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Monday, November 5, 2012

Chapter 17 - Taklin's Grief

Chapter 17
Taklin’s Grief

     Taklin’s’s hand turned cold sending chills all around his body as if a bucket full of ice water was doused all over him reading the wire from his mother informing the untimely death of his father.
        “An accident! Most unlikely,” he protested seething with anger in disbelief. “Don’t force yourself on the issue dragging the weight of the whole world upon your shoulder buddy,” echoed his alter ego reminiscent of the Beatle’s Hey Jude.
        “Why not indeed. I haven’t even learned the circumstances surrounding much mystery,” he reasoned out regaining normal composure. Who knows some crazy guys would like to destroy his preparation for his fast approaching PMA graduation. Going over the wire probing the date it was sent. Ditto with the message couched in very simple terms: Come immediately father died. Burial on Friday, the sixteenth. Mama. It’s real. It’s only then that he became speechless. Like spaghetti dropping to the ground, Taklin fell slowly to the floor flat as if all his energy were drained and unloaded; no longer a living creature but vegetable.
        All throughout his life , he could hardly recall any incident involving his father to extremities like heavy drinking or whetting his appetite with excessive food intake which is gluttony practiced by jackals. Alright he drinks but this is merely during special occasions only. He himself knows the tastes of his  father. Whether it is lacsoy, Gigaquit rhum, Som of Surigao City, Basi, Marca Demoño or lambanog of Southern Tagalog, potent drink from fermented nipa sap whatever to cognac, gin, tonic, Johnny Walker compliments of friends – his father had practically gulped one or two of these in several socialization. But again not to test his limit nor push himself beyond endurance. Drink a little wine with a merry heart, a passage from the book of Psalm always reminded him as an advice given by his father inculcating among others the virtues of moderation, temperance whether in drink or food, sports and or studies. The bad news however late this afternoon it seems to him, doesn’t reconcile with all these advices. Thus, making him uncomfortable going nuts maybe finding the missing nexus. Speculations seep in. Maybe his father had problems, very serious ones maybe for the first time, that he drown himself to countless bottles of wine; maybe his friends generosity to celebrate over hard liquor were too irresistible to refuse or maybe; he really accidentally slipped away his right foot down the cliff plunging himself to bedrocks underneath inflicting severe pain causing his death. A fleeting picture of his father with severe concussion, contusion and abrasion of torso, head and breadbasket rendering his face a bloody mess send tremor down his spine. But how many percentage of probability the death of his father goes this way? He doesn’t know. There are other angles to consider like motives, who did it, how the murder, if it is really a murder in cold blood, done. How about the weapons used. Was it a club, a hammer, rock, an ax, a bottle or a gun. It could not also be a farfetched idea that ptomaine solution might have been laced in the menu or surreptitiously dropped in the rhum considering that mouth-watering appetizers like kilawin and kaldereta were served abundantly during that drinking spree. Started the questions dragging him all the way.
        Tilting his head backward staring the ceiling he thought that maybe it’s also God’s will to claim the life of his father on earth as all mortals are later to provide him the needed rest and security up there. Breathing deeply, Taklin finds it somehow difficult to accept losing a father specially that he would soon finished his military studies in the PMA. Is military really the road towards the Calvary, he asks himself. Yes, with the death of his father it seems. That is what he recalls from Driarco telling him what service  is all about, a vindication to the weight of the cross, heavy indeed to carry let alone to bear.
        Military history and other relevant subjects have been Taklin’s favorite subjects. So with English  where he equally excelled in. Of the two, he likes best the study of military history as it brings him back to how the military dealt with war. Not that because he receives excellent mark on this subject but rather because of the didactic dimension it provides. As a dreamer, as we’re all are, talks on death and its concomitant psychological impact enable him to come closer with reality face to face with the ultimate truth that man’s life doesn’t end when he’s six feet under the ground. On the contrary unless he dies, there’s no special growth taking place.
