In the mountains, they call it Going Beyond. The way they pronounce the Words endows the sound with a hushed finality as though the meaning had nothing to do with the syllables, the lips just a bit parted, afraid to release The Words altogether. The head is bowed during the utterance, signifying both the solemnity and the apocalyptic nature of the occasion. If you had been there then you would have see how the men, baskets of cabbages and green bananas on their backs, would meet on the muddy trail and whisper to each other.
You would have understood from the contour of their lips that The Words were said; and these having been said, they would pursue their individual ways–one, perhaps, to wend his way to the Market, the other to wait by the Highway for Tourists to purchase his vegetables at a pauper’s price. Women sitting on the cold bamboo benches before the village store would suddenly interrupt their conversation by an ominous silence:you knew they were thinking of The Words; they did not have to say them. In fact saying them would be only anti-climactic, because deep in their minds lurked images that could not be collapsed into a mere couple of sounds. A father queried about the whereabouts of his son would whisper The Words, raising him arms in the direction of the Mountains, and you would be a Fool if you thought he meant his son had gone away to live in another place. The raising of arms is supplementary to the meaning of the Words, at times it means more than The Words.Order now
“He’s gone beyond,” the father would say. “No, he’s not dead, but he’s gone beyond. “Beyond is more than the physical boundaries of the Village, more than the physical boundaries of the Mountains, more than the Sea and the Sky and the Land put together. Yes.
It is not Death. It is not Life. It is not Life and Death put together. You may give it any name you want, you may declare the people mad, but in the Mountains, they call it Going Beyond. “The trouble with you,” Roy said, “is that you are a coward. “I looked at him framed by the last glow of sunset that managed to pour through the misted windowglass.
He had just arrived from the City which, from the vantage point of this far-flung Village, was on the other side of eternity. His single bag (“I like to travel light”) lay beneath the army cot that stood parallel to the wall; this and the other on e I called mine touched ends to form an ell, with the two windows dotting their extremities. It was a small room, though it was room enough for me. Even in the rare event when I had an overnight visitor there was still sufficient space to spare.
“The trouble with you is that you are a coward,” he said again turning to me after quaffing the last drops of his drink. “Imagine coming here, living here with God knows what kind of people. This is not the place for you. “He walked to the table in the middle of the room to refill his glass; the moment he was embraced by the light, the single light that dangled from a single cord from the ceiling, I saw that the years had not altered him. I do not mean that he had not grown old; I mean that his soul had not changed:he was still Roy, my big brother, my friend trying to save me from distress most of which he had only imagined. Or I may be wrong.
Perhaps he had changed, only I was too ensconced in my new world to notice the realities outside it. “How’s Luisa?” I said. I had not moved from sitting on my cot. “She’s going to have a baby.
You cannot expect a woman like her to remain alone forever,” Roy said. “And the man?””She can’t ask for anyone better. “”I’m glad she’s happy. “”It’s not a question of happiness,” he said moving back to the window.
“A lot of people die not knowing they are happy. It’s a question of knowing someone is there for you to turn to when you get sick of being with yourself or punching the same infernal machine day in and day out. “”I did my best,” I said, but my mind was groping for some more definite words. “You did what you thought you had to do. As to whether that was the right thing to do?”He respected my feeling.
That one thing kept our friendship alive; I could not help thinking, however, that the sentence would have ended with an undertone of reproach. “You kept away, for sure,” he said, “and I must say you did it magnificently. “It came at last. He swept the room with a wide gesture of his arm, a gesture that encompassed also the whole Village. “But I came not to speak about that.
I know you don’t want to speak about that. I came?””Yes, why did you come?”He was silent for a moment. Then he said, “Come to think of it now, I don’t know hwy I came? I wanted to see you. It has been two years after all. “Two years! How could two years have passed?Probably the Mountains had something to do with it:Time that ordinarily knocked on the doors in the City, that pushed one to work and back to home again, Time that stole but never gave, was here a non-entity, or, at most, an ignored presence:the Mountains leveled it, the winding roads and the cool trees tempered it, so that when it finally arrived at the doorstep, it was all haggard and hungry and begging for a lodging.
As to what tow years had done to me I did not know; when you do not bother time it stays away from the fringes of your memory and comes to you only in the guise of images not brilliant in their broken-ness, which you can easily push into that cave of darkness called the Mind; the Mind, no more than Time, reposes when the muscles repose:both speak the same language. Two years. This morning I received a letter from Dayleg, the import of which struck me only when I came to the last passage. Dayleg of the dikes and the downy cogon grass, Dayleg of the dancing uninhibited, Dayleg the devotee turned defiant, Dayleg of the broken skin and white teeth, had spoken at last.
