Monday, June 30, 2014

The True Tales of Pedring Rabino, Part 2

June 2014, Barangay Don Pedro, Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro. As I was inspecting one of the barangay roads leading to the farm, Ka Porek recalled that a certain Felipe Pinca or Mang Ipe, whose house just happened to be a few paces away, knew many of the tales of Pedring Rabino. At the spur of the moment, we walked over to the house of Mang Ipe, who was comfortably seated at the opposite end from the entrance. Immediately, Mang Ipe looked familiar. Although advance in years, he had a giving smile and big round eyes with full of life. I later found out that he was a former employee when I was a young boy tagging along with Dad to visit the farm. I remembered that Mang Ipe, who is a diminutive and lanky fellow, had a limp in his stride, which he was born with. Yet, he was one of the few people (another one was Ka Porek himself) who would carry Dad (who was over 6 feet tall) over the river when the current was strong. We asked Mang Ipe what he remembered of Pedring Rabino. He grinned from ear to ear and proceeded to tell his story.

The Amulet of the Enchanted Egret

He said Pedring Rabino derived many of his powers from, among other magical amulets (anting-anting or agimat), the egg of an enchanted egret (mahiwagang tagak). This was no ordinary white egret, a migratory bird that frequented the shores and plains of Mindoro. It was invisible to the naked eye and could only be seen through its reflection on the water . . . and only if it allowed itself to be seen in the first place. As chance would have it, Pedring was walking in a secluded part of town when he came across a clear puddle of water that revealed a white egret nesting on the adjacent tree. He looked up to peek at the majestic bird and saw nothing perched on the branches. Intrigued by this most unusual circumstance, Pedring decided to investigate, climbing the tree while keeping his eyes fixed on the reflection of the nesting egret. At the very instant Pedring hoisted himself on the trunk of the tree, the great white egret took flight, leaving its nest behind. Nevertheless, Pedring continued to climb until he reached the nest and inside the nest was a single black egg, which was as hard as a rock.

The Great White Egret

As soon as Pedring took the egg from the nest, a fierce looking Mangyan with a formidable spear appeared from nowhere and challenged him to a duel. Pedring secured the egg in his mouth and proceeded to engage in hand-to-hand combat. His opponent was not only trying to overpower him but was particularly keen on retrieving the egg, which remained in Pedring's mouth. After several minutes of intense fighting, the Mangyan disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared--apparently satisfied that Pedring was a worthy keeper of the enchanted egret's egg. As the story goes, this was Pedring's most powerful magical amulet, out of several he reputedly obtained over the course of his life.

The Trial of Ipe

When Mang Ipe was about 15 years old, he already knew about the strange talents of Pedring Rabino. In one of their chance encounters, the young Ipe dared to declare to Pedring that he too wanted the powers of Pedring. In response, Pedring explained that Ipe must have a deep and profound desire for the talent before it is to become his own. Thereafter, Pedring instructed Ipe to follow him through the forest, to look straight at him at all times and to never mind anything whatsoever in the course of their journey.

After confirming that Ipe understood his instructions, Pedring commenced their journey into the forest with Ipe in stride behind him. The two had covered a distance of less than a kilometer but were already well within the forest stand, where many creatures dwelt under the cover of the tropical foliage. Suddenly, Ipe heard a skirmish on his side and he immediately glanced to the left to investigate. When he looked forward to continue his trek, Pedring was nowhere to be found. Ipe called out to Pedring several times but there was no response. He decided to press on, convinced that Pedring was not far ahead. After a few minutes of walking, Ipe stopped dead in his tracks, terrified at the sight of a large cobra a few meters in front about to lunge at him. Without thinking, he turned around and ran back to where they commenced their journey--where Pedring was waiting. Ipe then realized that he had failed a test and would not be granted the powers he sought.

Pedring the Prankster

There was a time when the Island of Mindoro was filled with virgin forests. It was only a matter of time before greedy rapacious loggers and corrupt government officials joined forces to rape and pillage mother earth, leaving her barren in the wake of power saws, bulldozers and six-wheelers.

Due to poverty and the scarcity of jobs, locals were constrained to work for these criminals and became unwitting accomplices to the destruction of the environment. Pedring was no exception. He was hired as a security guard at a base camp and laydown area of felled timber. Like any regular guy, Pedring had a sense of humor and, on occasion, would inadvertently manifest his unusual talents when he played pranks on the people around him.

One of the monster workhorses of logging is the bulldozer. These machines were used to clear the way into the thickest jungle as well as move timber that could not be accessed by cranes or trucks. However, during the typhoon season, even the bulldozer occasionally gets stuck in the mud, which is like quicksand with just the right combination of soil and rain.

