This is a story from a friend of mind. Like me his dad was in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, specifically in the now defunct Philippine Constabulary.
I am not going back further to its heydays or its feared days. This is somewhere around the 1990’s when it was renamed into the Philippine National Police and stripped of its military status to a more of a pro-civilian approach.
Those who did not want to be controlled by politicians were given the option to choose a branch of service to transfer to. His dad however opted to retire early, and retired with a rank of Sergeant Major. There is a lot to hide here, so I will just hide their family names as Martin, and my friend’s name as Leo.
Leo was a rather serious dude, well let me just rephrase it, he is the kind of a person who knows what he wants and pretty much goal oriented. By 93’ he graduated college with a degree in Electronic Communications Engineering, that was I think the year his dad retired too.
He got a job early on at the Export Zone factories in Mactan Island, he is in charge of the maintenance of the robots that package products. First day on his job, he was told to get a bank account that was located before you exit the gate of the Export Zone.
As he walks in, he meets his future wife Bettina manning the desk for new accounts. Betinna was an Accounting Major and both graduated from University of San Carlos.
Leo quietly sits down, at Betinna’s desk, now if you know Leo, he is the go getter guy back in college. As I said he was a serious person while courtship and wooing ladies is well not his cup of tea so to speak. He planned it well in a short time, like I said the go getter guy.
“Hi” he opens up to Betinna
“Good morning sir, how may I help you today?” Bettina on Leo, and sticking to the bank’s script.
“Uhmm… is there where we can get a new wife account?”
“A what? This is a new account.” naively she replies, and does not realize that Leo was already hitting on her.
“Ah yes that is what I meant, a new wife account. I mean new account”
“What kind of account will you be opening sir?” Bettina responding in a nonchalant fashion.
Leo quickly responded while Bettina was still preparing papers for him to fill out, and did not give her a chance to finish.
“Like I said a new wife account”
“Will it be a Business account, personal account, payroll account.” Bettina replies, and tries to keep her cool, she is flattered that this guy may be hitting on her.
“I did not realize that that, it does not seem to have a new wife account, I am utterly lost at those accounts”
“Ah… what do you actually do sir? Do you own a business here at EPZA, or are you walk in from outside the factories here, or do you work for a company here”
“The last part, yeah, they said I should come here and get a new wife account”
“Then it’s a payroll account, what is the company name then?”
“No new wife account, sad, I’ll opt for that one, I guess, I work with Tai Robotics”
“Okay, sir, these are the forms you need to fill out, I’ve checked the ones where it matters most to the bank. That way it would be easier for you.”
So Leo fills out the form, as Bettina watches, all the while she seems to be already scrutinizing him, checking his name out if it sounds nice and those things that people like to read.
“So how do you get this kind of job anyway.”
“Oh, you are asking me? What do you mean, what job?”
“In general perhaps how does one get a job in a bank?”
“That part, well it’s usually related to money, maybe BS Commerce, mostly Accounting I guess, that is what I am, an Accounting Major”
“So you are pretty good with accounts after all, since you are accounting… major”
“Ohh… I am pretty sure that is totally different”
Purposely, missing a spot, Leo turns in his filled out form, but like all good accountants do, they account, and…
“You missed these sir, we need to at least have a phone number, where we can call.”
“Okay, this one is from my boarding house in Cebu and this one is from my hometown.” Leo looks at her and pretends to be at a disadvantage, “wait this is a little unfair?”
“Oh, why is that? What do you mean?”
“You have my phone number and I don’t…”
“I am sorry sir, but it is business hours” Bettina replies while in a small sticky note sheet she writes her name and phone number on it.
“I’ve listed here what you still need though, we do not have a copy of your ID, but we need you to submit a photo of yourself before we can process this.” Bettina smiles at him. She lies, the photo may be needed and mandatory, but the account can be processed without it.
This was the beginning of their relationship. It didn’t take too long for them to get married, well two years. They didn’t have kids right away, they were like a perfect couple who planned everything together. Betinna, is from Cebu City while he is from Naga, Cebu.
