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Friday, November 30, 2012

Chapter 30 - The Capture


Chapter  30
The Capture

     “Welcome to my world Officer de la Rosa and party!” the little youngster beamed arms outstretched then folding them before they could swim back where they left off.   But no way as another iron bars sealed anew the  underground entry sending chills on his spine. On the background were rebels with their shoulder  firearms cock-ready to open fire anytime from the instruction of  young leader that would sealed their fate as hapless captive visitors. Some were amazonas.
         “This must be it!” the captive Major exclaimed in resignation realizing the result of his miscalculation of the capability of the rebels.
         War of the Flea, Protracted War, Filipino Hostility . . . . now dawned to him loud and clear as sunny day. That confirm that there’s no way the military can engage in fighting head on collision against the peoples’ military arm specially right there on their camp.   
         “The people are the best resource, right Taklin?” he recalled familiar maxim.  
What a big surprise of his life undeniably! Big fish caught big-time by mere youngster as adult rebels hogtied each one of his still surprised men.
         “Congratulation gentlemen. Why not. It seems a feast is in order here you  having reached this far,” the young man further said while surveying his brave hearted  captured guests.
“Isn’t it Maj. de la Cruz Sir?” he said addressing Taklin looking straight  into his eyes stooping and back.
         No response. How could he say a word or two when the presence of these innocent young armed combatants so overwhelmed him for the first time with fear and trembling recalling known incident when military men and officials were overran by rebels. The young combatants would take their turn later giving coup ‘d grace among the captors doing unimaginable barbarity they could think of. Familiar display of treachery among Muslim terrorists  like cutting off of fingers, hands and  heads, chopping them off behind while handcuffed, gorging their eyes out from their sockets.
         Defeaning silence to the Major as he could not afford returning back the compliment of addressing Sir the kid before him. It is simply a disgrace to his solemn profession as military. Having said this, he was resolved holding on the institution he represents face to face experiencing now that it is indeed a bridesmaid of death.
         “No Sir  vowing to you in surrender . . . “ he talked back with reservation apparently subdued speech mustering enough courage to cooperate realizing how dear and sacred those words of respect were before and now is in order  whose  importance far outweigh what he meant back then  mechanically  addressing his senior officers in the military.
          “My oh my, young teens already involved in armed struggle! How could this be possible?” the question coming into his mind seeing many others young rebels keeping guard on them.
“What if one or two of these young men were featured among those who gorged out eyeballs from their sockets of those hapless soldiers captured leaving them dead before they were given coup ‘d grace . . . “ the thought creeping slowly in his mind sending chills down his spine giving goose bumps.
         “And who knows some of the adults are merely pretenders to be in armed struggles though in reality were only drawn to it because of necessity like joining for survival of the fittest staging raid to get service arms for money. Who knows. Just who knows given the creativity and free enterprise of Filipinos.”
         First things first. Their weapons, sidearm and rug pack were confiscated. Second, they were stripped off of their shoes and seven colors uniform. Suited with pajama, and yellow shirt with huge  “POW” acronym for ‘Prisoner of War’, letters printed on it. They were soon formed into column Major de la Rosa leading the pack. Herded with his men like any sacrificial lambs eyes blindfolded, feet tied and hands hogtied at the back dragging each other towards slaughterhouse was the feeling seen all over the faces of the captured military as they were taken towards a makeshift People’s Court.
         The shrill collective voices of “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas” repeatedly uttered reverberated in the air  they  dragging each other marching in towards the Peoples’ Court..
         “What say u comrades on the fate of these enemies?” blared the voice in megaphone.
         “Kill them, kill them, kill them . . .  .” said in unison unceasingly gathering decibels the longer recited.
         “Paid mercenaries, wolves,  murderers killing innocent people, what say u?” another kibitzer recited.
         “Kill ‘em, kill ‘em, kill ‘em. . . . “ thunderous respond anew.
         “Their lives not enough to compensate those among our comrades they killed.”
         “Kill them, kill them, kill them . . ..” chorused as clenched fist were raised into the air while                 “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas” echoing too  in the air.
         Fidgeting to observe silence in the Court, the Presiding officer banged  the gavel indicating the formal opening of the proceeding of litigation..
          “Did you hear your verdict from the people . . . ?” the Chairman of the arraignment addressed each other captured soldier.
         “This must be it,” echoed wretched Major feeling the heat of the situation with resignation.
         “Now we are paying the crimes against the people,” the thought coming at the back of his mind learning the reality  the hard way paying finally the price of the system he was part not out of his own making.
         The Presiding Officer’s words were few and calculated  his voice sincere no feeling there of ill will, trabaho lang  in Tagalog.
         “You heard them straight from their hearts gentlemen. I can’t do no less. Sorry but we have been in war and have you held captive pending the final punishment meted on you from the verdict of this Court,” the Chairman clarified.
         “Pray then for the good of your soul and hope God up there could salvaged you through a miracle from your predicament whatever I mean here,”
         “Pray indeed for the couple of days as each one of you would  account how far did you go harassing our people you vowed to protect in an ensuing official investigation,”
         “If you see that one comes back after an  investigation, then that’s your gauge that he believes in miracle and that God up there does it saving him.”
         “If he doesn’t, that means he just paid dearly his own life for the lives of those he arrogated upon himself taking it. . . . ”
           “From all indications and frankly, that is injustice not even enough compensation for collateral damage such atrocity committed against the blameless people.”
         “People who supposed we are to serve are sacrificed in the altar of dictatorship, of greed of power; same race, same blood, same color but you consigned to dustbin of history as you ran after them mercilessly, holding them captive and later rendered them faceless statistics to this war against the people who in the first place feed you, elected you and put you in power . . . .”
For the first time, the declaration was heart rending but Major dela Rosa just kept his cool or once carried away by it might suffer identity crisis.
         From  where they were standing  in rows, the Chairman’s message was clear. No need to ask question no one dared. All they have to do is cooperate and indeed time to pray for miracle to happen . . . .  that is if it still happens roughly two centuries after the first ever recorded miracle in the bible.
         “Most unlikely, but why not?”Major dela Rosa’s unwavering faith  soared. That seems to be subject yet to validation as only few almost half of his men returned back to their common prison cell.
         Few more days as all eight finished facing an interrogator, Major dela Rosa’s turn came face  to face his ill-fated brush with the Judge-Executioner, his life hanging in balance, his fate relying heavily on the merit of his case..  The result would definitely decides where the fulcrum would favor. It could be either life or death as the case maybe the way  some of his men just experienced..
. . . . . . . . . .

