Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Four 


 

About what happened to our adventurer when he goes to the Philippines

Manila, the Philippines, December 2001

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Arriving in Manila was like stepping into a sauna full of dust bunnies. Fighting mid-afternoon traffic through exhaust-filled wisps of smoke didn't bother Hellmantle because he was fully cocked for his quest, but D'Aqs suffered. Hundreds of Jeepnies leftover from the war picked up people wherever they waved, never signaling. Non-stop beeping of horns, potholes, squalor, rivers of mud and excrement, stilted shacks falling down and odors pungent to make him gag.

After unpacking and consulting his Manila map, he and D'Aqs took a taxi downtown to a motorcycle rental shop near the US embassy. Security guards with guns poised, soldiers half-leaning against the embassy's front wall, half-sitting in open lorries spanning the block that kissed Manila Bay, it was a peculiar time in Manila. The night before two bombings, one in a mall in the vicinity and the other an American-owned oil company headquarters, but even this did not deter the enkindled Hellmantle.

Walking past the military chest out and conspicuous, Hellmantle heard the hum of a two-stroke engine, like a beaver to the sound of flowing water. D'Aqs had ridden a motorcycle once when he was young but Hellmantle thrived on two-wheels. Knowing precisely the equipment required for their excursion, when he saw the red Honda CR250 plastic fenders curved over the front wheel with motor-cross hyperbole, he reached for the throttle to seize ownership.

"A man without a motorcycle is a man in prison," he said matter-of-factly. From a cluster of motorbikes shaded by palm trees a man handed Hellmantle the key, the extent of the salesman's pitch. He could recognize a motorcycle enthusiast when he saw one. As soon as Hellmantle felt the ripples of revs permeate through his wrists up to his heart, his passion to explore surfaced with oomph.

D'Aqs tried to sit on a CR250 but the bike was too big and unwieldy. Pointing to the smaller Honda XR125, the salesman handed the key to him.

"This one's better," he said. At first glance the bikes looked like they were in sub-par condition but upon close scrutiny the chains were tight and oiled, brakes crisp and clutch easy to clasp. Both engines purred. He knew the salesman was on the side of the rider, not out to exploit a man with a peppery bug for a bike.

To prepare for what lay before them, Hellmantle bought motorcycling gloves and bungee cords for D'Aqs. He had brought his compass, waterproof boots and eyewear but was forced to rent a small helmet. Hellmantle shrugged, attaching it to the strap on his knapsack preferring not to wear any headgear. With everything rented they rode away from the shop to the oceanfront. D'Aqs heard hysterical laughter coming from Hellmantle when riding side-by-side past the Yacht Club and palm trees that lined the waterfront. Then, to calm the raring winds of his spirit that was in high alert at the pilgrimage before them, Hellmantle yelled:

"Routine of the ordinary is the bane of the philosopher! All that is mundane is that which the dynamic innovator despises!" D'Aqs could not hear the words that his cousin said, the outburst swallowed by the Manila Bay breeze, lost to all but God.

For D'Aqs to get his bearings and some practice, they went on a tour around Manila, any adjustments needing to be made better tweaked in the city before departing tomorrow. Hellmantle only saw rot and decay that had pulled down this once pearl of the orient. Old architectural gems and colonial arches fell slow as molasses in a scrum of thousands of motorcycles in a noisy cloud of pollution, an infrastructure underutilized by neglect and mismanagement. They had overlooked the ingenuity and example left by the Spanish Visigoths, bringing the city to its knees. Since Hellmantle had lived in the Philippines in the past, he knew something about its culture and history, it governance of over 7100 islands a near impossibility, a region where corruption was rife. He thought LeGazpsi, the read-bearded founder of the Far East Spanish colony, built these architectural masterpieces to stun the indigenous peoples when they left the country and came to the city. Ornate buildings and intricate churches dotted the urban plot with parks and trees lining streets spoke once of a utopia.

 

Ω

 

For dinner Hellmantle took his cousin to Heckles and Jeckles, a biker bar where the Mad Dogs Motorcycle Club hung out. Roused and thirsty sitting on bar stools, they ordered a round of cold beers and talked strategy for finding the church with the rouge bell tower. 

"This is quite a place," said D'Aqs, eyeing some big bikers drinking beer and playing pool in their leather vests showing their tattooed arms. Hellmantle nodded at a few of them.

"Better a full cheeseburger than a plain hamburger, if you know what I'm getting at." Hellmantle, when working in Manila for another magazine, had been asked by a member of the motorcycle club to write a documentary about its initiation, working with a filmmaker to record the ceremony. He had come to know some of the members, many regarding him with suspicion. The music blared from the corners of the car. 

"I used to hang out here," he said, casually scanning the bar, face a number of shades darker from dirt and dust and sweat. Two more bottles of beer arrived from the bartender who pointed at the billiards table. A massive bald man nodded at Hellmantle, who in turn raised his bottle and nodded.

