|21 The Rifle GuitarComparing notes with a
school acquaintance of mine in one of the coffee shops above the fish market of Zamboanga
City in March 1974, I learned that a few days before my Jolo pier movie scene, during the
mopping-up operations, armed men arrived at the Jolo dock and started rounding up the male
civilians. My friends family, living near the port area, were among the first few
families to encamp at the pier. The males were lined up at the edge of the barren pier,
against a listless sea. Then they were shot at so they would fall off into the sea, some
dead, some alive.
This is the solution that some people
would want to impose on Mindanao.
I had a less painful experience. As the
family rushed out of the house into the raging streets when the fire started to lick the
upper portions of our house, I grabbed my Japanese-made guitar. It was a deep-mahogany
colored guitar that my father, in those days a customs guard who boarded logging ships off
the coasts of Southwestern Mindanao, bought very cheaply from a drunk Japanese sailor.
According to my father, the sailor would have broken the guitar into two if it remained
under his care one minute longer.
In the confusion of the plight, with
bullets zinging in the air and the thumps of mortars reverberating around, my mother had
the sense to see to it that all of her children were intact but did not realize I was
lugging the guitar all along until we rested in one of the kind houses farther up in Upper
My father at that time was on an
assignment in Zamboanga City so I would never know what he would have done with the guitar
himself. But my mother sternly told me to leave the guitar to the son of the house
samaritan when, after a day and a night, we moved on to the general hospital deeper
inland, passing through a jungle trek that some local official, up front in the long
beeline, seemed to be very familiar with.
"Someone might fancy that guitar for
a rifle", my mother told me.
I dearly loved that guitar, strumming it
into the night off those Jingle music magazines, with my sweaty longhaired nape and my
bare back leaning against a windowsill for the most part of my high-school halcyon days,
singing Cat Stevens Moon Shadow or Its a Wild World. In fact, this was how I
acquired my bronchitis, so Dr. Parouk told me, after which I was never to sing again or
even lean on a windowsill to stare at a full moon up to this day.