About the return to Manila
and the coup that causes
the Great Man from Normandy
It is here in the narrative
that a newly found source of information sheds new light on what happened to
the fair explorer from Normandy and his loyal cousin D'Aqs when they returned
to the capital Manila. Upon waking up to the honking of horns from taxis and
motorcycles outside, Hellmantle prepares to return his rented motorcycle before
his departure for Hong Kong in the afternoon but he is informed by the
concierge that the airports are closed due to a impending coup. He asks the
front desk to double check to see if the airports are open or not, and it is
confirmed that the airport is closed and all flights leaving the country are
halted. The concierge says he will notify him when he hears the airport is open
again. Strangely it doesn't ruffle Hellmantle since it is out of his control
and is in the hands of Fate. In fact he regards it as symbolic since the
information he might bring to light will also cause a coup or sorts.
For our purposes recounting
his exploits, how he spends the day remaining in Manila waiting for the opening
of the airport shows the extent of his neuroses from his Aspergers Syndrome coming
out in full force. Primary characteristics of which include an inherent lack of
empathy with others, obsessive behavior and his all-absorbing interest in a
Hellmantle called an old
friend in Manila who told him he was just informed by his boss that a coup as
immanent. He knocked on D'Aqs door to tell him the airports are closed.
"D'Aqs, have you heard about
"Um, no. What situation?"
D'Aqs was looking worn out and he was still favoring his broken ribs.
"The political situation
here in Manila. My friend who lives here said that there may be a coup today."
"A coup? You can't be
serious." Posture slouched, winded by the news.
"I don't think your flight
will be leaving today. My buddy said the airport is closed. The political
turbulence is pretty severe." For a moment D'Aqs forgot where he was and what
city could possibly put him in this situation.
"Well, we should return the
motorcycles soon before there is any potential violence."
"Or we could keep them for
one more day and explore Manila. The passion to explore should never be
squashed by fatigue!" Obsessive behavior blinded him to the physical pain D'Aqs
was in, and perhaps caused him to engage him with the idea of even more
exploring on the bikes. Reluctantly, with his ribs still hampering his
breathing, D'Aqs followed suit and soon they were out in the hot sun and the
congested streets of Manila.
As an experience rider,
Hellmantle led the way practicing what he called bike hugging: finding a
main waterway and then following the road that ran alongside the river down to
the sea. In doing this here in Manila, D'Aqs discovered that there was no
shoreline per se. Where the water ended and the shacks began, there was
only blackened garbage. The water was a thick soupy black color that showed no
signs of a current despite being a mile from the ocean.
Dodging dragonflies, the
cousins reached a dead end with only a path leading to this inland bay where
there were a dozen bamboo shacks built on sand that was always wet from the changing
of the tides. But what he saw on the shore defied description: plastic bags,
plastic barrels and plastic netting, Styrofoam packaging, chopsticks and
bottles, garbage bags and light bulbs, sandals and teapots, broken down
motorcycle and aerosol cans, rope and pieces of manmade wood products, pop cans
and shoes, broken chairs and gasoline containers, steel drums and foam, beer
cans and whiskey bottles, jars and scooter tires, plastic buoys and the
defleshed carcass of a dog, lighters and plastic cartons, garbage pails and
helmets, broken flashlights and broken signs, dead fish and fishing line,
window shutters and abandoned bags, paint cans and feces, fishing lures and
coconuts, empty beer cases and decrepit fans, juice containers and cigarette
packs, broken mugs and oil cans, dishwashing detergent and Slurpee cups,
assorted pieces of ratty clothing and empty water bottles. This was just the
tip of the iceberg. The smell was a combination of rot and salt water and
Still moving forward, they passed
churches packed to the limit. People stood at the end of pews where doorways
opened to the courtyards. The priest sang in Latin as the entire group repeated
what they heard. Despite the hardships and squalor, the country truly had a
Hellmantle found a café
where they relaxed and had a coffee. In front of the café at the intersection
was a sign that read:
HELP GOOD COPS STAY GOOD
Vander Poodle said it was buried in the east tower at the prison lying
at the mouth of four rivers behind the inscribed stone and hidden by an oak."
