“You Filibini?” Stories And Other Writings by AMADOR F. BRIOSO, JR. (Published May, 2010)

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Drawing from his rich experience as a court litigator, the author has put forth a collage of characters ranging from a judge (or a justice in a higher court), to a practicing lawyer, to an accused charged with grisly or heinous crime, to the very victim of the crime itself. The scenes take place inside a high-octane law firm, adrenaline-soaked drama that takes inside a courtroom, and the behind-the-scene power play in cases that reach the highest court in the land. Some of the pieces, however, are non-courtroom; they relate to some aspects of the author’s interaction with some people; while others on the rather amusing, if comical, circumstances that he has come up with from his observations on life itself. Still others border on the futuristic and nostalgic (an attempt to experience in the imagination a decadent city’s glory days).

The other writings consist of some poems and an essay.

Below are some excerpts from the stories:

“You don’t have to raise your voice,” the man in the exquisite business suit is saying as Gina enters the conference room. “You talk as if you own everyone of us here.” The voice is somewhat combative.

 “You bet I do, Pete!” counters Rutera.

 Gina is frozen to where she is standing. Pete eyes her, then shifts back his glare at Rutera. The rest of the men on the conference table stare at Rutera.

 “Who do you think you are, huh?!” Rutera is on top of his voice. “You come here once a month just to get your money! You never stay, not even a minute to see what goes on here! All you’re after is your share of the profit! You don’t care a whiff! I run the show here! Were it not for me this office would have folded up a long time ago!” Rutera is now standing, his eyes smoldering.

 Pete slams his clenched fists on the conference table as he stands up. He explodes. “Bullshit, Dennis! I gave you the capital to start this office! I plucked you out of poverty. Don’t you dare shout at me!”

 “Damn you! You’ve already gotten back your capital a long time ago!” Rutera’s words are flailing the air.

 “This meeting is over!” Pete shouts back, and right off storms out of the conference room.

 –The Law Firm–

THE BUILDING WAS mid-rise in height, already twenty years old and decaying. Though some portions of the paint were already peeling from the wall outside, from a distance, one could get the impression that the building looked nice and tidy. Once the visitor got inside the building, however, he could not use the elevator, which had been unrepaired for more than a year now. The corridors were always dusty and strewn with candy wrappers and cigarette butts. The toilets on every floor reeked of urine as the building had no janitor. The faucet gave out a trickle of water. Flushing the toilet bowl would be a miracle. It was no wonder why the building had no occupants, except only on the second floor.

The building stood just at the border of Makati and Manila; the building occupants, however, maintained that the building’s address was at Makati. And so, upon repeated advice received from the occupants, the post offices of both Makati and Manila recognized that the building was inside Makati area.

On the second floor of the building, a law office could be found. The office occupied the entire floor. Inside were two secretaries in their forties. Two more employees, male employees, served as the liaison officers or messengers. These employees had been working there for the last ten years. The man in command of the firm was a fiftyish mild-mannered man with thick eyeglasses, the one which reminded you of those worn in the seventies. He had been in the business of litigation for over twenty years now. Over the years, he had established a network running from lowly court clerks to clerks of courts of the various trial courts, from lowly employees of the Court of Appeals to the confidential attorneys of the justices of the Court of Appeals, from lowly employees and personnel of the Supreme Court to the court researchers and confidential attorneys of the different justices of the Supreme Court. His prized possessions, though, were those retired judges and justices of the trial courts, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. These retired magistrates received a monthly “retainer fee” from the firm in exchange for the “services” which they rendered for the firm. He valued his professional liaisons with these retired magistrates. Of course, if he wanted the “service” he needed, these retired magistrates would see to it that the sought “service” was properly discharged.

