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Arsenio C Jesena

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by Arsenio C Jesena   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Posted: Tuesday, August 02, 2011

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I became a
good shot, better than most of the soldiers in town. I was only ten.

by Arsenio C Jesena

My dear Nyssa,

Barrio Takurong -- in Buluan, Sultan Kudarat,
Muslim Mindanao, was where I found myself in 1950.

I remember four kilometers of daily fast walking from the farm
where we lived, to the barrio school where we studied -- Takurong
Elementary School. Four kilometers going. Another four kilometers
coming back. Daily.

The road was not cemented, nor asphalted. It was more a wide,
dusty trail, where an occasional provincial bus would pass, where
now and then we would see other weary people trudging the dusty
road or riding a carabao. The rest of us poor settlers simply used our
two feet to traverse the distance from cogon hut to barrio school.

I think we walked barefoot. I do not remember owning any
shoes, leather or rubber. No bakya, no slippers. We only used our
naked feet. I do remember a lot of skin disease and boils on my
legs. The dusty, or muddy trail was not safe, nor sanitary.

I was too young to complain. I never asked what on earth we
were doing in Takurong in faraway Mindanao when we had
already been well-settled in Bacolod City where we had at least the
essentials of basic living. But in Takurong we did not have
electricity, no running water. No hospital, no church. I do not even
remember a drugstore. And no relatives to whom we could run for
help in case of emergency.

Takurong had no Burgos cemetery where we could visit the
grave of our recently-deceased mother, Nanay Naty.

We did not live a comfortable life in Takurong. I remember the
time when we had no food whatsoever. We had nothing to eat,
except rice -- and a little salt.

At night we could hear the Muslim brass gongs from
nearby camps.

Tatay Demet Ledesma had been ambushed in that area just two
years before. He was on his way home from Norala when he was
ambushed by about sixty Muslims, assassins paid by someone who
was afraid that Tatay Demet might run for Congress and win.

Why, why drag us, clueless children to all that senseless danger
and deprivation? And what if beautiful Manang Pat or little Mila
or naughty Juni ever had an accident or got seriously ill and
needed a doctor or a hospital? We simply would have died --
before we could reach any medical care -- in Cotabato or Marbel.

But I was just a kid, and I did not ask. I did not know what I
should ask. I did not know that I could ask. I just followed. I was
simply a kid. I just strutted around like some ridiculous cowboy,
with a revolver strapped around my narrow waist, so I could kill
bandits if they ever attacked, or at least kill one of them before they
killed me, just to even the score.

My father carried a Thompson submachine gun or a shotgun
most of the time. He always slept with these rearms beside his
pillow. Now and then, when he remembered, he would take me
far from the house -- to the rice fields or the riverbank and there
coach me how to shoot the revolver and the carbine. I became a
good shot, better than most of the soldiers in town. I was only ten.

My spiritual life and moral well-being were totally ignored. I
guess my poor father had other concerns, like feeding us.

Things did not go well in Takurong for Tatay. He got bankrupt.

And from Manong Rene in Manila and Daday Xenia in Bacolod
there must have been urgent entreaties to get us out of there. Tatay
finally relented. Pat was consigned to Manang Purit and Manong
Gil Jalandoni in Davao, where she would stay for two years, and
finish High School. Mila and I had to return to Bacolod, and there
finish our elementary schooling in public schools, while staying with your good and gentle grandmother, dear Daday Xenia and
your grandfather, Nong Baby Cañada.

God was still very far from my life, perhaps even totally absent
from my consciousness. But He had plans for me. After a year I was
to encounter Jesus Christ, through the Catholic Church and -- the
Terrible Jesuits.

And so my little sister Mila and I came back. From Takurong to

The year was 1951. Your grandma, Lola Xenia, had gotten
maried to your grandpa, Nong Baby. They had Stella, and then Tisay.

We were very poor. Our only source of income was your
grandpa's meager salary of P120 monthly as a lowly cop.

We could not afford to enjoy much, not even an Inasal

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