Dindo the Dawendi
by Romeo Esparrago
Hello. My name's Rondo Patungan.
I'm a detective of the supernatural, you might say. Just like the guy on that old TV series. Anyways, I live in Colorado Springs now, under the shadow of Pike's Peak, working for this lady lawyer who owns this legal agency. I used to be a cop. Now I dig up dirt for the lady's clients. Sometimes she lets me check out the weird cases. You know, the "netherworld" ones. I have a smell for it. A talent, one might say. But it's specialized. I don't just go against your run-of-the-mill vampires, werewolves, and ghoulies. Nope, mine originate from the country of my birth: The Philippines. The beasties there are a little more nasty, scary, and deadly. Yep, I have lotsa stories. But I'm not gonna tell you those just yet. Today I'll tell you how I got started, how I got my lucky charm, where I got the eye and nose for it.
* * *
I was born in Quezon City, Philippines, you know.
Grew up there, yep. Anyways, my Mama's from a little village called Maragondon, and we used to visit our relatives there all the time. One late morning, during a stay at Maragondon, I hitched a ride on my cousin's tricycle motorcycle to a nearby palenki (open-air market). He warned me not to stay overly long and to be at home before sundown. I was to stay away from any large mounds of dirt. He wouldn't say why, but I replied that he need not worry - I had my brains and a few surprises in my shorts' pockets, as well. He laughed and said, "Yes, always with your toy weapons that you find. Just make sure you don't have to use them against multo (ghosts) and such." He drove off to visit his girlfriend at Cavite City, which was quite a drive; I knew that on the way there, he had to earn his money taking passengers through towns with such exotic names as Ternate, Naic, Tansa, Salinas, Noveleta, Binakayan, Kawit, Bacoor, and Imus. Whew!
After having rice (dunked in "Dinugoan", a blood-and-pork delicacy) and a delicious Guadalupe mango for lunch from a food stall, I caught up with some friends collecting spiders. Spider duels were what we used them for, and they were held much like cockfights. We matched the "gagambas" (big spiders) and "alalawas" (small ones) based on the lengths of their legs. The spiders were placed on a cut bamboo stick, where they battled until one got tossed off or killed by the other. Kinda cruel, but lotsa fun when you're a kid! We collected all kinds of arachnids: small ones, fat yellow dotted ones, ones with really hard or really soft bodies, spiders with head spikes that made them look like Batman, all kinds, and one boy even used an ant! We spent most of the afternoon having them fight each other. What was gross was what one of my pals did with his final winning gagamba. It was a spiny one with a red abdomen with black dots. He tossed it into his mouth and popped the belly with his teeth. The spider even made a squeaky screaming sound - yeccch!
The sun was beginning to set, and I realized I had a long walk home ahead of me.
I gave my farewells to everyone and began the hike back. Dusk seemed to be approaching fast, so I decided to cut through this poor farmer's sugar-cane field. It would lead to an open expanse of land that wandered beside the encroaching jungle forest. The dense thicket was kinda spooky, but as long as I stayed on that open field, I'd be okay. As I walked through the cane stalks, I grabbed one and tore it off. I peeled it and began chewing on the tough, fibrous meat. It was sweet, full of water, and delicious! I finished and threw the remains behind me. The stalks of sugar cane parted, and there was the broad terrain with the overgrown tropical vegetation behind it. However, there was a small hill directly before me. Forgetting my cousin's advice, I walked over the mound of dirt to get to the other side.
The next thing I knew, I heard a loud exclamation of "bulaga" (boo!) behind me, and I was pushed forward so violently that I stumbled and landed on the soil face down! I heard another shout, and felt two feet landing on my back. "Aray! (ye-ouch!)" I cried. I turned around quickly and threw off my attacker, whom I figured to be the poor farmer. It wasn't the farmer. It was worse, much worse.
The creature was small, about the size of a pygmy. It wore a straw hat, some ragged clothes, and exposed its bare feet, which smelled like over-ripe bananas. The skin was quite wrinkled and gave him the appearance of a very, very old man. He had a big, cheap, and odorous cigar in his mouth. A long, white beard flowed around his face. His face! Yikes! He had only one eye in the center of his forehead and a large, flat nose with only one nostril. Ugly is as ugly gets. He was one horrible-looking sucker.
As I got up, realizing I was much taller than him, the dwarf took a swing at me and knocked me down again. "You bad, naughty little boy!" he screeched. "You walked over my sacred abode, the magical mound of Dindo the Dawendi! You are disrespectful of the spirits of the ground and deserve to die!"
Great. This was one of those beasties that adults told stories about at night to scare you and, although I believed in them, I didn't think I'd run into one. Dawendi's are a race of dwarves that inhabit the islands of the Philippines. They are a mixture of shapes and forms, sexes, and powers. Different regions have different names for them. Now, a fairly hideous example of one was coming at me with outstretched arms. Well, no son of my Mama is going to get pulverized quietly.
I punched back, and for the next five minutes we both tore into each other with our fists, legs, feet, and teeth. His hat and cigar went flying. My shirt was torn, and one of my slippers had broken. We collapsed, exhausted, on the ground, breathing hard and staring at each other, a bloody shambles. I didn't think I could survive another round.
The ancient runt began to speak.
