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Randy Ford- EL CORONEL JEFE

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.

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Randy Ford Author- R & R, a snapshot of history 5th Installment

      Penny wouldn’t use the word prostitution to describe her sexual activities; but her grandmother, had she known, would’ve felt differently. Even though this old woman grew up in a world of adopted daughters, prostitution to her seemed the same as slavery.   When she was little, even very young girls in Canton, Macao and Hong Kong were sold as prostitutes to flower boats or brothels.   It would seem as if Penny would’ve been aware of this and would’ve shied away from sleeping with virtual strangers.   She had a conscience.   She knew the difference between love and lust. Sometimes she didn’t like herself.

       The world didn’t seem as if it was improving.   The Communist revolution in China evoked morals; but while girls proclaimed “workers of the world unite,” they were still bent over from constant service.   But the struggles went on, driven in China by propaganda.   There was no greater person to rally around than dear Chairman Mao but if the government of China truly was a government of the common man, then the struggle would’ve been almost over.   But it obviously was not.   Meanwhile slavery had been obscured by flat denial.

       Mrs. Ramos grew to question the collective wisdom of the people.   True revolutionaries never did.   Only those who knew China in the old days, such as she, could evaluate progress.   Who honestly believed that the days of the mui tsai had disappeared?   Thus Penny’s grandmother was disappointed with China and most disappointed with the people.   To her, people everywhere were weak and needed to be constantly driven.

      If not a tour of the dungeons of Fort Santiago, why then Manila’s detention centers?   Penny never explained to Schumaker why she wanted to go.   What woman would relish the hospitality she likely would receive in places named “Stalag One, Stalag Two, Stalag Three, etc.?   Or more importantly why anyone would subject themselves to the insults of the guards?   These were puzzling questions.   When they could’ve been making love, Penny and Schumaker spent a lot of time trying to track down certain prisoners, one of them an American, by going from prison to prison.   She knew only a little Tagalog, and her English sounded British.

       It may seem strange that tourists would want to go to the prisons, when instead they could’ve gone to see The Balikbayan Dance Troop or a rare performance by Van Cliburn.   On the other hand, officials hoped that by cooperating the visitors perhaps would overlook the jagged glass.

       Some on her list had been released before then.   Most of them had been tortured.   And subjected to this kind of treatment, most of her father’s’ friends went through rehabilitation.   What was the American’s name?   Was it Jo-Jo or something like that?

       At the prisons, she asked about certain people.   She and the colonel got in through the gates and were able to talked to the prisoners.   Papers she had did the trick.   The guards knew nothing about the politics involved.   Wherever she went, she ignored sexual gestures and remarks.   Along with the smell of freshly applied cologne came “puntang ‘na mo” (you whore) or “bindot bindot (fuck fuck).   In any case, after her tour, Penny could advise her grandmother that young upstarts had replaced many of the old Communist diehards she knew.

       Obviously, then, her interest in Manila extended beyond the old churches and the old walls, and she felt she hadn’t lost anything outside of the city.   She did want to see where her mother and her grandfather were murdered.   Afterwards she insisted on floating a brilliant wreath of orchids, gardenias, roses and lilies in the bay near the spot and felt as if she had come to terms with their deaths.   It was then that she had to give herself some space and had to get rid of Schumaker.

       As she grieved, Penny could no more look at the violent deaths than directly at the sun.   The trial represented a long journey, a journey without an end because the executions didn’t bring her mother or her grandfather back.

       There were, however, other things that she shared with her grandmother, things that were neither sad nor sordid.   She wrote about what was fashionable to wear: modernized ornate creations and traditional dresses altered to meet current fashion trends.   “Neither women of Thailand or women of Malaysia, nor even Singapore are so emancipated and independent.”   Indeed, when Penny wrote her grandmother about her impressions of Manila, she concentrated on the most positive aspects of her stay.   Why would she mention Schumaker, when she barely mentioned going to the prisons or nothing about the wreath that she bought to honor her mother and her grandfather?

       Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- R & R, a snapshot of history 4th Installment

      To see the craziness of war and the coincidences it produced witness the reunions after the fall in hospitals and clinics where there was so much volatility.   The meeting of buddies couldn’t have been totally coincidental.   As in many cases, the strongest bonds were forged by war.   Assume the shots were real.   And then if the shots hadn’t found their intended victim, then the assailant could’ve still been around.

      The lovers cowed under the bed, as their hearts raced.   The type of weapon used was identifiable by the sound it produced.   If anything, it had to have been the US made M-16.   Yet even the sound of a pistol would’ve been enough to send Schumaker diving for cover.

