We are somewhere in the Archipelago of the Philippines, one of the smaller islands, where the blue pacific rollers beat a rhythm of bass drums on the reef, before sending wavelets across the lagoons beneath their verdant mountains.
Anywhere along the beautiful beaches you will see a compliment of bikinied girls. They are often seen dancing and singing because they love to show that they are more beautiful than a mere beach of silver sand. Our small town’s youths are lurking under the coconut trees; some of them are stoned on Shabu (methamphetamine) and haven’t got a clue which planet they are on, let alone what island.
If you are a fat old pig and have arrived full of lust for the innocence of female youth or if you are a young dole bludger looking for cheap dope just don’t come near me. Nowhere near, that’s clear enough.
On the other hand if you are simply seeing the wonders of the world and have some vague moral standards ask for Big Ray and come to my house. I’ll welcome news from overseas, give you a beer and spin some yarns. You will pay attention to this one.
The National People’s Army, NPA are a kind of inverted band of Robin Hood who rob the poor to make themselves rich. This is their version of Marxism. They are loosely banded, up and down the islands and use tactics of off-beat terror to cower the populace. They specialize in murdering policeman. In our tiny town the police often fail to report to the station and when they do they just play cards. They aren’t really worth killing.
Just gone to bed, about 22 00. Great boom from the direction of the communication tower, only a few hundred meters from our house. Rattle of light arms, bullets going zzzz over the roof.
“Hit the deck.”
My family don’t need telling twice, under the beds and fairly safe because we have filled block walls.
The missus starts having a minor nervous breakdown, the kids are screaming with excitement and our dog roddie takes advantage of the situation to jump on a bed and go back to sleep in comfort. I lock them all in the bedroom and extract an automatic shot gun from its secret storage. Load it, and then sit on an armchair and cover the door.
I can hear the neighbors loud crying. I don’t care what is happening outside but if banditos try to break the door down I will fire.
About midnight the gunfire ceases. The town is suddenly silent; thank God, even the neighbors have shut-up.
By 00 10 I have already opened the bedroom, we have drinks and snacks and go back to bed. At this point we have no idea who has attacked the town. It could be the NPA, a battalion of soldiers under a Muslim warlord or even Pirates! We can’t find out because all electronic communications are out.
First light comes quickly because we all fell asleep. When we wake the town is utterly silent. This in itself is incredible in the Philippines, even the roosters are mute.
I have to go out and have a look. An old man is slowly walking down the high street leading a buffalo. There is a hiss from the neighbor’s window. “Look out, Bandits!”
The old man with the buffalo calls from the side of his mouth. “Ahhhrr, NPA, gawn hours ago!”
Now the people let rip with shouts of joy. Houses empty and gossiping groups form.
“We had the kitchen knives ready!” All manner of wild crap, repeated for hours on end.
The police had changed into civvies and hid at the homes of relatives. At the door of their station a pile of gas bottles had failed to detonate. Coconuts, riddled with bullet holes, covered the ground under the beach coconut trees. We were warned by two hours of shooting up tree tops but about what?” They didn’t even leave a copy of their manifesto, probably because it is none existent.
They left the island in a fleet of small boats, travelled across 50 miles of ocean without being challenged by the coast guard, navy or anybody else.
More likely though, you will meet a crowd of Filipino friends at my place. They never stop talking all at once, laughing, teasing, and joking with their eyes sparkling. You will know then that these Islanders are happy people and, best of all it rubs off.