"You know him?" D'Aqs unaccustomed to this rough milieu. One of the prostitutes approached Hellmantle and spoke to him in Tagalog, which he understood. Twenty pounds under weight and also thirsty, she asked for a beer and Hellmantle, perhaps forgetting that he had just received a free round the bald biker, ordered another round of San Miguel beer. She left him to talk shop with a new customer.

"Do you remember Ncik Patton from Lakefield?" Hellmantle was still distratced by the woman.

"Nick? You mean the thick guy in the corner with all those motocross posters on his wall?"

"Yes, that guy. A few years after he left he lost his arm off-roading somewhere in Coburg where he lived." Hellmantle thought back twenty-five years.

"I saw Asselstine running a chairlift during my university years. Stain looked the same."

"Remember when you put that dead fish in Kerber's bed? My word, that was funny! He didn't notice until he climbed into bed."

Shaking his head slowly, "So much Tom Foolery those years." D'Aqs could see his eyes recollecting like a Rolodex of exploits and mischief. He wondered if he thought of the night they went out to play Space Invaders at the local pizza hangout and Hellmantle was the only one not be caught, but then Hellmantle's brother came into his mind.

"Ramsauer thought you were the greatest after that dare."

"Seapage. He's probably living in Spain off his trust fund."

"That was a great nickname. Too bad he was only at Lakefield for one year. That guy needed a brother." The words slipped out. They hovered there, tense. Until there was a break of the billiards balls.

"Dane Hellmantle is why we're here, is it not?"

"Yes. It is," said D'Aqs. Hellmantle pulled out his map of Luzon Island, D'Aqs studying the layout with him.

"We should ride up the middle through the Cordillera Mountains to Baguio City and Bontoc, and then around to the east if we can get through the Sierra Madres. If we can find a way across the mountains to the east, we ride north to Aparri and then west along the northern shores to Laoag City and down back to Manila." Voice calm, even and dispassionate, as if talking about what kind of cereal to buy at the supermarket.

"It's a long slog," said D'Aqs, to get it out in the open and on the table.

"I don't know if you as good as me on two wheels, but since you're a Hellmantle, er, a Gross Testicle, I'm guessing you're not too bad on a motorbike. You seemed pretty steady today."

"I think I can handle it," an assured tone.

"Let me never beat around the bush. I have to say that I am among the best in the world when it comes to motorcycling in foreign lands with maps and a compass." The directness and arid objectivity of his volley had D'Aqs wondering if it were a joke.

"So you won't slow me down, eh?"

"I have lived here before you know. And these roads are different than the roads you're used to. Debris and those Jeepnies can be dangerous."

"It's an opportunity not to miss."

"As long as you don't slow me down then things should be groovy. I strongly dislike waiting for a fellow rider. I don't particularly like going fast. Going too fast on two wheels is like quaffing coffee. Better to savor the ride, like a good cup of the java bean. But for this I can only take a week off work so we will need to hustle."

"And you speak the native tongue."

"A small hit."

"May come in handy, particularly in the north."

"If we head to Baguio City then we can ride to the rice terraces, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, or actually the Eighth Wonder of the World. We should try to ride through it to the eastern highway if we can. Our only stop that isn't part of our quest is in Sagada." He pulled out a cigarette and ordered another round of San Miguel beer. D'Aqs located Sagada on the map.

"Why's that?"

"Because I met a woman a few months ago from Germany who lives there as an artist. I said I would visit her. The only problem is that she doesn't have a telephone so she won't know I'm coming. She told me she could be reached at a place called The Shamrock Café."

"It's good that it's on the way."

Now, our seeker of truth had perhaps mistaken the beer for water. He drank bottle after bottle with alarming rapidity that resulted in his voice growing bolder. It was this that attracted the large biker from the billiards table over to the bar where the cousins sat.

"Hellmantle! You're back." The biker was three hundred pounds with scars on one of his cheeks, like a cascade of pink tissue. Not the prettiest face.

"I am though I am on a mission, my brother."

"You're not my brother," he replied. "I saw that film that you wrote. You said some rough things, man."

"Sometimes the truth must be laid bare despite the hue of color," he said. The large biker didn't like hearing that, and so motioned for another biker to come over, but Hellmantle continued and spoke thus:

"Fear of convention and normalcy is an ongoing impetus for drastic change. It is the cause for the manifestation of extremism - extremism in the evolution of self. Don't you see, old man, that this is in the deepest nature of the philosopher? Evolution of self is that which motivates one to excel. A philosopher needs his space, his visual piece, and his sounds of nature to feel a sense of belonging to his environment. He needs his hue and his visual theatre to flourish!" The last words gaining volume and enunciated with relish that only offended the biker. His friend was big too and had more tattoos.

"I ain't got no fear, man!"

"Of course you don't my good man," he replied, as if unaware of the danger brewing in front of him. "I am from a Grail Family of particular note and bear a coveted bloodline. We can trace our line back to the days of 925AD, when Rollo led the Danish Vikings to the Siege of Paris! His army surrounded the city for a year until the French king said ‘Enough! We'll give you a little piece of land and call it Northmandy.' The Hellmantle coat-of-arms still hangs in Rollo's original castle in Normandy!" D'Aqs stood up in fear of the situation since he was now implicated with the last statement.