Remember the hunt we had two years ago, he wrote, how we crossed the line between heaven and hell in pursuit of the white boar?I remembered. The sacred grove was hardly a forbidding sight:it was like any mountain hunting ground, though there was a sharp tang in the air while the frail twigs crackled louder as we stepped in between the willows and the pines. But then perhaps we really were just half-aware of these, our senses attuned only to the presence of the quarry. “Father says this place is a thousand years old,” Dayleg said. “By the way we are trampling all over it we deserve at least fifty years in Hell.
“”You can start your penance now,” I said, “Surely the gods will accept contrition by installment. “”It?s down by the stream. Let’s encircle it. “The profound significance of the moment sprang before me while I moved as Dayleg directed.
We were on forbidden grounds tracking an equally forbidden animal. The fact that I was an outsider did not alter nor lighten the gravity of my involvement. Even as we were encircling the animal a network of guilt was weaving tiny holes of pain in my conscience. By consenting to the hunt I was sharing in the malevolence of a conspiracy. When I arrived by the stream Dayleg was already bending over the dead animal.
A single arrowtail protruded form one side of its neck, the arrowhead having shot clean through the other side. “It’s not white after all. “Dayleg was disappointed. “They had always told me it was pure as the clouds. “”What shall we do with it now?” I said, eyeing the animal. It was about three feet long, its body covered with thick grizzly hair; mud and blood glistened round its throat.
Its tow tusks were ivory in the fading light. In cold repose the boar seemed to cling to its mythic holiness as long as it could. “We’ll bring it to the village and show the elders the lie they’ve been handling us all this time. “By the light of the fire we had built against the cold I could see Dayleg’s face as he spoke. It had turned bronze; his eyes shone as though relishing the wickedness of what he had planned to do. His dark slender trunk covered with a dirty G-string was damp with sweat.
But wouldn?t that be the height of sacrilege?You asked. You could not hide the shock (or was it fear) in your face. I could not understand your concern for thewhole thing. All you had to do was pack up and go. The gods would have a hard time finding you in the city, crude and walking as they are, if ever they have the mind to meddle in the affairs of a foreigner. Their sovereignty is confined to the mountains.
The mountains swelled in darkness as we started our descent to the Village. Dayleg, his sturdy legs punching the sward, the sacred boar stradding his neck, moved easily down the mountain side while I picked my way, stumbling now and then on the rocks or slipping down the moist grass. ?The cat would eat fyshe but he will not weate his feate. ??What??I said. I could barely catch up with his steps.
?English proverb,? he said. ?A lot of them in the books. Very good for the mind. ?We walked in silence most of the time. In spite of the cold night, perspiration soaked my clothes.
The knapsack grew heavy on my back. I wiped my face with the sleeve of my shirt. A true son of the mountains, Dayleg never slowed his pace but even whistled once in a while. Looking at him naked save for a piece of loin-cloth I could hardly believe that he was one of the most intelligent men I had met.
When first I came to the Village, the first person I saw was a young native squatting by the roadside and cleaning the tip of a ten-foot spear. The spear was common sight in the place, I had been told earlier, for it was both a means of tilling the soil and, during a tribal feud, of disemboweling the enemies. Occupied by what he was doing, he hardly responded when I asked him for directions to the village school. But the word ?school? made him raise his head.
He surveyed me from head to foot before giving me the directions I wanted. The school was a four-room structure of wood and galvanized iron located in a small piece of flat land the people called ?The Valley. ? Big pine trees that protected the structure from both sun and wind gave it a quality of idyllic serenity usually associated with monasteries. You climbed three steps to find yourself in a kind of balcony that overlooked the whole schoolground. ?Of course one can get terribly lonely here, and one usually does,? the Principal, father Van Noort from Belgium, said.
I had knocked on the door of his ?office? at the back of the school building and was met by an old man with graying hair and a brownish soutane that used to be white. Like most of the missionaries I knew, he had a fondness for native cigars. The ?office? was a small room in which were miraculously accommodated a roll-top table, a rattan chair, a wooden bed with a feather mattress, a table with several dirty pieces of cutlery, two chairs to the table, bookshelves, books, wastecans, a table lamp, the sculpted figure of a mountain warrior holding the severed head of his enemy in one hand and his sword in the other. Father Van Noort brushed the ashes form his sleeves.
?As I mentioned in my letter, you?ll be in charge of the fifth class. Literature and language. ?There was a knock on the door followed by the entrance of a dark-skinned man carrying several books. His white trousers and white shirt were spotless; the electric bulb was reflected on his shoes.
?Carlos Dayleg, in charge of the fourth class,? father van Noort said to me by way of introducing the newcomer. ?I think we?ve already met,? Dayleg said, extending his hand. It was only then that I realized he was the man I asked directions from a few hours ago. He must have noticed my surprise. ?Yes, we met this morning. In this place it is not uncommon for natives to change to more civilized attires.