         “So you are a military officer . . . ,” the interrogator  probed.
         “From Marble County yet . . . ,”
         “Yap,”  nodded  Taklin while still blindfolded.
         “You seem to have started your life right,”
         “Yes,”
         “Lots of talents hmmm on top of being super active in church eventually entered the Seminary before proceeding to PMA for military science,” the interrogator revealed elated learning big fish among several small fishes captured.  
         “ Nice to know . . . . “
         “And what prompted you executing that 360 sweeping  degrees change of career?”
         Major dela Rosa narrated all the incident and surprised receiving cold response from the interrogator. It was long but the Interrogator didn’t mind.
         “Seems tragic indeed . . . .”
         “More than that as not only my beloved were gone after the other . . . ,“
         “It’s as if there’s unforeseen hand directing all of these events  . .. , “
         “You’re in a military and you appear naïve here. You should know. . . ,“
         “It’s been there. And let’s accept  mistake.”
         “What do you mean?” the captor quickly queried.
         “You’re just too credulous!”
         Major de la Rosa thought for a moment whatever implication is there.
         “Accept when power is held, decided and controlled in utter secrecy by an exclusive group – you have problem there” the host declared.
         “Ever wonder why assassinations here and all over are not solved?”
         The captor nodded.
         “That’s it. Like US. You can’t just trust this people. Who killed Che Guevarra? Who instigated world events for their own good. In other words who are the most powerful people on earth? One that’s playing around with other people influencing world events all over the globe.”
         “Yap,” Major Taklin nodded.
         “They should and they must. They are.”
         “CIA, FBI, Bilderberg over there in US, . . . “
         “And NBI, Brown Shirts, RSM and all that, their counterparts right here,” he added.
         “Need to say more!”
         Taklin choked.
         “And you’re bonafide officer Major. The wolf tattooed with RSM logo on your back tells it all  . . . .”
         The captive officer remained speechless relegated captive audience.
         “And the bottom line of it all officer is – truth ending as first casualty and subsequently; people, the most important economic resource sacrificed in the process. We, the people, the government vowed to serve and protect .. . .”
         “Your dreaded organization, well organized are spread around in the country.”
         “The farther you’re spread the merrier isn’t it?”
         The captive military officer felt cold anticipating  the next question.
         “Can afford even disturbing innocent people and leaders in our Plenum . . . .”
         “Killing them at will. Either salvaging those not here or wiping them out from the face of  the earth through extra-judicial delivery of injustice.”
         “Unfortunately you either win some and lose some in war. Isn’t it Major?”
         Long pause. There was deafening silence as two men held Major Taklin’s arm. Let him stand.
          “And now your prize for having been an enemy of the people would be delivered later together with your men. Nothing personal here gentlemen,” the interrogator ended.
            “That’s what you get gentlemen when you are against your own people,” he addressed the remaining captured  military men stunned! You must be as intelligent  and brave as your  Major. Whatever happened to you  guys can even afford disrupting our Plenum killing as many people even innocent ones in attendance here. “
         “What a disservice you are giving to ordinary people  . . . .“
         The arrested visitors were all still  speechless their eyes remained blindfolded but restored sanity when Maj. De la Rosa was rejoined back to them.
         “Sorry . . . .” was all they heard from the Major.
         “I’m done questioning the Major earlier. That applies to all of you too. Same my verdict to him for you!” They were stunned.
         It’s was the last words they heard before the rebels herded them to a prison cell.  Begging and supplication  from some of the captors were heard  all over. But not for long  however as staccato sounds of  armalites filled the air forever clipping their  wailing and crying.
         The cross-examination was loud and clear. The final verdict swift and tells it all...
. . . . . . . . .

