Sigaboy

Fiction by | January 4, 2009

The dog was leisurely running ahead of him, but it suddenly stopped, sniffing the ground nervously. Alerted by the dog, the young Manobo laid down a bound wild rooster and gripped his spear tightly. He looked around him, quickly scanning the trees for any movement. As the dog did not bark, he relaxed a bit. He inspected the ground, and made out several human footprints. They belonged to strangers, he thought, or his dog wouldn’t have acted nervously. He put his ear to the damp ground, then he raised his head, his ears perking. He inspected the ground again. Mud had caked on the leaves of grass that had been trodden repeatedly. The intruders had passed by several hours ago, he concluded. No danger there. But what did they want, so near his house? He looked up. Towering trees filtered the rays of the late afternoon sun. He had time to investigate. He picked up the fowl.

“Toyang!” he called, and his dog responded, sniffing the ground as it led the way. The young Manobo soon realized they were heading towards the gulch. The spring! His heart began to beat rapidly. Amya! He began to run, his dog trailing him. At the ravine floor his fears were confirmed. A spear was stuck right beside the little pool that collected the water from the spring that flowed beside the root of a tree. Footprints! Signs of struggle! He pulled the lance and inspected it. Mandaya warriors! They had taken Amya. No! He looked around in the disturbed brush and found a bamboo tube for fetching water. No! He climbed up the ravine quickly and ran.

“Amya! Amya!” he shouted as he neared the kaingin clearing. But he was greeted with silence. Two chickens scampered as he rushed to the house that topped the lopped-off primary branches of a huge tree. He put down what he was carrying. “Amya! Amya!” he called out. But the tree house was silent. He pulled the pole ladder, placed it against the open door, and climbed up to the house. Inside there was no sign of any disturbance. He looked at the bamboo containers. There should have been four, but he saw only three, and his heart sank. They had taken her. They had stolen his wife!

The negotiation was a matter for the elders, and the young Manobo sat patiently in the shade of the ilang-ilang tree, his dog beside him. He was not even introduced to the mediator, Datu Tomaros, who was received with great ceremony when he slipped into the river with three big boats. From where he sat he could see the goings-on inside the meeting hall. Datu Tomaros was resplendent in his yellow silk clothes. He sat on a stool at the head of two groups of people who were facing each other. Eight elderly representatives of Amya’s relatives and his oldest brother, Sumungsung, were on one side. The three women were in full regalia. The men, led by Amya’s father and his father-in-law, Datu Dumblag, wore abaca dagmay dominated by the color red.

The other side was composed of five representatives from Bitaogan. They were all warriors who wore red shirts. Their leader was an old man who was not only in red shirt, but also in red dagmay breeches. A full bagani! But the young Manobo was not impressed. If it were up to him he would have gone ahead with the attack on Bitaogan and rescue Amya. Amya’s clan had gathered a hundred warriors, and his brothers had brought an initial batch of sixty warriors from across Davao Gulf in Malita. Additional warriors from Tubalan and Lawa were expected to land any day soon.

But Datu Tomaros, the datu of Sumlug, had sent word he was going to mediate. A Kalagan who worshipped Allah, Datu Tomaros was the most powerful chief on the east coast of Davao Gulf. All Kalagan chiefs from Iyo River, going south to Pantukan and Cuabo Bay, then curving towards Mati and Manay on the Pacific Coast considered him their suzerain. His rule extended to the Mandayas in the interior villages who paid him regular tributes.

Even if Datu Tomaros did not control the villages further south on Cape San Agustin, the chiefs of these villages did not want to mess up with him. Datu Dumblag readily agreed to the mediation. So did Datu Gaponggo, head of Bitaogan. He was the most feared bagani on Cape San Agustin, but even he did not want to antagonize Datu Tomaros and agreed to send negotiators.

The young Manobo looked at the position of the sun and noted it was nearing high noon. This was the worst kind of waiting, the young Manobo thought. He could stay motionless for hours waiting for prey, but this waiting was making him restless. The negotiation was taking too long. Inside the hall, Amya’s aunt was talking, her hands gesturing vigorously. Like the other women, she wore colorful dagmay clothes, accented by a round silver patina breastplate. Her ears were decorated with strung beads, and her arms shone with shell bracelets. He knew Amya’s relatives were to impress upon Bitaogan how precious Amya was. And indeed, she was. They had demanded expensive items from his family as her bride price which was twice the usual for a datu’s daughter. Bitaogan would soon learn a costly lesson! He was dismayed they did not bring Amya along and just pay the fine! What game were they playing? Anyway, he trusted his brother. His brother would bring Amya back to him.