As for me, I do it only on special occasion. ??And school is a special occasion,? Father Van Noort said. ?And school is a special occasion,? Dayleg said, ?and going to the movies and visiting the Mayor,?After classes Dayleg invited me for a drink. A few minutes? walk from school, down winding paths that led past the native huts squatting on hard-packed mud, past the curious structure of a cogon roof placed right on the hard-packed mud, the remains of a bonfire in the very center of the space which one could enter only by crawling on all fours, past this nest of love by t4rial, past half-carved coffins drying ion the sun, emerged Dayleg?s hut. We climbed a steep ladder to the center of the room.
?Make yourself comfortable,? Dayleg said. ?The old man must be in a feast somewhere. ?The clang of brass gongs filled the hut, reverberated against the rafters, seemed to seep down through the bamboo floorings and settled on the ground below. Dayleg took an earthen jar form a corner.
He placed two plastic glasses on the low table. With a groan he sat down beside me. The heat of the rice wine snaked through my throat ? that was the first time I ever drank it, and the taste was both strange and sweet. ?Here we ferment rice into wine,? Dayleg said.
?The longer, the better. Of course if you overdo it you get vinegar. ?That night we talked about many things. I learned that Dayleg had finished a course in pedagogy and philosophy in a university in the City, and that he had come back to his village to do his part in ?the education of my people.
?But the rest of our talk came to me now in images and impressions that flitted in my brain like cinematic associations, the focus always changing. A jar of rice wine does so much to blur the memory, though the pictures are nevertheless recognizable:Dayleg, sixteen years old, sitting before the Council of Elders, being reprimanded for shouting at the village High Priest; the smell of pig roasting, its smoke wafted through the pores of houses, everyone poking his head through the window, straining to smell the meat and to hear the familiar sounds, for this feast was for Lumawig, He Who Sends Fruition to the Earth, the men and the women woven into a circle, the fire in the center, swinging to the rhythm of the gongs which constant use turned golden, like the bright deathmasks of ancient mummery, dancing and chanting, amongst them Dayleg handsome in his nakedness; the circle widening with the shouts of combat, in the center Dayleg with a spear in a stance of sciamachy, fearless as a man for whom death had no meaning, resolved only to redeem the honor of his tribe while the circle metamorphosed into many pointed lances; Dayleg alone in the spot, a bloody wound in his thigh, the circle broken; myself with eyes bloodshot pouring wine into my twenty mouths when Dayleg tipped the jar and the floor bloomed into a hundred wet pieces of clay; a graduation photograph ? left to right, third row ? Manuel Pantig, Jose Arcana, Roberto Galdon, Lauro Canlas, Antonio Morte, Lorenzo Peron, Carlos Dayleg, Mario Tarsus; a dark face lined with the furrows of years, saying ?Hardly were the feet cold that followed your mother?s coffin than you should break her jar. Aie, I tell you, Son, this house will know peace no more!?, the clash of cymbals in a nameless place as warriors without faces whirled up and down in air till one of them, naked, plunged backward shattering his spine against a giant monolith. ?It?s not because my people are uneducated that they cling to ancient tradition,? Dayleg said as we walked around the schoolyard during recess the next day, ?but it?s a reason civilized men like you don?t and can?t fully understand. ?Ars longa, vita brevis,? as your philosophers say, yet something longer than art governs the very consciousness of these people.
It goes to the very bone of their existence. Lumawig, Creator of Earth, permeates their lives, my life, and these traditions are but extensions of His Being. When one turns his back on these he forfeits glory in the afterlife. ??Then you?ve already lost a great part of that glory,? I said reminding of the wine jar. ?That is pardonable under the circumstances in which I broke it,? he said.
He shrugged off the matter. ?But what must be obvious to you is that I do things to break these traditions. I believe it?s about time some of them were challenged. ?I could hardly understand him for the contradictions in what he said; perhaps he was not aware of them, but on my part the more I got to know him the more complex he became, until an incident that disturbed the elders provided me with the first insight into his character. He had gathered thirty of the old villagers, marched them to the schoolhouse where before the blackboard topped by a picture of a severe unsmiling Rizal he lectured them on the advantages of forsaking Lumawig and adopting the ways of the Christians. His listeners sat with the passivity of a people used to the hard exigencies of mountain life, their faces stolid as the rocks the school was perched on, neither nodding nor shaking their heads, for they could not follow the ramifications of this strange exotic dialectics, taking the words more out of respect for this young man who had been to the university than out of interest for what eh was saying; a few of them appeared confused, who had come only thinking there would be planning a foot for a forthcoming feast.
While he was heading toward the school. His father strode into the room with his army boots clacking on the loose floor boards followed by ten of the village elders. Surprise and anger were written on their faces. They surrounded him with the combined smell of sweat, tobacco, dust and breath ? the basic ingredients that had kept these people alive in this remote chunk of earth. ?Know what you’re doing?? his father said in his face. He raised his arm as if to strike his son, but it fell limply on his side.