        “Unless the grain of wheat shall fall on the ground and dies. It shall remain a single wheat and not brings life,” he recalls one of the songs composed by the Jesuits normally sang during Lenten season. German theologian Paul Tillich and eschatologist Kubler Ross Khan whose nationality he already forgot are two theologians he has been crazy about when he was still with Driaco  in the Seminary. Ms. Khan used to remind him that whether he likes it or not he too just like any other animals in this planet of apes would also degenerate or simply vanish away like any dust in the thin air. As an offshoot, the sense of immediacy and urgency eschatology provides so overwhelm him making his move exciting as if he’s boarding the last trip. Time is our hope, time is our security, time is our destiny and time is the mirror in which we see eternity, he refreshes with much gusto from one of his readings. Tillich’s association of death with the rest of creation on the other hand so enthralled him. Did the earth not moved, birds chirped, rocks split when Christ died and resurrected, he synthesized from Tillich’s work.
        “This business again of reflection. But never mind at least it help gives fleeting contentment,” the thought at the back of his mind as eschatology coming back from his subconscious.
        “Lord I commend his spirit and make his soul whiter than snow,” he uttered repeatedly after regaining his composure. Going inside the chapel, he concentrated his eyes to the hanging crucifix. Save for the staccato sound of the typewriter upstairs at Gen. room, the silence inside the chapel was practically deafening. Occasionally, the sparrows who find their haven in the ceiling are chirping as if they too are identifying their sorrow and anxiety of Taklin. There are only two things running in his mind: if his father died from the accident, then someone must have deliberately handed that accident to him in silver platter. A treachery if not completely plain conspiracy. And for that something must be done as damage might have been great  and there’s no way to rectify except  pining down the culprit and present him to the bar of justice. The homework is definitely not peanuts for Taklin. But there’s no other way deterring similar crimes than checking it himself. And yes, the first thing to do is to go home and attend his father’s burial.
        Looking at his wrist watch it’s now ten O’clock in the evening. He must have been engrossed with his reflection in the chapel that he did not notice the passage of time. He could still catch up the first trip for Caticlan three hours from now. Taking the motorized banca with trigger at Malay passing the famous Boracay Island would then take him to Tablas Island. And two hours more he would already in his house. And what a sight to behold, he told himself while preparing his personal things in his rug pack.
        “Kindly hand this letter to Gen. early tomorrow,” he said to Nonoy, his Ilonggo classmate from Janiuay, Iloilo.
        “Anything wrong Taklin? Why left the dormitory this ungodly hour?”
        “Nothing to worry about buddy. Remember that’s the way it is. Life is only lived once anyway in this world. I think Dad or anybody else is no exemption. It’s just a matter of time and that makes man equal with his fellowman. I believe Dad lived his life to the fullest and spent every opportunity that comes along his way abundantly.”
        There was a sustained silence between the lines as Taklin further dished out the beauty of life to his good friend Nonoy.
        “You’re right buddy. Death is great leveler. It is certain and necessary as tax is to the government. Besides, there’s really no other way for man to go than to go back to his roots, an act of surrender of his invincibility to Him who created everything.”
        “If you said that your father’s death is inevitable the way any mortals passed and experienced, it seems to me something is left out with reservation to yourself. I’m only asking,” Nonoy asked.
        “Well you see I have an inkling that Dad did not died naturally,” he answered making his good friend interested all the more.
        “Some fishermen early this morning found dead body of my father floating at San Luis by the sea. And in his body are marks of severe beatings. Three ribs in the torso were dislocated. You see I never recall my father passing that cliff. What for? What should he be doing there late in the evening anyway. Maybe he did when his body was dragged by his friends already dead and bingo, thrown away to those bedrocks by the sea with only the sound of the waves, stillness of the night and of course their laughter as mute witnesses,” Taklin stopped for emphasis while taking enough air for himself to breath.
        “And do you have any witnesses and evidences to support your judgment?” Nonoy asked.
        “You’re right. Yes, I have unfortunately only one to speak out. One member of the choir in the province came all the way bringing to me the bad news. Rico knew who his father’s companions were in that drinking spree. There were James,, Jun, Prado and seven others. All  familiar thugs of incumbent mayor featured in many criminal acts but were still  scot-free.”
        “ All of them except Rene are Mayor Torres’ men.”
        “ It was already late in the evening around 10 pm when something weird happened at Coleram. It was very dark and Rico was on his way back home after attending fellowship at the parish when suddenly a big thud split the stillness of the night. Remaining standing behind big acacia tree just twenty meters away where the cliff was, he heard perpetrators of crime celebrating their feat with give-me-five gestures. There’s no mistake about it. They were James et al celebrating the feat. Why because they called each other’s name. It was only the following morning when he learned that it was my father’s body tossed to and fro by big waves dead!”
