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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Friday, May 29, 2009


A Short Story


From eyewitness reports, the Governor cowered behind the outhouse. He did not bother to plead for his life, nor remind the young man that they were fighting for the same thing. He remained ominously silent on his knees as his executor emptied the home-made pistol into his head.

He had stepped out of his boathouse office for some air; his weeping wife told the military commander who arrived at the scene an hour after. Preciosa and her six-year old birthday girl curled up on their rattan papasan chair. She said the Governor suggested they celebrate their daughter’s birthday simply – just the immediate family and abuelo and abuela – at his office. The river was calm and police security was available.

There was no sense flaunting his in-laws’ wealth by celebrating at their Negros mansion out of town. Times were hard. Unverified security problems bothered the Governor who had just pronounced fiercely in the papers that the assassination of the President’s avowed rival at the Manila International Airport was dastardly, cowardly, and as sure as the damned military can make certain, the martial law dictator had him killed.

Pain in anybody’s ass, this local, Jesuit-schooled, politician – a governor by the grace of his in-law’s blood money squeezed out of the brown backs of the measly-paid hired hands and farmers in their hacienda – was the Governor’s capsule resume among the province’s officialdom. He was a lone-wolf, a maverick. Not even his father-in-law could get him to pipe down about criticizing the martial-law strongman.


Who shot Vel? The commander asked the police chief who was nowhere near the scene of the shooting.

Our initial investigation, sir, points to a kid maybe in his twenties. Could be NPA. No ID.

Who shot him?

My men, sir. Police sergeant Kalima, sir. He was patrolling near the office of the Gob when people started running and yelling that the Gob was killed.

Keep these from the press. By the way, we are taking over the investigation on orders from National Defence.

Yes, sir.


Evelio Falco had just passed the Bar when he ran against the ten-term governor of the province. He was popular with the university students and generally the restless youth who practically abandoned their classrooms in favour of the streets. They wanted the martial law government to give way to honest and clean elections. Poverty and injustice must be eradicated. Corruption in the government and in all levels of society must never be a way of life.

Avenge the murder of Ninoy! Throw the military rulers out! Down with dictatorship! Kill the bastards!

Falco took to the streets, marched with them, stoked their anger, and organized cadres among the young men and women who trooped to his office to volunteer their services and battering sticks disguised as placards..

He was their champion, their hero. He beat the incumbent governor to his father’s chagrin because the old and doddering politico was also his own uncle, his father’s eldest brother.

Disinherited, he found an unlikely supporter in his father-in-law who could not bear to see a pregnant Preciosa bring home a loser for a husband.

They met at the university, and she was curious about how a rich man’s son could also rant and rave about the rights of the poor and the exploited labourers in the wealthy encomiendas, the enclaves of the idle rich. Born to one of the oldest families in their region, wealthy landowners who raked in money from their vast rice and sugar cane plantations, he was himself an ilustrado.

Come to think of it, she would muse, the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish colonizers were hatched by the Filipino ilustrados, the students who won scholarships to study in Spain and in the Spanish-run Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas, a Dominican bastion of intellectual and religious colonialism built by the Papacy in Manila.


He was about to smoke one of those American cigarettes he resolved to give up, when this gaunt, shaggy-haired, swarthy and unwashed young man pointed a gun at him.

Traidor! You betrayed us! We believed in your land reform. We got you elected. Putang inamo, Mamatay ka! (Die, you son-of-a-whore!)

Falco yelled for his bodyguards, but only Preciosa came running from the boathouse. He bolted and ran through some houses across the town’s main street. The young man, in relentless pursuit, saw him hide behind a well-built outhouse with one of those cemented vertical culverts serving as its main pipe – a two-storey wonder of an outhouse – and cornered his fugitive then kneeling for cover behind the massive concrete pipe.

After pumping all the bullets into the Governor, he ran from the outhouse like someone about to suffocate from the stench of the septic tank.

Earlier, he had taken the ferry from the other end of the island province, dropped by the Jesuit-run University for some last-minute arrangements, filled his knapsack with canned goods, and took time to scribble some notes. He got to Falco’s office by noontime and saw him struggling to light a cigarette; gusty wind from the bay made him cup his palm over his face. Caught unawares, he got startled by the shriek of the young man with the pistol.

The police could not find any contacts, they reported to the military commander. Sergeant Kalima was passing by when he heard the confrontation. He saw the Gob run through the fences and the houses, lost sight of him, and finally heard the rapid cracks of gunfire.

Almost running into the assailant, the portly constable shouted for the young man to stop; he would not. Kalima shot him, and was surprised he got him.

Searching for an ID while rummaging through the youth’s knapsack, Kalima found some dried fish and canned sardines. He also surrendered a notebook to the military commander who leafed through it, and fall eerily silent, when he came across what was later described as lyrics to a song.


Dawn is red on this ruddy face
Sun dogging his craggy trail,
The song deep in his throat:

“The last best fight, my brother;
Our blood on the tip of steel!”

Brother to the pulsing spring,
To the bushes and rocks, the wrath
Of days, of quietness descending.

“The last good fight, my brother;
Our blood on the open trail.”

A song arrested in his throat,
The steel tensile in grace,
His still point is a point of steel.

--- by Ka Ric Fernandez, University of San Agustin

He was a student, the military man whispered. Must be one of the cadres in town. But why Evelio?


News of Falco’s killing spread like wildfire throughout the province. Students from the capital city’s schools poured out of their classrooms, burned tires in the streets, and accused the martial law government of having their hero assassinated. Domestic fury was, indeed, in use.

Falco’s office television, turned on it seemed throughout the days and nights (as was the Governor’s standing instruction), blared with harried, continuous coverage:

Evelio Falco was gunned down today by elements of the military according to student activists now marching around the capital city of Silay because of his opposition to the martial law regime.

At the boathouse, the Governor’s widow wiped his riddled face as she absently wailed: Why? Why? You were right again, Vel. We are ourselves our war!

* * *

(Photo by Ian Casocot)

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