He had been totally helpless during the first few days after Amya’s kidnapping. He was alone among strangers, even if they were his in-laws. He had stayed less than two months in Amya’s village. He had relatives in the poblacion of Sigaboy two kilometers away, but he hardly knew them. All his life he had stayed in Malita, coming to Sigaboy for the first time to marry Amya. His marriage was all arranged by his brother Sumungsung. It was a way of extending one’s land and waters, his brother had explained. He was marrying into a big Mandaya family, and the union would increase the prestige and power of their clan which had branches on both sides of Davao Gulf.

The negotiation dragged on. The young Manobo was feeling hungry and he suppressed it with betel nut chew. The people inside the hall did not take any food either. Now it was Datu Dumblag talking. He observed that the Bitaogan people were agitated, and began to argue among themselves. Datu Tomaros talked to them, and they went out of the hall. At some distance from the hall, the Bitaogan warriors continued to argue among themselves.

Then he heard the unmistakable whistle call of his brother Sumungsung. His brother was motioning for him to go to the hall. He sprung to his feet, his dog following him.

“Datu, this is my brother, Mangulayon,” said Sumungsung to Datu Tomaros.

“Oh, the husband,“ Datu Tomaros said, taking a quick appraising look at the young Manobo. “He’s very young,” he added, then turned to Sumungsung, dismissing Mangulayon. But the datu took another look at the young Manobo, as if struck by something.

“You’re a hunter?” the Datu said.

“Yes, Datu.”

“He’s a bagani,” interjected Sumungsung. “One kill.”

“Oh, is that so?” said Datu Tomaros, and a smile crossed his lips.

Mangulayon noted that the datu carried a pistol discreetly tucked in his waist, his silken shirt folded to hide it. The datu exuded commanding power in the hall, with his brother and his in-laws clearly deferring to him.

“This boy’s going to be a great leader,” said Datu Tomaros to Sumungsung. “Someday he will be famous. Mark my word. He’s going to be famous.”

Mangulayon couldn’t stand the datu’s amused probing eyes, and he bowed his head, shuffling his bare feet in embarrassment.

“You’re very lucky,” said the datu. “Your wife’s very expensive. She’s more expensive than any of my own daughters.” And the datu let out a laugh, showing betel chew-stained teeth. “Datu Dumblag, let’s honor a future great leader. When they come back, raise your penalty demand for trespassing by adding another carabao. And for disturbing the peace, I’ll make them pay two cows.”

There was an audible gasp in the hall. In all of Cape San Agustin there were no cows except in the ranch of the Spanish priests in Sigaboy.

“We have to impose stiff penalties to ensure peace among us,” Datu Tomaros said, his voice becoming serious. “We cannot afford to war on one another while the white men are lording it over Davao. They are our common enemy, the Katsila! Hijos de gran putas! We have to kick them out!”

So, this was the datu’s motive in the mediation, Mangulayon thought. His brother and his in-laws appeared non-committal. This was dangerous talk. Kick out the Spaniards? It was impossible. About a year ago the inhabitants of Nazareth rebelled, torching the village and fleeing to the mountains. But the Spaniards sent troops from Davao and pursued the rebels in the mountains, killing five of their clansmen.

“The time has never been more favorable than now,” the datu said. “The Tagalogs in Luzon are already in rebellion, and a week ago the tercios in Baganga have risen up against their Spanish officers. The days of the Katsila are numbered. Mark my word! There’s nothing to fear. Their gunboat won’t bother us here; it’s busy. The Tausugs and Magindanaws are also preparing to attack the Katsila. We can easily kick them out of Sigaboy and Mati. We’ll exterminate the Katsila!”

His brother put his arm across his shoulders and led him out of the hall, his dog following him. Back in the shade of the ilang-ilang tree Mangulayon observed that Datu Tomaros went to the Bitaogan men who were still arguing among themselves. The datu talked to them, and in a very short while, the men quieted down. The datu brought the Bitaogan men to the hall. He did much of the talking, and presently, the two sides were shaking hands. The datu was truly powerful. The negotiation was finally over! And Mangulayon could not contain his excitement. Now, they were preparing the ritual of the peace pact. They put a piece of fresh rattan on a low table, and an egg beside it. The balyan priestess who had been summoned for the purpose made intonations, and with one quick stroke of a bolo, cut the rattan in two, the egg spilling its contents on the table. He was now going to get Amya back!

Inside the convento, Mangulayon waited patiently for the Spanish priest to come down from his afternoon nap. He had come to the convento several times, but the priests were always out on their frequent mission trips. When he learned that a priest was around, he sat it out inside the convento. The old convento helper knew him, and allowed him to stay. He shouldn’t be going to the priest, but he was desperate for help. He hadn’t met the priest, but knew his name, Padre Llopart. When the priest finally came down, he rushed to kneel and kiss the priest’s hand. The priest wore a black cassock; he had no hat, showing a balding head. Mangulayon quickly noted his cat eyes were red.

“I am Ramon, Padre,” Mangulayon said in Manobo, then he switched to pidgin Spanish, “Por pabor, ayuda mi, Padre.”