        “Wow! What an almost perfect crime. Killing behind cover of darkness,” Nonoy snapped.
        “You’re right and Mr. Hercule Poirot should be summoned to conduct the investigation.”
        “Why are there no other effective law enforcers in the area?”
        “Not really. There are. But you know when the Highest executive of the municipality is implicated in the incident, then it’s nonsense involving the services of local police unless of course you’d like the succeeding investigation died it’s natural death or making  it all the more doubly suspicious. Remember how the discovery of the mystery of the death of Hitler and Eva Braun unearthed many decades later than when they actually committed suicide on April 30, 1945 down the bunker.”
        “What do you mean? Are you saying that some crazy guys refute the veracity of that historical claim?”
        “You’re right. The quartet of Rex Foster, an American architect studying 1000 designs during the Nazi’s Regime, Mr. Nicholas Kirvov, Russian Museum curator, Ms. Tovah Lovaine, journalist and secret agent of Israel Massad Intelligence and one Ms. Emily Ascroft, a scholar and researcher writing on the autobiography of Hitler averred the insufficiency of that claim. True that they excavated from the bunker the bodies of the Fuhrer and Ms. Braun after the victory of the Russians but they were not the original Hitler and his wife Eva. They were bodies of their doubles.”
        “Gee, I’m hearing you right,” Nonoy remarked astonished, asking further what happened to the originals.
        “Of course, Hitler was dead but that was after three decades later. That means around middle of 1970’s in the seventh secret, a subterranean city under Berlin which Hitler holed out after his alleged suicide on 1945.”
        “Magnificent and very terrific. But what in the world has this to do with your search for Mr. Hercule Poirot?”
        “Well, had the quartet did not avail the services of Israel Massad Intelligence group in the heart of Berlin who arms for arms and man for man could defy resurgence of Neo-fascists in Germany, the whole world would have not known or solved the riddle on that April 30, 1945.”
        “To be a fiction, one that only comes from the fertile imagination of Irving Wallace,” Driarco readily satisfied the benefit of Nonoy’s doubt.
        “You almost got me buddy,” Nonoy said blowing a whistle.
        “Forget it. Fiction or non-fiction, there’s no harm learning the wisdom from the quartet. And for all you know sometimes great books, those that are scholarly produced more often than not are too close to be real as fiction. I remember a certain Mr. Gerald Green who wrote Holocaust. It’s so far one of the best literature I read on how ruthless Nazis were towards the Jews. A diary, an interview with those who survived from gas chamber and the personal experience of the author himself led to the completion of that book. It was not bad at all ‘cause the rest of the world were further informed on the anatomy of Hitler’s terror.”
        “Getting the culprit definitely is very tall order. It would have been good if I could collar him so I could blow his brain into bits and pieces. True, there’s no way to resurrect Dad back to life the way Jesus did to Lazarus. But if I could only pinned down the perpetrators of the heinous crime and crucified them at least my place would be clean of the garbage – salvaging, summary execution, hamletting and evacuation. For how many more Juan de la Cruzes would be charged against the wall and killed. You see, true what my friend Dante in the province agree, I’m really wondering what is happening to our country. It seems to me we are entering an Era of Paradox and ironies. Men these days surprisingly know more making guns and bullets than creating an atmosphere of lasting peace. No wonder indeed the entire country is on fire prompting the rest to go up in the hills  living there  with the birds and the bees raising up arms against the duly constituted government.”
