Randy Ford Author- EL CORONEL JEFE
Impetuous El Coronel Jefe professed a fondness for women. El Coronel Jefe loved women, and he always expressed his love for women, though likelihood of him establishing a relationship with a woman in Jolo was slim … slim, slim, very slim. He was Christian, and there were few Christians, very few Christian women in Jolo. “We’re Christians,” he wrote his sister, who lived back home in Manila within the walls of Intramuros. ”Understand I wouldn’t do anything immoral such as take a slave. I am a Christian. There are few Christians in Jolo.”
Later feeling trapped by her father in his harem, Sariah remembered her mother telling her, “before you take a young man by the hair, make sure that you smell good and look good. He shouldn’t see anything ugly in you and shouldn’t smell anything but a pleasant smell. On the other hand, a woman should admire a man for how well he sits on a horse and loves competition of a close race.” Sariah took her mother’s advice to heart. Sariah was her mother’s young woman.
Sariah’s father won her gratitude by teaching her how to hunt with a slingshot. Sariah became a good shot and knew she could survive with a slingshot. Sariah was a good shot and was forever thankful her father taught her how to use a slingshot. Sariah’s father told her, “a man who can hit small birds or knock down fruit from treetops with a rock has tools to survive.” With a slingshot she could survive. Thanks to her father she could survive. Sariah knew she could survive. She was a survivor. Outside the Spanish garrison, Sariah’s father ruled the island and ruled the island chain. It wasn’t easy to rule an island chain, nor was it easy to raise a daughter, particularly an independent-minded daughter such as Sariah, when and where independence for women wasn’t condoned. And giving that Sariah’s father was expected to choose her husband.
Leaving safety of the garrison, El Coronel Jefe watched a young woman he saw before and found himself lost in reverie. He watched her as she stood on the third-story veranda of the Sultan’s palace. From where he stood behind a volcanic rock wall, he thought she looked perfect, dressed in her royal gown. He knew that he shouldn’t stare but couldn’t help himself. He shouldn’t stare, he knew. He knew he shouldn’t look at her. He knew he shouldn’t peek at her. There were rules as to how to proceed, or how to back out and save face. There were rules in Jolo, harsh and fast rules. But certainly this young woman (his heart raced ahead of any decisions) demanded attention. A young woman as beautiful as Sariah demanded attention.
El Coronel Jefe was one who believed in intractability of first impressions, intractability of first impressions, and would always find great significance in how and when he first saw Sariah. He first saw this pure flower. This pure flower while she rode with her father without short stirrups. But custom dictated that he couldn’t directly look at her, that he could look at her, that he couldn’t peek at her. Now he walked seven and three quarter miles from town to get a glimpse of her, to peek a glimpse, a glimpse of her. He needed a great deal of courage to do it. He needed a great deal of courage to come this far out of town, this far out of town alone, alone to see her.
As he approached the palace wall to get a glimpse of her, he forgot what he represented. Forgot, forgot, forgot, now helpless, hopeless, helplessly in love, he hoped no one saw him leave the garrison, which if you think about it was totally impossible. Seriously, he forgot himself and sang to her. In all sincerity, he called out to her, called out in song, singing …
”I salute thee, pure flower!”
Then with all his love.
”Beautiful maiden, in thy bower.
I am unworthy of thee, jasmine sweet,
E’en to kiss thy feet.”
Looking at him through an eyeglass, she was pleased but pretended indifference. She had to pretend indifference. She had no choice but to pretend indifference.
“Listen to my pleading and to my tears.”
He was willing to brave a downpour, if it came to it. He was willing to brave rain. He was willing to endure heavy rain.
“Give thy hand to this wretched one,
Who knows no joy.”
There would be no rainbow for him that day.
“But is full of sorrow until loved by you.”
