Sunday, June 11, 2006


It was right after lunch, and I had decided that day to stay at the office in Cotabato City. I was hoping that it would be a quiet, uneventful afternoon, and I could catch up on some much needed paperwork.

Of course, I had no such luck.

My bodyguard came into the office, and announced, “The Chief of Police of Sultan Kudarat is here to see you.” The Chief of Police was in full khaki uniform with a holstered sidearm, complete with what we called then a Pershing cap. He was very polite but firm, and informed me that the Mayor of Sultan Kudarat would like to speak with me, in his office.

Sultan Kudarat was the next big town right outside Cotabato City, on the way to Davao City, geographically the first town on the road construction project. It was probably about thirty minutes away. It was not everyday I was invited by a town mayor for an official palaver, with his Chief of Police as my escort. I was actually curious what he had to say.

But the biggest reason for going was, the town of Sultan Kudarat, as well as its mayor, chief of police and the majority of its inhabitants were Muslim.

The mayor was once a politically powerful man, part of the Muslim political machinery that ran Cotabato. Now, he was reduced to running a second-class enclave surrounded by Christian towns and politicians. Still, he was not a man to be trifled with or ignored.

I asked the Chief of Police if I could bring my security along. He said, if you wish, but there is no need. I will escort you myself, and bring you back here. I decided against bringing Joe, my security officer, along.

And so off we went in his official Land Cruiser jeep, with a uniformed policeman as a driver. Our actual destination turned out to be the house of the mayor itself. It looked just like the other nice houses in the city, just a little bit bigger and probably more elaborately furnished than the others.

The mayor was a short, squat dark man in his sixties, I guessed. We shook hands, and he smoked while I nursed a soda the whole time we talked. He was a soft spoken man who spoke slowly and deliberately in fairly good Tagalog. It was evident he was educated, and he spoke and moved unhurriedly.

He said he had seen many changes the past years, and he was sure that the new road construction would bring even more changes than before. He thanked me for helping bring about progress in that part of the country. I said that this was just another of President Marcos’s many infrastructure projects, and we were just executing his plan. He made a crack about, yes, you guys work in the heat and dust and Marcos gets the glory. Well, I replied, we do get paid for it.

That eventually brought us to the whole point of the meeting. He hinted that after serving his people and the town for most of his life, he did not have much to show for it. He said if he would appreciate it if he could have some part in the construction project, not in an official capacity, but as a businessman.

I replied that his request was beyond my jurisdiction to fulfill, but I would look into it and get back to him.

I knew exactly who to pass the buck to. The following day, I had a meeting with the Number 2 man in Philrock, a very amiable, hardworking and efficient Kapampangan named Tablante. As usual, he was very helpful and decisive about the whole thing.

In a few days, Tablante and I watched the mayor’s three dump trucks
working alongside my trucks. His decrepit dump trucks were a stark contrast to my brand new, bright-red, smart looking Hino dump trucks zipping around the construction zone.

The conversation between Tablante and myself went something like this.

Tablante : “I don’t know how long those old trucks of his are going to last.”
Jay : “And he is slowing my trucks down. But I guess my fifty trucks
can co-exist with his three trucks.”
Tablante : “They are going to be a pain, but it’s a small price for us to pay,
Jay. Good work with the Mayor.”
Jay : “And thanks for handling it on your end, sir. Very smooth, as
Tablante : “Yes, the Mayor was pleased with the arrangement. Dinner and
drinks and some fine women next week in the city, as usual?”
Jay “My treat, as usual. Looking forward to it.”

We shook hands and went our separate ways.


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