–Justice–

When dark mantle of nocturnity blankets the avenue, ah, a new milieu springs out into the open: vagrants, whores, pickpockets, thieves, muggers, beggars, drug addicts, etc., roam the area. Beware. On a dark corner, your attention is drawn to some lady making a “pssst” sound. Heavily rouged lips and thick make up on her face. She smiles at you, making motions with her forefinger for you to come forward: her eyes and brows and lips do the talking. She is actually standing a few feet away from a cheap motel whose entrance door is at a narrow alley that adjoins Avenida. As you come nearer, you notice her features quite clearly. Wrinkled face. Decaying teeth. Hair that is brushed back and hardened by the dirt and dust. Cheap and unwashed clothes. At once, you know that the gal hasn’t the vaguest idea of what hygiene is. At the same time, though, you feel some measure of pity toward her. A hopeless denizen of the avenue. No form of help has been extended to her either by the local city government or by society itself. But she has to live, to make a living, to survive. And this she’s now doing. You walk away with a mixture of feelings, both of contempt and pity. Then you get bumped along the way by somebody rushing toward your direction. You turn your head and curse fellow now sprinting away at the opposite direction. The next minute, you notice your back pocket feels hollow. Now, you express your massive wrath at the guy who’s now nowhere to be seen.

–The Victim [The Ballad Of Avenida]—

I have been already asked around a dozen times about my nationality. At times, I find it amusing; at times, too, I get irritated. 

Last night, I found it irritating, maybe because I was just tired from work. I told myself before going to bed that, the next time around, I would bluntly retort back to any inquisitive guy, “Don’t I look like a Filipino?” Just to sort of let out my irritation.

This morning, I had to go to a building near our office to attend to some matter. As soon as I was done, I got in the elevator to get to the ground floor. Three tall Saudi guys were having an animated conversation. I noticed their observant eyes veered towards me. Instantly, I expected the same question would be thrown on me. Do it and I’ll give you a piece of my mind, I told myself.

 –“You Filibini?”—

He felt a strong rush of relief as he walked to the holy water bowl. He breathed deeply, his hand pecking inside the bowl. He made a slow 180-degree-turn, peering again at the altar piece in front and the dozen other lifeless statues that stood there. “Thank you, Lord, thank you,” he breathed, then made a swing and headed toward the church portal. He was met by a small snot-nosed girl bearing a bunch of circularly stringed sampaguita buds. Wearing an old dirt-smeared, smelly dress worn out by constant use, the girl sniffed, then raised her tiny arm to wipe off the sticky greenish mucus that had gathered under her nose. The effort left a linear viscous stain across the already dirty face.

 –The Confession–

She saw it, her very eyes. There he was, her beau, the guy to whom she had given almost all of her, her life, her time, and whatever she had—the guy was in the company of another girl, walking hand in hand inside Megamall. Mustering enough courage, she stepped in front of them, confronted him, hurled invectives at him, cursed him to high heavens and pummelled him in his chest. A slap on his face that left the other girl’s mouth agape and off she left, with her sister trailing her.

The crowd that had been drawn by the scene was treated to a further delight. The other girl was a lot meaner. A nasty left to his jaw made him bend his head a little; this gave her the opportunity to grab his hair.  Her two hands full of his luxuriant curls, she pulled his head down, raised her knee and whacked him in between his legs. As if a baseball bat had hit him, he fell side-wards, curled in a fetus-like position: his back curved, head bowed, limbs bent and drawn up to his body. He was gasping for air when the other girl left him.  It took around four security guards at the mall to carry him to the administration office. The crowd was then dispersed, some changing their minds not to watch anymore a movie since, well, they had just been treated to an actual human drama and not just a movie-in-the-making scene. 

–Facebook: Hazardous To One’s Well-Being—

 Like what I did this morning. I harangued for almost an hour to the delight of the mesmerized courtroom assembly and drove home the reason why Roque should be allowed to cop a plea to a lesser crime. The public prosecutor’s protestations were reduced to a mere whimper. I peppered her with every conceivable assault I could lay on without any letup. She found herself voiceless, flushed with embarrassment, unable to extricate herself from a web of incoherence. She stammered and halted in her speech. Her mythical lawyerly derring-do was shamelessly demythologized. She was pathetic. Served her right. I wonder how she got her position. Connections, of course. But this morning’s encounter gave her the lesson of not crossing paths with me. I thought I saw the private complainant squawking, cursing her for her incompetence right after the session.