       While under the bed, his nightmare once again came to life.   Curled up in his trench, arms over his face, fingers in his ears, his sobbing turned to shaking.   Smelling diesel, flares, fire, smoke, and all the other shit of a no good war, he was really shook up.   Nothing cleared all that shit out of his system better than apiece of ass.   It took a dirty bastard to fuck that up.   Under the bed, as paralyzed as he had ever been, but not wanting to show his fear, he lay in Penny’s arms crying, and for no goddamn reason

       He told her that Canada was a better option.   “Considering the effectiveness of Agent Orange and napalm, there’ll be little left of Vietnam.   It’s no prize either.   To win, you’d have to burn every village.   Burn villages during little nickel-and-dime, hit-and-run operations trying to save a dead horse.”

      But as often was the case, Schumaker couldn’t show the full range of his emotions.   If he had, it would’ve overwhelmed Penny.   As it was, he leaned on her, and she clung to him.   And more happened more quickly in such a short of period to time than had ever happened to her before.   They instantly became intimate.   This was how she got him to talk, and that from a man who didn’t have loose lips.

       The Schumakers had been bosses of Starr County for many generations.   Just as Archie Parr had been the boss of Duval County, they represented a political dynasty.   Just as other bosses were in South Texas, the Schumakers were giants. T  hey controlled the Mexican border.   But with all that power, nobody understood why our naked colonel ended up in Nam.   In Starr County, more people speculated about this than anything else.   But only a few people knew what really happened.

       The one teenage girl who could say anything wasn’t talking.   Why wouldn’t she take advantage of such an opportunity?   Why wouldn’t someone such as her be honored by an engagement to the patron’s son?   In reality, the girl wanted to marry a gringo, and the rules allowed it, even if it was often frowned upon.   But the bias on both sides was very strong and seemed as if it had always been there.   It was rather hard for the older generation to adjust to their sons’ and daughters’ emancipation and that the Mexican father had been the Anglo boss’ ranch hand.   The dimensions here were all encompassing and had painful consequences.   The freight of color and prejudice was once again exposed.

      Of course, there were Caucasian men from every generation, men of power and prestige, who would marry a Mexican woman.   These men could do whatever they wanted with impunity.   This tradition was well established way before there were any Schumakers.   (Read the private diaries of Conquistadors.)   At the time, El Jefe or the Patron, riding on the backs of the Mexican American population, began every new conversation with the same questions.   “Are you native?”   “Who is your father?”   Or maybe, “Who sent you?”   He’d view the person making the request with a jaundiced eye, this for a number of reasons, none of them good.

       Even before he could express himself, El Jefe’s son knew that someday he’d step into his father’s boots.   There was enormous pressure placed on him by his family.   And the armor he wore was rebellion or stubbornness.   It was considered a flaw and flaws weren’t allowed.   His dictatorial father wouldn’t allow them.   He refused to go to a private school in San Antonio and spent a great deal of time just goofing off on the bridge going into old Mexico.   He wanted to impress the senioritis and did it with his great looks.   He fit the romantic notions of the time.   Filled with enchanting charm, he was full of himself and clearly had machismo, and could do pretty much what he wanted to do with women.   Before many of his friends started receiving greetings from their draft board, he was perceived as being more than a little arrogant.

       It was hard to believe that his subsequent breakup with a teenage girl was enough to send him into a nosedive and that his enlistment stemmed from his disappointment.   After the smiling, laughing, meeting with the girl’s family, did he move too quickly and assumed too much?   The sixteen-year-old was so easily mastered by Penny’s GI; this was in spite of the fact that she had vowed not to lose her virginity until after the wedding.   Nowhere, except at confession, could she express her disappointment and shame over not being able to wait.   Besides she felt nervous over being forced into marriage.   She cried a lot.   All the tears had to do with Schumaker.   And her confusion was reason enough to call off the wedding.

      But wasn’t our GI also trying to make sense out of his world?   Because he was fighting a war for all of us, couldn’t he have his choice of women on Ongpin Street?   But his claim to Penny was only based on his participation in fighting near the Laotian border.

       “Penny Lane” was quite possibly the best song ever written.   It was also their song.   “The pretty nurse was selling poppies from a tray, and felt as if she were in a play.”   Stoned?   Yes, they were, but no one at home would know.   Everyone back then wanted to be turned on.   Witnessed Schumaker and Penny on Saturday; and Schumaker on Sunday with Penny, or it could’ve been with almost any other woman.   Nowhere in the Nam experience was there a sadder couple.   Perhaps people even then didn’t believe in victory.

       There were too many abominable things about the war that the GI didn’t want to discuss. P  enny though wanted to know everything.   So she fed him alcohol, while he demanded hashes and LSD.   The best shit in the world came from right next door.   Indeed, to hear Schumaker tell it the war couldn’t be won without the shit.   What happened to the clean-cut Army guy?   “Hell, he ain’t been shot at.   What does those goddamn protestors know?   They burned our cars, our cities, fought our police, and they haven’t asked me how I feel.   Do you know what I’d tell ’em?” And then he plaintively sung, “I’d love to turn you on,” and asked for more love.   Against a backdrop of a diving airplane, through his laughter he meant to say, “Look, I’m surviving.”

