About the brave Hellmantle's
success on his adventure
to Baguio City worthy of
Christmas morning Hellmantle
led the way to St. Anthony's Church in the middle of old Angeles City. It was
busy with Christmas Day celebrations.
"Interesting," said D'Aqs,
whispering behind the back pews. "Like that church in San Fernando, this church
also has a lot of emphasis on the Virgin Mary. Look at the sculptures and the
symbols. It's so...so-"
"That's because Spain was
one of the countries that kept a strain of the untainted message of Jesus. The
best example was the Cathars who lived in Spain on the coast of the Bay of
"I think I remember that.
Weren't they massacred by Rome?"
"Indeed they were.
Since most of Spain had been taken over by the Moors in 711AD, there was a
coming-together of ideas from Africa, the Middle East as well as from Europe.
And so Gnosticism flourished, among other things like mathematics."
"Yes, Algebra comes from the
Arabs doesn't it?"
"Indeed it does. Algebra,
like the word alcohol, is an Arabic word. The Gnostic beliefs of the
Cathars were much closer to the original message of Jesus so this made them too
much of a threat to Rome's power so the Pope decided to wipe them out."
"Yes, I remember that."
"And one of the beliefs was
the reverence of women, the creators of life, like most pagan religions
before Christianity. Rome de-emphasized the importance of women when they tampered
with His message. For example they invented the idea that Mary Magdalene was a
prostitute. She was actually from a noble family."
"But Islam also doesn't
revere women." Hellmantle slouched his shoulders.
"Au contraire my
cousin," he said. "I suppose you're not aware that in Islam if you say a prayer
for your father you must say the same prayer twenty-five times for your
"Are you kidding me?"
"D'Aqs!" Some people
in the last pews looked at them. "I never kid about religion. It's a serious
beefcake!" Startled, D'Aqs said he was sorry. "You know, it behooves you to
read all religious materials to have a better grasp of how many religions
overlap. You'll see most fundamentally believe in the same monotheistic God.
They just differ on the details." Fire in his eyes.
suppose you're right."
the same story of Adam and Eve in the Graden of Eden, the Quran says both Adam
and his wife Eve ate from the tree, whereas the woman gets the blame in the
Bible. Both Books give due time to describe a good wife, but what sticks in my
mind from all of it is a line from the Quran: It is better to marry a slave who
is a believer than a good woman who does not believe."
"Anyway, if you notice there
is a lot of emphasis on the Virgin Mary rather than Jesus Himself in the
churches here built by the Spaniards."
"I have. It's obvious."
"Spain has kept that belief,
that Jesus was a prophet and not the Son of God. Subtle and smart, they
let it be known through symbols they carved into their churches. It was at a
church called Santiago de Compostela in Gallicia that remained the
center for Nazarene thought for centuries in direct opposition to Rome. In fact
I have met some modern-day members of an ancient order that originate from this
church: the Order of Santiago - in or English it would be the Order
of Saint James. It was on par with the Knight's Templar and the Order
of the Hospitallers."
"Never heard of Santiago
"In most churches here Jesus
is shown as the Christ child instead of the hacked up and bleeding martyr."
Hellmantle ignored him.
"It was near the Cathar
stronghold on the southeast coast of Spain in Rennes-le-Chateau where the
authors of that book Holy Blood, Holy Grail found the scroll in a church
column that started this whole movement to expose the Catholic Churches'
efforts to suppress Jesus' untainted teachings. It has ushered in a new
period in history to expound what the Prior de Sion and the Blonde
Acquitaine secret societies have known all along. The massacre of the
Cathars and then the Spanish Inquisition just reinforced the societies to keep
a low profile until the time was right in world history to reveal what they
know. Now is the time in world history to inform the public of this other
world, a different way of looking at events. That is why we are destined to
find the Dutch Padre. So chin up man!" Worried about the bite in
his eyes, D'Aqs kept quiet. They remained at the back of the church listening
to the Spanish sermon until Hellmantle gave his cousin a nod, leaving without
disturbing the worshippers. Hellmantle was too itchy to find church with the
rouge-colored bell tower.
The heat and dust in Angeles
City were enough to choke even the most hardened traveler, but after riding
roads with deep divots and crumbled pavement they reached the entrance of Clark
Air Force Base just before the expressway. Ignoring a sign forbidding
motorcycles, they cruised down the main street past barracks bare and looted,
with shattered windows and peeling paint. Tremendous waste. Ghosts stirred in
Riding was smooth as when
moved north on Macarthur Highway, soon coming into range of Mount Pinatubo that
had its moment of glory ten years ago. Without warning Hellmantle turned off
the highway flying along the paved road ahead of D'Aqs past once fertile plains
until finding an old trail that ran along a dried-up river. Mile after mile riding
towards Pinatubo, D'Aqs tasted the thrill of wide-open spaces on the foothills
of the huge volcano. Sky blue, sun hot, and air fresh, he and Hellmantle hurled
over the grass trail approaching the steep ascent of the massive mound of rock,
breathtaking. Until they hit ash, sluggish and loose under the wheels. The gray
ash was just like sand, forcing them to downshift. Hellmantle tried to
persevere but the molten ash was too deep.
