Sun.Star Davao - - DAGMAY - BY ANDREY CARIDAD (Part 5 of 5)

“There must be more down there,” Tito stopped for a while and said, “We’re tak­ing them back, we’re dig­ging our own graves too.” Elias wasn’t able to re­spond. He re­mem­bered a day when he was at the Min­tal Public Mar­ket. It was a day when he had ex­tra earn­ings and he wanted to buy beef. He was choos­ing meat when a man car­ry­ing a pail of fish passed. The fish were still mov­ing and one of them jumped out of the pail. Then Elias replied back to Tito in a rather ir­ri­tated tone, “You keep dig­ging, any­way.” “And you’re here too,” Tito replied, catch­ing his breath. Tito kept on dig­ging along with the tick­ing of the clock—min­utes turned to hours. His body was drenched in sweat and dirt. He panted like an an­i­mal thirst­ing for wa­ter. But, he still pushed on. Elias turned the flash­light on Tito and had an urge to rush him. He felt that sooner or later they will be caught. But, no— he had to be pa­tient. From time to time, Elias looked at the ceme­tery’s gates and the road, watch­ing out for peo­ple who might no­tice them. Elias whis­pered, “Have you found any­thing?” Tito stopped and stretched his back. Elias jumped into the hole and took the shovel from Tito. “It’s my turn.” He gave the flash­light to Tito who watched out for peo­ple. Sud­denly, a Starex parked near the gates of the ceme­tery. Two men came out of the car. They wore a black leather jacket and jeans. They looked around and then the back seat’s win­dow rolled down. A fig­ure of another man was there. One of the men who got out of the car ap­proached the man in­side the ve­hi­cle. Tito mouthed some­thing to Elias, while he quickly hid be­hind the earth he had dug out. “Elias!” Tito called in a whis­per. “There are peo­ple out­side.” He bent his body and reached for Elias. “Come on! Let’s leave. We can just dig again, to­mor­row.” How­ever, Elias re­sisted and ig­nored Tito. He dropped the shovel on the ground and stood mo­tion­less. Tito looked at the gates again. The men were still there. They were stretch­ing out their necks, scan­ning the grave­yard. Tito pulled Elias again then he gasped. They both saw a gold bar on the earth and a gold watch. Elias couldn’t speak, over­whelmed by his joy. He fell down on his knees as he took hold of the gold bar and the watch. They were cov­ered with dirt, but in the eyes of Elias, they shined more than what he had imag­ined. The trea­sures were cold, a re­fresh­ing one that warmed his heart filled with selfish de­sire. Tito pulled Elias harder and said, “Pag­dali! Take them! Take them!” It was only that time Elias moved, picked up the gold bar, the golden watch, the shovel, and hopped up to where Tito was. To­gether they pushed all the earth Tito dug out back into the hole. Then, they rushed to their right, sneak­ing be­hind tomb­stones. They climbed over the fence and im­me­di­ately went into Elias’ house. They sat on the bam­boo floor. They panted. Elias stared at Tito and felt that some­thing wasn’t right. How could they have found a trea­sure that easy? Was he right about Tito know­ing the ex­act place where to find the trea­sure? Was he tasked to dig for trea­sures since the be­gin­ning? If so, Elias was no longer sure of their safety. “Be sure to clean up your place be­fore morn­ing,” Elias said as he laid the gold bar and the watch on the cold bam­boo floor. “Who were those peo­ple?” Tito ig­nored his ques­tion and said, “You keep the gold bar. I’ll take the watch with me, so my wife wouldn’t get too sus­pi­cious.” They opened the door a lit­tle and peered out­side. Elias could still see the car, but the two men were out of sight. Tito went out­side and paced back to his home as fast as he can. Mean­while, Elias pan­icked over the gold bar he held in his hands. It was heavy and cold. He sat there just look­ing at the gold bar. He sweated, but he did not bother. His aching body sud­denly felt light. He thought that with the money Tito and him could get from the gold, he would no longer live a day starv­ing him­self. He could fi­nally eat meals with a dif­fer­ent viand. He could fi­nally eat as much as he can without think­ing of his food for the next day, or the fol­low­ing week. It was another usual day in Min­tal where peo­ple set-up their stalls, go to work and school or go the Min­tal su­per­mar­ket. Among them was Elias. He sat at his small home and waited for cus­tomers. The co­conut, husks, tuba and bot­tled gaso­line he sells were al­ready ready. But, he seemed