         Reunited with Liza outside, he was met with staccato sounds of M-16 all over and the shrill noise of “hapon, hapon, hapon” from their embattled comrades. There was little time left for cover. As each helicopter swarm like bee all over  the area hail of bullets  unleashed  everywhere, they were susceptible easy  turkey shot  like practice target.. Their nipa hut was easily consumed by fire as soon as they jumped for cover and safety. In few more minutes, the area turned into a raging inferno leaving them unaided from the swift air attack by the government troopers. 
         And no way they could contain the fire.  It’s only by land they could give a run against marauding peace breakers. The sloping terrain didn’t  hamper Ka Emir bringing Liza and the rest to safety. Ka Emir could probably managed the enemies coming in through the thick foliage taking care one or two of their strikers.  Coming back carrying his top prize bazooka recovered from one of his encounter against the military, he secured himself by the base of huge acacia tree.
         Throwing first a spit to the ground invoking good luck and uttering “Ave Maria Purisima, consecado con si vida, he geared himself one big battle in his life.  Suddenly a Sikorsky came hovering closer to the ground, pressing the pin off the big bang exploded into the air sending a huge artillery zooming directly hitting the helicopter. It exploded throwing its main trunk into the air. The propeller scattered into bits and pieces dropping straight to the grass flat.
         It was a costly attack, the two other pilots thought seeing one of them beaten to death by the rebels. Ka Aris remain glued on the acacia tree not shaken by the threat of the two others.  He has to go for broke if need be having seen the damage done to his people.
         “All is either winning  or losing in war depending on luck. Fortunately, the charm is with us today as we are the willing host you guys disturbed, ”he uttered.
         He can’t take chances. He doesn’t care if he would die, the struggle would still continue anyway ad infinitum until National struggle for Democracy is achieved.
         Meanwhile, the second helicopter was flying swiftly and was coming seemingly to inflict some more damage. Swooping down coming from behind it blew makeshift nipa huts into pieces. Dead bodies of casualties littering all over .The sight was nasty.
         It unleashed rains of bullets anew against the brave warrior hitting Ka Emir’s left arm blood oozing profusely.  Ka Liza came to the rescue banding the injured portion.  The pilot laugh at the top of his lungs seeing Ka Aris coming out in the open dropped to the ground shirt drenched red with blood. But it proved to be his last laugh as it exploded into the thin air from the succeeding sniping of Ka Aris. He whistled seeing the second helicopter dropping flat to the ground like marshmallow its spade disintegrating, fuselage thrown in other direction, the rest of the parts breaking into bits and pieces.
         The third finally defied code of conduct in war abandoning the attack  without any official advice from his superior. Must be what his instinct dictated him or suffer similar fate.  It’s the most prudent act he could decide on or he would be turned into ashes the way his two-pilots suffered from the hands of rebels.
. . . . . . . . . . .

         All was silence in the battlefield. Common graves were teeming with dead bodies in their tattered uniforms. Burial ground of fatalities of their comrades were separated with huge cross planted on top soil  as sign of respect to their fallen warriors. The military casualties were many. Among them were those of Major Taklin men who were held captive earlier. Included among those  buried was Major dela Rosa himself face completely bloody mess, military uniform drenched with blood. His body bore  many shrapnels piercing just everywhere. Who would survive given that fate. Ka Emir and his men must have been too angry that they poured in bullets what with the devastation and atrocities committed against  his people by the military men. Sad indeed.
         It was such terrible fate   Maj. De la Rosa  suffered  at Mt. Sungcal or so people might have thought.