“I have not seen you before, my son,” the priest said in Manobo. “Where are you from?”

Mangulayon smelled coconut wine from the priest’s breath. “Malita, Padre. I was baptized by Padre Urios. I worked in the convento for two years in Malita.”

“Oh, from across the Gulf. Que es tu problema?”

“It’s about my wife, Padre. Maria Teresa. Daughter of Datu Dumblag.”

“Oh, yes. Maria Teresa. Very smart girl. She asked two chickens from me. Said she was going to raise chickens. Very industrious. But she did not tell me she was going to get married. When were you married? Who married you?”

When Mangulayon hesitated in his answer, the priest got very angry. He took a rattan stick hanging on the wall and struck it sharply across Mangulayon’s back twice. Mangulayon felt the sharp pain and winced, but he did not cry out.

“Por Diyos! Por santo! You are already Christians, but you haven’t changed a bit. Getting married in your old pagan ways! Wait till Padre Urios hears about it!”

Mangulayon just bowed his head as the priest continued to scold him, warning him of hell for committing a grievous sin.

“You must get married in church immediately. Do you understand?” the priest said.

“Yes, Padre. But Amya was kidnapped by Datu Gaponggo last month.”

“Gaponggo? Caramba! I will never understand you people. You continue to kidnap and kill each other. And this is the year 1898! That devil of a bagani has to be stopped! Kidnap a Christian girl right here in Sigaboy! Let us see. I will ask for troops from Davao. They should act on this immediately! Ah, if only the Tagalogs are not making any trouble! How dare to revolt against Spain! Ingrates! They’re nothing but ingrates! After Spain has civilized them! They should come here and see how we brought them up from being savages to become human beings! Well, the rebellion will be crushed. And that renegade Prudencio Garcia in Baganga is also going to be crushed.”

Then the priest suddenly began to talk about Datu Tomaros.

“That wily Moro! He’s been secretly going around the villages in Cape San Agustin. He’s up to something. I know it. These Moros are nothing but trouble. If you know anything, you come and tell me. Si, Ramon?”

“Si, Padre.”

“When we get Maria Teresa back the first thing you do is get married in church, do you understand?”

“Si, Padre.”

The night was cold, and Mangulayon curled himself up, pulling a cotton cloth to wrap himself with against the cold. It was deep in the night, but he could not sleep. It had been like this since Amya was gone. He missed her. When he was told that Amya had decided to be the wife of Datu Gaponggo and that Bitaogan had tripled her bride wealth and paid various fines besides, he had protested vigorously to his brother Sumungsung. They were liars! He demanded to see Amya. He wanted to hear from Amya herself telling him she had chosen Datu Gapongo over him! But his brother had merely laughed off his protest.

“Crazy over a woman? Well, it can happen,” his brother had said. “You’ll soon forget her. You can have six Amyas anytime you want.”

Yes, he could afford many wives now. To please him, his in-laws had turned over all they had demanded from Bitaogan. Thus he gained six horses, four carabaos, eight goats, twenty chickens, ten big gongs, six small gongs, ten sacks of unhusked rice, two axes, eight spears, three big patina breastplates, six antique Chinese ceramic plates and a big jar, not to mention two cows that were delivered belatedly and then promptly slaughtered and feasted on by the villagers so there would be no evidence in case the priests made an investigation. He was incredibly rich. All the baganis and young men were envious of him, gawking at him when he visited the village.

But inside he hurt, for he longed for Amya. He had raged when told that the agreement was final, having been sealed with a peace pact. He was disappointed with his brother, but he knew his brother had tried his best, making Bitaogan pay very dearly. Sumungsung had always been good to him, even crediting him with one kill so he could earn a red headscarf and be called a bagani. His brother needed that one kill to make a total of twenty kills and become a full bagani, but he chose to delay getting the title by giving him a share of the kills. And all he did was to wound a Blaan who was attacking Sumungsung. This happened more than a year ago. He and his three brothers went hunting when they were attacked by six Blaan warriors. Sumungsung insisted that it was his kill for saving him. And so he was no longer just a hunter, but also a bagani, although in truth he had never killed a man.

The only person who could really help him was the priest, but when he went back to see Padre Llopart to follow up developments, he found the priest highly agitated. The priest railed against the Tagalogs, Moros, infieles, remontados, and the renegade Prudencio Garcia. He also railed against the cattle rustlers who ran away with five of their cows. He assured Mangulayon though that the rebellion would soon be crushed. He vowed he would deal with the thieves and Datu Gaponggo as soon as the troubles were over. But he couldn’t do anything yet. Rumors were rife that the Moros and Mandayas were joining forces to attack Sigaboy and Mati. And Davao troops were tied down for the defense of the capital itself.

