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August 17 2010 3 17 /08 /August /2010 09:34





Antonio Enriquez






Against theflickering petrol torches on a piece of land in Guipos,

Zamboanga peninsula, Mindanao, 400 or so nautical miles from

Manila, was the camp of an Army unit from the 10th IB. Here and

there, stumps of coconut trees protruded, and alongside a rutted

dirt path were the petrol torches of tattered cloths attached to the

ends of bamboo poles. In the soft wind, the flames slanted away

casting shimmering light and long shadows on the ground. Filled

with potholes the wheel-rutted path ran diagonally toward the

camp before making an abrupt slant, then went on in a straight line

for several meters, then ended where an empty uncovered

six-by-six Army truck was parked.


With dark clouds of petrol-smoke curling up toward the moonless

sky, throwing shadows that danced crazily on the stumps of coconut

tree-trunks, a pale-orange expanse of light shuddering about the

fringes of the coconut-lot—the camp looked more like a hideous

devil-worshipper cult camp than an Army barracks.


Into this camp, one dark night in July of ’85, the Subanon village

chief Datu Amado Bualan went quietly, unarmed without any sort of

weapon. Unlike his predecessors before him. Just about its

entrance were a bunker of coconut trunks and nipa-shingles, and

three layers of sandbags rose several feet before it, that served

both as a guardhouse and machine-gun nest. However no sentry

was in sight. As he went past the bunker he met no soldier and the

camp looked empty.


He only saw the first soldier when he was a few meters from a



nipa-roofed and sawali-walled building, shaped incongruously and

irregularly. For some portions, as if as an afterthought, jutted out

of the main structure and the building was the only temporary

structure there. Of course there was the usual outhouse and latrine,

which you couldn’t miss in military camps a distance away from the

entrance gate, and a small unused shed, and two unrecognizable

structures of light materials. Looked like it was about to collapse

any moment or its nipa roof down any second on your head. The

latter served as soldiers’ quarters as well as a room for operations,

where they plan to shoot either combatants or noncombatants. This

could mean anybody. Looking extremely bored was the man who

sat on a bench before a table. He didn’t turn his head as Datu

Amado had expected when he walked toward the barracks. Much

less raise his eyes to acknowledge his presence. You know what I

mean, not even when he almost brushed against the bench set close

to the barracks narrow door. The door was a mere hole in the

building and probably its single door-leaf had been discarded or

burnt as firewood by its former occupants. The hinges of the

missing door-leaf was still there and already rusty.


Inside the quarters was a ladder with rungs of round-wood. It led

to a bamboo-split platform that rose several feet from the earthen

floor of the barracks, a little over a man’s head. On it a number of

soldiers, mostly half-naked, were sleeping soundly. Barracks had

windows only on one side, left, opposite the raised platform, and so

the hall was damp and airless and suffocating.


On the wall hang some five oil lamps. Of empty milk cans. They

were the only source of light in the entire barracks, and so the

place was in half darkness and the side where the sleeping quarters

where was unlit full of unsteady shadows. If you were not to look

closely you would miss seeing on the wall above the oil lamps two

framed copies of oil paintings of the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos and

the First Lady Imelda Marcos. The couple was pictured as a royal

couple, complete with sash and emblem and crown, from an old



autocratic European country. Everyone knew Marcos came from a

barren dry, little place called Batac in Ilocos.


Before the ladder in sleeveless camouflage shirts stood three

soldiers, talking aimlessly with each other, in that sort of idle talk

to pass the hour. A third, with beer-belly and fat arms, was looking

toward some activity going on at the other end of the narrow hall.

There, two more soldiers, who unlike the three were naked to the

waist, were pushing a man against the wall, delivering blows to his

head and body.


Right away Datu Amado recognized him as the farmer he was

looking for--the unfortunate Rigîd, who had come looking for his

carabao late that afternoon. Every time the farmer lowered his

arms to cover himself –he had been stripped naked –to ward off the

blows, the two soldiers pounded his flanks with their fists and

jabbed them in the pit of his stomach. On the wall, their shadows

flitted crazily about, drawing a variety of shapes and images. From

the core of Rigîd’s tormented body flowed a stream of

aahed-screams like this: Ahhh-yayaya-ggaaayyyy!


‘Your hands up, up, up!’ said the two shirtless soldiers. Their

muscled arms swung viciously and hammered at the farmer’s naked

body with their fists.


‘No, no, no!’ the farmer cried. His arms came down, clipping his

flanks to ward off the blows, and at this the two shirtless soldiers

started punching and kicking him more viciously: from his flanks

and chest and belly came thud sounds as the blows fell. Again

through Rigîd’s bruised lips sprang a stream of cries.




‘Up, up, up with your hands!’ the two half-naked soldiers

commanded. ‘You mother-fucker, son of a communist whore!’