      And in the most poignant way the best he could do was evoke sadness in her.   Here was this emancipated person, animated and intelligent, one moment laughing and singing and the next crying.   He told her, that, if he ever got back to South Texas, as a border kid, he’d pick a fight with INS.   In his county, everyday he saw the INS roam the streets looking for Guats, Nics, and Sals, who in turn were looking for freedom and opportunity.   Wait until he became El Jefe.   Wait and see who’ll lead the revolution.   He talked about being the first to fire a gun.

       Penny was trying to connect the pieces.   She missed her father and couldn’t stop thinking about him.   He would disappear for long periods of time.   Maybe he would show up for her birthdays, or maybe not.   This made her wonder about how much he really cared.   Her grandmother and nuns raised her. Jack never exercised any authority.   To search Laos anymore and get specific information about him seemed a lost cause.   She still worried about him, especially knowing he spent weeks at a time behind enemy lines with other volunteers.   In Laos, with respect to the war that didn’t exist, she continually ran into roadblocks.   Wherever she stopped, children gawked at the taller Amerasian, crowded around her, but no one would tell her anything about her father.   Over the years, Jack only hinted at his activities.

       She seemed destined to becoming beautiful and seductive.   Trying to stretch her money, she made male companions happy, completely happy, which seemed better than knitting or sewing.   In the arms of men on the tourist circuit throughout South East Asia, Penny’s connections took her to cheap hotels filled with dope and prostitution.   She had to brace herself for the possibility of violence.

       “Now tell me should we cheer?   It should help to know that you’re contributing, but how does one cheer another man’s death?”

       And yet, she and Schumaker could’ve made a team.   Each to the other was something special.

       In the thick of it….  “Requesting permission to fire on 803513….   Receiving small arms and mortar fire….  Taking causalities….repeat, requesting permission to fire….can you send air craft?”

       And the lovemaking went on and on and on, and the nightmares followed.

       Shattered Schumaker’s crying and laughing under the bed brought home the horrors of Nam, while his talk about home in Texas offered an escape.   He could be incredibly gentle. Far from being unusual, his fiancée jilted him and broke his heart.   Penny couldn’t understand why the pretty seniority didn’t want to marry El Jefe’s handsome son, and why she preferred someone else.   She told Schumaker, “America seems so complex.   In vain I’ve tried to understand it.”   To her all Americans were handsome, beautiful, and mostly white.

      Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- R & R, a snapshot of history 3rd Installment

      During long talks, Penny’s grandmother explained to her granddaughter why her sympathies lay with the Chinese Communist.   She disagreed with Penny’s father but never confronted him.   Still she became a thorn in his side.   The rift in the family illustrated how intense their differences were. Hence they never talked about politics.

       Penny’s grandmother never achieved independence.   She couldn’t just jump into free love but instead chose a monogamous marriage.   She never had an affair, nor could never have been unfaithful.   And as a Filipina she didn’t suffer the bondage of many of her sisters the world over, examples of which she could cite.   Only one generation separated her from the mui tsai, and beautiful girls and women were still sold into slavery.

       The opinions of her grandmother weighed heavily on Penny.   She felt increasingly vulnerable and wondered if she really belonged anywhere.   After bickering with herself, she decided to pack a duffel bag.   Heading first to Bangkok by train, she had a greater mission there than buying dope.   Her lifestyle seemed correct and exhilarating to her.

       As a woman traveling alone, she faced many hassles other women wouldn’t.   She considered herself a traveler rather than a tourist and defended herself by saying she didn’t need a specific reason for moving about.   Above all she prided herself in never losing sight of the realities involved.   Remarkably, regardless of their culture or their language, her male protectors all seem similar, and most women she met asked the same questions.   Did she have any children, and if not, why not?   Then they would indicate their concern and would try to help her by urging her to use a charm or a trinket.   In those days, single women didn’t travel alone and a woman’s barren state marked her as tawdry and wicked.   Poor Penny didn’t realize that she was playing a potentially dangerous game.   But let it be known that she was the same as her mother.

       Like so many young people, she desperately tried to find herself.   Her confusion was compounded because she never knew her flirtatious mother.   But she didn’t take kindly to the label of whore, or think that her activities were acts of self-degradation.

       In regard to her father’s home state, she told people she knew how to play basketball.   She explained how her father was once a good outside shooter and gave up a college scholarship to work at her grandfather’s gas station.   Then her conversation would turn away from Indiana to the black-market and where to get the best currency exchange rate.   As an expedient, sex was nothing new to her.   She looked for anything to fill a void.