How he missed Amya. In the cold night he longed for her soft, warm body redolent with ilang-ilang flowers that she always wore in a string belt around her waist. She always asked him to bring her ilang-ilang flowers. He did what she always wanted him to do, even help in the kaingin. And he was a hunter, not a farmer! He didn’t think there was any point in planting. The pigs or monkeys would only eat what they’d plant. Besides, there was plenty to gather from the forest anyway. But she wore a scowling face and would not talk to him. So he helped in building the fences and emplacing the bamboo clappers to scare away the pests. He also constructed spear traps and pit traps around the area. As far as he knew he was good to her. There was always pork, or venison, or chicken. When she brought two chickens from the priest, he caught a wild rooster to please her…

He felt his anger rise inside him. Datu Gaponggo! He simply didn’t understand it. Datu Gaponggo already had four wives. Why did he have to steal his wife? Amya, he called out silently. Amya! He took a handful of ilang-ilang flowers by his side and smelled them. He had smelled all the clothings that she had left, but it was the ilang-ilang that best reminded him of her. He was going to get her! But how? And what if she really had chosen to stay in Bitaogan? No, it couldn’t be true! They had kept her a prisoner! He was sure of that. He must see her! He must! He crushed the ilang-ilang flowers in his hand and rubbed them in his face, his arms, his legs, his entire body. He was going to get her!

The moment he crossed the shallow Cambaleon River he knew that he was being watched, and followed. His dog, Toyang, was behaving nervously, now and then snarling. He had made sure that those who were watching him would know he was just an ordinary hunter with no hostile intention. He had a spear, but no shield. He was not surprised when a warrior with a shield suddenly blocked his path, a spear aimed at him.

“Mangangayam ak. Dyak mamaway,” Mangulayon shouted. “I’m a hunter. I don’t want to fight!” he repeated, as he dropped his spear to the ground.

From behind and from his sides several warriors rushed toward him, with two others going straight for the dog. A warrior pushed him so hard it knocked him to the ground, whereupon they quickly bound his hands behind his back with rattan strips. Meanwhile, the dog snarled, bared its fangs, and snapped at the warriors. A spear hit its neck, making it howl in pain. Another warrior hacked it. The dog made yelping sounds, and then was silent.

It was a small price to pay, Mangulayon thought as he was being led by the triumphant warriors of Bitaogan. He was sorry for Toyang, whose carcass was strung on a pole and carried by two warriors. He could train another hunting dog. The most important thing was that he would finally see Amya! His hands hurt from the tight rattan strips that cut into his flesh, but he felt excitement inside him. He was going to see Amya! They walked for several hours in the thick forest and crossed two mountain ridges before reaching Bitaogan. It was a large village beside a wide river, with the houses built on wooden posts, and raised about fifteen feet above the ground.

The gongs sounded their arrival, and people poured out of their houses to see the warriors and their captive. The children ogled at Mangulayon who stood with as much dignity as he could muster. His eyes roved quickly, trying to spot Amya. She was not there. Then the crowd parted, and he saw three tall men approaching. He thought he recognized one of them, one of the young warriors in the negotiation.

“Who are you? What are you doing in our territory?” one of the warriors asked.

The warrior carried a long kampilan sword. What immediately struck Mangulayon about the warrior were his cat eyes. He was obviously of mixed blood. His long hair was tinged brown and his arms were hairy. He had a slim, muscular body, and stood a head taller than Mangulayon. He surmised the warrior was in his late thirties, much older than his brother Sumungsung. The warrior’s countenance exuded kindness. But the eyes. They were cold, determined. Then it dawned on him. Datu Gaponggo! This was the dreaded Datu Gaponggo! Hate flared in Mangulayon’s heart. But what could he do? Datu Gaponggo’s eyes bore at him savagely, overpowering him.

“I, I am Mangulayon. I’m a hunter,” he stammered.

Suddenly the young warrior with Datu Gaponggo rushed at him and aimed a blow in his face. As Mangulayon staggered from the force of the blow, the warrior followed up with a kick that sent him sprawling to the ground. The warrior stepped on his head, grinding his face to the ground.

“I know him! He’s here to take revenge. We have to kill him.”

With his hands bound behind his back and his head pinned to the ground, Mangulayon could not see what was happening, but he felt the point of a spear at the base of his neck. When he tried to move to speak, the spear pierced his flesh and he grimaced in pain. Then suddenly he felt a sharp kick to his side, making him roll over, his face splashing on a mud puddle. A familiar voice rang in his ears: “Kill him! Kill him!” It was Amya’s voice. He turned and saw his wife.

“Amya,” he said.

But Amya kicked him again. “Kill him! You must kill him. Or he will kill you. He’s here to get me. Do you understand, Gaponggo? Kill him!”

Mangulayon couldn’t believe his ears. “Amya?” his eyes looked at her pleadingly.

