These series of events happened in a town outside of Manila and most probably in the provinces where the queer practices of the locales were not yet exposed to the general public. This account was left to us only by a friar who has heard of the terrible execution of a man anonymously named Vicente by the locales in which the motive was not yet known to us this day. The friar remained anonymous to us for the original draft of the account was written on cheap local paper and deteriorated in time the signature was lost as well as any record of the friar who passed on to us the events left in this account. As the friar’s position was ambivalent, it is recommended that the reader should not trust the account of the friar as to his very lucid and detailed portrayal of the said events. The tendency of the friar to side with the locales was yet ambivalent to us. The version in this paper follows the original format of the friar that is using dashes in dialogue instead of quotation marks.
The cold morning after the end of the typhoon weeks ago ushered in the new day. The farmers of barrio San A- were ready to till the land and start to rebuild what was lost due to the destruction of the typhoon. As was the tradition, they had the usual thanksgiving mass. The town was under a parish of the next town a few days walk; instead they have a rickety chapel made of bamboo and a crucifix donated by the priest of the nearest town. The priest said mass. Wearing a red stole (for it was a martyr’s feast), the priest gave a thirty minute homily on the perseverance of the townspeople in enduring the typhoon among themselves. The barrio San A- was founded a hundred years ago and as they say (from locales we have interviewed so far) it was due to a particular St. A- who made an apparition with the original founders that inspired the barrio’s name. We really don’t think it is possible for such an event to take place, for the accounts of farmers and petty townsfolk are as unreliable as the words of a Sangley. The priest of the nearest town usually pays this barrio a visit, something these people want. The end of the typhoon signalled the need to thank the good Lord for his unending grace upon these people that nevertheless, even if their being uneducated never was a struggle to grasp the limitless fountain of God’s grace a gift that can be only achieved through faith. I really wish I could say mass in that area which would have been the apex of my priestly vocation. Yet after the said event that shocked my ears, it would have been necessary to postpone this endeavour. How did that event happen who was Vicente? The man who was tried, lynched and eventually killed by the townsfolk. The source by which this has come down to us came from a reliable cart driver of our barrio who was there to deliver his cartload of firewood to the locales and was able to see with his own eyes the events of Vicente’s plight into his own death. I have somehow managed to acquire the few pages of his account and have written down the things he has told me after the lynching of Vicente.
-from the account of Edgar Lorenzo, the cart driver
I came for barrio San A- after the typhoon in order to sell some firewood for the farmers. I have heard of the priest’s thanksgiving mass and I suppose to expect him there to ride my cart going back. Unluckily to keep with his practice of the vow of poverty he walked back to the next town with two guards armed with rifles to guide him in his way. Along the way, I met this man. He wore a white shirt with long sleeves folded up to his elbows. The dirty white appearance of his shirt made him look like a weary traveller so I said:
-Kuya, I can take you to the next town, hop in if you want.
He looked at me and that was it. He continued to walk towards the barrio whose chimneys made of brick pugon stoves were visible making it look like I was a few meters nearer. I arrived at sun down and began to sell the firewood to the locales who were very much happy to see my cartload of wood (the wood of their barrio was still wet because of the typhoon). Then the same man entered the vicinity of the barrio. Immediately I asked Mang Tasyo.
-Lo, do you know him?
-Nah! Never seen his face in me entire life must be a traveller of some sorts looking for some hot sopas, a cup of rice and a banig to sleep in but I can’t offer him a thing nor give him a peso I don’t even have a cinco to spend on tuba how can I even feed a guest.
He then laughed so hard that the sound of his laughter revealed a man who is into chewing tobacco and the occasional breaks into cough, his yellowed teeth and the stench of chewed tobacco reeks that I cannot stand the smell. The man entered into the town so calm that he never perturbed anyone with his entrance.
The account of the loyal cart driver gave me the stimulus to prompt myself to continue his account with what he told during our conversations.