. . . . . . . . .

         The incident was tough and  infernal. But what could he do the country is at war against rebels. His chosen career shoved him into that hellish predicament realizing now that  death is undeniably  bridesmaid of any military in the field. This as the man gathered  thoughts reclaiming his identity. Except  his unusual face, he felt  light  all over. This as bulletproof vest was dislodged from his chest.

         He silently prayed as soon as he reclaimed his sanity but before he could say ‘Amen!’ a feminine voice disrupted him.
         “Good morning Major. Been waiting here. Listen up you have still ten minutes before we would exit you from Mt. Sungcal. We want to be sure you’re out and freed before 4:00 AM dawn. Time check is 3:00 AM.”
         “Where are the rest of my companion?” he asked mustering enough strength and courage to stand. It’s early dawn. The valium taken must have been well timed he would arise on time just before the sun rises.
         “You’re all alone left Major. Don’t worry we buried separately your dead people,” an amazon standing by uttered while extending bunch of dogtag nameplates.
         “The injured but able ones, set free to be reunited back with their family,” said adding the pretty Amazona.
         “Thanks,” is all he could utter but full of meaning
         He was elated learning turn of event. Nothing he could do there as he was merely doing his job. He now realized how tough the job had been losing many of his men ironically buried with respect as token of courtesy by their perceived enemies.  No need to cry on spilled milk.
          “Bless their souls and make them whiter than snow,” he mumbled.
         “No more  questions please. Just do as commanded. Don’t take off prosthetic on your face until you reach the destination. But you can saw yourself on the mirror if you wish.”
         “Ka Aris!”, the man was stunned seeing  his reflection from the mirror.
         “That’s your identity you should not dropped until you’re out,” the lady Amazon cleared.
         “What a journey it has been!” he uttered  learning the great loss suffered.  Praying for forgiveness whatever happened was all he could muster for the moment. This he reminisced as if  waking up from long and deep slumber in the forest his eyes could see clearly the fresh environment around hearing sweet chirping of birds merrily singing welcoming another day. He sighed deep bated breath learning he was alive. In his chest was a folded Manila brown envelop. Inside  were two items – a cellphone, flashlight and a small receptacle with    needles inside.
 “This is it!” The note wrote. “You can have one Needle; the other mine. Give to me back when able ASAP  with its leather jacket please. 443 “ he read the number coded signature  corresponding to first letter initial of the sender of an alphabet revealed  who the sender was.
         Playing back on cue the footage of the cellphone he saw very familiar flashback of the past. Two women  bandana  hiding their identity were seen drawing out the coffin of his father. The procedure was fast and Major de la Rosa played it back all over again and as slowmo revealed their bandana taken out – the two women were that of Illa Crispe and Manang Elsa, her mother showing a customized needle taken out from the cranium of his father in their family’s mausoleum in  cemetery.
Hurriedly comparing it with those in his possession, they were not only similar but identical. Who must be it to determine the owner, he took one from the vial and inserted to the leather jacket he had.
         “Perfect!” he enthused giving him benefits of doubt.
         “But who could have done it?” the question remaining in his mind.
         Seeing her mother and Mang Illa Crispe convinced him all the more that battle line had been drawn only he was on the other side. Must be the reason why both mothers did not drag him into the issue.
         “Your done! Let’s go,” the guide commanded.
         “This way,” the two others directed him to an opening of a cave that would carry them to the other side of the mountain.
         They moved fast no talking except with the lady amazon continuing her instruction.
         “Different men would take from the mouth of Mt. Sungcal,” the captive was taken aback.
         “How?”
         “Whistle. No flashlight please unless you invite suspicion along the trails.”
         “Leave your red scarf on your neck. That’s your gate pass to freedom. And when all is done you can catch up a plane for Manila. Your plane ticket is in your jacket with your new name, IDs and other identification cards and documents. You can take off your wig by then. Save your prosthetic when your finally home.”
         “Goodbye and good luck Major,” the familiar young guy told thought Taklin would not recognized him.
         “And save my regards to him . . . friend!” the lady last word to him.
         The Major  nodded. glancing back at Mt. Sungcal for the last time heading towards back to Cagayan de Oro for Manila before finally  home at long last.

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