dumb­founded from time to time. He was deep in thought and wor­ried about what he and Tito did. He mused whether the men saw them, and or any mo­ment from that day—po­lice of­fi­cers would come and ar­rest them. If they were seen, how were they sup­posed to ex­change the trea­sures with money in any pawn­shop? He was cer­tain, if there will be a re­port on break­ing the law of the banned trea­sure-hunt­ing, he and Tito would have no choice but to hide what they found. He did not want that, but he also did not want to get thrown in jail. He pon­dered about the mat­ter and came to a con­clu­sion. Hid­ing the trea­sures would be bet­ter. At least, he had an as­sur­ance to be wealthy, his de­sire was within reach. That was enough for him. Just from think­ing, he per­spired so much wors­ened by the seem­ingly hu­mid morn­ing weather. Elias looked over his shoul­ders and ex­am­ined the path­way where Tito’s house stood near. He saw some­one in a white longsleeve shirt. It was Tito walk­ing along the path with head low, his hands in his pock­ets. Elias started to shake his legs, while he waited for Tito. “Elias,” Tito called. He leaned against the wall of Elias’ home. “Did you keep it?” Tito looked pale and drowsy. He ap­peared to have not slept at all. Elias said, “We should stay lie low for now. When the time comes, we’ll look for a place we can ex­change the gold.” “Are we go­ing to jail?” Tito asked. There was si­lence for a mo­ment. Elias’ heart pounded hard against his chest, but it was not be­cause he was afraid. He was over­whelmed just by the thought of a trea­sure in his keep. How­ever, he was per­plexed by the un­usual fal­tered Tito who had ini­ti­ated the trea­sure-dig­ging. Tito then went in­side his home. He slug­gishly dragged a chair be­side Elias and sat. Tito cleared his throat and said, “There are au­thor­i­ties go­ing about the place. We’re go­ing to jail. We should not have dis­turbed the dead.” “A thief never ad­mits he is a thief, the more let him­self get caught,” Elias re­minded Tito. “M-maybe—,” Elias said and paused. He looked into Tito and wanted to scold him for hav­ing a weak heart the mo­ment they got what they wanted. Doubt never came to Elias. He was sure this was what he wanted, and that he would not re­gret a thing. He con­tin­ued, “I kept it un­der­neath the earth at the back of my house.” Elias reached into his pock­ets and handed Tito a stick of cig­a­rette. Tito took it and smoked with a trem­bling hand. Elias went out of his house and checked the grave­yard. Au­thor­i­ties kept the peo­ple from the ceme­tery, while a par­tic­u­lar group ex­am­ined the place. While Elias watched the crowd, he felt the heat of the sun on his skin. He re­mem­bered he had not eaten the food he bought on the first day he started work­ing at the ceme­tery. He re­fused to eat them, sav­ing them for another day un­til he for­got he had not eaten any meal at all. But, that did not mat­ter. He had sur­vived days without eat­ing, some­times solely drink­ing lam­banog. He looked back and peered into his home. Tito sat on the chair, trapped in his own thoughts. His worn-out ta­ble was few feet away from where Tito sat. There it was. He could see the tray cover, keep­ing flies away from his food. He glanced at the rear side of his home as if he could see the earth be­hind where the gold bar was buried. Elias looked up the sky and took a long drag on the cig­a­rette. The sun’s rays no longer stung his skin the way it did be­fore. It was warm, re­fresh­ingly warm. In Elias’ pe­riph­eral vi­sion, a group of men in plain shirts and shorts ran to­ward him. He turned to them and he sud­denly felt a sharp blow on his head. He be­came dizzy. His body felt light, abruptly hav­ing a wider view of the skies. Sil­hou­ettes of men sur­rounded him. They looked down at him. A rough sur­face hit him and he saw a top­pled view of his home. He could feel the bits of rocks on his cheek. He could hear foot­steps of the same men. Some be­gan to step on him and kick him re­peat­edly. Elias saw Tito run­ning deep into the al­ley, the way to his home. A group of men chased him and knocked him down the same way they did to him. One of the men reached for Tito’s pocket, pulled out the gold watch, and ran away.

ANDREY CARIDAD Re­cently grad­u­ated cum laude from the Univer­sity of the Philip­pines Min­danao with a de­gree of Bach­e­lor of Arts in English ma­jor in Cre­ative Writ­ing. She lives in Min­tal, Davao City.

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