The humble town never had a proper church or a proper convent to have a priest with them. Instead, they complement the lack of God’s servant through the wisdom of elder members and the cabeza del barrio who in their efforts to hold together the whole barrio have made explicit directions on their livelihood. I need not to enumerate them but the necessary thing to take into account is the dependence of the people on their elders and the cabeza as if they were sent by God as a supplement to the lack of his shepherds in his flock. They act freely yet according to their own laws. They were happy and their lives possessed order and they never did anything to offend God or their leaders. The entrance of this man in their town was not a momentous event. He entered wearing simple garments. He was neither a dandy nor a lackey from a hacienda. He was simple and anonymous. He never possessed the means to receive acclaim or blame yet his presence created ambivalence among the people.
He walked further towards the barrio looking at the produce of the townspeople. Smiling and looking at them with interest, he said with an interesting grin.
-You seem to be very merry even at the end of a torrent indeed rare for people who seldom experience a storm.
Was there something in his speech to offend the folks? The same question has been flying over my mind since I saw the faces of the townsfolk looking at this man with suspicious eyes. Luckily for him, the cabeza saw the new comer.
-Oy, I guess you’re new in this town eh? Well, I’m Senor Manalo the town’s cabeza.
The cabeza wore the distinctive black coat, silken shirt and a straw hat. The regality of his position meant that he possessed something more than the common townsfolk possessed.
-The cabeza is a very hospitable person then eh.
He said with a grin.
-Should it be possible to stay a few days in your town and feed on your abundant produce?
-You can senyor and you can stay at the hut beside my house it has the most perfect view of the sky.
The following lines of the conversation sadly was not audible to Edgar’s ears but as he continued with his account in my presence. The man stayed at the town and seemed to be welcomed by the cabeza and eventually by the whole town itself.
Silence filled the town as nightfall came. The darkness ate every possible light for me to be able to return home safely. Thus, I decided to stay for the night. I enjoyed the privilege of staying at one of the elder’s house. Here, I started to hear the rustling of dry leaves on dry ground something unusual at night. Making my way out of the dark street with a lamp on my left hand and a huge stick on my right, I made my way into the dark fields and saw a figure dark and solitary walking to and fro seeming not knowing what to do. I don’t want to cross paths with this unknown entity. Images of blood filled my head and the idea of being mugged at this kind of place is beyond all possible ideas perceivable and thinkable. Ha! So there I was foolishly looking at the darkness. The black profiles of plants and trees and anything else cast a vague view on my eyes unused to the dark. How stupid I was that it was the unknown man. The vague light of his lamp was raised on his face and the look of a person experiencing the same confusion as I do was right on my face. Then, he smiled at me. Without any form of speech and other forms of communication, the smile seemed to be a very crucial message to me. Like saying “don’t worry I won’t kill you” was the assurance that I knew was certain at that moment. After all, he was sitting at a stone looking at the dark sky. Indeed, it was starry. On his lap is a large leather portfolio and as much as my naked eye can see he was writing something on those blank sheets of paper. I returned home to find myself tired and ashamed at the false fear I tried to immerse myself into. What foolishness was it to seem that I am to be killed by a bandit. Who would kill a petty seller of wood who earns only 30 pesos per week on selling wood, 10 pesos as a church sexton and an addition of 25 pesos in reading other people’s letters or writing them. I slept without being aware of it.
The next day came and the town was alerted by the wailing of men. Men wailing, it may sound impossible but at the moment in which a man’s life is at stake he starts to cry at the midst of fate unfolding before his eyes. The cabeza’s daughter died. Her chemise wet with sweat and a patch of blood on the part of her thighs reveal a slow and painful death. Our man woke up in this commotion of small talk and gossiping something townsfolk are used to do as if they were really the news.