–Guilty–

It was Wednesday when Ernesto came back to school. The day before, his head was throbbing with unbearable headache that caused him to lie down the whole morning. He just told his peers at the boarding house that he wasn’t feeling well that day, that he would skip school. A Tylenol pill did it, and by afternoon, he already felt well. This morning, he was early; he was the first to arrive inside their room. A little later, he heard some noise. Around five of his classmates had arrived. Chloe was among them. He went out to go to the toilet. When he came back after a few minutes, no one was inside the room. He noticed some books on Chloe’s seat. He figured now’s the time. He quickly moved toward his seat, took out the envelope from his bag and tucked it in between the pages of Chloe’s book. The effort took no more than ten seconds. A cold sweat was running on his back when he stood up and turned his head toward the door. It was at this time that Chloe, with her friends, came back. They looked at Ernesto, but Ernesto, with his usual I-see-no-one stance, just ignored them. That was close, he told himself. He went out again, deciding to while away the time while waiting for the class to start. It was still around a quarter of an hour before the teacher arrived and started the class.

–Love Letters: Some College Stuff–

Politely turned down by the store manager as he had supposedly come for his purpose more than the 7-day allowable exchange-return of items, which was the store’s stringent policy, Jojo let his mind out. Short of holding up in the air the store manager by his scruffy neck, Jojo banged the manager’s table (Jojo was seated in the visitor chair just in front of the manager) with his cupped fists, stood up and threatened he would fling the manager out of the room if his (Jojo’s) demand for the exchange of the defective item would not be heeded.  The security guards that came over were helpless as Jojo’s booming voice had already flooded the room. Not wanting any mayhem to occur in his office, the store manager relented and acceded to Jojo’s demand. Once we were out, with Jojo holding the new item, Jojo burst out laughing, asking me if his acting looked authentic. I remember getting swallowed up by raucous laughter when I heard him ask me.  For, I myself was in the throes of panic when I saw the hulking guards arrive to deal with Jojo. I was cursing myself why did I ever accompany him to the store manager’s office.

–Thanks To Jojo—

The lanky man politely shook his head, then entered the building, his feet taking the stairs two steps at a time. He purposely overtook the other entrants who were also taking the stairs. Now at the second floor of the building, he paused near the glass-covered bulletin board attached on the concrete wall and ran a forefinger on the glass. “Room 204,” he said to himself. Then he strode along the sparsely peopled corridor. He turned left and proceeded to the building toilet. Inside, he stood in front of the mirror and examined his reflection. After placing his envelope atop the edge of the toilet sink, he gently snaked a hand behind his back and reached for his comb in the rear trouser pocket. He gingerly raked his tousled hair, smoothing it with the palm of his hand after every stroke. He checked his watch, inserted the comb back into his rear trouser pocket and opened his envelope. Ignoring the stare of the building janitor who had paused from his work to comb his hair, the lanky man took out from the envelope a folded white barong tagalog and cautiously unfurled it. Then he slipped his arms through the sleeves and started buttoning the native shirt. He shook his head at the sight of the ugly wrinkle on his barong tagalog. He sighed heavily and then dashed out of the toilet, his hand grabbing the envelope from the sink. Shambling along the corridor with hurried pace, he checked his things inside the envelope.

–The Practitioner–

Lester was silent; he felt some tears forming in his own eyes. He started blinking his eyes, fighting off the tears from streaming down. He propped an elbow on the table and held his face with his palm, trying to partially cover his face. Guilt had suddenly seized him. He had taken her for granted for quite some time, he thought. Before coming here to talk to her, it had dawned on him how stupid he had been in taking her lightly, in not giving importance to her, to their relationship. He had preferred the company of his friends, his pals. He had thought that whatever he did, Chona would always be there, would always forgive him. That she would not leave him because she loved him too much. Until he saw the messages that were posted on Chona’s Facebook wall. Messages that made him feel jealous. A possibility that Chona would leave him, would find another guy. He slept late the night before, thinking about their almost two years of relationship. He was not prepared to let go of their relationship; it was too precious to be wasted away, he decided.