?The devil has charmed his tongue,? one of the elders said. ?And his eyes,? another said. ?I can do what I like,? Dayleg said. ?To make your mother turn in her grave????To bring my people light. ??It has not fallen upon your shoulders.
??That?s what I went to school for. ??You are young,? a white-haired elder said, obviously the leader. ?We can still forgive you. ??I don?t see anything for you to forgive,? there was recussancy in Dayleg?s words. Stung by this insolence, the leader turned to his companions.
?There is no question but that we should hold a council,? he said. ?The rest of you go back to your work. ?With a last glance at Dayleg he led the group out of the room. The Council, of course, condemned Dayleg?s action; it ordered him to refrain, under pain of expulsion from the tribe, from expounding foreign philosophy to the natives. If Dayleg was hurt by this decision he did not show it. He was one who would not make a martyr of himself even though martyrdom danced before his very eyes.
Consequently, there was a change in the people?s attitude toward him:they were more careful in mentioning his name. They did not avoid him outright though they took the precaution of not being seen talking to him. When we reached the Village, it was midnight. Arriving at his father?s house, Dayleg groped in the darkness under it looking for a suitable depository for the boar while I sat on an old tree stump to catch my breath. The moon had come out form a layer of clouds to provide the only illumination in the place, the big, pot-bellied moon which on other nights I might have found romantic but which now enwrapped me with a feeling of dread. ?Tomorrow we hold the sacrifice,? Dayleg said sitting beside me.
We sat in silence. I listened to the shadows moving across the houses, listened so hard that after they had vanished with the moon that sailed right through the door of the sky I was afraid, to say the least, and was now beginning to shiver from the cold and from hunger. When I turned to Dayleg I saw he was fumbling with something. ?You must be hungry.
Here, let?s start a fire and roast some meat,? he said. He had gone up the house and secured the food without my noticing his leaving my side. The odor of roasting whetted my appetite. He had also brought a jar wine which, together with the meat, eased my hunger.
But my muscles were still taut in tension; I was fearing some thought that had not completely taken shape. Dayleg ate without saying a word. Now and then he would glance under the house as though in spite of the darkness he could see the boar, as though in spite of the darkness he could read some cabalistic calendrics on the skull of the boar. Three school terms I had worked with him but I knew nothing about him, except his preference for canned food, his indifference to women, his love for the rice terraces.
Not that he was reserved or aloof ? he was sociable ? but his sociability revealed merely the outer encumbrances of his personality, much as the sphinx revealed merely the outer characteristics of its animalism, but the mystery that shrouded it amidst the burning desert sands few could untangle. Perhaps the metaphor was far-fetched; perhaps he was enigmatic not because I could not understand him but because I was analyzing him from an irrelevant angle. Luisa had told me that I was always inclined to be a poetic. ?You see things only after your imagination has colored them.
You won?t look at them as they are,? she said. And Roy accused me of being a poet as though that was a crime. He pointed out that poets were an anachronism in an age of practical realists who regarded mankind with precise scientific minds in search of solutions to its problems. Perhaps I saw Dayleg from a wrong perspective. My own life with Luisa was an out-of-focus affair. We had known each other for three years.
She was secretary to an oil executive in the City and I was a reporter for an afternoon paper. Because of the nature of my work I saw very little of her ? yes, we would go on dates on Sundays, to the cinema, the beach, but most of the time we did not know what the other was doing. Not that it was necessary to know that ? we loved each other; sometimes, however, one needs some form of assurance that his beloved is still alive or faithful. I guess I was the possessive type for I insisted that we got married. After all we had been planning that for the past year, only we were afraid we could not live decently on our meager income. I asked for a week?s leave form my editor and she did the same form her chief.
We og6t married in a simple rite with only the priest, Roy, and Blanca ? Luisa?s best friend ? in attendance. After that we had an inexpensive dinner, bad Roy and Blanca good-bye, and off we were to our honeymoon in the Mountains. It was, I can say, a happy week we had together. Watching Luisa cook, take care of the house and attend to my needs I thought I had found the most wonderful woman in the world. It was when we came back to the City that life did not fulfill what it promised in eh beginning. I had wanted to be the breadwinner in the house but Luisa did not want to give up her job.
I could not accept the knowledge that she was earning more that I was, that some other men could command and reprimand her. Roy said this was unfair of me. ?You are selfish. Soon you?ll have children and your wife?s earnings will surely help,? he said. When I told him I did not intend to have children he said I was crazy and should not have gotten married in the first place. I admitted that I had not given that any thought before ? having children ? and that my sole aim in rushing Luisa into marriage was to possess her.
I was jealous of any man who as much as looked at her. Having been poor all my life, I desperately wanted something to call my own, ye6t I was suddenly afraid to face the responsibilities of a married man. Three months after our marriage I packed my things and headed for the Mountains after writing Luisa a note. There I learned later that she had asked for an annulment of our marriage which the Church granted. On what grounds I did not know, nor care.
