M A T A N G L A W I N
Chapter 1 Encuentro
Don Ignacio Caldeza Visconte y de Borbon, known to everybody as Don Puti, stood up from a makeshift bench to shuffle across the gravel road that fronted the house. He stopped to stare at a piglet munching on a corn cob across the street while he adjusted his gun belt. With overpowering intimidation, he spat what’s left of the Granger Chaw in his cheeks towards the piglet, which then ran off with several grunts and a lot of squeals.
The house he stepped out of is owned buy Anong, a burly man union leader and Don Puti’s head overseer, or Katiwala. Upon Don Puti’s insistence, the garage is converted to a gareta, a meeting place. On this place sat Anong, his wife, Jesse, Tano, and Dr. Dok; the last three named are the ones referred to as the “Three Toopids”, a most emphatic reminiscence of the Three Stooges by my grandfather, Don Puti.
“Tell Kumander Agila that I propose to meet him instead in Buencamino’s house, which is halfway from where he wants us to meet,” and then lit one of the Marlboro Longhorns I gave him. The people in the gareta, including I, looked at each other to determine whom he was talking to. Upon recognition of the problem, Anong got up to do the Don’s bidding. And rightly so because Anong is not only the owner of the house, he was the sole medium by which Kumander Agila and the Don communicate.
“And tell him I will come unarmed,” he called to Anong who in turn gave his nod. We all watched the wet gravel road give way to Anong’s stubby hulk as he walked towards Don Puti’s south guardpost which Agila has taken over. One of the tractor detail, Jesse Cape, started ejecting the rounds from his M16 one at a time. Tano, friend to Jesse in good and not so good escapades, repeatedly made attempts to reshape his fedora. Dr. Dok, friend to Jesse and Tano in addition to being a necessary evil, brought out his guitar to try and add to the tension.
Jesse is the most “cowboy” of the outfit. He assumes this distinction easily as regards, dress, mannerism, and lingo. Even I, with all the resources at my command, would not hope to surpass him in the way he imitates Gary Cooper. Two things he would give an arm and a leg for are : a horse, and a pair of boots like the ones I am wearing now.
“Pel,” The Don called.
“Po,” I replied by force of habit.
“You will come with me to the house of Totoy Buencamino,” he said matter of factly.
“Opo,” I replied, as if I had a choice in the matter.
“I wish I had that rifle now…” Grandfather said to himself, and his countenance changed to a depressed look. He does this in all those times he thinks about the missing rifle, one e that can hit targets a kilometer or two away and, he assured me, one does not have to aim the rifle, one just commands it.
I believe him. He is widely known as the second Matanglawin, and as such he should be a deadshot, a sharpshooter, a hawkeye. But he isn’t now. His fall from the tractor broke his arm, so he draws a bead from his left hand. That rifle surely would aright things up again.
I surmise that if I find the lost First Matanglawin, I would know for sure where that rifle would be.
But now, in one motion I pulled out my service automatic and released the magazine for inspection. I made sure an extra round was chambered and two full magazines were in my belt. Jesse offered to lend me his folding-stock M16 but I declined the offer for reasons that I would have to carry the added weight of the rifle plus spare magazines for it. Furthermore, my being armed already violates the terms of the encounter. In truth, I had not the heart to tell Jesse that I do not carry weapons that I did not clean myself.
Don Ignacio, and Lolo Asiong to me, wheeled abruptly to face us who were in the gareta. The action caught Dr. Dok by surprise, and his plan to belt off with another of his songs was aborted. Still in deep thought, Don Puti whispered to me to get ready. Instantly, I gave orders as regarding positions and signals after which everybody just vanished, all except Anong’s wife who was unabashedly nursing her baby. Don Puti went back to his seat, crossed his legs, took off his bleached Baliwag-blocked hat, and lit one of his own Mexican brown cigarillos.
I looked at him as I have often looked at him, thinking of things I have often thought of about him. This, I reflected, is the father of my father; three times mayor of Santa Teresa; reputed to own horses that run faster than automobiles, renowned for bringing in criminals by sheer force of personality and admonitions; famous for humanitarian affinities and wartime heroism; unheralded for being the first to institute “jueteng” lotteries in this part of the country; praised for using his vast landholdings for the uplift of his tenants; and so forth and so on. This community was actually built by him! It is peopled by his tenants, their houses being constructed from the profits of Hacienda Cecilia. No wonder this community is named after him—San Ignacio.! And he is not even a saint!
(End Chapter 1 Part 1 Encuentro)