“Legends say that blood allures gold and for a gold mine to be full of gold, it needs blood. But a goat’s blood is not enough.” Said the 58 year-old Mang Berto as he shared his story to his fellow small-scale miners during siesta as they rest in the Nipa hut near the Matiao River. “It needs a blood that is something pure and innocent.” Mang Berto said coldly to everyone in the Nipa Hut.
Mang Berto and his family now lives in Matiao province where mining has been the primary business and a source of profit for most people. In his early 30’s, he worked in a large-scale mining company called King Midas Mining Corp in the Gumayan province. The boss of the company, which the employees called Supremo, believed in a legend that a sacrificial ritual that involves offering of blood every last day of the month inside a mine would allure the elusive gold nuggets. During his stay in Gumayan, Mang Berto worked as a hired kidnapper and the one who executes the ritual along with other hired kidnappers. His job was instant money as the job gave him enough money to buy a small house. However, until one incident changed the course of his life.
As Mang Berto stared at the pan with only a dust of gold, he then remembered everything about his past, more vividly on his job and on his son, Butchok. It was 1981 when Supremo hired Mang Berto. During that time, Mang Berto worked as a small-scale miner who only produced gold that was worth his allowance every month. When Supremo hired Mang Berto, at first he was hesitant. “Berto, I am offering you this job so that you could lift your self out of the slumps.” Said Supremo as he persuaded Mang Berto. “This job is three times bigger the money that you’re earning every month in your small-scale mining.” Supremo added in an asserting manner. As Mang Berto was offered by Supremo, he shook his head in dilemma on whether to continue panning gold every day and earn a little more than 150 a day or earn a huge amount of money in exchange for a child’s life. “Okay, Supremo. I’m in.” Said Mang Berto as he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Last day of April 1981, it was Mang Berto’s first day on the job. At 2:00 P.M., the crew met first in front of the Dagohoy Bar for a briefing. Beside the bar in a parking lot, there’s a white van that’s waiting for him. As Mario approached the van, a man opened the window signaling Mario to hop inside the car. “Mario, this is your first job and it’s your big day. You gotta make this count.” Said Rex, a fellow kidnapper and a veteran on this job. “Plus you don’t want to disappoint Supremo or else he would fire you.” Added Jose as he clicked his Colt MK IV. “Yes, boss!” Replied Berto as he clinched his fist to gain a confidence. ‘”Every thing is set. So where are we heading, Rex?” Asked Jose, the driver. “Same place, Jose. Same place.” Said Rex in a relaxed manner as he lighted his cigarette. “Got it!” Said Jose as he turned on the van.
While on their way to the place where Rex pointed, “Berto, this is what you are going to do. You need to choose one child that you think can easily be fooled. Then you talk to the child in a calm and soothing way.” Said Rex as he explained to Berto the process. “Okay, Boss.” Replied Berto. “Wait, before you approach and talk to the child you need to buy chips first.” Said Rex. “What chips? You mean a junk food?” Asked Berto as he listened attentively to Rex. “Yes, junk food. You know, this job is like fishing; we food to catch the fish. In other words, chips are just sugar-coat of bait.” As Rex explained to Berto what the job was all about. “I see.” Berto responded as he looked outside the car as the three men in the van filled with silence.
Five minutes later, “Okay, here we are.” Said Jose as he breaked the silence and pulled up the hand brake. “Oh, the park.” Said Mario as he remembered happy moments in the park with his son, Butchok and his wife, Amelia who died a year ago with tuberculosis. “What about the park?” Asked Jose. “Nothing. I just remember something.” Said Berto as he sighed. “All right Berto, I know first day of job is always rough, but you have to make this count. You’ve got the necessary information needed so better make this job clean.” Asserted Rex as he looked at Berto. “Yes, Boss.” Replied Berto as he took a deep breath. “Oh! One more thing, don’t look straight into the eyes of the child. It’s trap. Most of all, take your time.” Added Rex as he tapped the shoulder of Berto. Then Berto nodded as he closed his eyes for a bit and went to open the door and left the car.
