tito Jojo . . .” Ulit, nagapalabas lang siya ng steam. Pero problema, at kailangan ko i-solve.

Maalala ko pa, gikuha ko ang Rubik’s Cube, at ang Rubik’s Cube naging Kidapawan. Up, side, down, left, right, left, right, right, left, center, up, down. Tapos sa loob ng ten seconds, naayos ko ulit ang Kidapawan.

“Dapat may gulo sa Kidapawan. Land grabbing dito, summary killings doon. Lahat dapat gawing kasalanan ni Mayor Balajadia. Si Tito Jojo ang lone voice na kokontra.”

Yung liwanag ng mukha na sabi sa mga libro, nakita ko sa mukha ni Dad. Mga ilang buwan tapos nun leading sa surveys si Tito Jojo. Gibilhan niya ako ng Megaminx galing Europe.

Kahirap pala ng Megaminx, pero nakatulong yun, kay nung gigawa ko siyang Kidapawan, nahulaan ko ano sunod gawin ni Balajadia.

November 27.

“Tayo ang gipagbintangan ni Balajadia sa gulo sa Mua-an!” Taranta yun sabi ng mga libro, galit na parang nawawala.

“Ano nangyari, Dad?

“Gipa-negotiate ni Tito Pat mo noon si Councilor Sirolo sa mga Manobo sa Mua-an na ibenta ang bahagi ng ancestral domain nila kay Nonoy Lu ng Regal Suites Hotels para gawing hot springs resort. Nagpayag na sila, nabigay na ang titulo kay Lu, pero pagkamatay ni Sirolo nagbago ang isip nila. Pero kay negosyante man itong mga Lu wala silang pakialam, gipa-fence ang lupa. Ganito man din nangyari noon sa kuya nito ni Lu sa Boracay ba . . . Ayan ngayon, ginademonyo ni Balajadia ang project at ginasabi niya na si Tito Jojo ang may pakana lahat kay kasosyo sila noon ni Lu.”

“Daan pa lagi ako ganito . . . Dad, ipaliwanag niyo sa radyo ang prinsipyo ng contracts. Magbayad kayo ng abogado na hindi kilalang kaibigan ni Tito Jojo.”

“Oo, ginaisip namin yun.”

“Tapos ikaw din magsalita ka rin sa radyo.”

“Ha? Ano din sabihin ko?”

“Na proposal lang yun ni Tito Pat. Si Balajadia ang nagmadali para mabango ang partido nila ni Tito Pat. Nagpakamatay si Sirolo dahil sa stress, ’di ba?”

“Oo.”

“Idiin mo si Balajadia, sabihin mo dahil gi-pressure niya yung tao na ilapastangan ang tribo niya, nagpakamatay siya. Ikaw na bahala na hindi slanderous.”

Mula noon naging spokesperson na si Dad ng pamilya. Natamaan si Balajadia, kaya gitigil niya ang atake. Napatahimik ang mga Manobo ni Tito Jojo sa ilang projects.

Ngayon ang sabi ng mga katulong sa kusina tagilid daw ang kampanya ni Tito Jojo pagka-mayor. Pero hindi ko makita bakit giproblema ni Dad si Lolo.

“Ano pala gigawa ni Lolo, Dad?”

Kalalim na buntong hininga.

“May anak na naman siya sa labas lumitaw.”

Pang-ilan na ito nangyari. Lahat, ang suggestion ko bayaran o iligpit. Anohin mo man ang Lego na hindi magamit kung hindi iligpit, maapakan mo pa lang, kasakit.

“Bayaran pala o iligpit gaya ng iba, Dad?”

“Mahirap ito . . . galing States, may marriage certificate daw siya ng nanay niya at ng lolo mo. Vegas wedding lang gud, pero bago pa sila kinasal ni lola mo. Bakit niya tanggapin ang bayad kung lahat makuha niya! At kung ipaligpit natin, halata masyado . . .”

“Hmm . . .” Pang-Megaminx ito na problema. Gikuha ko.

Up, side, down, left, right, left, right, right, left, center, up, down.

“Mag-uwi daw dito, Dad?”

“Daw. Kaka-email lang sa akin! Kakasabi ko lang kay Tito Jojo, hindi din niya alam ano gawin, tanungin daw kita”

“Sunduin niyo sa Davao.”

“Ha?”