The cabeza was in tears and the expression on his eyes reveal the hopelessness of life pouring down upon his eyes nothing can describe his unimaginable suffering. He loved her so much that he wanted her to be educated and now he finds himself trying to find the proper garments for her funeral. A priest on the other hand was not available. She would have to be buried without a Catholic blessing.
What sort of sickness did she die from? These were the questions that flew out of the crowd who flocked at the cabeza’s house just to witness the spectacle of an unknown death.
-We have done nothing to displease God for him to do this unto us. But let us try to discern and find the answers for this problem.
The cabeza was systematically in control. His authority does not rest on the council of elders nor from the people. He was the legal counsel of the town and anything that he said was taken for literally and without doubt.
Wailing, those were the only sounds that I can hear. The faint chatter of women in black veils and rosaries filled the silence of the dark and tranquil night. Still, the unknown man was in the fields looking at the stars and writing something unknown to me or the people. I better not disturb him.
The next day news started to spread into the town.
-Wickedness! Oh what wickedness! Evil lurks in this town!
Like wildfire, the people are drawn into gossip and small talk.
-There is a witch before us.
Edgar cannot explain the following events. The people were so drawn into the mysterious death of the cabeza’s daughter that the only solution was to find something sinister within them. Although they have been together for almost every moment of their lives and the faces of each other are so tightly embossed on their minds. They would never distrust other even to the point of death. Yet, it is still a mystery to me and my friend that the people can immediately conclude a sinister entity is within them. The gossiping of townsfolk continued to spread like wildfire over the town. Hut after hut stories started to take place. The tragedy was too much to bear. The death of such a lovely girl was the death of a queen. Her lifeless body lay in the casket. Her closed eyelids and innocent face of death shed an all too much burden to bear. She died without a word, without a small farewell note. Her sweating body, the wet chemise and the patch of blood were signs of a torturous end. What could have happened to summon this event?
Then I find myself again staring at the dark fields. The faint light of the unknown man’s lamp was the only spectre of light available within my sights. I decided to stay. It would be soon important to take whatever news from this town to the city and maybe just maybe we can shed light into a mysterious disease or event sprawling about in this town.
Again, the stars, suddenly I remembered the unknown man looking at them in the middle of the night. What can he see that I cannot see? How come such a person with little or no distinction was able to stay that late just to look at the fainting and flickering of dots on the celestial plate? They were like peas on a gigantic bilao spread out like little bugs. They were like fireflies yet this man would take hour just to look at them. I decided to abandon any inquiry on this person. Who am I to judge?
I was awakened by the loud steps and angry shouts of people. My eyes still blurry from sleep and my mind still not prepared for what is to come still cannot explain the commotion of people outside.
Edgar’s account stops here and the following events were laid down to me through the mouth of Edgar himself. It was almost four in the morning the usual waking of farmers but the morning was greeted with loud shouting and the angry voices of men about to prepare themselves from bandits.
-We know who killed the cabeza’s daughter.
The man was very much confident about his words. He held a bolo on his right and a torch on his left. A few crucifixes were on his neck. Different shapes and sizes, the cross of this man showed his total reverence for Christ but it was not for reverence or acclamation rather it was for protection.
-There is a witch in this town and we now know who that person is.
-Who could that be? Edgar answered.
This stunned him only a few hours ago he was sitting on a stone looking at the stars. Last night was his last hours. Was he praying to the stars looking at the heavens as if God was there to answer his fate? Is there an escape to this fate? Can God take away the cup of his own death and give him the life he is supposed to have? Yet, he was a heretic. A witch, wizard, and magician to their eyes he was. Is there an escape?
They arrived at the cabeza’s hut. He was writing on a bamboo table and his lamp still burning. He was silent in front of them. Yet maintaining that air of calm he said.
-What is this all about?
-You killed the cabeza’s daughter!
-With what? I never held a weapon all my life more or less kill a girl.
-You were seen last night in the fields staring at the stars if you are not doing something devilish then what is it some form of black magic?
-There is nothing wrong about looking at the skies. Have you not looked at them when you want to know whether it is about to rain or not?
