In which the German artist
is tracked to the Shamrock Café
and the dangers of the northeast of Luzon Island
Sagada, Mountain Province
The man named Dennis
Faustino took them in, offered them food and opened a bottle of Johnny Walker
Scotch. It didn't take them long to learn that he was a music teacher who had
become an assistant principal and was on vacation at his place in the mountains.
The Faustino mansion was spacious with fresh wood wherever the eye could see.
Decorated with tribal art with an Oriental theme in the living room, it was a
classic American colonial home complete with the balcony and gardens and
"I was lucky to finagle the
mayor of Sagada to allow the church to lease this property to me for life,"
he said. "He made the deal after the big earthquake in 1991 had hit and
destroyed parts of the home. So as part of the deal, he fixed it up and added a
new back section patio."
"Which is ideal for morning
cups of coffee!" Dennis Faustino looked at Hellmantle thinking he was likely
exhausted from his journey. He filled Hellmantle's glass.
"Drink up and enjoy your
time in Sagada."
When asked about the history of missionaries in the area, he came
across as knowledgeable:
came here to spread the word of God beginning around 1911. It had taken the
missionaries some time to reach the mountain provinces, the only area besides
Mindanao that hadn't been converted to Catholicism by the Spanish. I've been
all around the island because I went on a one-year tour with the National
Theater Group performing internationally. That was after getting my masters and
finally my PhD in theater. I held a professorship at the University of Michigan
before I returned here to teach music." Dennis Faustino sounded nonchalant
about it all because he was bored as Assistant Principal at the Philippino
International School. He said he used to also teach drama. But Hellmantle
didn't buy it and mumbled under his breath: ‘It's a life for effete
courtiers too wimpy to take the step!' He drank the Scotch.
"So when were the Americans
active here in Sagada?" asked D'Aqs.
"The Americans had staked
their claim to these remote parts and left the church in 1967. That was when it
was handed over to the Philippinos. The Episcopalian church became a Philippine
entity in 1985." Despite being the local volunteer organ player for the benefit
of the mayor, D'Aqs could tell that he was not a terribly religious man.
"Do you ever remember a
visiting preacher named Father Leo Vande Winkle?" Hellmantle helped
himself to more Scotch.
"He's a Dutchman," added
D'Aqs. Dennis Faustino shook his head slowly but then seemed to come to life.
"The Dutchman, yes. He has
come through our church a few times when I lived here during the summer years
before. When school is on summer vacation he visited with Father Jose at the
church. Very nice man but quite old now. I haven't seen him in a while."
"Where is his church, do you
know?" Hellmantle spread out his ripped and rain-stained map on the table.
"It's in the west on the
coast somewhere is all I know. Close to where people live in trees as I
recall," he said with a flourish of his hand, as if a fellow upper-class elite.
But Dennis Faustino lost his airs when he squinted at the map and dragged his
finger along the coastal highway, from the very north to the south. He was
confused by it; Dennis Faustino couldn't read maps.
"That's where we'd like to
end up after we take our motorcycles across the high road through Bontoc and
over to the east highway up to Aparri and across the north coast to the west
coast and down to Manila," said Hellmantle, using his finger to outline the
route. Something in Dennis Faustino's demeanor changed.
is dangerous," he warned between drags of his cigarette. "It's very dangerous
up there. Philippinos from the lowlands don't go up there. It's tribal. They
stop you in your car and rob you." The matter-of-factness of his delivery made
it feel as if it was common knowledge to which Hellmantle was ignorant.
can't be that dangerous," he said, finishing another glass of Scotch and
call them pirates. I wouldn't take my truck down that road. It's too dangerous
for me. For you," motioning to Hellmantle, "with that beard of yours they won't
let you pass for nothing." D'Aqs sat up in his chair and had a closer look at
the possible routes from Sagada. The only way to the west coast being so far up
in the mountains is through the pirate zones, D'Aqs reasoned to himself. This
was a journey to be done once, not twice.
"No stone can be left
unturned. That is the price that must be paid!"
"But they are angry pirates
Hellmantle," Dennis Faustino still not convinced the route was feasible. "If
you must go then go with God." Hellmantle perked up.
"Are you a man of the
"I read the Bible as
literature but not as Holy Scripture," said Dennis. "From numerology and myth
to device and end, I am well-versed in general religious history."
"In an age when political
ideologies act as a substitute for religious conviction," said Hellmantle,
"people today are more a-religious than at any time in world history if
you consider the percentages, especially in the Western World."
"You think so?" Dennis
Faustino was wading into a storm.
are ignorant of the religions of history."