On the raised bamboo-split platform, the soldiers, used to scenes

of beatings and torture, slept on. Not one was awakened by the

cusses and cries for mercy. They were all drunk and satiated with



food taken during their drinking binge. Like logs they slept, many

snoring loudly, through their mouths and noses chugging sounds

emerged as from a tug-boats. Seemingly oblivious and deaf to the

farmer Rigîd’s groans and screams were the three camouflage-clad

soldiers by the ladder. A moment later, as if awakened from a deep

sleep, the two, who’d been talking earlier with each other,

seemingly ignoring the third soldier, walked quickly out of the

barracks. Left alone by himself the beer-bellied soldier continued

looking down one end of the hall, where the poor farmer was being

beaten. Flabby and immobile he stood there by the ladder.

Everything in him was in a state of momentary suspension: the only

sign of life were the rise and fall of his beer belly, and the whoosh

of his heavy fat man’s breathing.


Rigîd screamed in pain and for mercy. He begged: ‘Have pity

have pity on me! I only came looking for my carabao. It’s the truth.

Aayyyiieee, have pity!’


‘You mother-fucking liar.’ The two bare-breasted soldiers thrust

their elbows into his rib cage, ‘You’re an NPA, are you not? Hah?

You mother-fucking communist liar!’


Rigîd cowered and went down on his rump onto the earthen floor

of the hall. ‘No, no, no!’ he said. ‘Have pity have pity! I was only

looking for my carabao. That’s the eternal truth...’


But with kicks and fist-blows the soldier-tormentors forced him

to straighten up against the wall and raise both hands over his head.

Afterwards they commenced hitting him again.


‘Your hands ... up, up over your head,’ his tormentors said. ‘Son

of a mother-whore! Mother fucker communist liar! What? What did

you say?’


‘—only looking for my carabao. That’s the truth honorable

soldiers. I’m just a poor farmer; not an NPA, good soldiers.’


‘What! You no-good lying communist! Pretending to be a farmer

hah? You won’t amen you are an NPA hah-hah? So you’re

hard-headed too.’



After accusing him of being a member of the communist New

Peoples Army, the two soldiers struck him on the head with their

knuckles, slapped him not hard with the shell of their palms, as

when one slaps a boy around to call his attention. This last they

hadn’t done before. It was just as if they had discovered a new trick.

Slapping him in mockery, they now timed the knuckle blows on his

head to fall simultaneous with their cussing. So delighted the

soldiers became with this discovery, that hideous laughter rang in

their throat.


All this while, not once had the poor farmer looked toward Datu

Amado Bualan. Shame and humiliation, not unmixed with confusion,

had held him back from returning the datu’s-village chieftain’s

gaze. But now exhausted, and in unbearable pain, he turned his

head to him and said, ‘Ay datu help me ...’ but a cry involuntarily

rose in his throat and gagged him.


Ignoring now his own terror, Datu Amado stepped up before the

beer-bellied soldier. ‘Sarge, excuse me,’ he said. ‘But I know this

farmer personally ... he isn’t an NPA, not a rebel. He’s from my

village ... Karpok. What he says is true, that he came here to your

camp to look for his carabao—’


The datu’s soft apologetic voice aroused in the beer-bellied

soldier contempt and anger, instead. He was that sort of a man you

meet quite rarely. To such a man human kindness is a weakness.

Right there, he rose from languor. His brows knitted, below them

his eyes, dark and fiery, pierced into Amado’s face.


Rapidly he said, ‘What, what –what!’


Datu Amado repeated, ‘He’s only looking for his carabao. Please,

Sarge, understand the poor farmer. It’s the only working animal he

owns ...’


The fat soldier shouted into his face, ‘Fuck you! If you don’t shut

up we’ll beat you up too.’


The fat soldier’s lips pursed bulbous, on his forehead folds of

flesh swelled. Looking like termites trenches. From a silent, unalert,



beer-bellied man, he had turned into an angry tuba wine-smelling

brute. It looked as though a magic wand had touched him, turning

the soldier into an ogre before the datu’s eyes.


Quickly Datu Amado turned his head away. He had never been

spoken to so hideously and shamefully. But the brute’s sour breath

of tuba palm wine stung his nostrils still. ‘These soldiers are

drunk,’ he thought. ‘Likely, they’ve feasted on the farmers missing

carabao already.’


Just then a clanging sound was heard by the entrance. There

followed the reappearance of the two camouflage-clad soldiers.

They were the same soldiers, who had earlier stood by the wooden

ladder with Datu Amado and the beer-bellied soldier. In their hands

swung a big battered pail of slops. As the pair set it down before

Rigîd, the contents slapped round the side of the pail. Swishing

threatening to spill onto the earthen floor.


