Last Sunday evening, March 1, Ah Kong, aboard a motorcycle and having left Pugo, La Union after attending formal talks with people there, finally reached Tuba Municipality.
It was already getting dark when he reached Barangay Taloy Sur in Tuba. Nearing Sitio Poyopoy in Taloy Sur, Ah decided to take a rest for his hands were numb holding the motorcycle handles. It was about past 8 o’clock when he stopped along Marcos National Highway.
Incidentally, and of all places, where he decided to stop was just a few meters where authorities have found human bodies have been dumped before and even at present – a ravine of about 150-meters deep.
“Christ A ’mighty, and of all places!” Ah grinned to himself to himself and gazed silently at the place of the ravine.
At that kind of time, when night began to unravel its melancholy in whispers to the moon, Ah sensed he seemed to hear voices of disconsolate horror and fear rising from the bowel of the ravine where human bodies have often been dumped.
He couldn’t understand it, but something sinister seemed to draw him towards that hideous place.
Ah just found himself walking towards the ravine. With arms akimbo, he peered downwards and saw nothing except murkiness which refused to divulge its criminal secrets to police probers seeking answers to such killings.
Only the sighing of the winds coming down from the ravine swooped towards him, seemingly trying to impart something to Ah’s questioning silence.
“Damn my soul but a hell of a place to be in at this time, “Ah muttered to himself, scratched his head and retraced his steps where the motorcycle he rode was parked.
Poyopoy has been known as “killing fields,” a notorious dumping grounds for human bodies of the so-called summary executions as far back as 1980s.
Even when Ah was still in government service with the Department of Health – Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR) as Public Information Officer (PIO), Ah, together with his co-government PIOs were well aware of the so-called killing fields.
He brushed the thought aside and instead concentrated on casting his gaze around him. For the night had drawn her silvery black curtains around Poyopoy.
Night, the mysterious queen of darkness, poured a flood of eerie blackness over Poyopoy’s hills. The bending tree stands of different specie threw their branches like threatening claws into the dimness, seemingly trying to seek for unseen prey while the grass, like vestments at the feet of the trees shrank back in huddled in terror.
One big tree which Ah fairly noticed, the night wind went sighing through its leafy branches, whispering its secrets in its own incomprehensible language.
Somewhere, a cow down the road mooed, like a lone wail of grief against the deepening darkness.
Ah noticed, too, that any Poyopoy resident who had a drink to many had already gone home and anyone had long since not dared to tread the national road and any light-hearted laugh of the gay had long been ceased.
No sound, save for the hum of machines of passing vehicles, disturbed the “killing fields” in Poyopoy, which lay hidden and barely pierced by the moon’s pale beams.
So Ah sat on the motorcycle, resting and digesting what he saw around him, say for about 25 minutes. Then, little by little, Ah felt drowsiness trying to drown him, his eyelids began to sag.
It seemed sleep was suddenly trying to overcome him, forcing him to drop his head at the motorcycle handle bars.
He shook his head vigorously, fighting off the drowsiness. But much as he did, his eyes drooped and slowly, his head rested on the motorcycle handle bars. And his eyes closed.
And in that deep trance, his consciousness fled him, replaced by wraithlike specters flowing from the bowels of the that hell-ravine where corpses have long been dumped then floating into the air.
They floated before him, from the side of that national road, beckoning him invitingly to follow them down the ravine.
Oh, such a nice invitation as the specters hands floated languidly through the air, motioning to Ah, like, “Come,” then the specters pointing downwards the ravine.
As the phantoms of the night hovered in the air, some of them danced the Zumba while others to the slow sound of, “I was dancing, with my darling, to the Tennessee Waltz, when an old friend, I happened to see,” while others to the sound of “Save the Last Dance for Me.”
Ah moved to follow them. But unconsciously, he didn’t realize he was atop motorcycle earlier. As he moved to follow the specters, he fell off the motorcycle and onto the cold Marcos National Highway – breaking the fiendish dream that suddenly enveloped him as he rested his tired soul on that Poyopoy ravine
Fully awake, he looked in the direction of the ravine but he couldn’t see any more dancing specters.
Shaking himself like a dog, Ah kicked the motorcycle to life and sped off from that accursed place, his mind reeling, “What force caused him to being drowsy sitting on the motorcycle and seeing phantoms of the night?”
Other questions poured onto his mind as he headed towards Baguio, like, “Were those phantoms he saw in his drowsiness, the victims of the so-called summary executions? What message were they trying to impart to him?”
“And that’s what happened to me that night of March 1 in Poyopoy,” Ah said, ending his grim experience to his friend Humbert Clemente, 63, from La Trinidad, Benguet, as both sat last March 2 in a café in La Trinidad.
When Ah told his story to his friend, Clemente kept silent until Ah finished. Digesting what Ah told, Clemente then sipped his coffee and said, “Ah, ammok dika mamati ti ibagbaga dagiti natataengan nga adda mekket ti kuna da a naluganan. Baka idi adda ka idiay Poyopoy, isu nangyari kenyam. Ta di ka met nabartek ta naka-motorsiklo ka.”
“Ken dika met mahilig ag-imagine, ta awan met ti creative imagination mo, so just charge what happened to you to experience,” Clemente further added, to the laughter of the two friends.
Ah Kong doesn’t personally know any personnel of Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) Station 4. And Station 4 can attest to this stark fact.
Yet, certainly, Station 4, in its quiet and unassuming way, continues to heap together those little but sometimes taken for granted, ordinary ways, little things which to anyone, will mean a lot. Little things which we often turn a blind eye.
Take for example last March 2, at about 1:25 P.M. PCpl Kenneth Mocnangan assigned at Station 4 was spotted giving food to an elderly woman just along Loakan Main Road, Baguio City. The elderly was sitting alone and by the looks of it, looking forlornly.
PCpl. Mocnangan’s simple deed, can be disregarded by a number of the citizenry.
But nay, a number of citizenry including Ah see it differently. Humbert Clemente, 36, who with Ah saw the little event captured in still photo that March 2 by an unidentified person, said to Ah, “Blessed is Mocnangan, who cares for one who once cared for him!”
Ah glanced long at Clemente who spoke those words, then silently paraphrased Clemente’s thoughts by saying silently to himself, “Clemente was merely saying blessed are those who have that ability to understand and share for any person past his/her prime, and who are a few steps to the grave.”
That March 2 evening, Ah and Clemente drank the remnants of their coffee in that little café in La Trinidad where they sat and viewed Mocnangan’s simple act in their laptop, bade each other goodbye and set off on their ways.
Along La Trinidad’s main road, as he waited for a Baguio-bound jeep, he seemed to hear the wind sighing to him, “Yes, indeed, Ah, you derelict of a human being, it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you; it’s what you leave behind you when you go.”