–A Monday Night Scene At Friday’s—

Friday evening, or to be more accurate, early Saturday morning, around two o’clock, he was with a female companion, a colleague at the call center. They were walking along Paseo, having bought some sticks of cigarettes from a nearby 7-11 convenience store at the Paseo Center, a block where a number of cafes, food shops and stores could be found. Except for a few people waiting for a cab at a distance, nobody was near the area where Nelson and his colleague were walking. What happened was swift, too fast that caught them flat-footed. A hooded guy burst out from behind, from nowhere. It appeared he struck the girl at her back, savagely, for she was violently pushed forward. As the fallen girl lay prostrated, the felon made rapid blows on her back. Nelson’s reaction was a bit delayed; he was only able to kick and to throw some punch at the assaulter only when the girl was already lying face down on the floor. The assailant, for an instant, looked as if he would strike at Nelson, but decided not to and instead fled. It was only at this time that Nelson noticed that the attacker was armed with a dagger, which the latter dropped on the ground. The felon now nowhere in sight, he grabbed the lady, now soaked in her own blood. His cry for help elicited the attention of those who had heard him. An hour later, he was at the Makati Medical Center where he was grimly told that his companion was already “dead on arrival.”

–The Crime [The Calling]—

When I went back to our room after ten minutes, I noticed the sudden blackness that had now pervaded inside the room. The light had been switched off. The guys were all peeking through the window. Their attention was directed toward the girls’ dormitory, just a meter away from our room.

“Hey. Come here. Look.” Nil was talking in whisper. He had a naughty smile below his moustache.

 I stepped near to him and took a peek.

 There she was, clad only in her underwear apparel, pacing the well-lit lady’s room. Through their open window, we feasted on her bare body.

 “Nice body, eh?” Totie’s voice was inaudible.

 “She’s an exhibitionist,” said Eddie. Jinky didn’t utter a sound.

 –The Bar Exams–

 As Cruz turned his head, he was immediately blinded by what seemed to him the flash of klieg lights accompanied by fly-speck of red. His 180-degree turn was then aborted by a strong force from behind–he felt somebody strike his back fiercely–which caught him flat-footed, causing him to slam forward atop the counsel table, his abdomen violently hitting the table’s corner edge. His forehead intensely crashed against the sharp edge of his attache case which was lying on the table. His arms thrust forward, he was conscious of a slew of tears that had instinctively coated his eyes. Breathing hard, he heard a lady’s voice scream: “He shot him! Oh my God!” Then he faintly heard a succession of shots. The world around me is spinning, he thought. Futilely fighting to keep his eyes from shutting off, he was beginning to see darkness around him.

–The Client–

IT’S TUESDAY EVENING. I’m with my peer-lawyers. We’re in a bar along Makati Avenue.

“We need to relax sometime, bro,” says Rudy. His leech-like arms are stuck on the shoulders on one of the bar girls.

I raise the bottle of San Mig light. “Cheers to us,” I say, and guzzle the beer out of the bottle.

Eddie, the corporate lawyer among us, keeps on polishing the microphone with his alcohol-laced saliva. He’s enjoying the bar’s Karaoke TV, having sung around ten songs already. He refuses to let up.

I hold the warm, soft hands of the bar girl I have chosen. I look at her eyes in the darkened VIP room. Quite a stunner. I slowly pull her head near mine. She laughs after I whisper something to her.

“No, Sir, we’re not allowed to leave the bar after closing hours. We’re stay-in here, Sir.” The girl is still giggling.

I drink some more light beer. Eddie is bringing the house down with his almost professional rendition of his chosen songs. I join him in his singing.

“Sir, excuse for while, I’ll go to the bathroom,” says the bar girl seated next to me. As she stands up, I eye her beautiful curving figure. I suddenly feel something inside that make me want to have her, to bring her home with me. I’m reminded of the same feeling I had, back when I saw a real knockout gal walking alone one night. One hot lady, I should say.