I was glad to forget my failure as a husband. A ripple of noise cut my sleep:the ripple became wider until I found myself sitting greatly awake, looking around in the room. It was early morning. Dayleg was asleep in a corner near the post. I could hear excited voices emanating from below the house:they had discovered the boar.
Soon Dayleg too was disturbed by the noise. He sat upright, listened for a while, then rushed out of the room. When I got downstairs a thin blinding light pierced my eyes; momentarily I stood there till the light flashed out of my sight. Thrice it flew up and down then ended in a silver strip that was a machete. Dayleg was brandishing it, no, gesticulating with it as he was confronted by the elders. A crowd had gathered near the house after someone saw the boar and informed the elders; they came ? some of them still shake from interrupted sleep, some uncertain of what the disturbance was all about ? more than a hundred brown and shiny skins.
Dayleg stood tall and looming over the animals as though trying to protect it from any sudden snatcher; he held the machete high above his head, its blade pointed upward and catching slivers of sunbeam. His face was granite, inscrutable. ?The curse of gods upon us!? an old woman cried. ?Many a year I have lived here wishing that at my death I could see the sacred boar running. Now I see it dead.
The curse of gods upon us!?She was joined in her wailing by other women who had nurtured the same hop. The others became more excited:they pushed and jostled each other to get a better glimpse of the animal and, when the profundity of its violation occurred to them, entered with the women into a state of general moaning. ?The grove has been defiled!??The infidel!??The village shall be without light!??A thousand droughts shall stalk the terraces!??The curse of gods upon us!??Who would believe it ? our own man??Somebody pushed through the thick circle of bodies and stood facing Dayleg on the opposite side of the cabbage crate on which the boar spread, its body outlined by a pool of coagulating blood. It was the leader of the elders. Anger that distorted his face ran through his gleaming eyes down to his hands clenched at his sides.
The crowd held its breath looking from one man to the other. ?In the name of Lumawig, why did you kill the boar?? the leader said. ?Ti was there for the hunting,? Dayleg said. He had put down the machete on the ground.
?For the hunting of the gods, yes, but for us mortals???The gods would no more hunt there than we would hunt in the moon. ??Blasphemy!? the leader shook his fist at Dayleg. ?The grove is not sacred. ??Blasphemy!It has always been and will ever be. Lumawig himself consecrated it when he came down to earth.
??That is a lie you and the others help to perpetuate. Look at your boar!What is to distinguish it from any other boar?Its blood is as filthy. ??It is sacred,? the leader?s anger was mounting. ?It is dead,? Dayleg said with contempt in his voice. ?It is sacred,? the crowd, contaminated by the leader?s anger, repeated.
?It is dead!?Dayleg shouted. ?Dead!?He picked up the machete and poked it at the animal?s belly to emphasize his words. The old woman wailed burying her face in her hands. ?The curse of gods upon us!??Dayleg,? the leader shrieked above the woman?s wailing, ?I tell you your mother is turning in her coffin at the shame you have brought us.
??I am no more guilty of killing this boar than you are declaring it sacred. ??It is sacred!? the crowd said. ?It is dead, dead!?Dayleg said. ?Only fools would cry over a stinking carcass!?Forthwith he started hacking the boar:the blows thudded on its body as again and again the gleaming machete fell on it. The crowd watched in horror, some gasping for breath as if their very bodies were being hit by the weapon.
The women?s wailing at this flagrant destruction of the god?s minion rose and fell with the rise and fall of Dayleg?s hand. ?The demon has seized him. ??Woe to our children and our children?s children. ??Dayleg!In the name of Lumawig, stop it. What are you doing???I?m breaking your lie. ??And consigning us all to hell???And freeing you from blindness.
??Son, stop it!?Dayleg?s father clasped his hands imploringly. ?No. ?The sharpness in Dayleg?s voice sent an icy shiver down my back. By all indications he was mad, for he hacked the boar even as it lay almost an indescribable mass of flesh and gore.
Sweat and the animal?s blood that had spurted out covered his face and arms that shone as the sun rose and struck them. As I watched him I discovered the Dayleg I knew was not even the shadow of this one before me. ?Dayleg, stop it1It?s not too late. The gods can still forgive. ?The leader was on the verge of tears.
As against the crate he leant for support, his bony fingers were black at the joints. ?No,? Dayleg said. ?I?ll show them?He picked up a piece of the boar?s flesh, held it high over his head and shouted, ?I curse you!?The crowd moved back terrified as the sacred blood dripped from Dayleg?s fingers and the sacred flesh quivered in his hand. ?Son, stop it!??In the name of Lumawig, abandon this madness!??The wrath of gods upon us!??I curse you,? the sounds came from the sepulcher of Dayleg?s throat, ?by a crooked line, a broken line, a right line, a simple line???Son, remember you mother. ??? by flame, by wind, by mass, by rain, by clay???Lumawig, Ruler of the Sky,? the leader said kneeling on the ground and beating his breast, ?forgive Your son. He is young.
