One day, at the Baliwag Town Plaza, beside St. Augustine Church where horse drawn vehicles (kalesa) parked, the three of us, Tabog, Pepit and I saw the man who tortured us with the singing of the Philippines National Anthem in the reversed order.
Three months after we’ve been tortured because of curfew violation, in hindsight, I thought of it as karma for our gate-crashing activities. That ingenious torture was the most severe we endured so far. Our indiscretion had its toll. It’s time to mend our ways. And as Tabog booked us in advance which dance parties, movies, barrio or town fiestas to hit, I thought if we don’t stop our gate-crashing, we could get killed. I voiced my fear to the two. Tabog charged, “You used your fingerling brain again!” I didn’t know why Tabog gave me that “fingerling” tag. I may be the tiniest among the three, but that doesn’t follow I have the brain of a fingerling! “That’s right!” Pepit agreed, “Your disaster thoughts derailed us … always, always. …And now, as usual, you’re chicken to take revenge.”
“Aha …! Revenge..!” The two, upon seeing the man who tortured us made up their minds to make revenge. The tall man, at the time was tending a horse. His left hand holding grass feeding it to the horse’s mouth, while his right had a bottle of San Mig, and took swigs on it. Scenes flash backed. We were kneeling naked on mimosa field where thorns of the plant pricking our knees, and our arms stretched sidewards, while I was wrecking my brain disassembling the natural order of the national anthem, so Pepit could isolate the lyrics from bottom up, and dictate it to Tabog, so he could sing the lyrics in its apt tunes. That was the most nerve wrecking stunt for the three of us under the nose of the gun. So fresh were these scenes, it seethed hate and anger in my heart. This revenge, I feared would boomerang. In the end, as I didn’t want to break my friendship with the two, they being good providers of cheap adventure, albeit sometimes dangerous, reluctantly, I go with the idea. But I said we should have a foolproof plan.
Our revenge was now on cue. We did an investigation first. We learned that the tall man’s name was Hugo. He was a Kalesa driver by day, moonlighting as BSDU (Barrio Self Defense Unit) at night. BSDU’s were paramilitary segments of the Armed Forces of the Philippines used as buffer to prevent infiltration of the insurgent’s NPA ( New People’s Army) of certain localities. Hugo was a mustachioed guy like Lee Van Cleft of the “The Good, The bad and the Ugly” movie. Had it not been for his Ernest Borgnine bulging eyes, we wouldn’t recognize him, as we remembered him clean shaven when he tortured us. We also learned he was a drunkard, and San Mig, was his favorite. One of his obvious mannerisms was his smoothing the arching end of his mustache whenever his left hand was free.
Time now came for the execution of our revenge. One afternoon, at the Kalesa parking lot, Tabog and Pepit approached Hugo. Pepit would negotiate with Hugo to bring us to Tenejero paying him more of what he usually get in one trip if he could take just the three of us as his passengers. While Pepit was doing this, Tabog dropped off “Auropac” pills on a pail of molasses where Hugo’s horse was drinking. “Auropac” pills, are lazy pills. My mother used it for her pig to get sleepy and do little activities. Meanwhile, I was waiting for a struck deal between Hugo and Pepit. When I saw Hugo gave a nod to Pepit, the cooler that I brought in with me which has bottles of San Mig in it, I loaded it up to the carriage. The three of us staged an atmosphere of fun at the back of kalesa’s interior. I scooped three bottles of beer from the cooler, uncorked them, and we started drinking amidst our boisterous laughing. I watched Hugo if our drinking had an effect on him. It had. As he was at the front reining his horse, he often times turned his head at the back, leaving the sight of the road, and giving us a conspiratory smile. I felt he was anxious for us to offer him a bottle. But, of course, the offer would come later when his salivating built up, till we reached the desolated part of the road, and once the horse responded to the Auropac pills. When the kalesa reach the end of San Roque, the border barrio separating Baliwag and Pampanga and the beginning of the desolated part of the road, I gave Hugo an uncorked bottle of San Mig. I saw his bulging eyes almost fell down from its sockets. Anxiously, he grabbed the bottle and emptied it quickly.
“Whew! This beer kicked big and seems to have a funny taste”, he said.
“Do you know why?” I asked. “Because,” I showed him my bottle, “see this label, it said, Made in
Manila, Philippines. When you see that in the bottle, it means, it’s an especial brew. “Oh… I didn’t know that.” He said. Of course, he wouldn’t know, because Tabog mixed his beer with aged “lambanog” (palm wine) which can contain about 40% percent alcohol. Hugo’s kalesa was getting slow. Hugo whipped his horse. But the more he whipped, the more the horse run slow, till the animal stopped. The Auropac worked. But Hugo was not yet drunk. We gave him more of our special brewed beer… till he passed out.
Lifting and bringing Hugo to the mimosa field, put strain in our collective energy. While Hugo was asleep, we tied together both of his elbows at his back. Pepit untangle the horse to its wagon and harnessed it to Hugo’s hip. We waited. Tabog practiced using Hugo’s whip. He seemed to like the swishing sound the whip made against the wind.