"That sounds about right."
"So then I guess I'm going
"You're going to northern
Vietnam to look for an old French prison with an oak tree? Is that right?"
"It looks like that. I'm not
going to telephone around. Best to be there and look."
there was tension in the air. There were only a few people on the streets.
"You never knew your
grandfather had a twin brother?"
"Never. It was never
"They say having twins skips
a generation." A television at a makeshift kiosk on the corner of the street
broadcasted the coup live. The announcer said in English:
"The Quiet Revolution,
as it is being called, began when Erap secured an 11-to-10 vote against
opening incriminating evidence from the bank. This triggers People Power Two.
The hundreds of thousands of people here demonstrating at EDSA Shrine in the
aftermath of half of Erap's cabinet resigning promptly followed by the
military chiefs. Erap sneaks away from the hangman's noose on the
President's barge down the Pasig River with his loyal and wealthy cronies."
The television showed images
of Vice President Gloria Arroyo standing beside a five-star general and the
point man of the movement, Orlando Fernandez. Tanks surrounded the palace and
it looked like for a moment no one knew who was now in charge. Erap has
lost the support of the army. It appeared as if he had dropped the ball and now
the Vice President had been sworn in as new chief.
"He slips out like a thief
in the night," said Hellmantle.
"I like it how he is now
calling his defense ‘our peace offensive.' Interesting combination of
words: peace offensive. That's a good one."
"They say he made out with
eight million in bribes and kickbacks from a gambling racquet, and another three
million in personal funds."
They decided to go to the Makati
Sports Club, the private club where Hellmantle was once a member. He said
it had reciprocal privileges with the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Hong
Kong, where he was currently a member. It was late when they get there so
they went to the snack bar where there were two men sitting at one of the
what are you going to do? Ride around north Vietnam until you find a prison and
east tower and an inscribed stone behind an oak?" D'Aqs trying to clearly
define the next step.
much I'd say."
that's a bit extreme, don't you think?"
what, my good sir, is not extreme about the trip we just completed?"
is a human being we're finding and the other is a document you're digging for.
missions are holy and therefore possible. How many prisons can there be with an
east tower near Dien Bien Phu?" It was when he was mulling over this
question when they both became acutely aware of the other two men in the snack
bar. One man was taking notes in a notebook while the other spoke with vigor.
It was only when he looked in their direction that they recognized Orlando
Mercado, the point man in the coup who was just on television at the EDSA
Shrine. His shirt stuck to his chest with sweat from the coup.
Hellmantle kicked D'Aqs foot
under the table.
"That's Orlando Mercado, the
Secretary of State, who was the chap who resigned on Friday as the chief of the
military defectors. He was the guy at the EDSA Shrine." Fair skinned with pudgy
cheeks, his shirt was still wet with sweat from the coup.
"I thought it was him." And
so they listened:
"I was worried about
bloodshed," said Orlando Mercado. "I had heard that they were going to call in
the marines and that the PSG would fight back. The President called me in.
Without the Americans the arena would be empty and we'd be in suspended
animation. And suspended animation is a vacuum to bloodshed. In fact I've
resigned my position but we've been instructed by the newly appointed President
Arroyo to hold our positions. I thought it was such a waste that such a
President who was the hero of the poor would go out in such a way." Hellmantle
and D'Aqs looked at each other and then looked down at the floor as if in
"Well, that will be
determined by the courts," said the reporter.
"I think it's amazing that
such peaceful power can topple an immoral President."
"Bad spirits will be felt if
Estrada stayed in."
"Not like you wake up one
morning and say ‘this is going to happen today.' It needs to be triggered. Not
to say names but some senators started to move towards..."
"...either rig the vote or
suffer the consequences."
