You may want to read CHAPTER 8 first
Rested and invigorated, he reluctantly stood up and cast a last glance at the dissolving kaleidoscope of colors.
This was where he had always come when he wanted sometime to himself.
The rebel hideout was just a mile away.
His escape had been relatively easy because the military had underestimated his stamina.
The forest was silent except for the sounds of a nearby, bubbling stream, the gentle whisper of rustling leaves and the gaily chirping of birds.
“Tweet, tweet,” he stood sill and listened to the familiar sound. “Tweet, tweet”, it came again.
He imitated the sound … “tweet, tweet.”
Soon, two men materialized from the tall, verdant grass.
“We’ve been waiting for you, Kumander” the younger one said. “Welcome back.”
” Ka Anton, you’re looking good, ” Benny gave him a bear hug. “Ka Dan, …” and then he hugged the other man tightly, their eyes shimmering with unshed tears of joy. “Welcome back , Kumander, ” Ka Dan said.
So, they’re calling me Kumander now, Benny thought. Did they receive a message from the supreme Kumander for his promotion? He opted not to ask.
They were a few yards away, when they heard a commotion from the camp. Benny did not expect to be assailed by a problem so soon.
There in the middle of the clearing was a man who apparently wanted some attention. It was Ka Lito. Benny’s heartbeat stopped momentarily as he saw who Lito was pointing at. It was Julia!
” Do you want this woman to lead us? Where is your sense of pride? You agree to be ordered around by this woman, just because she happens to be the wife of Kummander Benny? ” Ka Lito was enjoying his performance to the hilt, even swaying to and fro on the balls of his feet.
Before Julia could reply, Benny sauntered to the middle of the clearing. When the people recognized him, everyone cheered. Julia ran towards him, her face brilliant with happiness.
“It’s Kumander Benny!” they shouted with joy.
Benny gave her a tight hug and gently pushed her aside. He asked in his low, commanding voice, “Now what is this all about Ka Lito?”
Julia spoke loudly but calmly for everyone to hear, “He had terrorized the old folks in Mandali and threatened them if they won’t give all their harvest.”
“Is that what you did, Ka Lito?” Benny’s voice was incredulous.
“Well, they did not want to give their share , so I had to scare them a bit,” he conceded.
” Didn’t we agree that intimidation and force should never be used when we asked for donations? ” Benny asked Ka Lito patiently.
“The old man suffered bruises by what he did,” another man shouted.
“Don’t you have any moral scruples, Ka Lito? Hurting a defenseless old man? . You know the rules, Ka Lito. If you can’t live by them then you have to leave the fold,” Benny ordered ominously. ” Right now!” There was no denying the intensity of Benny’s command.
Ka Lito hesitated for a moment, Benny can perceive the struggling emotions of the man, whether to accept the order or to defy it.
Ka Lito surreptitiously looked around him, paused and then said, ” Sure, I’ll go, I don’t fancy staying with a band of effeminate rebels pretending to be men.”
He walked a few steps forward and then stopped in his tracks.
For a moment Benny thought, he was going to draw his gun, but he didn’t .” Those who want to come with me and fight the war like real men, follow me,” he hollered.
No one followed Ka Lito as he cursed and swore to high heavens about what a bunch of cowards they were.
During that night in the rebel camp – away from both their native barrios (because of the increasing government insurgency campaign )- Benny and Julia were together again in body and soul – lost in their own paradise of ecstasy and bliss..
“Remind me tomorrow to make sure the old man is doing fine, ” Benny was saying to Julia referring to Ka Lito’s victim.
His succeeding words were lost as they groped hungrily for each other. Everything else was forgotten.
They slept in each other’s arms satiated and fulfilled – making up for the sleepless nights of their unavoidable separation.
Even the grief of Julia over her father’s death has taken the backseat.
(TO BE CONTINUED)