       It was a fine thing to probe and to question and to know for sure that she didn’t belong to the sorority of women who worked Ongpin Street. Then why did she feel she needed to apologize?

       She came to Manila by ship.   To those who have entered the bay by freighter as she did can vouch for the view.   As she first wandered clogged sidewalks, she was guided by blind faith.   She knew she would survive.   Experience taught her that.   And she rarely had to pay for anything.   But how often would she prostitute herself?   Desperate for human contact was the excuse she gave for her reckless.   Penny wasn’t the only person to choose such a life.

       The idea of him having to return to a war heightened Penny’s and her GI’s passions, passions pitted against the clock and shadowed by the darker side of their nature.   Images of eroticism and death, phantoms of fear and courage.   Grasping for life, the prospect of death possessed him.   Danger had softened his heart.   The desperation of two lonely people further intensified the experience.   They also were on missions. They giggled and kissed, then clung to each other and stumbled.   They tried to pack two lifetimes into those few days.

       Left with the shakes, he hadn’t bought it yet as a succession of buddies had.   He hoped a little R&R. would help him.   He hoped that it would help him shed, even for a little while, his sense of terror.   This kept them very busy well into the night.   The killing dulled the soldier’s feelings. Generally Penny simply listened.

       “The V.C. enjoyed the underbrush and could disappear anytime.   That meant that we were never safe.   They were in every village; and we may have thought that we were tightening a noose, but we never knew when we were walking into a trap.   More and more we relied on our fighting instinct.   Superior soldiers have to respect a den of ants.   We didn’t want to kick ass.   We just wanted to survive and go home to Santa Cruz or Des Moines.   Our eyes had to be open.”

       They knew they would never see each other again.   But why was this so certain?   Perhaps it was because both of them knew the realities of war and knew that our soldier might or might not live.   He’d wanted to make a career out of the Army and enlisted; but neither basic training nor OCS prepared him for Vietnam.   The top of his class, Colonel Schumaker came out of it all psyched up.   He was not only considered a good officer but a good man.

       Due to how he related to his men, he was command material.   He was highly trained, a tough son-of-a-bitch.   Unfortunately sometimes he acted as if the whole shooting match was his private war.   In short, Schumaker was simply your-best-dumb-shit ever, because of his gung-ho attitude.   But according to him, the son-of-a-bitching war turned his country into a nation of pansies.   “No body gives a rat’s ass anymore.”

       Penny pumped Schumaker for information.   She listened for specifics, which might relate to her father.   As far as she knew, her dad could’ve been dead, because she knew he risked his ass in enemy territory near the Ho Chi Minh Trail.   She suspected a conspiracy of silence.   He never told her what the jungle and the mountains of Laos were like or what it was like to be in trouble, endure hardships, costly mistakes, but too irregular to die.   As a member of the Special Forces, Penny’s father organized, trained, equipped, and controlled teams of bandits.   He did his best to keep the Lao domino from tumbling.

       Alpha never showed.   What now, Cisco?   Why, how now!”

       In a driving rainstorm, a chopper flew Schumaker out for his R & R.   In flight didn’t they trace the Laotian border and see the trail?   He was sorry to have to tell Penny no.   He really didn’t want to talk about the war but was forced to describe a cleaned up version of a noisy, dirty, dangerous hell.   Some veterans talked about Operation Ranch Hand and the effects of herbicides.   Not that they would give Penny the information she wanted.   “Many who thought they could close their eyes looked in vain in the other direction.”   Throughout the war, were you to spend some time in Charlie-Med, you wouldn’t want to see anymore.

      Schumaker said, “We do what we’re trained to do.   But regretfully we can no more chase the enemy until we destroy him than he can overrun us.   Can we win?   Do we know how to do it?   For some of us, joining was kind of a John Wayne’ thing to do.”

       “All You Need Is Love.”   It was that song that struck an accord with the couple.   In the last analysis their room represented as much stability as they could expect.

       This fact was suddenly brought home by a burst of gunfire.   It came from outside their doorway.   From the playful grins of cabbies, elevator operators, and hotel clerks…in the Philippines and based on the country’s reputation…he knew he was in for the time of his life.   He considered himself extremely lucky.   Oh, my goodness.   Wow!   Who would’ve thought that their hotel would’ve been so dangerous?

       Colonel Schumaker had just survived days of around-the-clock shelling and waiting for death.   This from an enemy that was beaten into the ground by 35,000 tons of bombs.   Giant B-52 Stratofortresses emptied their payloads every three hours, twenty-four hours a day.   Consequently his nerves were shot.   Then when he heard the gunfire, his natural reaction was to grab naked Penny and pull her under the bed because he expected more shots.   Here was Schumaker trying to forget the war, as it was fought just six miles from the Laotian border, or close enough to link him to Penny’s father, and Penny pumping him for information.

      Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- R & R, A Snapshot of History 1st Installment

                                                                     R & R

                                                                     By

                                                                   Randy Ford

      Gloomy Jack entered a temple and saw a great gilded Buddha.   Isolated in Laos, he only had been superficially exposed to the country.   Everything seemed distorted, and the laughter of the Laotians seemed intolerable to him.   Officially he wasn’t in Laos. Jack always seemed to draw the short stick and, before leaving Vientiane, sipped cold drinks and swapped stories with old cronies in khaki bush jackets and trousers.   He learned to chew beetle nut and, as the natives did, wore strings tied around his wrists for luck.   He also got hooked on hashish and thought smoking opium was splendid.   As far as Jack was concerned, there were no rules in Laos.   Who really cared?

       Up north he organized road watch teams, which radioed information about the enemy.   His Hmong friends could run circles around them. They knew the terrain.   It was often impossible to tell friend from foe.   Sometimes friends wore the puffy caps of the Pathet Lao; and enemies often flashed a smile before firing their weapons.   Therefore Jack respected soldiers on both sides.   He had his own area along Route 7.   One of his team members reported increase enemy activity, more truck convoys.   Some contact was made.   There were several close calls.   The NVKA probably listened to his radio messages.   Getting back to Vientiane was what he lived for.   That summed it up for him.   He didn’t give a hoot about the big picture.   “Settling it personally” was how he explained it.   It made him very angry every time one of his little men got killed, murdered by the Pathet Lao rather than taken prisoner.

      When Laos fell many frightened people fled to Thailand.   The dominos were beginning to fall.

      “All the sin that you can stand,” explained young Americans on R and R.   If a young man was destined to lose his life in an unpopular foreign war, then surely he was entitled to sin on Ongpin Street.

       On her return to Manila, what drove Penny to Ongpin Street?   Knowing the risks, why would she hang around there?   Was it because she knew she would meet men who had answered Uncle Sam’s call?   It certainly could be said that her search for herself was therapeutic.   A young lady without fixed roots and born with a drive for wandering would be curious about all sorts of things.   She even once said, “I’ll search the world for the stranger who knows who I am.”

       What were Penny’s first impressions of Manila?   Open sewers, uniformed pistol-packing guards, or unbelievable traffic?   All three risks presented dangers.   It was remarkable that more people weren’t hurt or killed.   Jeepneys, converted jeeps from World War II, and the most common public transportation, stood out because of the brightness of their paint jobs, their chrome, and their rakish fenders.   After her first day back in her hometown, Manila seemed overwhelming, as she rode around the city with excitement and sadness.   In her mind it was much the same as Bangkok, yet different.

       She honestly tried to find her place.   She couldn’t remember her Chinese/Filipina mother and had rarely seen her American father.   Now she was back in Manila; but she could’ve easily been kidding herself.   She actually felt more at home in Singapore.   Her fantasies ignored reality; but she hadn’t been able to ignore her origin.   She wondered what her life would’ve been like if her mother hadn’t been murdered.   Was she simply chasing after her past as represented by her father?

       In those days women didn’t often travel alone, but Penny didn’t see why she had to justify her lifestyle.   She knew she could take care of herself.   She knew the risks.   She understood them.   She remembered adventures in a sagging bed with a longhaired German boy.   Maybe it was this exotic side that drew her to Ongpin Street.

       Only the cemeteries and the churches offered tourist in Manila a quiet retreat from the noisy city.   So Penny had also visited the churches. Significantly the Cathedral was one of the few buildings rebuilt in the old city.   With its round wall, Paco Cemetery interested her.   She read the Chinese names etched across each sarcophagus, which had considerable impact. Had she finally come home?

       When she climbed out of the sarcophagus of the Catholic school she attended, Singapore offered her an opportunity to meet other jet age Gypsies.   It was a good jumping off place.   By then it was too late to try and tell her anything.   The last advice given to her had gone unheeded. Jack, her father, knew better than to criticize her.   They came from the same school of free rides and hard knocks.   “Why would you drink only boiled water, if you don’t protect yourself in other ways,” was a question he would ask.   Much, of course, depended on whom she met and what route she chose.   She was the same as her dad, an irresponsible kid, running off to bum around Asia when she could’ve gone to the very best college.

      Sexual encounters carried her through Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.   What were the chances she took?   Upon what did she build her success?   She never questioned her lovers, or paid attention to their shagginess.   She crawled into bed with men she wouldn’t have considered at home and slept better for not knowing much about them.   She never took their promises seriously, but it was the typical line or piece of flattery that set the trap.   Then, for different reasons, she’d use old tricks of her sex and would pace herself.   The American idea of slut never came into play.   But her giggles didn’t mask her embarrassment.

