(Here’s an ordinary experience to kindle glow into the cusp of your hand. Ordinary story similar to other ordinary Daily Laborers’ stories of similar but different circumstances. Hidden, yet yearning to be told, at the right time and place, by any ordinary Daily Laborer storyteller.)
Last Tuesday, Ah Kong, in La Union, Region 1, his seminar over and evening settling, hurried for a ride to Baguio City, home, where the pine trees kept whispering, “Speed your butt, you bearded derelict. Turkeys and ducks you left are yowling to be fed, you good-for-nothing lazybones.”
He crossed a street towards a van terminal, cooled his heels for a Baguio-bound van to fill up while thinking that merely two day ago, his friend, Bong Cayabyab, of Baguio City Hall’s Public Information Office, filed him a message.
Ever cheerful Bong wrote the month of July, this year, has five Saturdays, five Sundays and five Mondays, occurring only once in 823 years. Chinese calls this phenomenon “Pocketful of money” and making this rarity known to friends, has its rewards.
As he mused over Bong’s revelation, somebody behind gingerly tapped his shoulder and, in hesitant voice, inquired, “Sika ni Bony? (Are you Bony?)”
Ah pivoted, looked at the “estranghero,” for moments. Then realization set.; he recognized a friend never seen for more than twenty years.
Like what it does to everybody, age etched lines across his friend’s face, but the friend was still the same he knew back in their young blood days.
He was Joshua Cabuwes, a Cordilleran. Exchanging pleasantries, they scooted inside a coffee shop, catching up on lost times. Conversing, it came to pass they remembered an incident in the late 70’s, that time of green leaves of summer, courting and being close to the earth.
T’was that time to be young then, when Joshua bumped one day into a “very purty lady”, decided his heart thumped like a gong for a she, and wanted to court that lady. Or vice-versa: the lady fell for Joshua and decided Joshua was the right guy to tide the rough river with, come hell or high water. By golly, the two got moonstruck.
Ah, a skeptic of dubious character, wasn’t sure who among the two was right. What Ah believed then: Joshua treaded on dangerous, if not uncertain grounds.
Why so? Their worlds were different. But in love, and love being blind, they didn’t see. The pretty lady’s world was made up of things good and fine, her name, Petra, traced her roots in Region 1 and daughter of an upright and incorruptible judge.
That time, the judge had been known for sentencing persons to the gallows for heinous crimes that merited death penalty. It was whispered around that townsfolks named him the “Hanging Judge.” He was fair, but he was firm.
Joshua’s world couldn’t fit in Petra’s world, much he wished it could, he, being the son of a dirt-poor farmer.
When the judge told his daughter that Joshua was one to leave be and forgotten, her daughter knew her father meant it.
They both reached to each other, but their worlds not being the same, they just couldn’t be close, how much they tried.
Two hearts shattered. That’s what happens when two separate worlds close in. But one day, the truth was bound to show before too long. Their love had started growing in the womb of Petra. And she felt the baby moving.
Joshua, knowing the judge looked for him, made himself scarce, hoping to bide his time to appear before after the judge’s anger had subsided.
Folks made a bet if the judge caught up with Joshua, he was as good as skinned alive. Not an empty threat. Many knew the judge would do it. Many times, he proved himself.
One day, the judge sought out Ah and said,” Tell your friend, he can’t run forever from the Long Arm of the Law.”
He relayed the judge’s wish to Joshua, in presence of his parents. Joshua’s father, while unlettered, was a man of practical wisdom and softly said, “ Son, time for reckoning. Appear before the judge.”
That day, in a Region 1 hospital, Petra went into labor, her parents with her. A few hours later, she delivered a healthy and bawling baby girl. It was also that day Joshua, accompanied by parents and Ah, appeared at the hospital.
They entered the ward where Petra was. There stooped the judge, eyes sparkling, smiling, looking with wonder, amazement and happiness written on his face, at the little creature besides Petra.
The judge straightened up, sensing the visitors. He turned, eyes riveted on Joshua. Joshua saw the judge’s frightening countenance. He stood mute, quaking in his rubber shoes.
At last, Joshua stood face-to-face with the Long Arm of the Law.
It seemed an eternal face-off when, slowly a big smile broke the judge’s somber look. He placed his hand over Joshua’s trembling shoulders and gravely said, “Son, the long arm of the law is forever understanding and compassionate.”
The judge continued, “Hereon, I hereby sentence you to a long and happy life with Petra, your wife, with your first baby, my apo, and with my other future apo to be born.”
The friends sipped their last coffee drips. Time for Ah to go. But Ah asked Joshua something that pestered him, “How are you and Petra?”
Joshua smiled and said, “The best. Her request for teaching assignment anywhere in Cordillera was granted. She’s so proud to tell her co-teachers and students she’s married to an Igorot, wants us to move and live in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). Now, I can fully concentrate on my food delivery business in the hinterlands; instead of always going home to the lowlands. Our youngest (they have five kids) son has decided to take up law – in the footsteps of his Lolo – and will enroll in one of the universities in Baguio.”
Oh, boy, Ah, the skeptic was satisfied. Surely, the long old soul arm of the law, bless his soul, up there in the happy courtroom in the sky and helping St. Peter sort out odds and ends, is grinning from ear-to-ear knowing one of his apo will someday become another long arm of the law.
(Correction: In my column entitled “Crom,” published last week, I erroneously misstated the name of our City Veterinarian, in paragraphs 17 and 18, as Dr. Bridget Pogeyed, which should correctly be, Dr. Bridget Pogeyed Piok. To my friend, Bridget, My sincerest apology.)