By May Palabra Sicat

In a recent conversation with my brother and his former high school classmates I learned much about the underworld right here in our province. Just a year ago, seven young men who worked as bodyguards of the underworld “patrons” here in our town were summarily killed. In the recent news about “rub-outs” nothing compares to how these seven died. Their leader suffered more than a hundred stabs. One ice-pick stab went straight into his toenail. His coffin couldn’t be opened because his face blew up to unrecognizable proportions. His enemies took him by force from his house, wrapped him tightly using a packaging tape. There was a “commando” force which passed his body in an assembly-line kind of torture.

This unfortunate gang leader did have a room full of guns, but at the time he was abducted, he wasn’t able to fire a single gun. His 59 inch-TV was completely destroyed, and all the millions he stored in his vault, including those that he had set up for his family were taken away. He was 32 years old. Earlier, his boss, the power behind the gang, called him to say that he should run for his life. But power had taken hold even of his ego and he thought he would be able to handle their enemies. He was able to call for support but two of those he called were ambushed. The rest whose names he was forced to squeal all died and everybody knew who killed them but nobody got caught. There wasn’t even a howl of protest from families.

My brother’s friend was recounting his boyhood memory about the killers of this gang. These hoodlums lived and ate their bread by killing people. Certain top politicians in our province and influential rich families have all benefited from their professional services.

When he was a child, my brother’s friend recalls that one member of this killer-brothers was aiming a Thomson (did I spell that correctly?) at a line man who attempted to cut his electric supply, because he wasn’t paying the electric cooperative at all. With his huge gun, he threatened the line man to come down or he would shoot him down. That was ages ago.

Today my brother is a field electrician and his job involves checking on those people who are stealing electricity. He gets a warning from this story. He is frustrated that this murdering family continues to get away from their merciless killings, sowing fear in our little town.

Just this morning, somebody knocks on our door – a former neighbor who used to fire his gun every time there’s a celebration. Especially during New Year, his peers used to drink their merry-way, disturbing people and preventing them from celebrating New Year the harmless way. His aide now comes asking for my brother’s address. Apparently, his boss, our former neighbor, isn’t paying his electric bills, and now, MERALCO is going to cut his supply. He does not go to MERALCO to pay, instead, he looks for my brother and attempts to wield his “influence” using our former relationship as neighbors.

I find this practice extremely irritating. But that’s one very hard aspect of Filipino culture. No Filipino should be proud of it. The gang members I mentioned above were killed because they hired killers of the godfather of these killers. The feuding gangs have not had it so bad. Not only did they split a long time ago, they had also started eliminating each other since way back then – when we were still girls and boys. Think about the Mafia of Italy.

Here are some Tagalog words I heard in my brother’s conversation with his peers. These words may have become representatives of our violent culture.
Makisama ka naman (literally: do as we do)
Walang pakisama (somebody who goes his own way)
Pa-usap naman (“Please” in asking for a favor)
Pakilakad (Can you help me cut through the red tape, short cut the SOP through your influence)
Malakas (as in Malakas sa mayor [he/she can influence the Mayor])
Palakasan ‘yan (whoever is influential wins or gets the merit or favor)
Tirahin mo na (street lingo for either “kill” or “torture”)
Sinalvage (ambushed, killed, and probably the body is thrown in some place dark and far)
Kinuyog A gang attacked one man)
Nakalusot (was spared)
Wais/ Nakaisa (got one step ahead of his enemy)
Magulang (street smart)
Surot (somebody who leaked information)
Paihi (stealing from oil pipes)
Kaban (vault)
Sukib (somebody who keeps things to himself and studies the right time to attack)
Balwarte (territory)
Pandiinan (tight/ acute)
Inipit (frame up)
Kapulisan (police force)
Kumando (gang of attackers)
Bata ni meyor (an underground sidekick)

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