The heat is in his blood. ??? by a serpent, by a flying thing, by a creeping thing???He has sacrificed many a cow in Your honor; he has danced till his bones ached in Your feast. ??The wrath of gods upon us. ?Many of the natives had also knelt; the rest, stunned by the horror, sat simply on the ground. Dayleg alone stood before the crate, his hand still outstretched holding the boar?s flesh, stood handsomely tall mouthing his antique incantation while the sun rose higher and higher to surround his head with a crown of fierce light. ?I curse you by an eye, by a hand, by a afoot, by a cross???Look not upon this day as a breach upon Your will,? the leader said crying, ?but close Your eyes to the wind.
??? by a sword, by a scourge, by a flood???The wind brings no message if You won?t listen. The sun blinds You not with horror. Let Your mind forget this day. ??? Haade, Mikaded, Rakeben???Lumawig, we pray You forgive Your son. Remove not your love from this people. ??Rika, Ritalica, Tasarith, Modeca, Rabert!?On the last word Dayleg flung the boar?s flesh to the ground and overturned the crate with a kick that spilled the rest of the carcass onto the earth.
The last pictures I bore with me that day as I left the scene of defilement were of Dayleg overturning the crate, his chest and face and hands stained by the sacred blood, waving the machete and uttering words I could not catch while the shrieking villagers, afraid Dayleg would turn his passion at them, ran in terror, of the leader of elders pulling his white hair, still kneeling in supplication to Lumawig to forgive the man who at that very moment was desecrating the god?s minion:suppliant wetting the ground with his tears, of the sun in its apex lighting the chunks of boar?s flesh in harsh legs of luminance, moving because the universe must complete its course. Three months later, while I was in the city during the semestral vacation, I ran into Father Van Noort; he had been on leave from school for a year now on account of his heart. I invited him to a cup of coffee in a nearby restaurant. Except for a little paleness on his cheeks he looked healthy; I called his attention to this and he said, ?I ought to be healthy. I live in the Order?s hospital, you know, and there they treat me like a kid. Diet.
Exercise. I like everything but their denying me my tobacco. Imagine doing that to a man who has all this time subsisted on the weed!:I reminded him that it was for his own good and he shrugged his shoulders in mock resignation. When I related what Dayleg had done to the sacred boar he shook his head; the shadow of sadness passed across his face.
?It was bound to happen,? he said. ?Dayleg is what you may call a complex person. I don?t mean that he?s schizophrenic or something, but he?s not transparent either. Some people you can read like a book, Dayleg you have to decipher. ??He seems simple enough, ? I said. ?Yes, but remember simplicity is not transparency.
Beneath Dayleg?s tribal accoutrement lies the tension between self and reality, a tension ? call it paradox if you like ? which is common to persons like him. ??When will this tension subside???I don?t know. Who knows?Perhaps when he finds peace. I don?t know.
??I don?t really know why de did it, Sir,? wrote Mario, my best student. His letter reached me while I was still on vacation a few days after I met Father Van Noort. ?I was there, Sir, and I cannot describe to you my feelings as I watched him destroy our sacred boar. You may not understand it, Sir, you not being one of us, but from our birth we have always believed that the grove is only for the gods, that whoever enters it and as much as touches a blade of grass in it will be denied eternal happiness. I believer this, Sir, that is why I was horrified by Mr.
Dayleg?s action. He did not only bring shame to our village, as you will see, Sir, when you come back. Mr. Dayleg has disappeared. It is better that he did not witness the rites the elders held for his expulsion.
Under our laws, Sir, such acts as Mr. Dayleg committed are grievous, so the actor has to be driven out of the tribe to lessen the gods? wrath on the innocent ones who have, nevertheless, been tainted with the guilt by their relationship with the sinner. Sir, we have to do a lot of sacrifice to wash this sin. I don?t know how this will be possible. The harvest is not good this year.
But the best thing is for the sinner, in spite of his expulsion, to come back, to show repentance. Only then will the gods consider our prayers. But we don?t know here he is. ?Two years.
,I stood up and walked to the window; with my fingers I rubbed off the mist that had collected on the glass. I peered outside. The world was a blanket of darkness. These two years I had tried to find peace, to re-order my life toward a more meaningful goal, but things eluded me. An indefinite fear was gnawing my mind.
?Anything around here to eat??Roy shouted from the kitchen. I could hear him opening and losing drawers. ?There?s a can of beans on the upmost shelf and some meat in the bowl on the table. There?s some rice near the stove,? I said. I smoked as I watched him eat. Outside, somewhere in one of those spare, squat houses with roofs and walls of cogon, I knew, a group of white-haired men was praying to the gods.
