January 18, 2011

The Girl From Nicaragdao

The live show I watched late last night brought back images in the past, images that a ten-year old child could not process and so she buried them deep into the abyss of her consciousness. Now they came back, so vivid and have not gone blurry after 3 decades.

We were in bed ready to call it a day. As usual, our neighbors were still wide-awake around the marble table under the lamp post just a few steps away from our fence. My husband made a side comment on how weird that the gambling seemed to become an every night thing. It used to be only on days after pay-day. We used to complain a lot about the noise of men and women talking and shouting right above our headboard, well it sounds like that, but we got used to it already, I think. So, last night, right after my husband said something about it, there was a sudden silence and quick shuffles of feet. We thought there was a fight, but then, when we peeked through our window in our bedroom on the second floor, we saw policemen running after men, women, and one in between. They came on a taxi and parked in front our house. Our neighbors were caught in the act. It was quite a spectacle to see familiar faces on handcuffs. We pitied them, white-faced in fear. Oh, how my heart went out to their families who never came out to help them. Houses in the whole neighborhood suddenly became quiet. But I knew there were eyes like ours behind those windows. So, the policemen took all of them, ten people I think. One man in uniform gathered all gambling paraphernalia left in a mess on the table. That could be a hard evidence once they get to the police station. So, we thought. But in less than 10 minutes, our neighbors, those who were just caught by men in uniform, all of them, they came back laughing, sat on the table, brought out those same paraphernalia, and resumed their game.

Whoa! What was that? Almost a mockery? Are you kidding me? What was that show for?  In my country, I've seen real shows before where bad guys went to jail and even good guys got killed!

Ok, here we go. That's how those images in the past flashed back to me.

Photo: from Google images, not mine.
In early 80's, my family lived in a district called "Nicaragdao", named after strife-torn Nicaragua. Our place was also called "Killing Fields" (remember the film about Cambodia?) and there was actually a village next to ours that was called "Baryo Patay" ( Killing Village).  I was 10 and was already exposed to such ordeal where gun fires woke me up in the middle of the night, where Ma would pile everything up on our wall; tables, chairs and basins, just to thicken our wooden wall and at least make it a bit like bullet-proof wall to keep all 6 children safe until the break of dawn. I would be most glad when Pa would be away on a business trip when things like that happened because men would be asked to either join the insurgent group to fight against the military, or be searched  by the government armed forces. It depends on what group comes first. I feared more for my father to be caught in trouble with either group than for me to be hit by stray bullets. I remember one night, one very bright night, brighter than daylight because huge searchlights were installed behind our house. The military men, lined on the bridge behind our house, were aiming their guns toward our house while the rebels, grouped in the one-goal basketball court in front our house, were shouting in unison "US-Marcos ibagsak (overthrow)".The air was filled with smoke. I could tell it was marijuana. Maybe the smoke made that 10-year old girl braver because I refused my Ma's urgings to stay when I needed to go to the loo, which was outside the house. Our rented house was built by the river and the back house in stilts was on the river. So, you can imagine little twigs of legs shuffling on wooden planks to get to the loo on time. I've seen, through the cracks on the floor, armed men crawling to get to the other side. No one noticed me. Hah! I was invisible and invincible.

So, that show last night was a mockery; an insult to the blood of those men whose lives were sacrificed for the principle they stood for. At least, I've seen them true to the ideals they held on, foolish they maybe for not knowing what side was right and wrong but at least they were there fighting real battles.

Last night, I felt like my emotion was played at. I felt tricked. You know that feeling? My eyes were glued on the hands cuffed hard and tight but were instantly released after some whispered promises were made. What a scorn to the bullet stuck forever in the head of a childhood crush; and a joke to the "injan pana (Indian arrow)" that was stuck in the heart of the man I saw running for safety in our balcony!

My neighbors, they laughed, and they are laughing in convulsion as I type this. They are in celebration. They think they won the battle, that they outwitted the law. They don't realize that there are real battles worth fighting for. And may the oath those men in uniform made came back to them like "injan pana" which never rests until it is served.

After few years of watching my city battle for peace, I thought I was old enough to write something about it. So, I made an appointment with my father's younger brother to interview him for more details. I knew he could help me with information because he was involved in the operation to fight against the rebel forces in our district. I later knew about it when he was in the hospital gasping for his breath. He was a policemen on duty when a grenade near him exploded. My older sister washed his bloody shirt, tattered with holes. No one would believe he survived all the splinters that have gone to his flesh. (That my friend, is a real show of valor; when you are there on the ground, true to yourself and conscience.) 

I thought I would never be able to write about this. That interview didn't happen. The topic was too overwhelming for a teenager like me. But here I am now, unraveling stories never yet told. Perhaps you may find this heavy and strong, never expected as coming from a simple housewife and mother as I am. But there are issues that the girl in me needs to let go, some opinions never aired before, and maybe never again. So give this girl a chance....

To be continued....


Mrs. Santos said...

Dearest Ruth~ I saw a little of this in my husband when we visited El Salvador - barring the doors, not trusting anyone, always packing a gun. Even though it has been many years since the civil war there, just being in his home village brought it all back.

I am happy to 'listen'. I will pray for you.

Loving you,

purethoughts said...

wow te!! that's one amazing story.. tell me more.. hugs!

singapore florist said...

what a nice story, hope the best for the world.

Owner of Homeschool Faith and Family Life Website said...

My beautiful friend...how I wish that we were but a "door" away so that I could come across the gate and sit with you a while...holding you; and in essence, holding that little girl; who witnessed such unfathomable horrors which stripped away her innocence and etched themselves into her heart and memory forever.
I remember when I was in 7th grade, we received several new students in our Catholic School...these were refugees whose families had come "on the boats" to our country from Cambodia and Viet Nam...their eyes were so different from ours...not in shape or appearance...but in DEPTH and in SOUL and in an unspoken awareness and understanding far surpassing the young years of their lives...we American kids...who "had it all" knew nothing of TRUE suffering...I remember how my heart ACHED for them...as it does for you now, my wonderful friend.
I am glad that your hand has been freed and that your heart is now letting it write your story.
The value and meaning of HONOR and CONVICTION as you have so beautifully explained it...is something I try very hard to instill upon my own childrens' hearts...for there are some men, like their own father...who have gone to war for the sake of freedom and were willing to lay down their lives...but...there are many more here in this fallen nation of mine...that mock our Flag and all it stands for; while they sit in comfort reaping the benefits of the valor and bravery and battles of the men like those you knew in childhood....like your uncle.
I'm sorry that the scenes you witnessed in your neighborhood the other night have torn open these wounds once more...but I know...that with your sweet Zoe's prayerful spirit...and the strength of the God you serve...you will find healing and peace...and JOY again.
I am honored to be your friend.