       As a person who for several years saw no end to humiliating alternatives, she made many wrong choices.   Seeing so many American GI’s in Bangkok and Manila made things worse for her. T  hen the worse things got the greater the temptations were.   But Penny thought she was invincible.   She lived moment by moment, thinking she could settle accounts later.

       Brute male strength, it seemed, held no personal appeal for her.   How men treated women verses how women should’ve been respected said a lot about the sexual politics of the era.   She knew when and when not to be compliant.   She could’ve stayed home in Singapore, but what defined her kept her on the move.   It was her clash with the culture that posed the greatest risk.

       She wore long cotton dresses and loose shirts that hid her money belt stuffed with her passport and $10 American Express traveler’s checks.   Her dress was a natural part of her and helped her to adapt to local mores.   If this young woman hadn’t been the daughter of an American, then the yoke of tradition, contrived by societies that looked askance at Americans, would’ve gone a long way towards protecting her from her own waywardness.   This freed her to mix with Western travelers.

       Penny’s compass pointed towards romantic valleys and peaks.   Surely, as she approached each day…or went back and started over again…even before she knew a specific door could be opened, often out of bounds, sometimes running wild, sometimes bad, she’d promise herself to search for meaning.   Often all fired up, sometimes right and sometimes wrong, she often changed the map as she went along   As tough as any man, as a woman she connected imagination and reality.   She then set out to report it all and took responsibility for everything she ever said.

       Walking quickly into a bar, she felt her pounding heart.   Her boldness excited her. It was the danger that attracted her to this adventure.   She wasn’t a prostitute, nor did she have any intention of becoming one.   Obviously new, she sat alone in the dark and smoky place, while (with as much contempt as women can throw at each other) the regulars sized her up and threw daggers at her.   Then the bartender came over to her.   But what did she have to say?

       “Your name?”

       “Suzie, as in ‘Suzie Wong.'”

       That wasn’t worth a response.   With American GI’s, the girls were expected to be somewhat inarticulate.   But there was a price to pay from this.

       Suffice it to say most GI’s loved Manila.   To the good ol’ Protestant boys, this was heaven.   Few of them left their hotel room, once they checked in with their brides.   Let it be the time of their lives, and their deliverance.   Besides the annoyance of the cockroaches, they should’ve been worried at every turn.

      Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- THE HUKS A Snapshot of History 8th Installment

      While the constabulary and the police followed every lead, Jack began his own inquiry.   For him, it was cathartic and part of the healing process.   So full of rage, he wanted to catch the killers himself.   The constabulary and the police seemed too slow to him.

       The jeeps that carried the gunmen were found abandoned near the scene.   Fingerprints didn’t match any known criminal.   It seemed silly to dust for prints, when the attack had obviously been meticulous planned.   Even petty crooks knew not to leave prints.   Any fair person would’ve been perplexed by the arrest, by a rough count, of some 800 suspects.   Though as passions cooled, most of them were later released.

       Secret memos and documents in the U.S embassy revealed who orchestrated such a huge roundup, which made it clear that the killings were more than a murder holdup.   For the first time, one was faced with an admission that Jack, or the victims (or someone close to them) were valuable assets of the U.S government.   Now it was at this point that the constabulary and the police were given patriotic reasons for using their authority to the fullest.

       On page three, of the trial transcript, case number 02125212, the record showed that the police picked up empty cartridge shells and spent bullets from the pavement near the victims’ vehicle.   Forensic experts matched them with guns taken during a raid of a safe house.   Other incriminating items were seized there too.   The transcript then went on to say, “but the prime suspects were long gone.”   It was remarkable that the constabulary and the police had information that led them to the correct house.

       Brick by brick, the case was built.   Once caught, the mastermind was shown no mercy, nor were any of the others who took part in the crime.   No doubt they were brave men.   But they had to face the consequences.   Yet the constabulary and the police showed an affinity for them.   The assassins wanted to make people believe that they would’ve rather spent more time with their families, but trying to make themselves seem more human didn’t help them.   Whether they had families or not was immaterial.

       Even before any arrests were made, the police prepared a list of seventy-eight witnesses.   Hearsay was certainly admissible; but with a busy street as the crime scene finding evidence was difficult.

      Could the suspects be identified?   Would their confessions stand up?   Mistakes were obviously made, but none of the mistakes made a difference.   Perfection was impossible, and the truth could only be approximated.   But the main problem with so many mistakes was the loss of time, and the more time lost, the more the trail to the killers cooled.

       Suppose the ten men wearing jungle green uniforms had randomly chosen their victims with high-jacking the vehicle in mind, how does that jive with Dr. Ramos’ connections with the Huks?   How well known were his activities?   Was there a conspiracy?   How many people were involved?   There were men posted with radios in front of the professor’s house who gave the triggermen last minute instructions.   They weren’t worried about how they would stop a moving vehicle.   Why didn’t they strike at the professor’s home?   Obviously, they were after headlines and intentionally killed the innocent along with the guilty.