–The Accused–

In his more than a decade of practice of law, no one had ever dared shout at him in the face, no one had ever dared insult him behind his back. Not even fellow lawyers could muster enough courage to attempt to embarrass him in front of some people. Not even his most hated judge could utter a pipsqueak of a word irreverently directed at him. And certainly, his clients were no exception. The moment Mrs. Cruz rattled off her last vituperation, the last fiber of sanity, which was holding back the deluge of Caramto’s seething anger, snapped. He saw his name, honor and dignity being savagely trampled upon by Mrs. Cruz. He was being stripped naked by a merciless monster, which went by the name Mrs. Cruz. He was seeing a specter out to devour his life. This has to stop, he told himself. Enough is enough, he ordered. He raised a balled fist and struck brutally at the face of Mrs. Cruz.

–Attorney–

SHE WAS LIVING in a dormitory just near her school. She was now in her fourth year in college, taking up nursing. She needed just one more semester, after which, she would be graduating come March of the subsequent year. She, however, faced problems. Financial problems, that is. The series of tropical typhoons that wreaked havoc late last year on the northern part of Luzon left a huge damage on the farmlands. Her family was left to desperation after the typhoons had wiped out the crops from which her family had expected to derive bountiful harvests. The loan which her father had taken from a shark lender had now almost doubled in amount, what with the soaring interests that were added to the principal amount. No, her father wasn’t able to find another predatory lender willing to accept as security the now worthless farmland. It was like a death sentence when, suddenly, she received a call from her mother informing her that she would have to stop going to school as her father could no longer send money to her. She must return back to their province after the semester, so she was told. She, however, called back her mother a week after, telling her mother that she was able to find work, a good-paying job, courtesy of a classmate who had given her ample assistance. Nothing to worry, Mother, I know how to take care of myself, she’d said before ending their phone conversation.

She was now almost sobbing as she began to dress up, putting back her school uniform. They had arrived almost three hours ago here in one of the sleazy motels located in Sta. Mesa. As she looked in the mirror, she could see the reflection of the man now putting on his long-sleeved barong. The man’s eyes were peering at her back. He then slowly stepped behind her and started to caress her hair. Soon, his hand rested on her shoulder.

–The Student—

The courtroom, often referred to as the magistrate’s sala, occupies a small space in the crowded building. It is cramped, fenced by flaking walls. A long fluorescent bulb, pinned to the ceiling and dirtied by hardened dust, provides artificial light to the sala. Pockets of cobweb adorn the corners of the ceiling. Standing on a raised platform, the Judge’s desk, invariably called by practitioners as “the bench,” is a relic from antiquity, its once proud outer varnish now shines with grayish dirt. Beside it, to its left, is the witness stand where an old wooden stool sits. Behind the bench is a worn-out, long-backed swivel chair, where Judge Guiho settles during the court session. Fastened to the wall is a spreadeagled flag, which furnishes a dramatic backdrop to the presiding magistrate. Fronting the bench is the counsel table that runs parallel to it. Ragged at the edges, this table can easily vie for a permanent niche in a junkshop. The lawyers gather here while waiting for their cases to be called. Rows of four-seater pews, now filled by curious spectators, are scattered across the floor, which is dotted by hardened chewing gums.

–His Honor

“We’ll I would say that during the nine years that we’ve been married, it has been a happy marriage, and…”

“No, no, no, Mrs. Cruz. Don’t say that. How would you expect the judge to act on your petition to annul your marriage? You want your marriage annulled, and now you’re saying your marriage is a happy one?”

“But…”

“No. We’ll change that. You must say something like this: ‘Initially, it was a happy marriage, but starting the second year onwards, my husband started to change ways…”

“You mean I have to say something different?”

“Of course. For your petition to be granted by the court, you must show that your claim for annulment must have a very valid basis, something that the judge will consider as meritorious. If you’ll say what has actually happened, then I doubt if you’ll get the judge to rule in your favor. Understand?”

–Lawyers Are From Mars, Clients Are From Venus–

 25 March 2090

It hadn’t occurred for almost 80 years. All along, everyone thought it wouldn’t happen again. But then it did. The Chilean earthquake that shook the world way back in February, 2010, came back with a vengeance. It registered a 9.8 magnitude and caused more than a dozen aftershocks. Those living half-way around the planet felt the catastrophe via never-before-seen tsunamis that totally wiped out coastal towns in countries affected by the huge raging waves.