The young warrior raised his spear, but Datu Gaponggo held his hand.

“You have violated the pact,” Datu Gaponggo said to Mangulayon who was trying to stand up. “Everything had been settled. We owe you nothing.”

“I did not violate the pact. I did not come to fight. I just wanted to see Amya. I will return everything that you gave. I will give more. You give Amya back to me.”

“You’re a fool!” Amya hissed, and slapped him hard in the face. Then turning to Datu Gaponggo she said: “Kill him. Or he will kill you. Kill him!” And she left with decisive steps, the crowd following her with their eyes.

Mangulayon felt as if the entire heaven collapsed on him. He couldn’t believe what was happening. He couldn’t understand Amya’s behavior. Demand his death! He had come to know the truth. And now he knew! He was bound, muddied, and bleeding amid a hostile people. Powerful emotions surged inside him as he realized he was in a very vulnerable position. He could even be killed, and for what? His eyes stung with tears which he tried hard to suppress.

“We’ll see what Datu Tomaros has to say about this,” Datu Gaponggo said. “In the meantime, send him to Mamacao.”

It was already deep in the night, but Mangulayon couldn’t sleep. They no longer tied his hands at night, but he still couldn’t sleep. Around him were six warriors who were sleeping soundly, two or three of them snoring. Like them he was tired after working all day in the kaingin, but his mind was still active. He kept thinking of Amya’s betrayal. The wound in his neck had healed, but the wound in his heart festered. He couldn’t tear away from his mind what she did to him in front of the Bitaogan people. Any sign of affection would have mitigated the indignity he was suffering in the hands of his captors. His efforts to see her would have meant something then. But she kicked him, slapped him, and ordered him killed! When he thought of that, he would weep silently at night. He raged inside him. He wanted to shout. Run amuck! Against his will hatred for Amya grew in his heart, as intense as his hatred for Datu Gaponggo! Datu Gaponggo! He swore he would pay for all this. He was just a simple hunter, doing nobody any harm, but Datu Gaponggo had to interfere with his life. He was going to kill him! He was going to kill Amya! And he wept silently, feeling so alone and abandoned. Amya, his mind called out. Amya! And inside him he felt a rage that knew no bounds. He wished the night would end quickly. He wanted daylight to come. He wouldn’t think of her then.

In the morning, the kaingin hummed with activity. Overhead, flocks of parrots winged their way into neighboring forests. Occasional hornbills would alight on surrounding trees, make cawing sounds, and fly away. Mangulayon concentrated on axing a tree. He was one of more than twenty workers who were working in the kaingin in Mamacao, a fairly wide terrace on a mountainside that was difficult to ascend, and therefore easy to defend. It was to be the redoubt of Bitaogan in case the Spaniards counterattacked. That was all the talk among the kaingin workers. Bitaogan had agreed to attack Mati. They were now planning with the Mandayas around Dawan and the Moros of Tagabakid to coordinate their attacks on the town.

When it was lunchtime Mangulayon sat beside the stump of a huge tree and ate his camote in silence. The slave Daksa, who had become his friend, later joined him. Daksa was a few years older than Mangulayon. He was sold as a slave when still a child to Datu Gaponggo’s family. He had become a trusted slave, and was in fact treated like a family member. He was assigned to shuttle between Mamacao and Bitaogan to bring provisions and do other errands.

“Next week, we’ll burn the kaingin,” Daksa said. “The clearing is already wide enough. Then the women will come and plant. The warriors are raring to go to Mati.” Then Daksa’s voice dropped almost to a whisper. “Do you know you’re very lucky? You should have been dead by now. Everybody’s surprised Datu Gaponggo didn’t kill you.”

“Why would he kill me? I didn’t violate the truce.”

“All the men, he killed. The husbands of his women, I mean. Maybe he’s trying to humor Datu Tomaros. But he doesn’t really need to kill anymore. That kampilan of his has killed more than a hundred men. But you watch out for Bilto and Sumalay, the younger brothers. They’re racing each other to get a full bagani title. Bilto lacks one kill to score twenty, while Sumalay lacks three. They will find any reason to kill you.”

Mangulayon fell silent, letting the information sink in. He was in grave danger. Working at Mamacao was only a temporary reprieve.

“They won’t find any reason. I am not a danger to them,” he said, appearing to be unconcerned. “They won’t dare offend Datu Dumblag. Anyway, when they get to Mati they can kill as many as they like.”

Daksa laughed. “Yes, that’s true. But you know, as a captive… You just cannot tell. By the way, I heard Datu Dumblag has agreed to attack Sigaboy.”

“I wonder why he hasn’t done anything to get me out of here.”

“I guess everybody’s busy. This war talk is everywhere.”

“I can be useful while I’m here. I can hunt. I can bring meat. It will make camote taste better. All I need is a spear. There are many wild pigs and deer around here.”