      They raised the anti by striking in the heart of the capital.   Before then traitors were quietly executed.

       The public demanded revenge.   No one accused the constabulary and the police of mistreating the witnesses.   They humbled the party by detaining so many people and forced some of them to confess.   The long interrogations gave each suspect ample opportunity to confess.   There weren’t many discrepancies.   The constabulary and the police were able to crack the conspirators.   Honor and a fidelity oath had sealed their lips, which made their confessions seemed inconceivable.   The success of the investigations depended upon a tremendous amount of trickery, which the Americans had taught their Filipino associates.

       It was hard to imagine a more desperate group.   To assassinate, to gun down, to decapitate, to stab, in other words exterminate their enemies, inside or outside their organization, to mitigate with vengeance all the wrongs of the past, was a tall order.   The very principles of the Huk struggle (not merely their words or deeds but their heart and soul) gave them strength.   Yet they reportedly begged for mercy.

       Most of the contagion in Greater Manila could be found within the colleges and the universities.   In them professors and students engaged in doctrinal disputes.   They often pretended a connection with Maoism.   Being at odds with authority was attractive, but don’t mistakenly call them leaders of the movement.   With the assassination of a respected colleague and friend, many of them were arrested and their loyalty was put in question.   Weak, ineffectual, squeamish, stripped of their slogans, and altogether disillusioned by the sudden turn of events, some of them subsequently betrayed his or her comrades.

       There were breaks in the case that led to the arrest of the tall man and the short one, who witnesses pegged as leaders.   With Jack’s help, the constabulary and the police seized important exhibits: as mentioned, weapons and then disguises traced to a specific market vendor.   The immeasurable grief and pain from the loss had the blinding effect of galvanizing Jack even more, and he couldn’t have stood the ordeal had he simply sat idly by.   He couldn’t disguise the bitterness and the hatred that he shared with mothers and wives, fathers and husbands, brothers and sisters, and orphaned children who had also suffered the loss of love ones.   He couldn’t cry.   He would if he could; only he couldn’t.   Given his grief, the opposing forces within him weren’t surprising.

       In the middle of the rainy season, Jack trooped through Kandala swamp and up Mount Arayat.   He knew his picture had been printed on leaflets and distributed throughout the region.   Similar notices spread falsehood about Jo-Jo, who pleaded his case to his parents in a letter.   He told them that he finally decided to surrender.   He said he hadn’t foreseen the rash of crimes that followed in the wake of Jack’s appearance, and damaged the movement beyond repair.   Why couldn’t they stop the hemorrhaging?   On a long list of crimes, betrayal ranked high; and given the chance, both sides practiced it.

       Given the confusion and the passions following the assassinations, the blame couldn’t be placed squarely on anyone. Jo-Jo never supported the policies of his country, far less her imperialistic agents.   Therefore, his betrayal was based purely on an emotional response.

       Enduring foul weather and trudging barefooted through knee-deep mud, the two friends were drenched and with each step their feet became heavier.   In the mud, discouragement came easily.  In the mud, Jo-Jo realized his reputation had been destroyed.   In all of his life, Jack had never seen so much rain, slanting down, causing mould, mush, rust, and mildew and then, revulsion.   A few days of rain would be followed by several hours of steam.   Nothing escaped the ooze.   On the other side…. scolding, cursing, and threatening to kill one another….there were men stalking the two Americans who were thoroughly at home in the swamp.   The highest ranking rebel leader, Jose de Leon, offered a thousand pesos for their capture.   The Secretariat then held an emergency meeting and more than doubled that.   A peso equaled a half a dollar, which would’ve been the preferred currency.   In those days a thousand dollars represented a small fortune.   Many men tried to cash in.   During their trek through the Candaba Swamp, had he had anything to give, and without hesitation, Jack would’ve given his friend anything.   All they had to swap were stories about growing up.

      Surrender then!   It was made possible; and surrender to Jack’s horror led to the maximum sentence for his friend.   No one was going to let the crimes go unpunished.   Even though Jo-Jo helped solve Dr. Ramos’ and his daughter’s murders, they insisted that he plead guilty and told him that his conviction was just a formality.   They evidently didn’t appreciate the sacrifice he made for a friend.   He had expected too much; and even so, he had few regrets.

       After his surrender, for security sake, Jo-Jo was placed in a solitary cell with a heavy steel door.   He was sent to the New Bilibid Prison in Rizal, some miles outside of Manila.   It was a tough place.   Murder and riot were common.   Here was incarcerated a son of a couple, who lived with the Huks, and taught them and never acted unkind, or expected special treatment.   Recently returning from fighting, these peasants loved Jo-Jo’s parents as if they were family.   Their boy now couldn’t go home.   In order to protect him, Jack was frequently moved around, but officially the U.S. embassy never helped him.

