FASTLANES: Habak and Seven Dwarfs to the rescue?

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The survival of Bombo James Licuayan, a.k.a Agent James Dacuycoy, the hard hitting Bombo Radyo Cagayan de Oro reporter with a funny on-air name reminds me of the early 1980s low intensity conflict ops in Gingoog City.

Living in the outskirts, in Mangiskis, we had CHDF (Civilian Home Defense Force) neighbors who did not only carry their vintage Garands but also amulets. After two weeks of training as “df-df” in the city’s sports center oval, they underwent rituals to become members of the cult Sagrado Corazon Senior or the “Tadtad.”

Among the rituals members of Tadtad had to follow in order to become invincible or kublan to bullets, I was told as a kid by our df-df neighbor Ondoy, was to recite some Latin prayers regularly, not to take a bath and no sex before battle and of course they had to wear their habak or amulets made of what looked like small stones or pebbles and some roots placed in small bottles of Seven Dwarfs perfume and the red bandana with written symbols like the cross they would tie in their heads during battle.

It was said that if one is faithful to the Tadtad code, in a face-to-face battle, the bullets of the Godless communists would just bounce off their bodies; but if one runs away from the fire fight, his back can be vulnerable.

Watching and listening to the tale of Bombo James survival amused me.

The story that the bullet from the killer’s caliber .45 did not penetrate the leather jacket of Bombo James and when he ran away, he got hit in the butt with the bullet exiting his stomach. It made me think, duna kini siya’y habak. Bombo James is not talking whether he has hurim-hurim or habak or not. But I would not ask, it could be part of the Code of Omerta.

After sharing to Froilan Gallardo my theory on how Bombo James survived, he suggested I start a business of habak-making and franchise it immediately before Art Bonjoc of NUJP copy my idea. I am actually thinking of appointing Ruth, the undisputed secretary of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, to be my sales agent there.

At the height of the Task Force Macajalar anti-logging barricades in 1998-2000, we found an ally from no less than Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado who instructed the Army’s 4th Infantry Division to provide us a squad of Army soldiers as our security, especially after a grenade was thrown on our barricade in front of Manresa in Masterson Road.

One of our Army guards gave me and other leaders of our group a bandolier of habak of small stones, what looked like small twigs and roots, soaked in small bottles of seven dwarf perfumes. This may be funny, but yes, we did carry it.

There were many close shaves on our lives in that environmental crusade, but that’s for another story. A hand grenade thrown at our anti-logging barricade in July 1999 did not detonate on impact. Upon examination by the Explosives and Ordnance Division of the PNP in Camp Alagar, they found a tiny strand of bamboo fiber wedged in the lever of the grenade’s firing pin making it miss the primer by about a millimeter. That was indeed providential and we survived to tell the tale.

With the security forces showing monumental ineptitude in protecting the lives of journalists, aside from taking safety courses and precautions, we may as well start protecting ourselves.

In fact, I have suggested to Froilan to incorporate habak-making in the safety and security curriculum for journalists. What gives?

But that may have to wait until the Holy Week, as my Army friend taught me that some of the ingredients, except the seven dwarfs perfume cum potion, in the habak are only effective if they are collected at 12 noon during Good Friday.

Meanwhile, can someone volunteer to check if seven dwarfs perfume is still available maybe in Cogon Market and book all the remaining stocks?

As government’s failure to put brakes on impunity that had already claimed 146 lives, of this 104 in diarrhea-prone Gloria’s time and so far five in the present administration and with no let-up in sight, we may need liters of the perfume.

But not all is that stark though, at least for the Cagayan de Oro media. We have reasons to celebrate as three of our brothers in the profession survived attempts on their lives and have scars to show for it. Joe Pantoja, who is from the city, survived an attack in Iligan City on Oct. 8, 2007; Nilo Labares a.k.a. Babayeng Bagul survived ambush on March 9, 2009; and Bombo James on Nov. 24, 2011.

Get well soon Bombo James. And may the criminal cases on the suspects in the shooting of Joe and Nilo prosper.

And lastly, let us not forget the case of radio journalist Arecio Padrigao who was gunned down on Feb. 16, 2009 in Gingoog City as he was bringing his seven-year-old child to school. The last time I checked, the suspects, Areil Degamo and Benjamin Palarca, despite warrants for their arrests issued by the RTC branch 27 in Gingoog City, are still at large.

With impunity far from being impugned, it is no doubt hard and tricky how not to expose our asses to the assassins.

I’m not getting superstitious but reciting a prayer or two and lots of luck and miracle may save lives.

(Comments can be sent to [email protected])

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