wo days ago I received a call from my good friend Jess who was coming back from Malaysia on a business trip. He asked if I could pick him up at the airport around 1:00 in the morning. I remembered the last time I brought him to the airport which took me more than two hours to cross – a stretch just between Makati and Pasay. I had reminded him to take the late night or early morning flights next time. So there I was cruising along EDSA. I reached the airport in 30 minutes flat from Eastwood and believe it or not I enjoyed the late night breeze with my car windows open.
Jess was already outside the lobby when I met him. Did some hugs and placed his baggage in the trunk. He asked, “Do you have any plans today?” I said no to which he replied, “Great, let’s go to Wil’s place.” I said, “Do you know what time it is?” He replied looking at his watch, “Sure, we’ll be there by 3:00 AM, anyway, they’re expecting us.”
So there we were on SLEX going to Batangas where Wil was now permanently residing. Wil a childhood friend of ours, was formerly a professor at SUNY-BROCKPORT (State University of New york – Brockport) teaching Philosophy to local and international students. Unfortunately, he suffered a stroke and had to come home. He now walks with a limp and his left arm is almost completely immobile. His mental faculties and speech however, has remained unaffected. As expected, he was already in his front porch sipping coffee at 3:30 in the morning anticipating our arrival. Another round of hugs, short talk, and jokes about his frailties, then we were shown to the guest room. He said, “Breakfast will be at 7:00, will you guys be up by then?” “Sure, no problem,” we said.
The following morning after breakfast we proceeded to a far corner of his farm where Wil had started an additional site for his poultry and piggery plans. I also noticed a bare part of land where vegetable harvest must have recently taken place. And a small extended bamboo hut serving as respite for the handlers. The area was surrounded by lush greenery – “Millionaire’s vines,” chinese bamboo, papaya trees, coconuts, etc. And it was far from the smog of daily city life.
While resting, Wil instructed one of his helpers to cut down some buko or coconut, “Mala-uhog, wag magulang. Kelangan lang namin yong tubig. Biyakin mo na at yong pinaka kutsara ng buko wag mong kalimutan.” In short, natural coconut juice with a makeshift spoon for scraping the coconut meat from its sides.
So while we were there sipping the coconut juice and watching our friend Wil try his best to scrape his portion of the coconut with only one hand (no, we didn’t help him, we enjoyed this part which some may think cruel, but instead, even taunted him, “kaya mo yan!” Only friends for more than five generations will understand this). We started discussing life, politics, and it came to religion.
Wil was a Catholic but Jess and I were an INC. We came to the subject of EVM expelling his mother. Wil was relatively silent during our discussion about Ka Tenny’s expulsion maybe because of respect for our faith. But after awhile, he said, “I’d like to tell you a story. This is based on true events guys.” (When Wil starts talks with such an introduction, you know it will hit where it hurts most. He was like that. What can you expect from a professor with philosophy as backdrop.)
“A long, long time ago,” he started (yes, he was also a Star Wars fanatic). “there lived a very strong but compassionate king. His people loved him because he was able to protect them from the many enemies surrounding his kingdom and was also able to provide food on their tables. He was also known as a king with a short temper whenever any of his laws were violated.
One day he sensed that the palace treasury was being depleted little by little but could not pinpoint the culprit. In anger he decreed that anyone caught stealing from the palace treasury would be dealt with 20 lashes in public. However, this did not stop, so the king issued a second decree – 30 lashes in public to anyone caught or involved in squandering the palace’ treasures. Word leaked out to his kingdom and everyone was abuzz with the king’s rage. In spite of the king’s wrath, the stealing continued until he issued a final warning – 50 lashes in public. Very few have even survived a 30 lash punishment much more a 50 lash one.
On a very quiet and late night, one of his generals woke him in his sleep and reported that the culprit was caught and arrested. He sprung out of his bed took his sword by the bed and simultaneously shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Where is the filthy thief so that I may cut off his head!!?’ ‘She is outside your door, my king,’ replied the general. ‘A woman is she, bring her in and I will show her no mercy!!?’
The general slowly walked to the door, opened it and two guards brought in an old lady her head covered with cloth. The king approached with reserved rage the thief and pulled off the cloth covering her face. In the darkness he could not immediately identify who she was but something looked familiar. Then all of a sudden he knew why. The fugitive was her mother! The sword in his right hand suddenly dropped to the floor unknowingly. The king stunned, turned head down and walked back slowly to his room and ordered his guards to imprison her.
The discovery spread like wildfire throughout the kingdom. Everyone was asking if the king would punish his own mother or if he would disregard the law on punishment he himself decreed. The King was unapproachable for several days until he announced that the punishment of 50 lashes in public would take place. The kingdom was now bustling with everyone making interpretations on the punishment – some saying it would be inhuman and others insisting that no one is above the law.
On the day of the execution, her sickly mother a 90 year old former queen of the kingdom was brought to the city center. She was tied on a pole with her hands extended above her head revealing her frail naked back to the observing crowd. Not a whimper was heard from anyone witnessing the event. All eyes were on the king and her mother.
The king sat in one corner with his generals beside him. He ordered the executioner to come forward and stood up from his throne. ‘Let it be known from here on end, that no law so decreed by the king shall be broken!’ At this juncture, the executioner with whip in hand positioned himself a few feet behind the king’s mother and waited for the king’s signal to implement the 50 lashes. The king slowly raised his hand and motioned the executioner to continue.
But as the executioner was about to make his first of 50 lashes, the king suddenly stood and shouted, ‘Halt!’ He slowly stood up and walked to his mother who was now hanging limp on the wooden pole. The king then disrobed and took off his undershirt revealing a scar-ridden body from all the wars he had gone through to protect his kingdom. He embraced and covered his mother with his own body; gazed at the executioner and ordered him to continue with the 50 lashes.”
Jes and I sat misty-eyed and motionless as Wil ended his story with, “get it?”
We definitely did.
After that trip I checked on the net if there really was such a story. Apparently there was.
By the way Arnel Tumanan, next time let some other bloke do the talking. An audio analyzer can easily be downloaded from the internet and your voice at EDSA compared with that spreading on social media at 36 Tandang Sora, as what I had done. You are one sick joke.