        Nonoy couldn’t help himself but emphasized with his good friend Taklin. He too shared the predicament  but just managed only to smile having survived sound and unscratched. Lately, he was told by his mother that San Rosario became the seat of military operation. ‘There’s actually no difference with local cemetery,’ he remembers what his mother told him when she earlier visited him. The area was so calm. Almost all one hundred twenty household evacuated to nearby villages otherwise they would have been unwanted casualties too in the crossfire. The casualties were peacefully and orderly buried there, he remembers as one parlance of the inhabitants in the area would say. On the other hand, he too wonders what compels the other group in staging that mid-day ambush wasting precious lives young and old alike in the process. Who’s not bothered with the on-going internal strife, Nonoy also thought. Ambush seems becoming fad of the time, sporadic events everywhere notwithstanding. Dropping then at an ambush site, he saw for himself a hammer turned upside down after it was burned by the rebels killing all military troopers inside. The medico-legal and embalmers have had their day full retrieving dead bodies trapped inside the vehicle completely a picture of savage destruction. Without heads, intestines protruding from heavily burned bellies, bodies turned charcoal black from fire and smoke flesh dangling still all over from main bones, blood stinking aggravating the already purged smell of decomposing cadavers, Nonoy still reels what his naked eyes saw. Now tell me if war between and among Filipinos is not ugly, he would asked himself. It was learned from other area delineated as hotspot that similar ambuscades took place in series.
        “So you’re leaving for the province tonight,” Nonoy told Taklin who was putting in couples of books in his rucksack.
        “Just to be sure I have something to read in case my stay in the province would be extended. It’s an old book but probably Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago and five volumes of Lifetimes’ Civil War, Communist Rebellion and World War II would be enough.
        Laying down in bed and putting his hands on the back of his head, Nonoy resumed: “Very crazy indeed. I don’t know when would this war ends.”
        “Neither I. For as long as man craves for victory, I believe he would continue waging war. And that is a lot of non-sense,” Taklin griped too. Brief silence ensued. His friend was right it’s everybody’s business to help put this quarrel among Filipinos to rest. Freedom, enough air to breath should be the bottom line. True that winning war is additional feather on the cap for the strong but defeat on the part of the vanquished encourages for more freedom. And when freedom is granted after defeat, man does not take arms anymore or so, he thought recalling the sentiment of Solzhenitsyn in his Gulag. But the war is between and among Filipinos not Russians, the thought playing at the back of his mind. . . . .
        “And if I may further ask. What do you think in Christ’s name was the motive of the killing,” Nonoy disturbed.
        “I’m afraid I could only conjecture one . . . politics. My father you know was himself a politician in his own right, one of his kind who knows how to delineates business, morality, integrity performance and service from politics. He started serving his people as barangay captain then elected as councilor and soon rose up to become a Mayor in San Luis for roughly twenty five years. That’s eight straight terms of office until he resigned as a protest to the abuses perpetuated by Marcos and his men in the province.
        “Very difficult decision.”
        “But decisive one because there was no other alternative left than to give way to Devil.”
        “At the expense of voting population,”
        “Hmm, not really. The people would always be there with you wherever you go. On the contrary while it is true that his resignation caused trouble among the people, it at least taught them how important democracy is as a system.”
        “Sometimes misleading.”
        “When you see only are externals. But not when you study what makes democracy really confusing.”
        Nonoy finds himself ready to listen to the unsolicited talk of his good friend.
“If we could only practice democracy, I don’t think there is still any need to ask from the government for more. Know what I mean? Look who’s in direct control of the country’s resources? It’s Marcos and his cronies – Benedicto, Enrile, Cuenca, the military and other Alibaba’s and bunch of thieves. Not surprising for people to raise up in arms against the government because their cause, our cause if you wish, is valid. So common buddy tell me if there’s really democracy existing and I’ll tell you none. The U.P. professor in a way was right claiming do we have are pretenses of being a democratic country.”
        “No trickle down of resources to the masses.”
        “Definitely yes. With graft and corruption, immoralities, civil war and what have you, how would democracy indeed survive? No and never. I’m not pessimistic with the disorder and chaos going on in the country. It’s just a big lost of our resources – time and money – building democracy and destroying it ourselves. How long would we allow this situation to last? So much suffering has been experienced by the people. And who suffers most? The silent majority – the babies, the children mothers and other members of the family – becoming the latest addition to the long list of casualties we don’t know when would be the end and who would be the last. In war, they would say, there are no victors only victims. Even if we delve into the trend of the first two world wars that we have, it’s the civilians those in the middle who received the worst beating, a fact corroborated by Vietnam experience.”
        Taklin’s adrenalin seemed to be oozing still as there was no indication of being physically drained gauging from his interesting free-wheeling brainstorming on the subject. Nonoy still buried himself on the bed his long legs widely spread.