“Tapos pag andito, i-welcome niyo. Wag niyo bigyan ng bahay, ipatuloy niyo muna sa isang bahay natin—wag siguro sa big house, may mga picture ni lola dun, sabi sa mga libro insensitive yun. Bigyan niyo rin ng driver at kotse.” Gihigpitan ko ang hawak ko sa Megaminx. “Tapos pag masaya na siya, isali niyo sa kampanya ni Tito Jojo . . .”

Kabilis naintindihan ni Dad. Giyakap niya ako, at naglabas siya, malamang para tawagan si Tito Jojo.

Gusto ko man sana talaga makatulong sa pamilya ko, pero anohin man, kahirap makipag-usap sa ibang tao. Alam ko gud pano sila magkilos, alam ko ano ibig sabihin ng kilos nila, pero kahirap pa rin. Minsan dalhin-dalhin ako ni Tito Jojo sa mga campaign niya, pero para lang may cute na abnormal kasama, pang-appeal sa mga may awa, para hindi din masyado malayo tingnan ang mga Saavedra. Pero mas makatulong pa sa mismong kampanya sina Carmina at Dinah, yung mga pinsan ko. Pasalamat ako na sa ganitong isip-isip ko makatulong ako sa kanila konti.

Kung hindi mag-solve ng puzzle or maggawa ng Lego, buong araw ako naga-basa-basa, libro man, dyaryo, o internet. Kasarap magbasa ng history, lingaw sundan ang mga nagyari noon at tingnan pano sila nakaapekto sa ngayon. Naging kalingawan na din ni Mom na bilhan ako ng dyaryo araw-araw galing sa simbahan, o kahit ano bang reading material galing sa mga constituent work niya kasama si Tita Salud, asawa ni Tito Jojo. Naging akin na ang sala, na laging puno ng Lego, mga puzzle, at libro. Minsan madaganan ko ng libro ang iPad ko.

Pagpasok mo ng bahay namin ang makita mo agad sa vestibule isang malaki masyadong Lego na winding staircase inclined 40 degrees na may malapad na tuktok. Kadaming gipadala na Lego ni Tito Margot galing Germany, kaya gigawa ko yan. Ang title niya Absolute Destiny Apocalypse.

Kalingaw mag-Lego, para silang mga tao. Pag-ibahin mo ang posisyon, maiba ang kalagayan nila. Ka-lagay-an. Yan. Kung ipag-halo-halo mo sila, iposisyon mo, makagawa ka ng gusto mong buo.

Pamilya lang ang iba, ewan bakit. Mas maintindihan sila, pero mas mahirap sila iposisyon. Alam ko na pag giiba ko sila masali ako, kaya matakot ako, tsaka lain ang pakiramdam kung gawin ko yun. Kawawa na makalungkot na makainis, pero sa sarili ako mainis. Ewan ko ano tawag dito na pakiramdam.

Mga tatlong araw tapos nun, August 11, nagsimula ako gawa ng malaking butterfly na Lego. Makulay yung bagong gipadala na Lego ni Tita Margot (2,586 pieces na lahat ng Lego ko), naisip ko i-contrast yung mga kulay. Red-black-black-white-yellow-red ba, tapos naisipan ko din paglaruan yung angles at pagposisyon sa kanila, 2×3’s para makagawa ng bilog, incremental forward lengthwise 2×4’s para concave, o 2×2’s incremental sideways para simple curve. Tapos naghalo ang kulay at angles at naging butterfly. Naisipan ko gawin, 4.6 feet siya kataas maging.

Nasa antenna na ako nang pumasok si Dad.

May kasama siyang lalaki na hindi ko pa nakita.

“This is Lenny, my son. He made that Lego staircase there. Len, bless ka kay Tito Brandon.”

Nagtango lang ako.

“Len, wag bastos.”

Gibitawan ko ang gihawakan ko na Lego at naglapit sa kanila. Nag-bless ako kay Tito Brandon.

“What’re you making?” Cartoon Network masyado ang accent niya. Nakangiti siya habang nakatingin sa butterfly. “A butterfly! Wow!”

“Opo.” At nagbalik ako ng trabaho. Narinig ko siya nagbulong sa sarili niya ng “It’s amazing.” Tapos nun gi-tour siya ni Dad sa bahay.

Kinabukasan nun, natapos ko na ang butterfly, nakadisplay na siya sa vestibule. Ang title niya Chaos Dream Metamorphosis.

Nagbalik yung Tito Brandon. Nasa sofa ako, naga-Rubik’s Cube.