–Centennial–

He dreaded the approaching darkness. Another night, another ordeal.  She was there, beside him, his arms around her back. She was saying something, he just couldn’t understand. Her smile comforted him. Now, he wouldn’t let her go. Now, she couldn’t leave him. But then, suddenly, she stood up and broke free from him. He tried to hold her, but she was beyond reach. He couldn’t understand it, how did it happen. He stood up, but then she’s gone again. He shouted her name; he was now crying, begging for her to come back. He was trembling when he opened his eyes. What he saw was darkness in his room. It was a dream! He rose and sat on his bed. Where are you? he cried out. He covered his eyes. He was now wondering when this would ever end. If only she’d give me another chance, if only she’d listen to me, if only she’d believe me, oh please, please come back! he almost shouted. He lay down again on his bed, the sheets now soaked with sweat. His hand reached down, on the floor, groping for the bottle of brandy he had left there hours ago. He drained what’s left and threw the empty bottle into the corner. At last, he could sleep again.

–She–

Just seconds after Ramon had left, a commotion rose from another table not far from ours. The American serviceman, who had earlier complained about the fly in his soup, was now bawling at another waiter. We could hear his loud voice; he was hollering that he should not be required to pay for his meal after he had found the fly in his soup, which was then already half-consumed. There were two more waiters who had approached the American, trying to offer explanation. He would not be made to pay for the soup, the American was told; only the meal and the drinks he had consumed. Still, the American would not want to pay, insisting that the fly had ruined his appetite. This time, the man from the counter arrived; he appeared to be the supervisor. The American—I could see he was already drunk by the way he talked—had become rude and rowdy, his voice laced with cold rage. He was telling the “muchachos” to back off, or he would beat them up. He started to turn his back and walk away, but then, the supervisor grabbed his hand. This infuriated the American. He swung around, swatted away the supervisor’s hand and threw a savage punch. The supervisor, who caught the blow full in his face, bent down. Blood began to spurt at the corner of his mouth. Several more waiters came up and surrounded the American. At this time, the supervisor had disappeared behind the waiters.

–A Scene At Plaza Goiti—

Suddenly, a black hole of the past swallowed her up. The first time she saw him. She fell in love right away. Madly in love. No, not only her; rather, almost all the girls in school did, too.  They wanted to get a piece of him. Well, just who wouldn’t be? Tall, dark, handsome. Dashing, debonair. A hunk. He was a varsity player. Every girl would swoon, keel over, faint whenever he was around. During varsity games, screaming girls fought each other to get near him. In the campus, it was simply impossible for him to get unnoticed by the female genus. He would always be tracked down by a pack of predatory girls. The only place where he could find sanctuary was in the toilet, in the men’s toilet. No, not really. For, inside that exclusive territory, another human variety lurked: those belonging to the third sex. He had seen to it to be on guard at all times anywhere he went. What’s more, and this had thrown him to near madness, the jealousy which he’d drawn from a lot of boys in the campus. The “oohs” and “aahs” his presence had generated in the female population of the school was simply too much. There was an incident where a group of heartbroken boys hunted him down simply because the girls who had jilted them had professed undying affection for him. Luckily for him, there were girls who stayed and served as his “bodyguards” until he reached home.

–He—

A bare-bodied customer, seated on an old plastic stool beside the box-cart, was gobbling his bowl of congee. He just ignored the little boy who had seated beside him. Instead, he gave notice to the flies—by swatting them away—that continued to fly near his bowl, which rested on an add-on narrow wooden board that ran the length of the box-cart. This board served as the “table” where customers could conveniently consume their congee—as what the customer was now doing.

No dice. The little boy failed to get any portion of the congee. None was offered to him. No, not by the customer. Why should the customer share his bowl of congee? The bowl wasn’t even enough for him; besides he didn’t know who that boy was. And he himself was hungry, for he devoured the congee in just a few minutes. Most certainly, none would have been offered by the vendor to the little boy—without the vendor receiving payment. Business is business. No exceptions.

Another frustration for the little boy.

–Change Of Plans–

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