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Crime a fowl

August 9, 2008
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I was in Dipolog for the past week or so.  It’s about a 14-hour trip via bus/ferry and I made the journey with my coworker Evir, who works for the Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao.  In all that time traveling and working (and drinking) when we got there, I got to know a bit more about him and his family.  This is a story he told me on our third night in the city while we were at a garden restaurant.  The place had a great atmosphere- it was owned by a Lumad artist who had filled the building and gardens with his artwork and with other artists’ who used his “studio”.  We were having a good time and had consumed a few bottles a beer by the time this story came out, but by the way Evir told it, I don’t doubt it’s truthfulness a bit.

Evir has two older sisters (ate, pronounced atte, in Filipino).  One of them tragically passed away last year while giving birth to her second child (who is alive and well) but his other older sister, the woman in this story, lives on to fight for justice for Michael and Madonna.  Who are Michael and Madonna?  Her pet turkeys.  It should be noted for Western readers that Filipinos have a special affinity for birds- for bird watching and cockfights and pet canaries and pigeons.  But this is still the first time I heard about pet turkeys.  

Evir’s ate was a teenager by the time she got these birds (who she presumably named after the archangel and the Blessed Mother) and while it’s highly unlikely they were first intended to be pets, this is what they became.  Because Evir’s sister saw that these turkeys were in love and love between turkeys is a very special thing.  

Of course Michael and Madonna had love for the sister, too.  When she would get off the tricycle on her way home from school the turkeys would run out to the road to greet her with the joy only a gobbling gizzard can truly express.  She would then pick them up and cradle them with love.  On an island torn with conflict and poverty, love had a found a way with these three.  

But it was not meant to last.  Living next door to Evir’s family was a young man and his mother, and while in general they were good people, the young man was prone to drinking on certain occasions.  Thus, one night after he had consumed a bit too much alcohol, he was outside enjoying the night air and was feeling hungry for a snack.  It was late, so most places may not have been open.  And then- across the way he spied a turkey.  

The details get a little fluffy, er, fuzzy here.  Was it Michael or Madonna that the neighbor first saw?  (One cannot see the turkey’s gender specific parts.  It was only acts of passion that assured the family that one turkey was male and the other was female, or at least submissive.) Was the fated bird sleeping soundly?  Is that why no one was woken by a ruckus?  At any rate, most Filipinos, especially those who live out in the countryside, are quite capable of killing, skinning, and cooking a bird.  And so for every turkey there is a season.  And a seasoning, probably soy sauce and chili peppers.

The next morning, Evir’s sister woke to find a distraught solo turkey clucking about the premise.  The family called a man hunt and it was Evir who noticed a lot of feathers around the neighbors’ garbage can.  “Ummm…” he said.  “Ate, I think I found your turkey.”

Needless to say, the girl was distraught, both for her own sake and for the widowed turkey that was left behind.  She flew into a furry and called the police to report the murder.  Things being mostly quiet in their tiny town, the police arrived soon after and surveying the evidence, arrested the suspect on the scene.  The hung-over gentle man was charged with theft and destruction of property, though police must have been impressed that he managed to consume a whole turkey.

Evir’s sister was outraged, insisting the man be charged with kidnapping and murder, having gobbled up her innocent beau.  Evir didn’t tell me the police’s reaction to her rather crazed anguish, but he did tell me that the man’s mother did come to plead for her son. 

“He’s a good man, he just drinks and he was hungry,” she said.  Eventually the charges were dropped but Evir said his sister could not forgive.  As for the other turkey, perhaps it died of a broken heart.  Maybe Evir’s father found it under the house or behind the outhouse.  But there’s something suspicious of “natural” death of a turkey that happens the day before Christmas. 

Evir’s sister just had corn and rice that year.  And she still won’t eat turkey.

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