M A T A N G L A W I N
Chapter 4 The Golden Warrior of Moroland
I first met this gangling teenage girl when I led a squad on an extraction operation to hogtie a hostile datu who lived by the seashore. We burst into a room which, to our surprise, was peopled with women and children, one of which was this girl unabashedly sporting skimpy pj’s. She continued brushing her auburn tresses as she turned to me with an inquisitive look and an unflinching gaze at the muzzle of my pistol. Behind her and on top of her dresser were two school streamers pinned on the wall. The Datu was not there. It appeared that the diversion raid that another group was assigned to was started too soon, and the Datu had to run towards the guard posts when he heard the commotion.
I got mad! I kicked just about every loose toy on sight. I crushed a mandolin-type instrument under my foot. It gave way and my foot got stuck. I frantically tried to extricate my foot from the instrument. The kids began to snicker at the sight of my struggle. I kicked the instrument off and it hit the facsimile knives on the wall. This fell down with a thud. The kids are by now laughing with glee. This girl shoved her foot stool in front of me and I kicked this one, too. It flew through the door, down a flight of stairs, and hit a pig that let out a lot of squeals. Everybody started laughing out loud, including I who was affected grossly by the kids’ laughter. So I led my squad out in disappointment.
I’ve completely forgotten all about her for several years after that incident, until I heard about a golden-skinned, redhead leading a band of moros that raided our camps all over, using some particular skirmish tactics which I was then assigned to scrutinize. I had a pretty good idea who this leader would be, but still, I knew it would be against their culture to allow women to bear arms, much less lead men at arms.
So I got myself in a military camp at Kampilan just before the time that we knew it would be attacked. I was to get some answers as to the invincibility of this Golden Warrior’s force. I was in the process of getting to a spot to observe the attack when I heard the tower sentry fall down with a crash. The attack had comnmenced! From out the window I saw other sentries lying dead. Shouting and running and shooting marked the chaos that followed. The Camp Commander was, of course, absent, him being the first one to be warned of the impending attack. I moved his table for me to climb to the ceiling. Too late! The door burst open and I came to look at the barrel of a sten gun while clinging to the ceiling with one hand and holding a pistol with the other. I froze.Under an olive-colored cap and a black hood were brown eyelashes, long and curled up. The face was moon-shaped and the cheeks were copper-colored. And those lips, they were indubitably feminine.
Upong sensing my hesitation and disbelief, she lowered the sten gun, looked at the ceiling, snickered at me, and went back to the fighting. I realized that I must have looked like a monkey, swinging from the ceiling with one hand. At any rate, from my vantage point in the ceiling, I watched her in front of her men moving in skirmish formation, firing as they advanced in the upright position. Those who had guns were in front. Those who had none were following behind, ready to pick up the guns from any fallen comrade to continue with the advance. Brilliant! I hissed, as though she could hear me. This way they would not need any more guns than were necessary. If I commanded my own regiment, I would have insisted on having a hundred of her people incorporated in one special unit. And as if she heard me, she stopped to look in my general direction, took off her cap and hood, and flashed her hair to the wind. She was blonde! Golly, I nearly lost my life to a blonde!
A year passed after this encounter with the Golden Warrior. Now I have all the reasons to capture this girl, er, woman. Within the last 20 days, three heavily fortified camps were overrun by Moros. It would have taken a full regiment to take each of the forts, but intelligence reports say that the Moros have enough weapons to arm only 100 to 200 men, and not a regiment. What is more, these arms have to be transported from one fallen camp to another without being detected. Afterwards, reports of a secret weapon began to trickle in, a secret weapon in the person of this Golden Warrior.
NOW, THE GOLDEN WARRIOR has surfaced here, in the village of Sabungan, close to where we were putting up dikes for river control. This village is adjacent to the property of Don Puti, being separated by a stream over which a wooden bridge was strung which was wide enough to accommodate a jeep. The dikes were 10 meters wide and 10 feet high, also wide enough to accommodate a jeep. This stream was used for irrigation and fishing purposes. Every summer, two water gates, half a kilometer from each other, are closed. The water is the pumped out to reveal lots of fish after the water is drained. The village folks are then allowed to catch all the fish they can, compliments of Don Puti. Within these events is hatched my plan to capture the Golden Warrior.