In these two years that Dayleg had been gone they had not stopped their supplication. The harvest had been regularly poor, a sure sign of the heavenly displeasure. ?he?s gone beyond,? they would say alluding to Dayleg, ?the gods have turned their faces away form us. ?There had been no rain for the past three months, whereas before it came sooner than the planting season, soaking the terraces and fattening ht frogs that croaked in the mountain crags. Now the rice plots lay barren like a thousand mouths without blood, and plating time was just a week ahead. Only the fog rubbed the soil and tinted it with a whiff of wetness that was gone as soon as the fog had lifted.
?And you have not seen him since??Roy said after I had told him what had happened. ?No,? I said. I quenched the light of my cigarette in the metal ashtray. ?But I have just received a letter form him. ??Does he say where he is now???No. The letter bears the City?s postmark.
??Sounds like a strange fellow to me. ??He is. I can?t understand him, couldn?t understand him myself. I don?t think anybody here understands him. ??Maybe he?s an exception to the rule. ??The rule???I mean in any society or tribe there?s bound to be someone who?d violate traditions and laws.
Not that he?d do it for the heck of it, but that in him probably a new personality is emerging. ?I though of Father Van Noort. ?A synthesis, we may say, of the old tribal character and the modern patterns that slowly put him in a quandary:he may be alienated entirely from his native roots or he may bridge the past with the present. ??I?m thinking? Dayleg is an intelligent,? I said.
?Intelligence has nothing to do with it. Why, may I ask, did he do what you said he did if he is intelligent?No, its? a matter of blood, not of intelligence. ??Well,? I said, ?it?s done. His people are having a hard time appeasing the gods. And to top it, rain has not yet come. I don?t know how this people will survive a year of hunger.
??Appeasing the gods by prayers???Yes. And sacrifices. Tomorrow they?ll hold a big one. Killing a cow, you know, changing, dancing. ??That?s one thing I?d like to see.
??We?ll be there. ?We took another shot of whiskey before going to bed. Early the next morning, while I was boiling some coffee, there was a knock on the door. Roy was still curled up in his cot, so I crossed the living room to see who it was.
It was a tall dark man in dirty maong trousers and gray shirt, his hair long almost touching his shoulders; his beard and moustache covered a large part of his face.?Yes??I said, not knowing what he wanted.Then he uttered my name.?It?s me, Dayleg,? he said.I stood there in disbelief; Dayleg.Dayleg, I said to myself.A thousand thoughts rushed to my brain like a flood.?It?s me, Dayleg,? he said again when he noticed my hesitation.I opened the door wide and he stepped inside.I led him to the kitchen just in time for me to prevent the coffee from spilling all over the stove.?What happened? Where have you been??I could scarcely conceal my excitement.He sat down by the table on which, so many times before, we had worked till midnight making our lessons.He had lost weight ? his shirt was loose around his shoulders and his veins stood out of the skin of his arms.?Nothing,? he said. ?I have been living with a friend in the City.??But why didn?t you tell me?I could have helped.??Nobody can help me.??Been working???I could not though I wanted to.??You could have taught.Your record is excellent.??You don?t understand,? he said and looked at me with his bloodshot eyes.?It?s not that.The gods.??What???I almost dropped the cup I was holding.??You received my letter??I nodded.?Then, ? he continued, ?you know what I mean.??Vengeance???The gods.??You knew about that before, didn?t you?Even before we hunted the boar???Yes.?His voice was old, tired, excruciated by a force too strong for me to unlock.?But I didn?t believe it then.??But I?m not staying,? he said softly.?What?Then why did you come???To tell you good-bye and to get the things I?ve left here.??You know what you?re doing, of course.?That?s the only thing I can do.I?ll go far enough where no one can touch me.??Perhaps, but your people will suffer in the meantime, as they?ve been suffering these past years.??They can blame the gods.??They?re blaming you, yet they pray for your return.??No, I can?t stay.I didn?t want anyone to know I?m here so I came this early.??Where will you go???Anywhere.I?m alone.?He stood up. ?I must go.?Roy was awakened by our conversation.He came into the kitchen.?Roy this is Dayleg,? I said.They shook hands.Dayleg turned o me.?I must go,? he said.I followed him to the door.I said, ?Anytime you want to come back???Thanks,? he said.?The sacrifice tonight???No, I can?t.?His figure was swallowed by the early morning before I could say anything more.The sacrifice began three hours after noon.Five men, their necks and arms coppery with sweat, dragged a cow down to the village square where a big wooden table had been set.The elders had formed a circle around this table and were already praying.The sun cast their shadows in jagged patterns across the wooden planks as their voices interlaced in supplication, as the cow, being tied now temporarily to an iron stake, gazed at the solemn gathering; the fire burned fiercer under the big iron vats and small tin pots while the brass gongs were brought out of the chieftain?s hut and hung on their wooden pegs near the avocado trees where the young men would take turns beating them.Small boys arrived from the forest bearing in the crook of their arms firewood and dead leaves that would lessen the night?s chill.At sunset, the praying stopped.In single file the elders