        “We’re of course part of that long list of casualties. But this incident should not be taken as an excuse to remain silent. There’s no time more left allowing this silence become deafening to the ears of the mayor and his henchmen. This is a mistake each one could not afford to commit if we are really to build and practice democracy. I’m not in fact surprise if Papa meets hid death this early. With election fast approaching, the Mayor has no other valid ground to be elected than to clean his backyard. Papa you know has very resolute of exacting vengeance through the power of ballots from the people whom he dearly served from the past.”
        “What if the Mayor gets reelected?”
        “By the people or by his money expressed through the barrel of a gun.”
        “Either way. Filipino voters are that unpredictable you claimed earlier.”
        “Not at all I suppose. Not all Juan de la Cruzes are that dumb I guess unless I believe you are claiming to be one. One or two are for better government otherwise they should have not invested their future in many institutions of higher learning. So where that leave us. If the Mayor gets it re-elected this time. So be it. It could be either through the power of the ballots and or bullets. If it is through ballots, it should be accepted hands down because true will of the people is holy emanating from above. And if by bullets, holy cow, the people is deemed necessary not at all to respect let alone obey those reelected unless they are willing to sacrifice their and our future to Satan.”
Taklin stoop up and face the mirror ran a comb on his healthy hair.
        “Quiet funny buddy,” Nonoy remarked.
        “A circus coming to town almost with the birds and bees casting their votes.”
        “Dead included. May your Tatay rest in peace.”
        “When you have time, I hope you could drop by at the province and witness the legacy left by Tatay – orderly zoning, complete educational facilities including a library that boast of complete reading materials, recreation and other sport complex to name a few.”
        “A man who practice what he preaches. May his tribe left further increase and fill the world with love  as the song puts it.”
        Tapping his right shoulder then gently gripping it, Taklin finally bid him goodbye. “This is the time of mourning not of inquiry,” he sagely reminded himself.
        “God bless you buddy, Nonoy responded his resonant voice echoing in the dormitory Taklin begun walking in haste this good friend tip-toeing the concrete pavement until darkness engulfs him leaving not even his silhouette his good friend could trace on.
. . . . . . . . . . .

        Driarco and Taklin have been bosom friends in the Seminary. Their mutual concern for the masses and abhorrence towards capitalism found their way in many extra-curricular activities have dream theirs not only of their fellow seminarians but also, the conservative Rector of the Seminary. Many times, they were summoned in the Rector’s office to account for their underground activities like establishing linkages with militant student organizations in the city. These were undoubtedly added burden on their work but this pressure prodded them all the more in helping organized unions and other progressive activities which led to mass actions in the end. Strike, holding of dialogue, creation of forum, mobilization of participative action among seminarians in the country – their most ambitious project so far but to no avail – have been attempted but fizzled out leaving the burden for the rest to carry on their work. Once they circulated leaflets denouncing the prostitution of Dinagyang, Moriones, Ati-atihan of Kalibo, Sinulog of Cebu, Ang Pagtaltal of Guimaras Island. They are all indigenous presentation of faith in cultural and art forms the Ministry of Tourism exploited later as one of the country’s many tourist attraction earning handsome profits to government coffers. Both too have shown their nerve and flex their muscles in criticizing the Seminary fathers for their dogmatic tendencies in controlling the theologians. An instance was an enbanc resolution of the Seminary fathers adding one more year to the theologians to accommodate refresher course in English a great pity to St. John Vianney. Such move was rather indecisive as number of seminarians did not report back to the Seminary after the second semester to the chagrin of the staff.
        For the in-coming theologians, there are only two rules to remember, observe and practice. One is, the Captain is always right referring to the Rector of course; and rule number two, if the Captain is wrong, refer back to rule number one. Thus, with their acceptance in the Seminary, theirs became a world of rigid discipline and intense spirituality studies included. Such rules were all-encompassing, shooting away any compromise. Thus, hamletting, namely any seminarian is only allowed to jog certain perimeter, cleaning of the priest’s quarter, no viewing of TV during unholy viewing hours and surprisingly Taklin and Driarco who remained unperturbed. Two years more, they would already be priests in the long order of Melchizedek. We will definitely cross the bridge when we’re already at the base, these two guys would say.
        Such friendship however ended when they both threaded separate ways. Taklin left the Seminary while Driarco continued his theological studies until finally ordained as priest forever in the long lines of Melchizedek.

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