-No! The lord sends rains to make our fields abundant and storms to make us confess our sins.
-He’s right we only trust the Lord and his church no one else. You! You are no part of our church.
-Have I not taken my supper with you? Have I not eaten bread and rice with you? Have I not drunk from the same cups you drink with?
-Don’t listen to him he’s using our minds with that magic!
The man then hurled a huge rock on his body dropping him down on his knees in pain.
He shouted in pain as human as he can be. The people charged in the hut grasping his shirt tightly preparing to strangle his neck and snatch away any air that might be left. He was no more human. He is a mass of flesh walking and wailing in pain as the people strangled him and pulled his shirt. Beating him with their clubs and rocks he was brought to the cabeza.
-Here is the man who killed your daughter.
-Take him away from me!
As he was about to speak he was beaten in the head silencing whatever he was about to say. Blood and sweat poured from the brows of his head. Wounds appear to be like the stars he so endlessly observed. Flickering showing itself and then hiding itself again yet leaving tainted spots as it leaves. Pulled away from the cabeza’s house, he was dragged to the streets where the people filled with an unquenchable desire for blood beat him with sticks and clubs. No one was there to maintain order midst the chaos. A mere attempt to stop the berserk crowd by blocking them was a meagre attempt to slow the unfolding breaking of the man’s body.
-Vicente! You evil thing!
-Drive him out!
Shouts were to be heard from the streets and the low voices of women and children smirking at the event mocked the person’s last strands of dignity. He was pulled as far to the town proper. They stood at the entrance. Blood filled his white shirt and he was unable to stand. Shaking he was made to stand and face the crowd. His eyes were almost shot his forehead filled with the bluish remnants of a strike in the head.
-Get out! Leave at once never return you wretched thing!
He was kicked by the same persons who welcomed him and distrusted by the cabeza who with hospitality welcomed him to their town. He turned and slowly walked away his feet shaking. His pace was staggered. The people made him wear a placard on his chest written in barbaric Spanish.
El Hereje Terrible
I returned to the unknown man’s house and learned that his name was Vicente. I never knew about his surname and I think it would be necessary enough to stop at that very enigmatic name of which I cannot fathom anything. His house was neatly arranged and nothing was of his own except for a few pages lying on the table unfinished and it stops at the middle of the page. I tried to read the pages but it was written in Latin something I cannot understand even though I have been going to church all the time. There were only lines and circles and a few words written on them yet whether they mean something magnificent or even though they unravel the secrets of the stars and the heavens I cannot understand the words written on them so I decided to retrieve them and tell this event to the friars and confess my sins. I never did anything to stop this rampage instead I kept myself on the side watching as if everything was a moro-moro with an ending were the dead stands up and bows to the crowd clapping madly at the performance. Instead it was a real tragedy someone was banished for real no one bows to the crowd and everything turns into a joyous celebration of their own victory at something. What was that something? I started to write these words when I felt that guilt feeling that I even though an ardent Catholic cannot even understand. They were fuelled by their own faith and maddened by their own fears. I hid Vicente’s manuscript in the pile of wood and prepared my cart for a long journey back to town. It was the time when I heard two shots from the horizon. I tried not to imagine the inevitable but it cannot be flushed away. I should bury him when I pass by the road and see the lifeless body that once marvelled at the heavens and when I reach the town church I shall have a mass said for him. It was the feast of a martyr.
Anonymously translated from the original languages
Ed. The friar made the town’s name anonymous presupposing that the authorities might read it and investigate about it so he made it look like a work of fiction.
Ed. Local records of the friar’s town tell us that Edgar Lorenzo was a former sacristan of the barrio parish who after his almost twelve years into service acquired education from different friars one of which was a writer who taught him how to write.
© Copyright 2016 Pater Profundus. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Historical Fiction
Short Story / Religion and Spirituality
Essay / Non-Fiction
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