“How important is this Golden Warrior to you?”, asked Ric who was driving the other jeep which was fitted with a machine gun.
“Very,” I said, “I think I know her, too”
The sound of people loudly cheering alerted us. The water had been completely drained. All at once everybody ran down to catch fish, laughing, shouting, cavorting, or generally slipping in the mud. Ric pointed to one wearing a bandanna, deftly spearing at fish one stroke at a time. I saw her, too. That impressive height was unmistakably hers. I fired three shots in the air. Everybody turned except her. I jumped in my jeep and drove crazily past the bridge in time to see her get inside a hut. I kicked the door open and was met with a heavy whack from her spear. I tackled her and we wrestled on the floor. I noticed that she could not kick a lot, and she winced with every move she made. I pinned both her arms down. I tightened my grip every instant that she flailed and loosened it every time she calmed down. She got the message and finally settled down altogether. She emitted a loud shriek when I pulled her up to her feet. With a gasping breath and an agonized face, she whispered to me that she had broken ribs.
Ric opened the door for me so that I could carry her gingerly towards the jeep, which I drove very slowly as it was very noticeable her ordeal from every bump on the road.
We had not travelled far when a helicopter appeared and started to follow us. Helicopters, I mused, especially military ones, were not known to be present in these parts. Mindanao is down south and Korea is in another part of the world. I stopped the jeep and stood on its hood. The helicopter started circling us. I drew my pistol. It stopped to hover over us. This was then that I came face to face with the man wearing a red strip and a big bandage plastered on his cheek. Ric drew up alongside and aimed the M-60. The helicopter pilot pointed to my black beret with the black hawk insignia. Him and the red-strip guy argued, and then flew off.
I asked our pretty Golden captive, “Why did they go after us?”
Ding interrupted, “Maybe they ran out of band aids and only she knows where they are kept.”
When the laughter subsided, she said, “You must be Major Visconte.”
“Yes, how did you know?,” I replied, expecting an answer that depicted my fame and popularity amongst the people. But she pointed to my name tag and insignia, and laughter again from everybody.
She pulled out a pouch from under her blouse and handed it to me. Standard issue morphine, so I gave her a shot from one of the phials.
“My name is Perla, Perla Binaoro, and I am not supposed to win my battles every time.,” she shrugged. “That man in the helicopter is called Copperhead. Him and I, we argued. We fought. His kick broke my ribs. I slashed his cheek open.” And then the morphine took effect so she went to sleep.
She was dazed when we hit our camp. After supper, we decided to drive her to town to see a doctor. At dusk, I carried her to the back seat of the jeep and got her to lean on me so I could absorb the bumps on the road for her. The second pain killer was about to take its effect when I asked Ding about her golden complexion. She said that this was coppertone, a tanning lotion, and it should wear off after several days. Her skin may be lighter in color, considering that her hair is now reddish, and is not blonde as may be thought of to be. She will not be permitted to lead men if she were muslim.
“She looks young to me and exceptionally figured!” noticed Ding.
“Well, I don’t know about that,” I said, “she looks old enough to have had twelve children already. And from what I can feel from here, she’s top heavy and fat!”
Perla pinched me on the rib and I let out a YIP. Ric and Ding must have guessed what is going on in the back seat so they looked at each other and made faces.
“On second thought, head for the HOUSE OF GNOMES,” I told Ric.
Ric complained, “House of Gnomes? Oh no not that place again!”
Ding teased him, “Look at him——fearless leader, brave commander, salakay-na-walang-puknat, phi-kappa-phi awardee—takot sa duwende!”
“What has Phi Kappa Phi got to do with duwendes? Nobody studies duwendes!”
I looked down at Perla, with the red hair and copper-face, snuggling contentedly on my chest, and I said out loud, “Once my life depended on the sharp eyesight of this Golden Warrior. Now my life depends on the sparkle in her eyes.”
Another pinch on my ribs…..
and then she buried her eyes on my chest.