Into this pail the two camouflage-clad soldiers plunged their

hands. When they withdrew them, coils of huge slimy entrails were

strung round their arms and wrists. Pieces of animal meat oozed

between fingers, a few slid down on to the earthen floor.


Ruthlessly, the pair jammed the intestines and pieces of meat

into the farmer’s mouth.


‘Eat eat these now,’ said one of the two camouflage-clad

soldiers. ‘Lets see if this meat comes from your carabao … you

big-balled son of a communist whore!’


More handful of slops was forced into the poor farmers mouth by

the second soldier, who commanded, ‘Eat, eat, eat! What’s the

matter? Hah? Even a datu eats carabao meat! Are you more

delicate than a datu, hah-hah?’


‘No-no ayiieee mother!’ cried Rigîd, bringing his cupped hands

over his mouth.


A vicious fist crashed into it breaking the skin of his lips.

Methodically, blows were delivered to his stomach and flanks, and

thuds resounded from his rib cage, as if his ribs were made of guitar





The first two half-naked soldiers screamed at him: ‘Up, up, up

with your hands. You mother-fucker of a communist!’


With both hands raised to his face Rigîd’s body was left

unprotected and exposed to the kicks and blows. From one end of

the hall, the thud sounds could be heard as the blows fell on the

half-naked body. ‘No no I won’t eat the meat of my own carabao!’

said Rigîd. ‘Ayiieee mother help me!’


‘What?’ said the first camouflage-clad soldiers. ‘Did you say this

is your carabao’s meat? Did you say that you communist!’


The one camouflage-clad soldier thrust his hand into the pail for

more and more entrails and pieces of meat. With a look of scorn

and contempt, he pushed the intestines into Rigîd’s mouth with his

fingers. Then, in a slow and deliberate motion, he wiped them off

his hand on the farmers face.


‘Your carabao ...’ he said. ‘Did you say? Ah-hah then eat it! Go

on and eat it. Go on! Prove to us this his meat from your carabao.

Eat it!’


‘No-no ayiieee mother!’ Under his cupped hands, his pleas were

muffled like this: Pfff-leeshhh, pfff-leeshhh, pfff-leeshhh.



‘You mother-fucker of a communist liar!’ the one went on.

‘What were you doing sneaking around here hah? You’re a

communist spy. Oo, o.’


On the raised bamboo-split platform, the drunken soldiers slept

on, their chests rose and fell like bellows with their snoring.

Four-five soldiers fidgeted or tossed round on the platform. One

with trouble in his bladder rose and went to the side of the building,

where he pissed. Not one of them gave any sign they’d been

bothered by the farmers beating and pleas for mercy.


Finally, after fistfuls of entrails and pieces of meat went down

Rigîd’s throat, his strength left him. Suddenly, his battered naked

body collapsed on to the earthen floor. Alongside his flanks, his



arms lay limp and elbows bent awkwardly by his body. Rigîd no

longer pleaded or complained. Only animal-like groans came

through his lips, on his naked body thud-sounds resounded like a

sounding board, because, methodically and mercilessly, the

soldiers continued beating him. Not hard enough or as frequent now

as to kill him. They knew their work well, and just how much

torture and pain a man could stand a hairbreadth from death,

having honed their skills through practice and brutality on helpless

victims. They inflicted just enough damage to his lungs and kidneys

before he would collapse.


Rigîd swayed forward on the balls of his feet. Up and down, his

head bobbed on the end of his neck, making funny spasmodic

movements before falling upon his bare chest. All at once, from

the very core of his body, it seemed pieces of meat and coiled

intestines flushed out through his mouth. Splattering on to the

earthen floor in an incessant flood. On the ground, before him, a

small pool of slops started to grow, expanding its fringes while the

entrails and pieces of discarded meat lay there in an uneven lump.


Realizing Rigîd couldn’t take more punishment; the second

camouflage-clad soldier flung him back his shirt and pants; though

his clothes missed him and instead fell in the pool of slops. The four

soldiers climbed up the upraised bamboo-split platform. Soon

afterwards, the four tormentors fell asleep. Snoring as loud as the

other drunken soldiers. Meanwhile, the beer-bellied soldier joined

the one at the door of the barracks. The latter looked just as bored

as before, when the datu came to the camp earlier that evening.


With his head in the shell of his hands, Datu Amado sat on a lower

rung of the ladder; the light from the oil lamps flickered on the mop

of his grey-streaked hair. Never had he felt so powerless, so

unworthy of being the datu of the Subanons.


Rigîd, stark naked, on his haunches on the earthen floor, was

finally left alone: his spirit broken and physically humiliated. By his

side lay the pail of slops, now half-empty, with the entrails of his



working animal. Inside it his trousers soaked in the pool of slops.