walked slowly toward the cow; they surrounded the animal and, as if somebody had given a signal, knelt before it.They uttered some inaudible incantation, their heads bowed, giving the impression that they were addressing themselves.Once in a while the leader?s voice rose above the murmurs of the others.He would stand up, stamp his foot several times, then kneel again.Finally, they all stood up ? their ancient faces yellowish in the flickering firelight ? silent.The leader raised his right hand.Immediately a barrel-chested muscular man appeared from outside the circle.He looked at the leader?s eyes and read the message there, for he nodded, the leader having said nothing.Quickly he stepped aside to allow the elders to pass and return to the table to resume their prayer.Not long afterward the deafening cry of the crying cow drowned out the elders? voices:it flew above the clatter of pots and pans and the whispering of the women as they prepared the boiling water and tended the fire; then, all of a sudden, it was gone.A group of men had converged around the cow; from where we stood we could see knives flashing in the moonlight.?What are they doing??Roy said.?Cleaning the animal.The entrails will be buried near the sacred grove before the cow is roasted,? I said.They had dug a roasting pit, about six feet wide, ten feet long, and three feet deep, where live coal was dumped.Two big forking branches of mountain pine were hammered into the ground to serve as a cradle for the pole that impaled the animal to turn on.?A pity to waste such meat,? Roy said.?It won?tbe wasted.They will eat it after a portion has been properly offered to the gods.This is actually a feast, you know, with lots of wine going around.?As the animal was being raised above the pit to roast, the dancing began.The clang of brass gongs preceded a group of men and women whose feet bent the grass to the strange uneven rhythm, their arms outstretched fluttering in alar animation, who formed two long lines.The strange uneven rhythm had a logic to it for the dancers never missed a step, never hesitated; the strange uneven rhythm had a logic to it for the dancers moved as if synchronized in sure and easy steps even as a couple swung in between the lines to join them.A native told me once that dancing was not really taught to the children ? the children learned by watching and carrying the rhythm in their heads, memorizing it even in sleep, making it a part of their bones.So when they danced they danced as though mesmerized, as these dancers now were, eyes glazy in the moving firelight.Dance, brothers and sisters, they seemed to say; the gods watch, and the gods must be appeased.We left the dancers and returned to the roasting pit.The cow was now exuding a delicious smell as its fat trickled down the burning coal, producing tiny hisses as it touched the embers; the skin was golden brown and, as the animal was turned by two equally smoke-burnt men while others watched and waited, full of brightness.As the night deepened, more fires were built; but the elders continued praying, the tone of their thaumaturgic throats never wavering nor slowing, while Roy and I sat on a boulder behind them to rest awhile.There was little for us to do.We were strangers:our lives were not entangled in these istic complexities.Our world was on the other side of the Mountains.Yet I felt I was part of all these for I had stepped into the sacred grove and had stalked its sacred occupant.The reality of my guilt had laid a heavy hand on my heart, and even now as I heard the primitive music I could not help imagining that it was exorcising the demon in me.MY thoughts were interrupted by the noise of a commotion emanating from a section of the square.The elders abruptly stopped praying and turned their heads to the direction of the dancers.The natives shouted as they pressed forward nearer the avocado trees.I looked at Toy.Then we ran.The sounds of gongs grew louder and louder than the pounding of my heart against its ribcage as we approached the thick circle of people straining their necks to see the object of the perturbation.We elbowed our way through to the center of the crowd.For a while I rubbed my smoke-filled eyes for I thought I was dreaming, but there, caught in the glare of the bright firelight, was a lone man dancing, the ends of his G-string flapping as he moved unerringly to the strange uneven rhythm of the goings while shifting shadows drew myriad patterns on his golden chest, his arms elegant in their winging, his feet affirming his thanage of the earth, his long hair and loose beard wavelike in the wind while the people whispered, ?He?s back,? ?Dayleg, Dayleg,? and the elders caressed the sky with their eyes and gazed at him reduced to a thin pathetic remnant of a man by the mills of the gods, him the hunter, expressing the threads of mountain history that held his muscles and bones in the frenzy of autochthonous grace now unleashed purely, and that contorted his face into a mask of grave pain until tears came to wash his beard and glimmer in the light, and, as his feet stamped the ground in syllables of penance, they commenced carving that portion o fate cow for the gods ? he had returned but the gods had a long memory ? they carved the meat while in the circle, wrapped in a spell, he kept on dancing, figure of a man fallen and rising again, with his feet and arms and soul declaring his inviolable kinship with all that made him what he was and what he would be, there in the circle, oh how he danced.The next morning I packed my bags and told Roy I was going back to the City with him.There were many things I had to do.We could still catch the six o?clock bus.