Leo’s father moved back to Naga and spent some of his retirement money on improving the house. He did get a lump sum for three years worth, but did not spend all of it on the house, just enough to fix a few issues.
Every time the monthly retirement money comes he’d spend a few of it to improve the house. Six years after he retired, the house was pretty decent enough he made some improvements here and there.
It was not just some improvement to say the least, kind of more as an understatement. It was more of a conversion from a bungalow type to a two storey house. But it took a few years for it to come into fruition.
The house is fairly modest in size, a two storey house with a garage, and even a decent 50m2 backyard. It has three bedrooms upstairs and bathroom for each, there is also a bedroom on the first floor.
Come to think of it, I can’t remember Leo having any relatives living there aside from his dad. So I do not really understand what the added rooms were for since Leo was an only child, his mother died while he was in high school.
But in the Philippines we have relatives, even way distant, who’d sometimes need a roof over their head. So you expect that, not this house, Sgt. Martin, or Alex to his friends, he didn’t seem to have relatives over to live with him.
After the fall of communism in Europe, and the fear of a nuclear war and winter, the paranoia that I grew up with, is all but gone. These cursed activists who ran out of support from their mass base, were losing their livelihood.
The couple, Leo and Bettina who were from different campuses of the University were able to attend seminars about our world’s environment. Of which the Biology Department of USC was a sponsor of.
The message of what Al Gore preached was somewhat the same, but there was a little kind of contrast. At least these scientists admitted that there was not a lot of data yet to compare when it comes to the weather. In other words Al Gore was full of bull.
However, the main concern was the Ozone Layer and how CFCs(lets not get into this, might bore you to death) will convert the Ozone layer into something else and therefore affect the ecosystem too.
Like Leo and Bettina, I got carried away back then, and being Marxist during college, I wanted the student body to stand for the environment. I say “‘tis not the revolution that we need, we have a more dire need to fix our ecosystem” it kind of fell on deaf ears back then.
With communism wanning, the birth of the new prophets of doom looming. A recreation of the fear and paranoia that I grew up with, even I, must admit, I too back then have lost all hope, and had no direction all those years.
But I was not concerned with the global warming paranoia, Al Gore bores me and he is full of bull. Why? I was preaching that during the turn of the decade from 89 to 91.
It was not long that Leo and Bettina got married, they had so much in common and a few in contrast to what they like. They have saved enough money for themselves, and planned to start a family, right around the turn of the century.
Both of them when they were still single and even dating, both were kind of stingy, not necessarily cheapskates but skimping on excessive spending. Like dating, going out to parties at night, or going to hotels. They both were the type that holds on to money.
The paranoia of global warming and pollution, made the couple decide that if they were going to start a family they were going to do it the right way. They were not activists, like I was and didn’t mind the BS that Al Gore was spreading. They were simply ‘aware’ no not ‘awake’ two different things.
They both agreed for Bettina to get pregnant, best that she’d be pregnant in a more cleaner environment. Which meant moving to Naga. The sea breeze, the sun and the shades of those trees that the vampires loved, the ten minute walk to the sea shore or breakwater. Now that was good enough for them.
Sgt. Martin, elated at the couple’s decision, volunteers to pick them on their moving day. There was a new trend in Public Utility, and these were vans. His dad got a Nissan Urvan, which was pretty decent and nice a/c.
After spending on the house, he ran out of ideas on what to work on, and thus decided to buy a new car. This type of vehicle was popular for tourists, he rents it out as a regular public utility vehicle to drivers of jeep, who finds the new trend attractive and comfortable.
On moving day, Sgt. Martin drove the car himself to pick his son and his daughter in law.
Leo sat shotgun, while Bettina sat at the back, “Dad, how long have you had this van, it looks like brand new.” Opens up Leo, with excitement.
“Yeah, I got this maybe around…” counting with his fingers, “maybe six months”
“This must really cost”
“Well yeah, but the pension and all that, I am able to pay the mortgage.”
“So how much do you make?”