       The two friends sadly joked about squandering their lives away for filthy politics.   Nothing seemed right except the status quo.   Fighting for democracy where even the birds and bees voted seemed to require repression and toughness.   All the king’s men couldn’t fully explain why these two boys ever chose sides.

      Jesting seemed to have taken over.   They searched for something embarrassing to say about each other.   The last thing they did together was to sit and wait, as their time ran out.   Braving the flies and the mosquitoes, they sat on the seawall that night with two smiling women.   In particularly Jack displayed mute anguish.   The murderers were caught; but with the confusion in the country, some of them were soon set free.

       Both of them lived to regret Jo-Jo’s surrender.   In order to publicize the impending collapse of Communism, the right wing press widely covered the American’s duplicity, while the left wing denounced him as a traitor and a class enemy.   For the sake of peace, national unity, and reconstruction, Jo-Jo was promised amnesty but was instead given a life sentence by a court influenced by a skeptical public.   (See court documents for the judge’s rationale.)

      Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- emotional vomit

      Don found them.   They hadn’t expected to see him again.   He explained in his quirky way that he found heaven in Mindanoa.   Then he said, “But heaven wasn’t enough for me.   At age twenty-one, twenty-two, getting a degree, Chase Western, no, none of it was enough, not for me.   In Mindanoa, I was reading about Venezuela, and down there in heaven it had become required reading.   Until then I hadn’t thought of Venezuela, and then finally I was able to see where I wanted to go.   Indeed before coming up here, I hadn’t thought it through; but now, seeing how you two are ready to go, I’m ready too.   I’ve had enough Peace Corps.   So I’m off to Venezuela.   Why Venezuela?   I haven’t a clue.”   And they all three laughed.

       Late one night, right before they were scheduled to leave, Susan woke Ted up.   She couldn’t sleep.  She was in the lightweight summer pajamas she always wore to bed.

      She said, “Ted, I’ve got to get out of this room.   It’s too quiet.   This is not Manila.”   Until then she had thought she was some place else, or had she been dreaming?   In deed, as she lay there next to Ted, she laid out all their plans for the week, including all they had to do when they got to Singapore in a day or two.   But she was so completely in charge that she could hardly believe it, so full of energy that she could no longer lie there next to her husband.   She had to wake him up.   For some time she realized she no longer heard the clamor and the chaos of Manila, that she had grown accustomed to it and had concluded that Manila had become her home.   She had tried to sleep.   She was reminded of all of the kids she taught in school and felt sure that one of them would one day become president of the Philippines.   To hell with Marcos!   Who never showed up!   The bastard!   What had her all fired up?   Now what?   A flight to Singapore.

      She recalled how daunting those first flights were: first to San Francisco, then Hawaii.   How when she landed there in Hawaii she was expected to be someone else, to have changed on the flight.   She was constantly tempted to quit.   There was always more training, more reflection, so on.   She found she first had to do what? She first had to decide what.   Just as she now needed to decide.   “Ted get up!”

      “What!”

      “Let’s go for a walk.   Something’s missing.”

      “At this hour?”

     “Yes!”   She wanted to say, “You’ve dragged me half way around the world and now you want me to” and of course she couldn’t/wouldn’t say it right.   Forget all those bad memories.   “Ted get up!”

      They went to the elevator and there was no elevator operator at that time of night.   They looked for the fire escape when Susan insisted that she needed air.   She had lived through an earthquake.   So she could live through this.

       She had never confided her doubts to Ted in any comprehensible way, and he started talking about how he wished they could afford to buy a jeepney, an untouched jeepney with all the color, pomp and circumstance, and tour the world in it.   She told him that since age four she had been scared to death.   Yes, age four.   Did he hear her?   All he did all the time was talk about Borneo, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand; and in so doing, he once again left her behind.   Stand your ground girl.

      “Ah, he said, “But we’d have find a way of shipping the darn thing.”

       When he said that, she didn’t know what he was talking about.

      It was a typical night.   She asked to be held.   She was learning.   He held her tight.   Ted felt how she relaxed in his arms.   She returned to the same things out of her past over and over again: masturbating by definition.   She was learning to forget to edit.   Many might’ve found the exercise passe and even useless, but it wasn’t to her.   She was doing well and mostly by herself.   How often had she remembered her father doing everything for her and not allowing her to do things for herself?   But what if that wasn’t true?   What difference would it make?

      Susan said, “I don’t know if I can adjust to another place.”

      He said, “I think you can.”

      Walking the streets of Manila.   That was it.   That was all they did for a week.   And without direction.   Perhaps it was because they didn’t need direction.   Manila had become their home.

      She said, “I want you to promise me something, that you won’t die on me.   Just think if something were to happen to you in a place where they didn’t speak English.”

      Randy Ford

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