"We have evenly bested each other, and I am astonished. For that, I shan't kill you, but you will become my slave for daring to insult me. I know who you are, Rondo Patungan, and I know of your little cruelties to nature's creatures and to people who struggle with the land. These creatures come from the spirit of nature that gives me my powers! The poor tillers of the earth give me offerings, as my people represent the soul of the soil that they toil on!"
I was surprised he knew so much about me. "I'd rather die than be your slave, goon. Let's fight again, just so I can prove to you that it's not going to be easy to kill me."
The Dawendi smiled. "I see a certain spirit in you that I respect. Arrogant and stupid, yes you are, boy, but I still admire you for it. I also see that you have future potential to be and do good."
"Well, how are we going to know if you up and enslave or kill me?" I replied.
"Tee hee, I will give you a chance, silly little man," the hoary creature named Dindo said. "If you can solve a riddle I pose to you, perhaps I can reconsider. If you fail to solve it, I will free you but curse your family. If you decide not to accept my challenge, you become my slave!"
It didn't sound like a good deal, but agreeing was the best choice I had. I stood up. "Go ahead then, tell me the riddle."
The short, one-eyed, single-nose-holed man giggled. He took a breath, and said, "Of what being has a hundred eyes... yet cannot see at all in any direction, in any light? Of what being is this, Rondo Patungan?"
I shifted from one leg to another. I knew the answer from a story an aunt had once told me. I just didn't want to make it look too easy to this senior citizen of the ground. I ummmmed. I hemmed and hawed. Finally I said, "Well, it's not you, you one-eyed thing. Can't be. Let's see. The answer is, wait, uh, I know, this being is no being at all. It is a thing of nourishment, it is a pineapple. It is a fruit of a hundred eyes, yet not one can peer into light or darkness. How's that?" I waited with baited breath.
I could see the fury building up inside this Dindo midget.
He was turning beet red. Although I'd given him the correct answer, I could tell that ugly old dwarf still wasn't about to let me go, he was going to reconsider. So I convinced him. I whipped out my version of pineapple from my pocket, an old WWII grenade I'd found some time ago, while rummaging through abandoned cave bunkers looking for Japanese gold. This was one of my toys my cousin mentioned earlier. The grenade was empty, but Dindo didn't know that.
The Dawendi's eye widened and his nostril flared even wider. Yep, he knew what a grenade was.
"Nakuposusmaryosep! (Gee willikers!)" Dindo exclaimed. "Heh heh, please be very careful with that, child. I still remember those days, and how they made the encantada (fairy elves) cower in the darkness of my mound in fear. Please, you have fairly solved the riddle, please let us part in peace."
I sighed in relief. My Mama had told me that these guys were good on their word. But I felt that I had to say a few more things, just to make sure he didn't come after me later. I said, "Look, uh, Mr. Dawendi, I'm sorry I stepped on your mound. I was in such a hurry to get home that I didn't think about climbing over your patch of land. I also promise never to spider-fight again, and I won't eat other people's earnings as well, like that farmer back there. Can we shake hands as friends?"
The misshapen stinker smiled, which made him look really ugly - gak! He went back, picked up his cigar and hat, and brushed the dirt off him as the cigar lit all by its lonesome in his scar of a mouth. The smoke from it came out of his single nostril - not a pretty sight. "No, we cannot shake hands as friends. We must do it in the manner of my kind."
With that, the grizzled peewee led me back to the mound.
It told me that we both had to piss on his dirt hill to seal our bond of brotherhood. Oh brother! Oh well, I needed to empty my bladder anyways. His pile of mud was soon steaming in the cool night air from our donations. Night air?!? Yikes - it was evening already!
I turned around, pulled my shorts up, and peered into the deepening shadows of the jungle. Weird sounds and moans softly began to emanate from the dense, overgrown vegetation. I could see movement once in a while, and red and yellow eyes on occasion blinked and stared. Ulp.
"Not to worry, dear friend," said Dindo. "I shall accompany you back to your home. Those creatures of the dark shan't harm you, at least not tonight." Great, I thought, what about tomorrow night? "In fact," the dwarf continued, "I sense my destiny is to follow you in your life, to teach you of these and other evil creatures, of how to sense and overcome them. I shall be your guide, your teacher, the light at the top of the stairs. Come, let us walk now." He was kind of corny, but at that age it sounded pretty cool to me.
* * *
That's how I won Dindo the Dawendi over.
I beat the crap out of him, solved his riddle, threatened him with a grenade, and peed on his mound of dirt. From then on, we were pals. He followed me wherever I went: Stateside, Europe, Africa. Always he lived in a nearby mound, although I could never figure out how no one noticed, even when I was in the Navy and lived in Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. It's an artificial island, so Dindo had to build his mound in the natural one (called Yerba Buena Island) that was attached to Treasure Island. Anyways, because of him, I've been able to keep a keen eye and nose on the lookout for strange trouble. Stranger-than-fiction trouble, you understand? That's how I got my lucky charm in finding and dealing with these beasties, because the keen eye and nose weren't mine. They're Dindo's.
Well, that's it for today. We can meet at Poor Richard's Cafe next week, if you wanna hear more yarns. I've got a case to work on now... see ya!
TAPOS (The End)
Story & artwork copyright © 1995 by Romeo Esparrago <email@example.com>.
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