When Hugo opened up his eyes, as he rose to his knees, bones on his shoulder seemed to burst out of his flesh. He writhed in pain as he moved his arms, and much to his consternation; he saw he was tied up to his horse. The anguish we saw on his face gratified us. Retribution, here we come!
“Have you seen gladiator movies?” Tabog asked, his voice that of a master talking to a slave, slashing the air with Hugo’s whip. “What’s that got to do hitching me to my horse?” Hugo said. I was standing beside the horse, which was a few feet away, holding its rein; we didn’t want the horse to do something stupid yet. From my vantage, I saw Pepit slapped Hugo’s face. I thought Hugo’s head pirouetted. I sensed Pepit doesn’t want Hugo to get intelligent. “You should reply with respect” Pepit commanded.
“In gladiator movies, horse is use to trot out gladiator’s dead body? Do you want your body be trotted out?” asked Tabog, as he whipped the air. “Watch your tongue,” reminded Pepit.
“Of course. No, Sir”. Hugo said. Pepit smiled. “You’ll follow whatever we’ve asked you to do. If not, I’ll whip your horse so hard, so it will run amuck dragging your body, till all your bones disentangle. Understood!” Tabog said.
“But why Sirs… What did I do to you?
“Oh…you don’t know. You don’t remember us, the three kids whom you force to sing “Bayang Magiliw”. Tabog said. “Fuck …!” exclaimed Hugo bowing his head.
“Now, get yourself naked.” Tabog instructed.
“I am tied up. How can I do that?” Hugo said. Pepit slapped Hugo again. “Told you. Speak with respect”.
“Okey. Pepit, released his elbows”. Tabog said. Pepit cut off the bind from behind of Hugo. As soon as Hugo’s left hand got freed, it went right away to his moustache, smoothing its arch end.
“You really love that “caterpillar” of yours …huh. You did that before getting naked… huh! Let’s see what we can do with that moustache… Take off your clothes. All of it.”
Hugo undressed himself. A hulk of a man, yet he got a tiny pecker. That was strange. The three of us looked at each other. We were wondering if his pecker were real tiny or just shrunk.
“Now, since you love you “caterpillar” so much, I want you to pluck ten strands of white hair, while you’re on your knees, and swearing your right hand up in the air. Sounds like you, before …huh, remember. Eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth. And once we had your ten white hairs, you’ll recite to us “Panatang Makabayan” (Pledge of Allegiance) in the REVERSE order. And we will not whip your horse and we’ll just leave you here.” Tabog said.
That was a tall order for Hugo. How Hugo would handle this dilemma? At the outset, Tabog seemed to have an ingenious array of getting back at Hugo. Hugo looked up the sky as though asking for help from his God. His lips locked up bitterly. His Adam’s apple was like a mountain’s peak cruising up and down to his throat at incessant speed. He cried out loud … then passed out, but not with our beer this time. We waited.
While Hugo was unconscious, we debated the ordeal Hugo had to face. First of all, I said, Hugo has no white hair. “That’s the idea there, stupid”. Tabog said. “We would see dual pains from him; emotional pain parting with his beloved mustache, and physical pain for the plucking. As he can pluck no white hair, it would get his upper lip bald. Then, his pain multiplied, on the amount of bushy hair he has. “That’s fun, don’t you think. In insurance, that’s “double indemnity”.
“That’s right,” Pepit agreed. “So what’s the deal with this reciting of “Panatang Makabayan” in the reverse order? I asked. “That’s our penultimate revenge”, Pepit said, “We would let him cracked his brain to figure that out. He did that to us with “Bayang Magiliw”. “So, you mean all along I was not included in this part of the plan” I asked. “We know you. You’re scared chicken shit”. You would just derail our plan.” Pepit said.
“But, you guys didn’t put logic on this plan. See, how Hugo can get to that Panatang Makabayan part, when he couldn’t get ten white hairs from his mustache. That’s stupid. It shows you’re not thinking. And Hugo himself would know once he woke up… He was just shocked for now. Besides, “Panatang Makabayan” is not the same as Bayang Magiliw. Every body knows Bayang Magiliw, but Panatang Makabayan, it is not as dug deep in everybody’s conciousness; probably, he wouldn’t even know a word of it. What do you guys want – to hold him in perpetual captivity… to wait for eternity for his compliance?
“So what should we do to bring closure?” asked Pepit, sensing the logic of my argument.
As soon as Hugo regained consciousness, just in time, his horse jumped up its forelegs in the air scratching. I was thrown off. The rein slipped out of my hand, and when the horse’s forelegs dropped to the ground, the animal run wild trotting out Hugo.
The closure Pepit asked, he got it by accident. The “Auropac” probably, wore off its affectivity.
One day The Philippine Constabulary had been tipped off, that gangs of NPA’s (New Peoples Army) were spotted roaming around in our barrio. The PC raided our barrio, and the three of us, including all the males in the barrio were herded in one place. One man on the raiding team looked familiar. He was tall. He has moustache caressed by his left hand and he got a prominent mangled arms. He was Hugo. He saw us…