"Did you see the land we
passed?" No one around for miles.
"I did notice that."
"Lots of fields but no
production," said Hellmantle. "Use to be called the rice bowl of the
"Now covered in ash."
"From what I remember a
typhoon hit the area right after Pinatubo erupted that covered the land with
ash and rivers turned to mud that flooded the plains. Over a thousand people
died and over a million people were displaced."
"Yeah. It was the biggest
volcanic eruption of the 20th century."
It felt like motorcycling on
the moon when they hit the road again across the rice bowl, now a wasteland of
volcanic ash. Riding the wave of freedom on the volcano's foothills, Hellmantle
thirsted to make the most of this adventure. Rather than just follow the road
and stop at churches with bell towers like a Sunday tourist, he wanted to
squeeze as much toothpaste of the tube as he could while they were in the
Philippines. Passing through Mabalacat they saw a Kamikaze memorial,
where the Japanese organized the first kamikaze group in 1944 called the Shimpu
Special Attack Corps, and then through Urdaneta and over the bridges
of Dagupan City until the cousins reached the Cordillera Mountain Range,
the backbone of Luzon. The higher they climbed, the cooler the temperature, so
they stopped at the side of the road where T-shirts and shorts gave way to
denims and jackets and gloves.
"I had a taxi driver once
tell me there is gold buried up here in these mountains," said Hellmantle. "He
was certain that the rumors of the Japanese burying their gold at the end of
the war was true. Didn't want the Americans to take it from them." Gesturing to
the mountains around them, he raised his eyebrows. "They say there are hidden
tunnels built by the Japanese in the area. Of course that stirs my Norman
Shantytowns now without any
sign of Spanish presence, palm trees fewer with pine trees becoming the
dominant tree, air crisp as a dry spruce, after hours riding up the mountains
Baguio City appeared around a corner along a ridge that encircled a wide
saucer-shaped hill, like a natural Roman Coliseum. Cool mountain air smelled of
cedar ponderosa pine, a striking contrast to choking city smog that hung like a
noose over Manila. No chaos here; only the feeling of calm, protected from the
poverty of the south.
Down the main street past
the turn-of-the-century façades of buildings that lined the sidewalks, it was
quaint and sunny untouched by the hand of time. Like a small town in Colorado,
it was the American choice of retreat from the oppressive temperatures of the
city. Houses luxurious and spacious, with well-paved roads, an American haven
in a country with very few havens.
"For some reason I had
always been skeptical about its notoriety as the pre-eminent destination for
heads of state and the wealthy," said Hellmantle, "but now, being here, I can
immediately see why. It's steeper here than the streets of San Francisco and
warmer than Aspen, and it smells of the Swiss Alps and has the quaintness of a
town in upstate New York. Now it makes sense to me why it was the sight
of Japan's last stand. And it's fitting that the Allied victory over Axis
aggression was forever marked on this soil."
"The only thing missing are
cars with ski racks. It's like a sleepy ski town in the Rocky Mountains." In
front of Baguio Cathedral the air blew from peak to peak, wafting like a
medicine carrying the hidden tonic for all forms of cardiovascular ailments.
Dusty and tired, they decided to stay over in Baguio. Maybe it was his bruised
shin or his sore nose, but from his body language D'Aqs guessed Grail
Adventurer Extraordinaire was in pain. D'Aqs was slouched on his bike in
need of rest for a few hours too.
at their hotel, D'Aqs found Hellmantle drinking hot tea reading his maps.
"Let's go native up the Halseema
"Isn't that the old trail that
the American missionaries took?"
"It is. It leads right to
the rice terraces."
"And to your woman in Sagada
"Yes, that too. Very
important to see her."
"Is it rideable?"
"It should be with our
bikes. You seem to know what you're doing on yours and I'm certainly very
fine with my own abilities so why not? It should save us some time, which
we don't have a lot of if we're going right around the perimeter of the island.
Otherwise it'll be a bit boring taking the newer highway up to Sagada."
His zeal to serve his family
in honor, and his deep belief in the Holy Grail had given Roland Hellmantle a
grounded sense of who he was; the world could not hand him enough adventure, he
was an individual born for a Crusade. It was because of this that D'Aqs agreed
to take the Halseema Mountain Trail 130 kilometers north to
Bontoc via Sagada through the heart of the Cordillera Mountains.
It is at this point that the
original chronicler ends his account of the Great Hellmantle of Normandy, but
in my efforts to recover lost material hence not found in the canon, a missing
journal was found in an archive. It is true that the original chronicler
believed there were records not yet found because of the accurate account thus
far rendered from the papers of the journey, and with heaven's help the reader
how has the lost account of the trials and stations in their trek up the Halseema
Mountain Trail, and it will be narrated in the second part.