One particularly rainy morning while Pedring was on-duty at his security post, a bunch of his co-workers returned from the woods to secure ropes and as many men as possible to pull-out a bulldozer that was stuck in the thick of the forest. Shortly thereafter, the entire crew, including Pedring, made their way to the bulldozer, which was nearly halfway sunk in a pool of viscous mud. The men proceeded to tie the ropes on the machine and collectively heaved with all their might as the operator maneuvered forward. Again and again, they heaved and hoed but without success. It seemed like the bulldozer would sink deeper the more they tried to get it out of its pit. Nearly at the point of exhaustion, the men concluded that they would have to bring the other bulldozer, which was located in the next town, to pull this one out of its predicament. This was an expensive proposition reserved as a last resort.

At this point, Pedring quietly suggested that all of nearly 20 men pull together on only one of the three ropes attached to the bulldozer. Although everyone was sceptical that this would make any difference, they had nothing to lose. But again, the dozer would not budge. Then, Pedring suggested that only 10 men pull on the single rope. This time, everyone thought he was crazy. The entire crew was spent and had no intentions of wasting what little energy they had left to trek back to the base camp. Unperturbed, Pedring takes hold of the single rope and signals the operator to drive the bulldozer forward. Slowly but surely, Pedring singlehandedly and effortlessly pulls the monster out of its muddy pit, much to the amazement and disbelief of the rest of the crew.

At another time, the base camp inventory was filled with logs. On this day, Pedring was alone at his post as all of his co-workers were either cutting more trees in the forest or delivering logs to the saw mill. One such load was about to leave the premises. As Pedring opened the gate, the truck driver and the pahinante (driver’s helper) waved goodbye and headed toward their destination.

About halfway through their trip at a popular junction, which had stalls of tuba (fresh coconut wine), the truck driver could not help but notice a familiar face. It was Pedring Rabino. How on earth could he be here, when he was the same person who let them out of the base camp less than an hour ago? The conscientious driver thought, if Pedring is getting wasted on tuba at the junction, then no one is guarding the base camp and too many things can be stolen there in the absence of a security guard.

As it happens, another six-wheeler was on its way back to the base camp along the same route. When the two trucks met on the road, the driver instructed his helper to hitch back to the base camp and to guard the same in the absence of Pedring. In less than an hour, the truck had arrived at the base camp and the pahinante could not believe his eyes. There to open the gate was the same person he just saw at the tuba stall, Pedring Rabino.

The Grievous Tale of Eddie Aceron

It was a day of celebration for Eddie Aceron of Bulalacao. His new bahay-kubo had just been built with the help of his neighbours in the tradition of bayanihan. Naturally, there was plenty of food and liquor for all to partake, and Eddie himself had one too many servings of alcohol for his own good—for Eddie had a dark and violent side when he was under the influence of alcohol.

When the festivities were over and the neighbours had returned to their homes, Eddie, who was now extremely drunk, decided to take a walk towards the center of town. Along the way, he chanced upon Pedring Rabino, who was a dear friend of Eddie’s grandfather. Hence, Eddie knew of Pedring’s feats of strength.

As in many unfortunate instances of drunkenness, a perverse notion came across Eddie’s mind, which was to test the anting-anting of Pedring. He challenged Pedring to a fight, which Pedring refused to dignify, seeing how Eddie was not in the right frame of mind. Nevertheless, Eddie felt insulted and this fuelled his resolve to fight Pedring, even as Pedring was trying to reason out with Eddie.

It all happened very quickly when Eddie managed to grab a hold of Pedring, who offered no resistance whatsoever. Eddie pushed him to the ground face forward, drew his balisong and stabbed him several times at the back. Pedring lay bloodied and lifeless as Eddie withdrew to return to his newly erected house and sleep-off his horrific deed.

The following morning, Eddie realized what had happened and proceeded to his grandfather’s house to confess his terrible actions that resulted in the death of a close family friend. Upon reaching the threshold of his grandfather’s home, Eddie stopped dead in his tracks and shuddered at the sight of Pedring Rabino having coffee and pandesal with his grandfather—alive and well as if nothing had happened the day before.

Pedring glanced in the direction of Eddie and motioned him to come forward. Reluctantly, Eddie approached the two men, who calmly but firmly censured Eddie for his whimsical and murderous behaviour. Then, Pedring left Eddie with a stern warning, “If your grandfather was not my friend, you would be dead by now. You may not be so fortunate the next time you pick a fight.”

No comments:

Post a Comment