"Who cares?" said the biker, pushing Hellmantle. But he regarded the shove as a pat on the back among non-conformists and motorcycle brothers.

"You know sometimes I just don't get it. When I look at the world, I cannot fathom why so many choose to be ignorant of their past! It is only in our past that we can make sense of where we are and where we're going. And indeed where we should go. It's incredulous when I think of all the people who never ask themselves: where did I come from? I believe it is the most fundamental question a man can ask. Where did Abraham come from? Who was Joseph? What happened to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel? Where are they now? Who are they? Why isn't-" He didn't see it coming because the fist appeared in a flash of bones and skin and knuckles.

To the biker's credit it was only one punch, enough to shut him up. If they had not known Hellmantle before, they would have thought him mad but they did know him and he had been the one who used dubious words to describe some aspects of their initiation that did not paint the Mad Dogs in a good light. When they saw the claret from his nose the only other jab was a kick in the shin by the other biker. They both needed to contribute. D'Aqs stood motionless with his cousin lying on the floor by his feet.

  
 
 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                             
          The Family of the Bible
FIRST PART
1.       Concerning the famous Hellmantle's position, character and way of life
2.       Concerning the ingenious man's visit with his uncle Jack Grosseteste
3.       Which relates to how Hellmantle is given his first adventure
4.       About what happened to our adventurer when he goes to the Philippines
5.       In which the story of our crusader's journey begins in earnest
6.       About Hellmantle's time in the city of sin on Christmas Eve
7.       About the brave Hellmantle's success on his adventure to Baguio City worthy of happy memory
 
SECOND PART
8.       In which the courageous Hellmantle of Normandy journeys north into the Cordillera Mountain Range
9.       About what happened to Hellmantle in the mission in the mountains and the crucifixion of Jesus
10.     Concerning Hellmantle of Normandy in the land of the headhunters
11.     About the required riding techniques to reach the destination of Sagada and the church organist
12.     In which the German artist is tracked to the Shamrock Café and dangers of the northeast of Luzon Island
13.     In which Catharine is tracked to the Shamrock Café and an eery coincidence of a reoccurring dream
14.     About Hellmantle reaching the rice terraces and finding a way to the northwest
15.     About what happened to our intrepid philosopher in the middle of the Sierra Madre Mountains
16.     In which a record is given about the brave Hellmantle through uncharted territory on his trusted dirt bike
17.     Which relates to Hellmantle of Normandy reaching the northern coast and the rubble of Aparri
18.     About the final day of the motorcycle journey and discussing the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel in Vigan
19.     About the sermon in Agoo Basilica and what they find at the church with the rouge bell tower
20.     Concerning the Dutch Padre and what he knows about the hidden map
21.     About the return to Manila and the coup that causes the Great Man from Normandy grief
 
THIRD PART
22.     Which brings Hellmantle of Normandy back to Hong Kong to re-evaluate the next step in his quest for truth
23.     In which their journey is related to Jack Grosseteste and a new task is set before the Man from Normandy
24.     Concerning the journey to northern Vietnam to track down the map hidden at a French prison
25.     About how Hellmantle and D'Aqs compare notes on their task at hand in Hanoi
26.     In which an account is given of the beginning of the journey of Hellmantle in Vietnam
27.     About how Hellmantle and his brave squire ride north to the place where the four rivers meet
28.     Concerning the French prison and what Hellmantle finds there
29.     Concerning the discovery of the bottle and what lies inside of it
30.     Concerning the journey to Dien Bien Phu in honor of their grandfather the Great Dane Hellmantle
31.     About what the motorcyclists see on the fields in Dien Bien Phu
32.     Concerning the motorcycling required to reach Hanoi via the other side of the Da River Valley
33.     Which tells of the final stage back to Hanoi and the discussion after their most beautiful ride
 
FOURTH PART
34.     Concerning the visit with the knowledgeable Jack Grosseteste and the sally to India
35.     Concerning the arrival and journey to Kashmir Valley
36.     In which the journey begins in earnest through the checkpoints to the foot of the Moghul Fort
37.     In which Srinagar is reached and how the houseboat was as it was hundred years ago
38.     In which Hellmantle reach their houseboat on the lake below the fort and beside the mosque
39.     In which Hellmantle sets out for the Tomb of Thome and his brother Joshua beside him
40.     Which relates to the agreeable history of the journey north to the monastery on horseback
41.     In which Hellmantle returns to Srinagar and finds the first translations of the black stones
42.     Which concerns the deciphering of the discovery at the monastery and the need to go to the Ganges River
43.     About Hellmantle of Normandy's meeting with the holy man after taking a dip in the Ganges River
44.     About Hellmantle's meeting at Jack Grossetests's place with D'Aqs and Catharine the artist from Sagada
 
o       Chronology of Historical Events
         
 
 
 
 

 
For the commencement of their Philippines trip
 
Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown"
 
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