Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Seventeen 


Which relates to Hellmantle of Normandy reaching

the northern coast and the rubble of Aparri

Maharlika Highway, Cagayan Province 


With time becoming short, there were still no developments as to where the Dutch Padre could be. Fatigue and pain fettered D'Aqs, and doubt shackled the concealed zeal he had been using to his advantage. Hellmantle however, was even more ebullient about the crusade and believed more fervently that their treasure was about to be unveiled. For D'Aqs it was exhilarating to be around a man of such resonant belief whose abandon was both a hazard and exaltation. Single-mindedness had never been so explicitly shown to the missionary before. Something about it bestirred him to action in the face of all practicality, aware that he would never be the same after this trip.

They had followed the road due north past the crossing point of the Cagayan River through a catena of small towns until darkness and fatigue hit them in Tuguegarao, where they stayed for the night. D'Aqs didn't move at all the entire night he was so physically depleted. Early the next morning Hellmantle spearheaded the way to Aparri on the northern tip of the Philippines, the location where the Japanese attacked a few days after Pearl Harbor. Hellmantle found more churches but most were dilapidated. The river levels were still deluging the road but they managed a good downhill clip until they saw seagulls and felt the sea breeze on their mugs. For Hellmantle, Aparri was a place he felt drawn to visit, like a trophy to grab, the farthest outpost of Spanish settlement on the northern island of Luzon that could house the church and the Dutch preacher. There were more vestiges of Spanish habitation the farther north they traveled until they reached Aparri.

D'Aqs was shocked at the carnage he saw. Like Berlin and Tokyo after the war, the Allies had bombed Aparri, but unlike Germany and Japan it had never been properly cleaned up. There was no Marshall Plan to rebuild the carnage that lay scattered at the mouth of the Babuyan Channel at the South China Sea. Instead the old part of town was rubble with squatters living in the ruins. It was easy to see how the area had once been beautiful where seagulls fed at the estuary and palm trees swayed in the wind. What struck D'Aqs the most was not the rusted iron scarp of blasted bridges or the mud-heaped wreckage, but rather the expressions on the people's faces like the unmistakable hatred in the eyes of the children who greeted them as they rode by. There were no friendly waves or smiles that had peppered their tour so far. Instead hostile looks of blame. Rather than feeling scared being stranded in the rain somewhere in the mountains after dark with no place to sleep, the greater fear was his machine breaking down in Aparri. D'Aqs felt like they were moving targets, as if someone might hop in their car and follow them, cut them off and rob them. Hellmantle was particularly conspicuous with his long blonde hair and beard. His helmet still dangled from the strap under his arm.

Hellmantle found the shell of the original church but it was a pile of stones and garbage. Having no operational Catholic churches in Aparri, they agreed to go west along the northern coast. As they left a boy on the side of the road spat at D'Aqs, the gob of spit hitting him in the face, which caused him a momentary loss of control of his motorcycle. Skidding, he almost wiped out on the pavement. Hellmantle heard the skidding and stopped.

"What happened?"

"A kid back there spat at me! He got me right in the face!" Hellmantle couldn't see the child but didn't itch to confront anyone in Aparri.

"Count yourself lucky. Bad vibe here. So let's make like Wayne Gretzsky and get the puck outta here." After wiping his face, but a bit slowly due to his broken ribs and hand grievance, D'Aqs carried on and followed his cousin west towards Laoag City.

Riding out of Aparri by backtracking to the bridge over the Cagayan River, it was D'Aqs who was haunted by hostility. Children and adults glared at him as he passed as if he was part of the army who cankered their town. However, thinking about it as he rode west, he couldn't blame them for their bitterness. First the Spanish, then the Japanese and then the Americans, Aparri ended up with a flattened city with funds for reconstruction likely pocketed by local government officials. Left with nothing after doing nothing to deserve it, the havoc of war had destroyed their livelihood. Noteworthy since the Philippinos had been so friendly during their ride.