"One is obliged to ask the
question why is it that the meaning of the word ‘Druid' means ‘knowledge
of the oak.' One is obliged to ask why the Viking religion and spiritual
world based in the book Havamal was based on the Ygdragsil Tree.
One is also obliged to ask why North American Indians regard the Poplar tree as
the Tree of Life and the conduit to the Great Spirit, and thus dance
around it during a Sundance offering prayer ties to the Creator? Why is there
this fundamental similarity when religious scholars studying the migration of
Ten Lost Tribes from Jacob's Twelve Tribes of Israel believe that the Celts,
the Scandinavians and the North American Indians all come from the Diaspora
from 683BC? I believe there is a common footnote. But that's just me."
that so?" Dennis Faustino asked, as they both took swigs from their glasses of
"Like Valhalla was to
the Vikings what the Promised Land was to the Israelites and what was La
Merica was to the old Gauls and Franks, and perhaps like the Holy Grail
of the Merovingians, one world religion uniting all in this life is what
"What's this about La
"Yes. La Merica is
where the word America comes from."
mad!" said Dennis Faustino, smiling and interested in this odd specimen
before him. He was half serious and half amused. "It was named after Amerigo
Vespucci. So says the textbooks throughout the Western World."
to my world, the world outside textbooks in the realm of the suppressed
truths. The Israelites called the ‘Promised Land' La Merica, which means
"the great place beyond the sea." Wouldn't North America be that land? They
thought so, and believed they were destined to settle this land according to
the many passages in Genesis, thus Manifest Destiny. The word America
is different than Amerigo. It's from La Merica. And that's why it
was always referred to as the Promised Land."
"Is all this true? I know
about Jacob's twelve but this other stuff! Are you sure?"
"You're trying to ascertain
the legitimacy these facts, whether facts blurred with liberal hermeneutical
zeal sprinkled with subjectivity and subconscious political agenda, or
objective and clean." Dennis Faustino was now weary of Hellmantle's sanity. To
D'Aqs, Dennis Faustino was on the fence whether or not to buy in to these
"Are you joking?"
D'Aqs saw the mouth tense.
"No, he never jokes
when discussing items of the spirit. That's the thing with Hellmantle, he loves
to shock people. The more severe the shock from the higher degree of obscurity
of the fact, the more he thrives. Humor him. I just let him talk. Easier that
way," said D'Aqs, feeling like his cousin might become disrespectful when this
man had invited them into his home. Hellmantle waved his hand, looked at Dennis
Faustino; the man well versed in general religious history.
you D'Aqs. Okay then Hellmantle," he said, wisely filling up Hellmantle's
glass, "that stuff you were talking about outside, about the Knights of the
Hospital. What else can you tell me about them?" Having known Hellmantle
since the early years at boarding school D'Aqs was aware that he flourished she
having something specific. He always floundered with general open-ended
"Weren't the Knights Hospitaller disbanded
because someone owed them money?"
"Yes. In 1137 Pope Innocent
the Second issued a bull Christianae fidei religio that gave the Knights
of the Hospital ‘extensive privileges,' which enabled them to accumulate
both land and money. The Hospital of St. John, as it was also known, lent
monies to King Louis VII of France for the disastrous Second Crusade, and they
were able to protect their castles in Syria until the end of the 13th
century. The pilgrims continued to come as long as there was a hospice run by
the Hospitallers where they could find protection, medicine and a bed on their
journey to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher."
Hellmantle," said Dennis Faustino, now relaxing and watching this unusual
motorcyclist. "I'm interested in knights, not trees. There's a
functioning brain in there somewhere."
"When I bring up religion at
the bars in Hong Kong with people from around the world one learns about the history
of oppression of various sects and groups of people oppressed by the Catholic
Church. But as you know, Doctor Faustino, the Pope and his Roman
Catholic soldiers have been oppressing us for almost 2000 thousand years. At
one point during the Dark Ages it was absurd how powerful the Pope had
become. For example, when the Knights Templar were convicted in the first
decade of the fourteenth century, once Pope Clement V issued the list of
charges, the Templars were as good as convicted. How could the Templars be
proven not guilty if the Pope is literally the seat of God on earth? God must
sanction the Pope's word. It was ridiculous. It still is ridiculous."
"What else can you tell me
of these knights of the Temple?"
can tell you that the Nine Worthies who led the First Crusade, were all honored
knights by the Pope of having secured Solomon's Temple from the Muslims, the
first nine Knights Templar. They took a vow to uphold honor of God and fight
for the righteous, and they took a vow to poverty and weren't allowed to shave
their bears or cut their hair." Dennis Faustino liked this hand-selected
nugget, stroking his beard proudly, in his imagination trained for drama he
enjoyed mulling images of himself as a modern-day Templar who played the organ
rather than rode a horse and went on adventures to distant lands with sword in
"So their motto is to: serve
and protect God and the needy?"
about right," said D'Aqs, wading in with his own determination from listening
to this walking encyclopedia.
