Posted by cool_ambo on June 26th, 2009 | 0 comments
M A T A N G L A W I N
Chapter 2 The X-MEN
KUMANDER AGILA and Don Puti sat across each other from a fairly large circular table under a fairly large coleman lamp. All at once they started threshing out what they came to talk about, meaning the Hacienda Cecilia and the rest of Agila’s men.
After the traditional felicitations between Ric and I came the exchange of weather forecast and the preferred planting days as foretold by some familiar almanac. I bade Ric to sit with me about a small rectangular table meant for two which is beside the window that overlooks the gravel road. He smiled when he noticed that the chair that I chose had no arm rest unlike the chair he was sitting on. Armchairs interfere with my draw. And then I saw through a billow on Ric’s shirt-jac a familiar gun butt.
“Mauser pistol?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied, unzipping his jac fully to unholster it from his shoulder strap and hand the gun to me. “It was given to me by a North Korean colonel who was a classmate of mine in Moscow.”
“Beautiful,’ I said, “I like the balance. It should have a faster rate of fire. But I imagine it is not easy to find ammunition for this, nowadays.”
“Not really,” he said, “Mr Guday can provide ammo for any type of weapon, even for the old colt .45 that you are using.”
“You’re telling me. I need to restock my ammo supply.”
“Now tell me, Major, why do you keep using an old service colt .45 when the new issue are Glocks?
I explained, “The Glock automatic pistols may hold more than twice the cartridges in the butt, but that alone makes the grip too bulky for me. The 9 mm shell that it shoots is 1.4 mm smaller than the .45. The glock may load more bullets but I need only one shot from this colt to bring down a berserk moro.”
“I get your point there. You are a sharpshooter just like your Dad. I have seen him bring down a mango from a swaying branch 60 feet up.”
“Yes, my Dad can do that alright, but his shots hit the fruit. My shots can hit those mangoes by their stems.”
I was asking Ric for the location of Mr Guday when we were interrupted by Don Puti’s demand for something to drink. So I got up to open the North window and called for Sol, who immediately came running up the stairs amid the hoots and whistles of the men farther away. Without looking up, she again disappeared to another stairway and then reappear with a tray of four de-crowned San Miguel beer bottles plus another four unopened ones.
Ric was watching her closely. I was, too—-all the fully-blown eighteen jiggly years of her. When it was our turn to be served, she cupped one hand around my ear and whispered that she couldn’t locate her house keys and that I should give her a duplicate of the ones that I keep. Embarrassed, I waved frantic signals for her to return to her house, which she did.
With a smirk, Ric said, “I guess they call you Matanglawin for more reasons than one, ha?”
I cleared my throat to start explaining to Ric that Consolacion, or Sol, is the sister of Totoy Buencamino who died when he was with the Bereta Ranger unit. Sol inherited the house and now operates the beer store beneath us. I have given my word to Totoy to watch over her when he is not around and I happen to a man of my word.
“Sure, sure,” Ric chuckled, “bantay-salakay.” This led to a gleeful, back-slapping, feet-stomping fits of laughter between us. Even the two political protagonists under the coleman lamp came to join the merriment.
And merriment was galore in the house that afternoon, till about dusk when an ice truck pulled up and started to unload blocks of ice for the store. Ric grabbed his pistol from the tabletop and whispered “mga pulahan” to Abner who suddenly pushed Don Puti unceremoniously under the table.
In the instant that I drew my pistol, Ric had already fired three shots at a man coming out from the back of the truck. I pulled myself up in time to see the driver of the truck set his rifle on top of the truck’s roof. I did not give him time to aim. I fired once and hit him on the temple. Then all at once more men started scampering from the truck. Women started screaming from the other house. Ric fired some more to bring down another two. I hit the front passenger man through his gunsight. More screams from more women. Sol was pulling a block of precious ice from under a dead man, and men from both sides of the roads were loading their guns.
I grabbed Lolo’s white hat and jumped down from the window and waved the hat in a circular motion. As if on cue, Ric and Abner ran down the stairs with flailing hands. It took a while, and a lot of disciplne from both sides, to put the situation under control.
Five men, wearing red strips of cloth around their heads, attempted to spray the occupants of the house with M-16’s but failed to accomplish their task due to poor coordination between the five, the blocks of ice became obstacles for the other men to trip over, and the ice truck was a converted weapons-carrier and therefore had a higher roof over which to fire accurately.
Upon looking at the faces of the gunmen, Ric and Abner pulled Grandfather aside to talk in whispers, all the while making glances at me. Finally they spoke to me, “We know that you work for the Counter Insurgency Operations, and that your mission is to locate Kumander Cobra. We are telling you now that fixing his identity is impossible, much less locate his position. He is ever in the company of five. There are more to this than two opposing suides. These men in red headbands belong to an outfit called X-men. Their main job is to exterminate. This unit should not be mistaken for another unit called Ex-men. Their job is to execute people. Both units are more like licensed hit squads. However, if you Major Visconte, are willing to help the agreement that I made with your Grandfather, you are welcome to my protection.”
“Wow, what can I say,” I uttered, “I’ve always wanted to live a peaceful life.” And this started another round of jokes and laughter between the four of us.
Before we parted, I complimented Kumander Sundang for his speed with the Mauser pistol, for which he said in turn that they do not call me hawkeye for nothing.
Settling in our beds that night, Don Puti explained to me that there are a lot of units who would not want this agreement to foster. These are those who want to remain in uniform and get promoted. These are those who want the conflict to continue. These are those who wag the dog.
“Kumander Agila agreed to bring his men down from the mountains and join my hacienda guards and their families would be living as part of the community. In return, they will be safe here as members of the private subdivision that is Hacienda Cecilia, living in houses that will be built for them. I will work for the general amnesty for them and will give them first crack at all the labor needs of this hacienda, such as construction, teachers, farmers, drivers, and so forth. But the one item they like best is the 50-50 sharecropping awas-gastos that replaced the 60-40 sharecropping. I will also provide loans with no interest.”
From all this, something still bothers me—who were these men really after when they fired indiscriminately?
(Next–meet my cousin, another one, the Maestra de Novicios)