As Berto entered the park, it’s a walk down the memory lane. He clearly remembered the first time his family went to the park. All the sweet and funny moments they had together was a priceless. Every single day when Amelia was still alive, the smile of Berto’s wife always lightened up his day. As he touched the animal statues, he remembered his son’s joy riding the statue as if it were true and that made him a smile. While he’s walking around the park, he stopped by at this small store owns by an old lady with a grey hair and buys chips for five pesos. After buying the chip, he walked towards the bench and sits where in front are children playing in the slides. There he keenly observed the park for a child prospect. As he looked on the left, he sees this kid and thinks that he’s probably a stray and he’s wearing a tore up t-shirt and shorts and his face was full grease. “Hey kid, do you want some chips?” Said Berto as he smiled and offered the chips to the kid. “Yes!” The kid replied in joy as he sitted beside Berto as if he hasn’t eaten for a few days. “Okay, so what’s your name?” Asked Berto. “Eman.” Said the kid as he ate a handful of chips. “I haven’t brought a soft drinks yet, so you better eat slow.” Berto expressed his concerns as he rubs Eman’s back. “Okay, let’s go buy some drinks.” Engagingly said Berto as the two started to walk towards the small store.
“So where do you live, Eman?” Asked Berto as he expressed his interest towards the child. “In squatters area, behind the Barangay Hall.” Said Eman as he pointed out the direction using his mouth while he continuously ate the chips. “Ah…so where are your parents?” Asked Berto as he subtly avoids looking in the eyes of the child. “I don’t know.” Ken replied as he ate the last handful of chips. “Oh… okay.” Berto sighed as he started to feel pity on the Eman. “Okay, Eman. How about you come with me to my place and eat a lot chips. What do you say? Said Berto as he persuaded Eman. “Sure!” The 8 year-old kid replied in delight. “Before we go to my place, I want you to cover your eyes with this bandana. Are you okay with that?” Charmingly asked Berto. “Sure! This is exciting!” Said Eman as he cheerfully raised his hands and slowly covered his eyes and went inside the car as Berto assisted him.
While on the road, Berto and his colleague stayed silent in the van as Eman sang happily. “La la la… la la… la la la… Are we there yet?” Asked Eman. “Nope, but we are near. Just keep on singing.” Said Berto. “I am excited! La la la… la la… la la la…” Eman replied. After 15 minutes and its half past six in the evening, “We are here! Don’t take off the blindfold yet.” Said Berto as he escorted Eman into the mines and told him to sit there for a bit. As Eman sat down on a chair in the mines, Rex and Jose followed them. “Berto, we are almost done. This is the last part of the ritual; you click the gun, pull the trigger and we are done.” Said Rex as he handed over the gun to Berto. Berto accepted the gun as he clicked the gun; he’s heart was already pounding in nerviness. As he pointed out the gun to the head of Eman, he closes his eyes, looks away and while Eman was still singing, he pulled the trigger whispering, “I’m sorry!” With a single gunshot from the gun, the blood coming out of the head spattered all around the floor and then the crew walked away. “Just leave it there. Someone will take care of that.” Said Jose as he tapped the shoulder of Berto.
It’s been two years since Berto got the job. Taking the lives of innocent children has just become an ordinary day for him. When he’s on the job, there are no emotions involved, unlike before. Now, he’s become invulnerable to emotions that he sees and feels to the child every time he works, it’s just plain slaughter that’s all. Surprisingly, the Corp. became richer than ever. November 1983, before Berto headed home to take a nap, Rex had told him that he would have to sit this one out as ordered by Supremo. “Berto, take a rest. I have a new trainee for today. So go home and get some sleep. That’s an order by Supremo.” Said Rex. “Oh I see. So who’s the new guy?” Asked Berto. “His name is Mario. He’s also been recruited by Supremo, the same as you.” Said Rex. “Okay. I’m pretty sure the first one’s going to be a rough one. Well, good luck to him!” Said Berto arrogantly as he left the van and went home.