Ridiculous as it was, and without rain, he sang in verse. He couldn’t conceal how he felt about her, a sweet, beautiful virgin. He knew she was a virgin, had to be a virgin. Her beauty was too pure to be otherwise. As if proof of her chastity, she wasn’t married; and, when she saw that he was singing to her and appropriately covered her face, he read innocence into her reaction. She was truly beautiful, beautiful, truly beautiful. To be truly beautiful, a woman couldn’t be too dark. Her skin had to be the color of weak tea.
She was then eighteen, only eighteen, and not betroth; and as El Coronel Jefe soon learned, not a concubine but daughter of the Sultan of Jolo (a father, who already had plans to give his daughter to the son of another Sultan). As the daughter of a Sultan, Sariah would fetch a high bride price. As a Spanish soldier, there wasn’t a chance in hell that he could ever pay it. On his pay, El Coronel Jefe could never pay a high bride price.
El Coronel Jefe may have been naïve. He hadn’t considered vast differences between his family and the Sultan, the differences in status and cultures, and what the implications were. The Sultan had a tremendous amount of social and political influence, the Sultan had tremendous wealth whereas El Coronel Jefe was an officer of an occupational force. At the very least, a future husband was expected to come from the same social strata as his bride-to-be. But El Coronel Jefe wasn’t thinking of that. He wasn’t thinking or was only thinking about how much he loved her.
Before proceeding, El Coronel Jefe knew that he’d have to employ a spokesman, someone who spoke the same language and could speak for him in a humble tone.
“Molingkod ug magpahaluna man….
We shall accept your offer….
ning salog mopahamutang….
and seat ourselves on the floor.
Kay magasaysay kani nung tujo
We shall lay bare to you our mission,
ug magpahayag ning kanahauglan.
with your very kind permission.
Dili daytan ni unsa man;
It is not a tale of woe,
butang kini bahin gugma;
this thing we shall tell to you.
Batasan so sinugo magtuman,
It is over all things and above,
sa tugo nga gisugo kanamo.
it is a message of true love.”
After he left Sariah standing on the palace veranda, poor El Coronel Jefe felt rejected and knew he would need to be patient and wait, wait for a chance. She seemed pleased with his singing. El Coronel Jefe saw she was pleased with his singing. But nothing could discourage him. He read everything he could into her apparent interest, interest in him. She seemed inquisitive; why else did she use a spyglass? She wouldn’t have to cook, wouldn’t have to wash and clean, wouldn’t have to do anything if she lived with him. and her pretty face (color of weak tea) would be admired by all. What a find! He found himself feeling flushed and hot; and as he thought, he tried to think of other ways to attract her.
He knew a korporal who could teach him more songs in Sariah’s language. God, how he hated this korporal. Not only could this korporal sing better than he could but he could also play a guitar. Not only play a guitar and sing, sing better than he could, the koeporaL knew more songs in her language than he did. Thinking of the korporal and Sariah in the same breath, thinking of this korppral and Sariah together, El Coronel Jefe suddenly felt an urge to not only show himself equal to the korporal but, when it came to begging for love, prove himself superior.
One day in the middle of a downpour, Sariah noticed a gallant looking stranger ogling her and, by his manner and how her father treated him, knew an introduction was about to take place. Her father had invited him to the palace, and she knew her father had important business with this gentleman. She had seen them talking and holding hands, as was custom there. This much she knew from casual observation, this much she knew from how they talk, but she also felt a peculiar sense of power that she realized she had and could coyly use. With seductiveness of a full bosom that had never been imprisoned by stays and large dark nipples, a pair of alluring legs that she later learned to flaunt, worldly legs with henna dyed hands, she had assets that she was only supposed to show to a husband. Her magnificent body clamored for costly silks, something revealing and transparent; and, these were silks that her mother insisted that she wear that day.
With no freeing of heart, and on important business too, a stranger entered the palace as a guest. He brought news from his father, Sultan of Johor, and a regular issued appointment form, signed and dated, using current Malay and Mohammedan dates combined, because Sultan of Johor wished to win loyalty of the Sultan of Sulu, and hoped to establish an alliance. And with an alliance, somehow expel the Spanish.