It was quiet now in the camp. No sound except for the drunken

snoring and occasional creaking of the bamboo-split platform. Up

on the wall, slightly to one side of the farmers head, the pictures of

the Despot Ferdinand Marcos and his First Lady Imelda Marcos hung

crookedly having been jarred during the beating of the poor farmer.

In the flickering oil lamps, Marcos’s confident and benign-dictator

disposition never faded, and the ‘Iron Butterfly,’ as the First Lady

was called, wore the knowing smile of a Mona Lisa on her lips.


Datu Amado patiently waited for the soldiers to allow him to take

Rigîd home. He wouldn’t dare to ask before he was told: had he not

just seen what animals they were! However the soldiers seemed to

have forgotten them. The beatings and cries of pain from the poor

farmer had never happened! The existence of the native Subanons

meant nothing to the 10th IB soldiers. At worse, their attitude was

that of a spoiled child, who got tired with his playthings.


But a quarter of an hour later, what seemed forever to Datu

Amado, the beer-bellied soldier told him to take the ‘trash’ away

back to the village. He growled at him to do it right away, as if it

were Amado’s fault they’d not left. Maybe, he would put the datu

in the camp’s stockade for the night.


So Datu Amado went to the other end of the hall, where the

farmer sat on his rump on the earthen floor, his legs spread out.

Against the sawali-woven wall, he had propped up his head and

shoulders. He couldn’t get up. He was inert and unable to move to

dress himself, when he saw Datu Amado approaching him from the



Datu Amado said, ‘Let me help you, Rigîd’ slipping the trousers

up the man’s legs. ‘Turn the other side ... Oo, o—that’s it.’ After he

wrung the slops out of the old patched shirt and pants, Datu Amado

helped him put them on.


‘It ... it’s all right,’ said Rigîd. ‘I can do it datu.’


But his arms were useless. They didn’t have any strength even



to button up his pants. Stabs of pain lanced at his flanks every time

he strained and flexed a muscle. ‘Aahhhh-gaaayyy!’ His voice low

as he held back the cry. ‘Wait, wait, my sides ... so painful.’


‘All right,’ said Datu Amado. ‘Don’t move. Let me do it for you:

but we must hurry.’ Before these devils change their minds, he

wanted to add.


Very slowly this time, he pulled the man’s trousers up to his

waist. He had not once looked at the farmers nakedness; of course,

he had seen men –and women too, ayiiee– nude before, but not like

the farmers nakedness that bared not just his uncovered body but

his very soul naked as well. It forced embarrassment and shame

from the onlooker too, though he himself the datu was a man.


‘I’m sorry very sorry ... my arms they’ve no strength left. I

cannot move them,’ said Rigîd as the datu helped him put on his

shirt, slipped an arm through its sleeve. ‘Aahhh-gaaayyy,



Datu Amado didn’t immediately take the poor farmer away. He

had to be sure the beer-bellied soldier wasn’t just making fun of

them. With his right hand around Rigîd’s waist, the other gripping

the farmer’s forearm slung over his shoulder—Datu Amado raised

him up from the earthen floor, and then dragged him toward the

door. ‘Sarge, sir, can we go now?’


But the beer-bellied soldier, by the side of the table, behind

which on a bench sat the bored soldier, seemed to be now playing a

game with them. He simply ignored the datu. A few anxious

moments passed. His heart knocked against his rib cage. When it

seemed both of them might be placed in the stockade, he once

again heard the beer-bellied soldiers growl: O what are you waiting

for? Are you deaf hah? Didn’t I tell you to get out of here? Go on,

move! Get this “trash” out of here now! ... Shit!’


Quickly, Datu Amado went past the door and the table, outside

half-carrying the limp Rigîd. Neither of the two soldiers by the table

so much as nodded or glanced at the passing figures. Once out of



the Army camp, the datu went as fast as he could on the path, while

Rigîd leaned heavily against him, holding back his cry of pain and





On the back of the house, on the open porch, Amado left the

poor farmer Rigîd. The latter after he set him gently down on the

bamboo floor insisted that the village chief leave him there alone in

the dark outside the back door. No words were needed to explain

this to Amado, nor for him to have light to see it in Rigîd’s eyes:

that the soldier’s insults and blows delivered savagely to his naked

body had reduced him to a shameful unhuman pulp. He wouldn’t

wish his woman to know that his battering and humiliation was

witnessed by another being, though it was the village chief himself.

Instead of relieving the shame and indignity he had suffered, her

knowing that in their village someone had witnessed her man’s

debasement, would only add to his monstrous loss. Quietly, Datu

Amado walked off the open porch, unnoticed, and slid away into

the dark outside.




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  • : Antonio Enriquez's name
  • : Work of folktales, historical pieces, fiction and nonfiction: stories and novels set mostly in Zamboanga Peninsula and Maguindanao. Chabacano pieces.
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