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Chapter Twenty-one 


 

About the return to Manila and the coup that causes

the Great Man from Normandy grief

Manila, Philippines

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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 single topic.

 

 

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 the situation?"

"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 sewage.

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 Christian soul.

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

 

"So 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 to Vietnam."

"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."

Outside 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 mentioned."

"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 tables.

"So 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.

"Pretty much I'd say."

"Well that's a bit extreme, don't you think?"

"And what, my good sir, is not extreme about the trip we just completed?"

"One is a human being we're finding and the other is a document you're digging for. It's different."

"Both 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 thought.

"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:

"Mr. 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:

"Sir, 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!"

Realizing 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:

"Don't 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 time."

  

 

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
         
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