Such, and so suddenly, had the stranger’s heart been struck, wrought by a troubling, driving desire that engaged him in explicit thought, and left him pondering and dreaming of acts of lust, that he felt suddenly overwhelmed. Indeed, overwhelmed, driven by hot emotions of Oriental blood, fond of sensuality was he. And indeed when he saw Sariah, he heard loud screams of delight and joy … screams of delight and joy … screams of delight and joy. He, who could picture beautiful Bedouin women in Arabian deserts wearing red dresses, could see Sariah in a smooth sea of silk. He could see that she had a flexible, delicate waist, sculptured arms and soft curvaceous hips. He saw her full bosom with dark nipples. He saw her running with tempestuous fury and couldn’t relax until he tasted her lips. His desire for her could at once be translated into how again the Koran was correct: that men were created inherently weak. The stranger became very thirsty and was dying of thirst, dying of thirst for Sariah.
Again Poor El Coronel Jefe stood before the Sultan’s palace, but this time prepared with the korporal and his guitar. How easy it was to misread a glance or a look, to not see true feelings because of a pretty face with skin the color of weak tea. That the young woman he loved perhaps was groomed for someone else never crossed his mind. He couldn’t see the young woman he loved was groomed for a Sultan’s son. Then when he realized it she became nothing to him but a “cheap woman, a bundle of bones and paint, an old woman of no more than eighteen years old… thin, emaciated, and toothless… ugly and a disappointment, a wilted flower and a whore.”
While getting up courage (and getting assurances from the korpora), had the beauty… lips he wanted to kissed disappeared? Could she be a butterfly, who flirted and showed her calves and thighs for attention? As amateur of love, he couldn’t yet differentiate between sincerity and being fooled.
Cloudy skies and continuous rain delayed harvest of rice, especially an early crop. At any other time, this much rain at harvest time would’ve been a disaster. Not being able to work in the fields might be ruining them; but for Sariah rain left time for newly discovered pleasantries. But for El Coronel Jefe, pleasant it was not; nor for the korporal, who he tagged along. Yet getting drenched, standing in hard driving rain, standing there drenched, looking undignified, wouldn’t be worst of it. Reality slowly sunk in. After suffering through long moments of anxiety and doubt, while he sang and exhausted himself, crooned as the korporal played and have a string snap, El Coronel Jefe’s worst fears were realized. What happened should never have happened.
“A simpleton or not a simpleton, however a fool.” Whether a moron or not, El Coronel Jefe felt deeply shamed that the korporal saw his trial. Obviously, the mistake was his. In a sense, his life ended when his folly became known. At the most, satisfaction was required, meaning the korporal would have to be disciplined. A bit touchy the situation was. To avoid a disaster, he would have to act fast.
The gantlet was tossed down when the Sultan suddenly came out onto the veranda and stood behind Sariah. The exact details are gone, but let’s just say El Coronel Jefe was embarrassed. And afterwards, it struck him that his options were few. A saber duel would’ve been an honorable path, the preferred out, except for one hitch. He was El Coronel Jefe of the garrison and the pretty face belonged to the Sultan’s daughter.
Of course, there was a Rule of the Spanish military against fraternizing and the old adage “an unmarried man and woman are never alone because Satan becomes a third party.” What was happening to El Coronel Jefe? Had he forgotten who he was? Had he forgotten he couldn’t reveal himself? Had he forgotten he couldn’t reveal his love? Had he forgotten he could couldn’t confront a Sultan?
There soon followed litigation. Sultanate “A” filed a suit against El Coronel Jefe “B” over “disputed” property. Well, then Sultanate “A” taking advantage of his status and “his sense of dishonor” petitioned the Royal Governor of the Philippines denouncing El Coronel Jefe as a dishonest criminal of the worse type: thus this was why the latter was relieved of his command. The local court then naturally ruled in favor of “A” the Sultanate of Sulu.