“They say you’re the best hunter of Malita. But I’ll have to confer with Macusang. l suppose it’s possible. Here, get some betel nut chew,” Daksa said, opening a packet made of banana leaf. “Amya gave this to me. She said I should share it with everybody. A strange girl. She’s almost like a Bisaya. Planting here and there. Datu Gaponggo’s very fond of her though.”

Mangulayon felt as if a spear pierced his heart, but he kept silent.

“Datu Dumblag and Datu Gapoggo have always been fighting. Now there will be peace between them. Whew, the fortune Bitaogan had to pay for her! She’s more expensive than a Moro princess!”

So, this was the real reason why Datu Gaponggo had kept Amya. It was to extend Bitaogan’s land and waters, the same reason his brother had married him off to Amya. But Datu Dumblag had other daughters! Why Amya! Amya was his wife! Anger again flared in Mangulayon’s heart, but he quickly reined it in. He mustn’t show his true feelings. He must appear resigned. He must appear like a submissive slave until he could make his plan of revenge!

“Hmm, what’s this?” Daksa said, picking out a piece of what appeared to be a leaf. He smelled it. “Oh, ilang-ilang,” and he threw it by his feet. “Here, get some.”

Mangulayon’s hand trembled as he picked up half a betel nut amid some ilang-ilang flowers on the unfolded banana leaf. He sprinkled the nut with lime dust, folded a betel leaf around it, and put the chew in his mouth. Ilang-ilang flowers? He picked up an ilang-ilang and smelled it, then threw it by his feet nonchalantly. Was Amya sending him a message? Mangulayon’s heart began to beat wildly. She was sending him a message, he was sure of it! When Daksa left him to distribute the betel nut chew to the other workers, Mangulayon secretly picked up the ilang-ilang flowers that had been thrown on the ground and tucked them in his waist.

That night Mangulayon could not sleep. He was very excited. He kept smelling the ilang-ilang flowers which he cupped in his hand. Amya cared for him! Yes! And images flashed in his mind. She always woke him up in the early morning as the parrots chattered in the trees. Then she would nudge him to take a dip in the river. How he loved to hear her laughter, soft and sparkling. But most of all he loved to see the delight in her face when he brought her ilang-ilang flowers. How beautiful she was, her smiling face framed by bangs and two long stands of hair dropping by her ears. Amya! She cared for him after all, he was sure of that! But then the image of his capture loomed in his mind, and deep doubts assailed him. She had kicked him, slapped him, and ordered him killed! If she had cared for him she would have rushed to protect him! She had abandoned him! No! She cared for him! That was the meaning of the ilang-ilang flowers! But what if he was wrong? What if the ilang-ilang flowers were not meant for him? What if she was happy with Datu Gaponggo? And when he thought of that, his hatred for Datu Gaponggo seized his whole being. He was going to kill him! He was going to kill Amya! And when this thought crossed his mind, he gave in to his tears. No! She cared for him! He wished that she cared for him! And throughout the night, Mangulayon was tormented by contradictory passions.

In the morning, Mangulayon got a spear and bolo from Daksa, and he immediately set out for the forest. Without a dog, he knew it would be difficult to chase down a pig, but he had to try. Studying the ground, he found pig tracks in the gap between two boulders. The gap led into a depression which the pigs skirted on their way to a little stream. A natural pit trap! At some distance he found a bamboo grove of the butong variety standing on a hillock. The hillock marked the start of a cliff with a sheer drop down a wide river. Before cutting the bamboo Mangulayon offered betel nut chew to the panayangan tree spirits, and he also prayed to the Virgin Mary. He split some of the bamboo to make sharpened stakes. He brought the sharpened stakes to the depression and stuck them on the ground. He placed bamboo sticks across the mouth of the pit, creating a lattice. He then carefully covered it with various leaves, then put a thin layer of soil on top of the leaves, then put burned camote at the center of the trap, then gathered dried leaves and threw them onto the pit trap to make it blend with the surroundings.

In the brush at some distance from the pit trap Mangulayon also found pig tracks. He selected a tree branch that recoiled sharply, cut it, and constructed a balatik spear trap out of it. He stuck a small Y-shaped branch on the ground and laid on it a sharpened piece of wood that he had fashioned into a spear. Around the taut behuko rattan that was the trip mechanism he scattered pieces of burned camote. In another brush he constructed his second balatik. Then Mangulayon rested for a while. He could build more traps the next day. It was already late in the afternoon and he decided to go back to the kaingin.

At the kaingin the workers had stopped working and were idling around, forming groups around outdoor fires where they grilled camote or bananas, or cooked them in pots. Daksa called him to join his group. The talk was centered on the planned attack against the Spaniards in Mati. Datu Gapunggo had already sent the first batch of warriors to reinforce the Dawan and Tagabakid contingents that were poised to attack Mati. They did not understand why Datu Gaponggo was still keeping them at the Mamacao kaingin when it was already wide enough. Anyway they were just waiting for orders. They had long been prepared to leave at a moment’s notice, many of them eager to get their bagani ranks.