“I am home!” Said Berto as he entered the house, took off his hat, and sat down on the sofa. “Oh Berto! Why are you so early? Don’t you have a work today?” said Maricel, Berto’s elder sister who volunteered to take care of Butchok after Amelia died. “I do, but my boss told me that I’ll have to take a rest day because of my good performance, so here I am sitting and watching T.V.” Said Rex conceitedly as he turned on the T.V. “Okay.” Replied Maricel as she rolled her eyes in disgust. “Where’s Butchok?” Asked Berto. “He asked permission to me that he and his friends would go to the park and play there, so I said yes and I told him that he should be back by 6 so don’t worry.” Maricel explained thoroughly. “Wait, what? In the park?” shouted Berto as his heart started to pound heavily. “Why? What’s the matter?” Asked Maricel as she expressed her concerns. “I gotta go.” Said Berto as he jumped out of his couch wore his hat and hastily tied his shoes. “No matter what, you have to stay here, okay?” Added Berto as he immediately ran outside the house.
When Berto arrives in the park, he immediately saw three kids crying in the bench and recognized one of them to be Butchok’s friend. “Hey, Jerry! This is Uncle Berto. Tell me what happened?” Said Berto urgently as he held Jerry’s arms. “Uncle Berto, a man took Butchok away from us and we don’t know who he is!” Said Jerry as he sobbed in fear. “Where?” Berto replied. “I don’t know.” Said Jerry as he continues to cry. “All of you go directly to your home and never tell anyone about this, okay? Now go!” Said Berto in a composed manner as he ran to take the tricycle and drives to the mine.
As he arrives in the mine, he heard a gunshot. He immediately went running towards the site where he killed 15 innocent children in the past two years. As he was running, immense tears were gliding down on his face and it was livid with rage as he was approaching near the site. By the time he arrived in the site, there he sees Rex and Mario and right behind them was Butchok lying on the ground full of blood. As Berto saw his son dead on the ground, his vision deemed in red and his rage erupted. “Rex! Stop that! That is my son!” Yelled Berto as he pulled his gun from behind and started to fire at Rex and Mario. Rex and Mario immediately went to cover themselves and they exchanged bullets with Berto as Berto tried to get the body of Butchok. “Why, Rex? Why?” Berto yelled as he continues to exchanged bullets and weep in anger and loss. “This is only a job, Berto! Only a job!” Rex yelled back at Berto.
“Cease fire!” A voice shouted from a far that roared all over the mines stopping the fight. A man with a coat and tie, along with three huge bodyguards was walking towards Berto. While Berto continued to cry, he inattentively dropped his gun to embrace and continue weeping on his son. As the man with the coat and tie stopped in front of Berto, one bodyguard get rid of the gun and the man with a coat and tie kneel down to talk to Berto. “Berto, this is Supremo.” Supremo said as he lighted up a cigarette. “You! My son died because of you!” Berto yelled as he continued to cry and embrace his son. “Yes, I admit. But I am just doing my job and I didn’t know, all of didn’t know that it was your son. So I apologize for all this.” Said Supremo as he took off his hat and pressed against his chest. “Apologize is not enough. You’ve taken my son’s life it is therefore my right to take your life!” Said Berto as he lunged at Supremo. However, the bodyguards stopped him. “Berto, no matter what, you can’t win against me. I have all the resources and you don’t have any. This is what I want you to do; I want you to leave and transfer to another town and keep your mouth shut or else no one in your family will live. I am giving you enough money to start over with your life and live free. Don’t worry about the expenses of your son’s burial I got it all covered. So what do you say? Deal?” Explained Supremo as he stretched his hand for a handshake hoping for Berto to make a deal. “Berto, remember the lives of your family and relatives is at stake here. So think about it. Oh one more thing it’s useless to file a complaint to the police, because I also got them all covered.” Added Supremo as he smirked in the face of Berto. Berto, without any choices shook Supremo’s hand, as tears falling down on his face.
Studying BS Education at Ateneo de Davao University