“If I drive this, maybe one round would be enough to pay the gas and save enough for the mortgage, a few more rounds would be savings.”
The two talked a lot as they went. Arriving at his old home Leo is surprised to see the house, well it has grown more than twice its size.
“Wow! The backyard is still a backyard, but the house is.” Leo wonders where his room was.
“You’ll have your room upstairs.”
“Darling, you didn’t tell me that you have a large house here” Bettina comments.
“Yeah, you and I both.”
As they both settled in. That night they strolled the breakwater admiring the improvement that the three mayors have achieved in half the time than the pro-Marcos mayor achieved.
They still both work, and Leo being the son of the owner of the Van for Hire, both ride free to work. It was not long until Bettina was pregnant, which made the couple happy and so is the grandpa to be.
Maybe for Sgt. Martin it was, more of a dread, than happiness. During the first month he gets a nagging sensation of a putrid smell. He was all too familiar with it. At first he could not get the bearing of where it was from until…
“Hey dad, Bettina’s pregnant. You’re going to be a lolo.” Announced Leo on one fine Saturday morning.
Sgt. Martin, was scribbling on the newspaper’s crossword puzzle and sipping his coffee, caught him off guard, and almost choked on his coffee, “well, that is good news”
“I guess we’ll be filling the rooms here after all”
“Yeah I guess so,” Sgt. Martin was somewhat unprepared for this, not surprised, but never in his life or current life was he prepared for this to happen. He’d prefer the grandkids all grown up running around, but babies. “You, know, the rooms are for the grandkids, correct, but not for babies.”
“Don’t worry too much, they’ll be up and running like mad in no time.”
“Yeah, I pretty much hope so.”
On her third trimester, she took leave from office and stayed home. But home is not home when a monster is at home. Unknown to Leo his dad is an ungo, the wakwak kind.
It was at this point that Sgt. Martin could not avoid her, he is unable to stop himself. This action is like breathing, he has no control over it, no matter what he tries. He is slowly consuming the baby’s life force.
By the end of the first month his grandchild in the womb died, it was a week after that she noticed her baby had not moved.
A miscarriage said the doctor. The whole family is distraught, sad, even the monster that Leo calls dad.
A year after the incident, they tried again, this time, she went on leave and stayed home all the time. By the end of the second month, she had another miscarriage. The couple was confused; they had all the precautions and plan.
A few months hence. It was a weekend and Leo was playing tennis near his home, a tennis club for everyone. There was one old timer he confides. He seems to be confused why this is happening when the air all around Naga was clear.
His focus on the game is off. The old timer, for him it was not clear, why Leo’s playing was also unclear.
“Leo, you getting old or what? You let an old man beat you?” inquires the old timer.
“I do not know, I’m just getting tired.”
“Must have been doing it with the wife last night.”
“Yeah all night in fact.”
“Ah, she should be pregnant by now.”
“She did, or was, she had two miscarriages, first was seven months and just a few months ago two months.”
The old timer thought it suspicious, for he knows the town is full of the unknown, creatures that lurk and bump in the night, most townsfolk are so afraid to fight, “Leo, I do not mean to pry, or insult, but maybe you should take your wife away from here, as far away from here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Who was with her, most of the time before she had the first miscarriage?”
“The time before she had the second miscarriage?”
“Dad,” Leo’s suspicion, doubt, has his core shaken, and he feels shaken, he is shaking, like frightened of the truth, he feels nauseous.
“No help around the house?”
“No, dad does the cooking, but my wife does too. Are you saying dad is an ungo”
“You know our town is full of those creatures, best to try and move her away.”
Without asking questions, he bids farewell to the old timer. He took his wife and they both hurriedly left, bringing only a few things in haste. But Leo will come back for them. They both stayed at her old home for the time being, at old Cebu City, polluted city.
A year after, they had their first child’s Christening. And another few years their second child. They never went back to old scary Naga, it may not look gloomy anymore, but the monsters of old prowl like the old days.
I am not sure if it is a happy marriage, but the miscarriages, I blame Al Gore, poisoning the minds of these drones.