The next morning work at the kaingin began as usual, and Mangulayon went out to inspect his traps. They had not been disturbed, so he decided to search for the wild pigs. An hour into his search in another section of the forest he found deer tracks. Fresh deer tracks! He followed the tracks that led to a pool. Instead of following the tracks further he decided to wait near the pool. He hid in a bush where he made himself comfortable and waited. He waited, trying not to think of anything else but the hunt. And sure enough, after what had seemed like an eternity, a doe appeared to drink at the pool. At the right moment, Mangulayon attacked, completely surprising the doe.

Mangulayon was excited as he returned to the kaingin, the deer slung on his shoulder. They were going to have a feast! The sun had just passed high noon. It had been a long walk, and the load was heavy, but he didn’t mind it. When he was near the kaingin he was almost half-running, very eager to show off the result of the hunt. But to his surprise the kaingin was silent. Were they resting already? He didn’t see anybody about. He looked inside a hut; it had been cleaned out. He put the carcass of the deer on the ground and went to the other huts. They were all empty. The kaingin had been abandoned!

“Yuhoy! Yuhoy!” he called out. The response was utter silence. Then he heard the rustling of footsteps, and when he looked in the direction of the noise he saw Datu Gaponggo with his two brothers. Deep in his heart he hated Datu Gaponggo, and in his mind he had killed him many times, but seeing him now with his kampilan struck terror in his heart. His knees began to shake. As custom dictated, Mangulayon dropped his spear and bolo to show his submission. But the younger brothers advanced towards him with a strange look in their eyes. One raised a spear, the other a kampilan. It struck him as a hostile act, and instinct told him to run. He turned around and ran. He ran as fast as he could. They meant to kill him! The spear grazed his leg, hitting a branch of a fallen tree as he climbed over it. He ran, or climbed over fallen trees, or ducked under them, with the two brothers in hot pursuit. He cursed himself for dropping his weapons. He was totally defenseless against the veteran fighters. He swung his head to take a quick look at his back and saw that the brothers were quickly closing the distance between them. The warrior would soon be in a position to throw his spear again. It was going to be his end. There was nowhere to hide, no time to hide. Then he suddenly realized he was in the vicinity of the traps! The traps! He ran with a zigzag motion, using the trees to cover him and prevent the warrior from throwing his spear. He ran towards the two boulders. The warrior was gaining fast on him. Past the two boulders, Mangulayon went to the left before curving to the right. He glanced back, and as he had expected, the warrior made a short cut and fell with a crash into the pit trap, uttering a hideous cry!

The other warrior hesitated for a moment as he saw his brother dead or dying. Then with a cry he rushed at Mangulayon with a raised kampilan. Mangulayon made a dash towards the nearest balatik. Having crossed the balatik, Mangulayon suddenly stopped to pick up a stone. The stone hit the warrior’s shoulder, but the warrior didn’t mind it and continued rushing at him. The warrior tripped on the trigger mechanism, and fell to the ground as the spear made a quick swooshing sound, skewering his stomach.

Mangulayon dropped to his knees, gasping, and crying, allowing the terror he felt inside to subside. Then he realized he was still in grave danger and could not afford to relax. He rose quickly and took the kampilan. He found it heavy. But at least he had a weapon. Then as he had feared, he saw Datu Gaponggo emerge from a distance. Strong emotions buffeted him. His hate for the man surged inside him! He must kill him! He wanted to rush at him and fight him! But he knew he had no chance against the master bagani. And realizing this, he was suddenly seized with fright as Datu Gaponggo advanced toward him. The second balatik! He would draw Datu Gaponggo toward the second balatik! He ran toward the brush. Datu Gaponggo followed him at a steady pace, not attempting to overrun him. He understood Datu Gaponggo’s plan. Follow him, wear him down, and finally corner him. Datu Gaponggo must have sensed that he was getting tired. His hope was the balatik! After crossing the rattan trigger mechanism, he stopped and faced Datu Gaponggo. He searched around for a long stick, and finding one he raised it as if it were a spear, and aimed it at Datu Gaponggo. Datu Gaponggo slowly advanced, then with a sudden stroke, he cut the trigger rattan, and the spear in the trap flew harmlessly into the brush. Mangulayon saw a scornful smile cross Datu Gaponggo’s face. He had seen through his plan! Mangulayon threw the piece of stick at Datu Gaponggo who deflected it easily with his kampilan. Mangulayon thought of fighting it out and raised the kampilan. But when Datu Gaponggo advanced toward him, he lost heart. He knew he couldn’t win, and his knees began to shake in the overpowering presence of his enemy. With all his might he threw the kampilan at his advancing enemy. Datu Gaponggo merely shunted the kampilan with his own kampilan, making a loud clanging sound.

