One day, at the Baliwag Town Plaza, beside St. Augustine Church where “Kalesas” (horse-drawn carriage) 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.
The torture wrecked our body. We kneeled naked on Mimosa field poked by the plant’s thorn, while our arms raised sideways amidst the cold of the night. The torture wrecked our brain disassembling the natural order of “Bayang Magiliw” yet, has sung each bar on its right melody. The torture humiliated us, it wrecked our spirit under the nose of the gun. These calls for: “Eye for an Eye, Tooth for a Tooth”
The sight of our torturer in broad daylight gave us his clear profile. He was about 5’11” with good body built. He has this fierce bulbous eyes like that of Vic Diaz, a character actor who appeared in Tagalog horror movies during the 60’s, and he has grown his mustache, a cross between Marcelo H Del Pilar’s and Lee Van Cleef’s of the movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
We did an investigation before we embarked on our revenge. We learned that our torturer’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 a buffer to prevent NPA’s (New People’s Army) infiltrating a certain barrio. We also learned he was a drunkard, and San Mig beer was his favorite. Smoothing the arched end of his mustache by his left hand was his obvious mannerisms.
One late afternoon, at the Kalesa parking lot, Tabog and Pepit approached Hugo. Pepit negotiated with Hugo to bring us to Tenejero paying him more, if he could take just the three of us as passengers. While Pepit was negotiating, 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. When I saw Hugo gave a nod to Pepit, I loaded up the cooler I brought in with me which has bottles of San Migs 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. He was restless. He was at the front reining his horse, and he often times turned his head at the back, giving us a conspirator’s smile. He was eager for us to offer him a bottle. But, of course, the offer would come later when his salivating built up, until we reached the desolated part of the road, and once his horse responded to the “Auropac” pills.
When the Kalesa reached the border barrio separating Baliwag and Candaba, where the desolated part of the road begins, I gave Hugo an uncorked bottle of San Mig. I saw his bulging eyes almost fell down from its sockets. He grabbed the bottle. Emptied it quickly.
“Whew! This beer kicked big and seemed 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.” Hugo said. Of course he wouldn’t know, because Tabog mixed his beer with age “lambanog” (palm wine) which can contains about 40% percent alcohol.
Hugo’s Kalesa was getting slow. Hugo whipped his horse. But the more he whips, the more his horse runs slow, until the animal stopped. The Auropac worked. But Hugo was not yet drunk. We gave him more of our special brewed beer. He passed out.
Lifting and bringing Hugo to the Mimosa field, put a strain in our collective energy. While Hugo was asleep, we tied together both of his elbows to his back. Pepit untangled the horse to its wagon, and hitched the horse to Hugo’s hip. We waited.
Meanwhile, Tabog practiced using Hugo’s whip, slashing the wind, and the swishing sound twinkled his eyes in excitement.
When Hugo opened his eyes, as he rose to his knees, the bones on his shoulder burst out of his flesh. He writhed in pain as he moved his arms. To his surprise, he saw he was tied up to his horse. The anguish we saw on Hugo’s face gratified us. Retribution, here we come!
“Have you seen the Spartacus movie?” Tabog asked, striking the air with Hugo’s whip.
“What’s that got to do hitching me to my horse?” Hugo said. I was standing a few feet beside the horse, holding its rein. We didn’t want the horse to do something stupid yet. I saw Pepit slapped Hugo’s face. I thought Hugo’s head pirouetted. Pepit didn’t want Hugo to get intelligent. “You should reply with respect,” Pepit replied.
“In a gladiator movie, horse is used to trot out gladiator’s dead body? Do you want that?” Asked Tabog, as he whipped the air.
“Watch your tongue,” reminded Pepit.
“Of course. No, Sir”. Hugo said. The “Sir” made Pepit smile.
“You’ll follow whatever we’ve asked you to do. If not, I’ll whip your horse so hard, it will run amuck dragging your body in the dirt, till your bones crashed and scattered all over the field. 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” in the reversed order. Tabog said.
“Nahindot Na!” (Fucked) Hugo exclaimed, bowing his head.
“Now, get yourself naked.” Tabog said.
“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 commanded. Pepit cut off the bind on Hugo’s behind.
As soon as Hugo’s left hand was freed, it went right away to his mustache, smoothing its arch end.
“You really love that “caterpillar” of yours … huh. You did that first before getting naked… huh! Let’s see what we can do with that mustache… Take off your clothes. All it.” Tabog yelled.
Hugo undressed himself. A hulk of a man, yet he got a tiny pecker. That was strange. The three of us looked one another. We were wondering if his pecker were really tiny. Or just shrank.
“Now, since you love your “caterpillar”, I want you to pluck ten strands of white hair on your mustache. And while you’re kneeling, swear your right hand up in the air. The dose of your own meds … huh! Sounds like you, remember?” Tabog said. “Once we had your ten white hairs, you’ll recite “Panatang Makabayan” (Pledge of Allegiance) in the REVERSE order.” (Bayang Magiliw and Panatang Makabayan” are morning flag ceremonies’ ritual at school)
“And we’ll not whip your horse, and we’ll just leave you here.” Tabog said.
That was a tall order for Hugo. How Hugo would solve his 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. His Adam’s apple spiked cruised up and down in an incessant speed. He cried. And then passed out, not with our beer this time. We waited.
While Hugo was unconscious, we debated the ordeal Hugo had to face. First, I said, Hugo has no white hair. “That’s the idea there, fingerling”. I didn’t know, why Tabog tag me as “fingerling”. I am the tiniest among the three, but I am sure I don’t have a pea brain.
“We would see double pains from him; emotional pain parting with his beloved mustache, and physical pain for the plucking. As he can pluck no white hair, a bald upper lip would devastate him. That doubled his pain. “That’s fun, don’t you think? Tabug said.
“That’s right,” Pepit agreed.
“So what’s the deal with “Panatang Makabayan” reciting 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, I was not included in this part of the plan” I asked.
“We know you, fingerling. You’re scared chicken shit”. You would just derail our plan.” Pepit said.
“But, you guy didn’t put thoughts 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! Hugo would know that once he woke up… He was just shocked now. Besides, “Panatang Makabayan” is not the same as Bayang Magiliw that everybody knows. Probably, Hugo wouldn’t even know a word of it. What do you guys want – hold him in perpetual captivity… to wait for eternity to comply?
“So what should we do?” Asked Pepit. Now, Pepit switched side.
Hugo regained consciousness, and just in time, his horse’s forelegs jumped scratching the air, neighing loud. The rein slipped out of my hand. I was thrown off. As the forelegs dropped to the ground, the animal run wild, trotting out Hugo.
The “Auropac” pills wore off its effect. And Pepit got his answer by accident.
One day, the Philippine Constabulary had been tipped off, that suspected band of NPA’s (New Peoples Army) were spotted infiltrating Bagong Nayon, our barrio. The PC raided our barrio. The three of us, and all the males were herded into one place. One man on the raiding team looked familiar. He was tall. He has a mustache caressed by his left hand and he got his right arm mangled. He was Hugo. He saw us…