"It's not like I convinced
him," he said to the interviewer with the recorder. "Oh Jesus, there were
attempts but I was always arguing."
"Sir, after what time did
you decide?" asked the reporter.
"After watching the rally.
There was a move to oust him, it looked like Erap was in a lapse. It
wasn't a quick, decisive move. It was myself and the entire administration. I
didn't mention it to the Vice President."
"Why should she give up the
presidency that was there? It wasn't so much political, or to satisfy the poor,
it was a question of tearing apart society."
"If it's one thing we've
learned from all this, all politicians dream of becoming number one in the
country, but I think it's wrong to let the presidency be beyond the reach of
the law and objectives of his office, so you can do anything. This experience
was a near-death experience. There's only one thing you have to think about:
survival. Because death is all around. There were attempts-"
"But you were unaware of
Duarte?" Mercado was silent for a moment. "How would you describe your
relationship with senator Duarte?"
"Well, we met and became
good friends. There's an election coming up. I can do anything. I can get a
teaching job at the university."
"How did they welcome you?"
"Ah, they said: ‘Welcome
back, welcome home.' They knew I was on their team. Again, it goes back to
Marcos... Actually, there are people who have fallen that we don't remember.
You're too young to know about the perfume scandal. You know Jimmy Carter was
not a great president but he is one of the best ex-presidents in American
History. When you're done in office, it shouldn't mean you run away. I did not
make any deals. I don't have a crystal ball. When you go trip through dark
places, you're never clean when you walk out of it."
It was about then that the Secretary of State - the man who stood beside the General
of the Army and the new President of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo, only hours
ago, caught wind that the two foreigners at the next table were eavesdropping
on him. They stood up to go but Hellmantle bolted out of his seat, cut Mercado
off from walking out of the snack bar beside the pool, and said to him thus:
Secretary of State," said Hellmantle full of bluster. "Having lived here in
your fair country and having seen the wrongs and corruption perpetrated by your
once beloved movie star el Presidente Erap, may I shake your hand
for upholding the principles of justice, fair play and serving God." He put out
his hand but Mercado was too flaberghasted to take it. "For in your courageous
actions you may have prevented a bloody civil war and strife, which this
country has seen all too often. Too many times have I found myself standing
with clenched fists hoping for a politician with integrity to step out of the
shadows to make a stand against abuse of power and the bending of law
here on King Phillip's Island! So you, sir, deserve a warm handshake
indeed for your bravery and dignity. I salute you sir!" He stretched out
his hand again to a bewildered and skeptical Orlando Fernandez, who looked at
D'Aqs sitting wide-eyed like him, watching. A subtle nod from D'Aqs to the
Secretary of State communicated that the bearded man in front of him was half
mad. So relaxing the frown on his face, Mercado shook Hellmantle's hand but was
promptly hugged. The Man from Normandy patted him on the shoulder as they
separated, and said:
you give me comfort knowing there are still men of principle in
government no matter if it's Hong Kong, Mexico or the Philippines. It inspires
obedience to the Scriptures and it gives me faith in humanity. Thou shall
not steal. You have provided me with the glimmer of hope I have thirsted
for many years, and I will remember always your fidelity to reason, adherence
to the Ten Large Ones from Moses and your backbone to fight what can
only be regarded as the evil in man!"
he must leave before this bearded foreigner spoke more gibberish, Orlando
Mercado nodded at Hellmantle and D'Aqs, and then left the snack bar followed by
the reporter. Hellmantle was serious when he spoke thus:
you see?" he said to D'Aqs.
"No. I don't see."
"It is a sign from God.
The change of regime is symbolic of the changes we will cause from our most
significant discovery. We have found the Dutch Padre so we have now
confirmed the legend to be true. We are now armed with enough information to
take our Holy Quest to the next level. We are on course to change history, just
like what has happened tonight here in Manila. God is showing us that our
discovery will be akin to a regime change at the highest level. Have faith my
dear cousin that our destiny will be such that we shall be remembered for all