And Mangulayon was running again. He was tired. He did not know where he was going. He only knew he must get away from Datu Gaponggo. Then he realized he was heading toward the cliff. Datu Gaponggo had deliberately led him there! But the river! It was his hope! He ran toward the cliff only to find that it was too high, and the river too far. If he jumped he would surely fall on the rocks below. Toward his left he saw the hillock where he had gotten the bamboo poles. He remembered the river had seemed to snake nearer to the cliff. His hopes revived! Gasping for breath he climbed the hillock that was littered with the bamboo poles he had cut. To his dismay he found the river was still too far to jump. He was faced with the choice of jumping or fighting. Either way, he was going to die, and when he realized it was his end he raged and shouted at the top of his lungs. He picked up a sharpened bamboo pole, intending to face his relentless enemy. Like a wild boar that had been cornered, he was going to rush at his enemy! If he was going to die he might as well die fighting! Datu Gaponggo was now at the foot of the hillock. Shaking with fear, Mangulayon tried to steady himself and threw his bamboo spear. Datu Gaponggo merely flicked his kampilan to deflect it. Mangulayon picked up another bamboo spear and prepared to throw it. Datu Gaponggo merely looked at him, and their eyes met for a few seconds. What struck Mangulayon was that Datu Gaponggo’s eyes were calm, even kind. His enemy began to ascend slowly. As Datu Gaponggo was ascending, he looked down briefly to secure his footing. In that split second, Mangulayon’s instinct took over him, and he threw his spear, hitting Datu Gaponggo in his chest, making him fall backward, his kampilan flying away from his hand. The sight of his fallen enemy first stunned Mangulayon, but he recovered quickly. He ran down the slope and took Datu Gaponggo’s kampilan. As Datu Gaponggo writhed, Mangulayon brought down the kampilan and beheaded his enemy. Tears blinding his eyes, he raised the enemy’s head by its hair and shouted victory cries at the top of his lungs! He danced around, offering a victory prayer to the war deity Mandalangan.

Exhausted, Mangulayon rested for a while. He couldn’t believe his triumphs. He was alive! He looked at his body and was appalled to see so much blood on his person. He washed himself clean in a stream. He also washed Datu Gaponggo’s kampilan. Now he was going to rescue Amya!

The sun was starting to sink beyond the mountains when he reached the village. Half-running, he went boldly to the center of the village, passing by women and children who did not pay him any attention. At the biggest house he saw her! Amya! She was calling the chickens, scattering corn around her. His heart leapt with excitement at the sight of her. He wanted so much to touch her, to embrace her, and bring her away, away to where nobody would dare touch them again! But then he stopped on his tracks, not knowing how she would receive him. He remembered how she had slapped him, kicked him, and ordered him killed!

When she saw him, her mouth dropped, her eyes wide with surprise. She looked around quickly, and froze. He followed the direction of her eyes and saw an old man by the window of the big house. He recognized the old man: the chief Bitaogan negotiator! Suddenly Amya rushed at him, shouting, “Go away! Go away!”

Mangulayon thought she was going to strike him, and he took a few steps backward, raising the kampilan as a warning.

“Now, he’s going to kill you,” she hissed. “Don’t you understand? I tried to save you once! Now, I can’t anymore. You must go! Run! Hurry!”

She tried to save him? She cared for him! And Mangulayon’s heart swelled with utter joy. Then he heard rapid gong sounds, and warriors appearing out of nowhere. They were either very young or very old warriors, the able-bodied men having been sent to Mati. The old man advanced toward him with a raised kampilan. The other warriors also advanced toward him.

Mangulayon stood his ground as Amya kept pushing him, telling him to run. But he was ready to die with Amya by his side! The old man advanced slowly, holding the kampilan with his two hands. But a few paces away from Mangulayon, the old man suddenly stopped.

“What are you doing with my son’s kampilan?” he asked in a loud voice.

The father of Datu Gaponggo! He had recognized his son’s kampilan! Mangulayon raised the kampilan higher, ready to defend himself. To his utter surprise the old man dropped his kampilan to the ground. The act of submission confused the other warriors, paralyzing them.

“You have killed him?” Amya asked in disbelief, looking at the kampilan.

Mangulayon felt Amya’s hand pulling him. She was not pushing him, but pulling him. She was going away with him! He let Amya lead him. He felt so light, his heart pounding with excitement and joy. Amya was finally beside him, running beside him, tears streaming down her face. As he was running, many thoughts crowded his mind, but he shunted them aside. The most important thing was that Amya was beside him, smelling of ilang-ilang that he had missed so much for so long.

—-
Macario Tiu teaches Literature at Ateneo de Davao University. This story was published in the December 21, 2008 issue of Philippine Graphic.

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