May dala siyang chessboard. Hindi ko naisipan mag-chess, kaya ewan bakit nagdala siya. Habang patapos na ako sa ginagawa ko, nag-upo siya sa harap ko.

“Hey, Len. Heard hindi ka marunong mag-chess.” Bakikaw masyado pakinggan ang Tagalog niya. Nagtango lang din ako.

“Want me to teach you?”

Bitaw din, bakit hindi ko naisipan mag-chess? Gibaba ko ang Rubik’s Cube at nagtango. Napansin ko na bigla nagliwanag ang mukha niya.

Gituruan niya ako ng mga pangalan ng piece: pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen, king. Tapos ang mga galaw nila at paano sila magkain. Tapos gituruan niya ako pano mag-arrange.

Gitanong ko kung may notation ba ang chess. Sabi niya oo, ang grid kay a to h parehong side (a sa kaliwa ng puti) tapos 1 to 8 (8 kay rook ng itim). Ang galaw ganun, pawn a4, queen d6. Mas madali kung ganun, maisip mo ang posisyon.

“I have to teach you an important rule though,” sabi niya bago kami magsimula ng laro. “It’s called touch move. Once you touch a piece, you have to move it, provided it’s allowed.”

“Kahirap pala.”

“Yes, so you have to be responsible with what you do.”

Paglaro namin ako itim siya puti. Nahirapan ako sa touch move. Ayoko magkamali, makatakot, makainis. Parang yung pakiramdam habang kausap ko yung ibang tao. Alam ko na pag magkamali ako sira ang usapan namin.

Pawn niya e4, knight ko f6, bishop ko b5 tapos kain ng bishop niya ang bishop ko d7 . . . Kahirap pa masanay sa notation.

Lamang siya konti lang, pero makita sa mukha niya na lingaw siya masyado. Ako man din enjoy.

Isang galaw at na-checkmate niya ako.

“Wow, ang galing mo. I”ve been playing for decades, you just learned, but I barely beat you!”

“One more round po.” At nagtawa siya pagsabi ko nun.

“Game!”

Habang nagalaro kami ginakausap niya ako. Mahirap, kaya ginapaulit ko ang gisabi niya pagkatapos ko mag-move. Katagalan nasanay na siya, kausapin niya lang ako pag siya na ang magkilos. Makainis din kay sa tanong niya ako mag-focus, mawala ako sa laro.

“You have any friends, Len?”

“No po. They get bored with me.” At sa bawat sagot ko magtawa siya. Hindi ko alam bakit pero hindi makahiya kung tawanan niya ako.

Nakailang round kami. Sa pangatlo nasanay na ako, at nanalo ako sa fourth round. Pero kahirap pa rin niya talunin. Gibigay niya sa akin ang chessboard, at nagpasalamat ako (dapat baya magpasalamat pag may ibigay sa iyo). Sabi niya magbalik daw siya bukas.

Tapos nun nag-practice ako. Madali na masyado magposisyon, pero mahirap ang touch move. Alam ko talaga na maling galaw lang mali na ang posisyon. Madali lang mag-isip ng solusyon sa mali, pero parang bawat piece kapamilya ko, kawawa kung makain siya, masakit isipin. Makatakot isipin na maling galaw ko lang makain yung piece. Pero kailangan maggalaw . . .

“Oo, Kuya, handa na . . . Nasa Manongol na si Leon . . . Oo, sniper, galing sa Davao . . . Ikaw na magpasunod sa kanya? Sige, sige . . . Sige, Kuya.”

Gibaba ni Dad ang phone niya. Rinig ko siya sa garden sa labas. Pumasok siya ulit sa sala at umupo sa harap ko: kita sa mukha niya ang kaba. Nakatingin ako sa gigawa kong chess game.

Naghinga siya ng malalim.

“Sige, ’nak, alis muna ako.” Tapos niya ako giyakap nag-alis na siya.

Hindi ko ma-solve ang gi-set up kong scenario. Gikuha ko ang Rubik’s Cube para makaisip. Up, side, down, left, right, left, right, right, left, center, up, down.

Mga tanghali nang dumating si Tito Brandon. Kalaki ng ngiti niya pagkakita niya na nakabukas ang chessboard.

“That looks tough,” sabi niya pagkakita niya sa bagong problem na gi-set up ko.

Pag-upo niya gi-solve ko ang problem.

“Woah!” Tumawa siya.

“Let’s play!” at gi-arrange namin ang pieces. Ako ulit ang itim.

Nakailang rounds kami. Ako lagi panalo, nahanas ko na ang notation, so madali na masyado magposisyon.