West of Aparri moving parallel with the sea, they covered mile after mile keeping their eyes looking ahead, trying not to provoke eye-to-eye contact with anyone who might feel they were trespassing on their land. Dennis Faustino's warning entered D'Aqs' mind. Not wanting to tempt fate, he was relieved to cross the Abulung River where they stopped at the first church along the northern coast. Down an empty road through small roadside villages that kissed the South China Sea, they saw the first functional Spanish church complete with bell tower in the town of Pamplona. Emitting a rusty hue as if sun-soaked, the church appeared to be made of burning brick, its two white-domed towers contrasting against the glow of the brick. It had the fortunate effect of calming D'Aqs' nerves.

"No services here," said Hellmantle, squinting. "No Dutch Man-of-the-Cloth."

        "Just happy to be across the river."

        "Aparri was an anthill of hate. And to think I have to be back in the office in forty-eight hours. We're about 800 kilometers from Manila"

        "The roads are better now."

        "The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving," said Hellmantle.

"Wasn't that in the Fortes In Fide et Amore?" There was a wink in that left eye of Hellmantle's.

"We can hit Laog City tonight, and then tomorrow Vigan, which is supposed to be cooler than Intramuros in Old Manila. Remember old man, the capacity of a second effort marks the difference between ordinary and extraordinary men. The mileage we had achieved has left us in a good position to take on the entire west coast during our last day of riding. We need to make it to Laoag today though. One must never count on anything until it is done, n'est-ce pas? To quote an old Viking proverb:

Praise not the day until the evening has come; a woman until she is burnt; a sword until it is tried; a maiden until she is married; ice until it has been crossed; beer until it has been drank.

Back on the road fort-like churches with enormous flying buttresses built with seashell to withstand the strong ocean winds. Constructed with the sea in mind and weathered by typhoons from the ocean, these Spanish wonders of architecture were pieces of art despite their sacked façade. They had been plundered and their shells still stood in testament to their sound architectural design. Doors hung off crooked hinges below arches chipped from history left to the ravages of time.

When they arrived in the city of Laoag, D'Aqs felt a mixture of sadness and relief. Relieved to have reached a city where he was safe, he was equally sad that they had now left the on-the-edge adventure of the Cagayan and Apayao provinces of the north where tales of piracy and plunder and headhunting were still handed down in the big cities like Manila.

They settled in for the night but could hear a succession of loud explosions of firecrackers, both forgetting that it was New Year's Eve. Dirty, windblown, tired and starving for good food, the Merovingian cousins wolfed down dinner and a few beers and called it an early night, something Hellmantle hadn't done on a New Year's Eve since he was in his early teens.

Under the splash of fireworks in the sky that night Hellmantle had a dream. He was climbing a mountain but when he reached part way up he saw a massive turret-like fortress. It was made of stone with ramparts built in Spanish colonial architecture but he never reached it. He climbed almost to the top but he stood absorbed by the quality its workmanship. The land was rugged and cold with snow around jagged rock and waterfalls, becoming aware of all the nameless faces that had contributed to its construction. He saw dozens of faces including the Fathers Albert de Rheume and William Brasseur and Leo Vande Winkle. Their skin was dry and cracked from the wind and sun and their robes frayed around the edges. They each held a hammer and were walking past Hellmantle to highest tower at the pinnacle, their hardened features showing the signs of hard work and discipline. When they walked past him he took out his camera and tried to take a photo but it was so steep that he couldn't focus his zoom lens. He could only capture part of it. He had to lie on his back to capture only a glimpse of the tower that reached up to the heavens, standing out like an antenna that reached to the clouds. It was a fort that was totally safe with impregnable walls that used vertical distance as its moat, and it struck him that it was also the quintessential church since it was so close to God.

Hellmantle woke up before his 5:00am wake-up call.

"Only the devil's disciples sleep past sunrise," he said aloud in the darkness.



TABLE OF CONTENTS                                                                                  
          The Family of the Bible
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
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
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
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



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