"While my dad was alive, and
was researching the Knights Templar and about our ancestor Hughes de Payens, he
learned of something from a letter that's stuck with me but is not written
anywhere else among the vast body of knowledge we have about the Knights
Templar. Written by de Payens himself who was the actual founding father of the
Templars, to all Templars, it said the devil tempts the brothers with pride and
ambition with the idea of achieving higher rank. In his letter that was found
in the Hellmantle castle archives, it insists that all Templars must resist
these desires with humility. Only with patience and humility will they best
"Have you seen this letter?"
"No. But I know it also has
a rebuttal to any objection that the Order's military's duties might be an
obstacle to the peace of mind essential for contemplation. He argues that even
contemplative warrior monks must perform some labor, and cannot live without
devoting time to activities other than contemplation. That's why I like motorcycling."
was similar to students of Saint Columba from Ireland who went to
Scotland and set up these monasteries that produced warrior monks who would
leave Scotland each year for Europe when the message of Jesus was at risk of
being lost to history."
the Celtic Church?"
who were at the time equal in power to Rome. Have you ever heard of the
seventh-century maxim: The Celtic Church brings love while the Roman Church
"These Celtic warrior monks
founded over forty monasteries in Europe from France to Switzerland."
remember reading about these guys. They walked to the Mediterranean every
summer playing the bagpipes and spreading the Gospel."
those are the guys. It reflects the essential thrust of the Ten Knightly
Virtues. I only wish I had been mature enough when my father was alive so we
could have shared as pint and talk about a lot of this tuff. That is my biggest
regret in my life." The transformation was swift, mouth like an envelope, eyelids
suddenly heavier than lead, finally a kink in his chain mail.
happened to your father Hellantle?" Dennis Faustino poured his glass full as
well as his own.
was killed by some chappies from Rome is what happened to him." Dennis Faustino
looked at D'Aqs as Hellmantle toyed with his Scotch glass, turning it around
and tipping it to the meniscus.
did they manage that?"
of Rome have been killing off people of importance for two thousand years.
They're experts at knocking off those who are a threat to their power. My
father was no different. After my grandfather was killed in battle in Dien Bien
Phu, he took on a lot of the work his father was doing but the thing about my
Dad was that he was very outspoken and was talking to some powerful people who
had the means to diseminate inforation to the public. My brother and I were
also interested in what he was doing but we were too damned irresponsible to
show any interest. He died thinking I was a selfish kid." Face sombre, eyes
heavy, he stared at his untouched glass. "So I have to live with that."
father died too without me telling him the things I wanted to. Maybbe that's
just part of life."
It's not part of life! I had a choice to show interest but I didn't! We all
have a choice, man!"
sorry for your loss Hellmantle, but try to take some comfort that your father
is very, very proud of you right now as he watches you ride your motorbike
through dangerous areas here in remote areas of my country. How can he not be
proud?" Pain swirled, eyes dark and wet, emotion threatening his intellect,
Hellmantle processed his words in sielnce, and then finally spoke thus:
You are correct. Nice one. Okay then, here's to my father Rolland the Second.
May he be happy in Valhalla and be proud of his son in his diligence and
perseverence to complete his work." They raised glasses and Helmantle drank his
Don't you mean sons?" Hellmantle bolted out of his seat and left for the
brother died when he was sixteen on a ski trip," said D'Aqs in a whisper.
Removed a cigarette but didn't light it. "Were they close?" D'Aqs pulled off
very close. They were identical twin brothers. I went to school with
them both. They were inseperable. Spoke some strange language and were always a
team. We all looked up to them. Envied them I think is the better word."
tragedy for your friend."
been thinking a lot about it since we started our ride and I don't think twins
realize the power they have when they're together. Take it all for granted
until it's no longer there. Both of them used to do the most outlandish things
but I think they could do that because of this support they had for each
but more than that. They could take risks or act the fool but they each knew it
was all right. At boarding school it was what enabled them to become the
leaders of the school."
loss of a loved father and a brother is hard to take, but a twin brother? Wow."
Epathy in Dennis Faustino's eyes.
the deathes happened within a year of each other. I wonder if he will ever
allow himself to recovered, because he's certainly changed a lot when I knew
him well at school."
you're a minister?"
so it's in my heart to help him but the problem is I don't think he wants help,
or is capable of being helped."
you're helping him by just being with him." A tear fell from D'Aqs' eye but he
let it fall on the table, the salty stain glistening under the chandelier.