Pero para din kasing abala siya, na wala sa laro ang isip niya. Siguro nasa usapan namin: habang nagalaro kasi kung ano-ano mapag-usapan namin—history ba, mga current affairs, pagkain, kahit ano. Kaya katagal namin matapos kada laro, maggalaw lang kami kung tapos na ang isang topic.

Makapagtaka. Hindi man siya pamilya, pero para na siyang naging pamilya pag kausap ko. Siguro kasi nasa laro ang isip ko, at nasanay na ako sa kanya sa gitna ng kada galaw.

“Hey, Len, can I tell you something? Wag ka maingay sa Dad mo ha?”

Tiningnan ko siya nang patanong. Panglima na naming laro.

“I really thought when I got here your Dad and relatives would all hate me. Anak ako sa labas, remember. From all I heard from my mother about your grandma and uncles, I really thought you’d be out to get rid of me.” Nagtawa siya. “I kinda feel bad for thinking that now. Sinundo pa talaga ako ng Dad mo sa Davao! To think my email to him was so terse.”

Anak sa labas? Get rid of him? Sinundo sa Davao? Hala!

“But I’m so glad I have a loving family pala. I came here really to try to get what my father never gave me, and while I was thinking about property and all that, I did get something—a cool pamangkin like you.” Nagtawa siya. “Wala na akong family back in the States since my mom died and my wife and kids left me. But now I have someone to play chess with.” At gigulo niya ang buhok ko. Makita ko na basa kaunti ang mga mata niya.

Nag-ring ang phone niya.

“Hey, Jo . . . Yeah, I’m at Jerry’s. Estanyol, right? Haha . . . Really? Wow, I’m honored. Yeah sure, I’d love to! It’s near here? So the driver knows the place? Okay . . . I have to tell you, I don’t have any experience campaigning! Yeah okay, okay . . . See you . . .”

Hindi ito pwede. Tito Brandon? Campaigning?

“Sorry, Len, Tito Jojo wants me to join his campaign. It’s at Manungol, how do you pronounce that?” Tawa. “Though I don’t think I’ll win this game either.” Tiningnan niya ang laro namin. Nagtayo siya.

“See you later, Len!”

At umalis siya.

Hindi ako nakagalaw. Plano ko ito. Kasalanan ko ito. Dapat ako gumalaw. Pero hindi ako makagalaw, takot ako sa bigat ng galaw ko.

Gusto ko tumayo pero hindi ko kaya. Alam ko dapat ko siya tawagin, pigilan, babalaan. Pero hindi ko kaya. Hindi ko kaya gawin ang dapat ko gawin.

Wala na, nakaalis na ang sasakyan niya.

Hindi ako makaisip ng maayos. Kagulo ng isip ko. Ano dapat ko gawin?

Hindi makatulong ang ingay ng mga katulong sa kusina. Maya-maya gi-on nila ang radyo: maingay na crowd.

“Mga higala, ania na ang atong gipaabot, ang maoy angay himuong mayor sa Kidapawan, ang inyong Jojo Saavedra!” Palakpakan at hiyawan.

Ganito yun lahat. Yung mga giligpit ko para masira ang pangalan ni Balajadia, yung mga anak sa labas ni Lolo, ganito yun sila lahat . . .

Kagulo ng isip ko, kailangan ko mag-isip. Kailangan ko mag-isip.

Nagsalita si Tito Jojo. May ipakilala daw siya sa mga tao. Dahil nga daw masipag ang tatay nila (tawa ang crowd) maya-maya may bagong kapatid sumusulpot. Itong isa galing States, at mahal na mahal daw nila na kapatid. Paki-welcome daw ang kanyang Kuya Brandon.

Palakpakan at hiyawan—at may biglang tuldok ng tunog ng hangin na ginasipsip, at nahaluan ang hiyawan ng sigawan. Gulo. Pati ang mga katulong sa kusina nagkagulo.

Kasalanan ko. Plano ko ito. Sa kusina, nagsimula na salita ang mga katulong gaya ng giplano ko: sigurado, pakana ito ni Mayor Balajadia.

Naganginig ang kamay kong gikuha ang Megaminx. Kaingay ng isip ko.

Up, side, down, left, right, left, right, right, left, center, up, down . . . pero ayaw maalis ng ngiti ni Tito Brandon sa isip ko.

Nabasa na ng luha ang tiles ng Megaminx, sa dulas nabitawan ko.