The Hellmantle Testament (Part 2)

The church in Sagada

Chapter 12

In which the German artist is tracked to the Shamrock Café

and the dangers of the northeast of Luzon Island

Sagada, Mountain Province


The man named Dennis Faustino took them in, offered them food and opened a bottle of Johnny Walker Scotch. It didn’t take them long to learn that he was a music teacher who had become an assistant principal and was on vacation at his place in the mountains. The Faustino mansion was spacious with fresh wood wherever the eye could see. Decorated with tribal art with an Oriental theme in the living room, it was a classic American colonial home complete with the balcony and gardens and matching gazebo.

“I was lucky to finagle the mayor of Sagada to allow the church to lease this property to me for life,” he said. “He made the deal after the big earthquake in 1991 had hit and destroyed parts of the home. So as part of the deal, he fixed it up and added a new back section patio.”

“Which is ideal for morning cups of coffee!” Dennis Faustino looked at Hellmantle thinking he was likely exhausted from his journey. He filled Hellmantle’s glass.

“Drink up and enjoy your time in Sagada.”

When asked about the history of missionaries in the area, he came across as knowledgeable:

“Episcopalian missionaries came here to spread the word of God beginning around 1911. It had taken the missionaries some time to reach the mountain provinces, the only area besides Mindanao that hadn’t been converted to Catholicism by the Spanish. I’ve been all around the island because I went on a one-year tour with the National Theater Group performing internationally. That was after getting my masters and finally my PhD in theater. I held a professorship at the University of Michigan before I returned here to teach music.” Dennis Faustino sounded nonchalant about it all because he was bored as Assistant Principal at the Philippino International School. He said he used to also teach drama. But Hellmantle didn’t buy it and mumbled under his breath: ‘It’s a life for effete courtiers too wimpy to take the step!’ Dennis Faustino didn’t hear him. Hllmantle drank the Scotch.

“So when were the Americans active here in Sagada?” asked D’Aqs.

“The Americans had staked their claim to these remote parts and left the church in 1967. That was when it was handed over to the Philippinos. The Episcopalian church became a Philippine entity in 1985.” Despite being the local volunteer organ player for the benefit of the mayor, D’Aqs could tell that he was not a terribly religious man.

“Do you ever remember a visiting preacher named Father Leo Vande Winkle?” Hellmantle helped himself to more Scotch.

“He’s a Dutchman,” added D’Aqs. Dennis Faustino shook his head slowly but then seemed to come to life.

“The Dutchman, yes. He has come through our church a few times when I lived here during the summer years before. When school was on summer vacation he visited with Father José at the church. Very nice man but quite old now. I haven’t seen him in a while.”

“Where is his church, do you know?” Hellmantle spread out his ripped and rain-stained map on the table. 

“It’s in the west on the coast somewhere is all I know. Close to where people live in trees as I recall,” he said with a flourish of his hand, as if Hellmantle and D’Aqs were fellow upper-class elites. But Dennis Faustino lost his airs when he squinted at the map and dragged his finger along the coastal highway, from the very north to the south. He was confused by it; Dennis Faustino couldn’t read maps.

“That’s where we’d like to end up after we take our motorcycles across the high road through Bontoc and over to the east highway up to Aparri and across the north coast to the west coast and down to Manila,” said Hellmantle, using his finger to outline the route. Something in Dennis Faustino’s demeanor changed.

“Aparri is dangerous,” he warned between drags of his cigarette. “It’s very dangerous up there. Philippinos from the lowlands don’t go up there. It’s tribal. They stop you in your car and rob you.” The matter-of-factness of his delivery made it feel as if it was common knowledge to which Hellmantle was ignorant.

“It can’t be that dangerous,” he said, finishing another glass of Scotch and helping himself to another.

“We call them pirates. I wouldn’t take my truck down that road. It’s too dangerous for me. For you,” motioning to Hellmantle, “with that beard of yours they won’t let you pass for nothing.” D’Aqs sat up in his chair and had a closer look at the possible routes from Sagada. The only way to the west coast being so far up in the mountains is through the pirate zones, D’Aqs reasoned to himself. This was a journey to be done once, not twice.

“No stone can be left unturned. That is the price that must be paid!”

“But they are angry pirates Hellmantle,” Dennis Faustino still not convinced the route was feasible. “If you must go then go with God.” Hellmantle perked up.

“Are you a man of the Bible?”

“I read the Bible as literature but not as Holy Scripture,” said Dennis. “From numerology and myth to device and end, I am well-versed in general religious history.”

“In an age when political ideologies act as a substitute for religious conviction,” said Hellmantle, “people today are more a-religious than at any time in world history if you consider the percentages, especially in the Western World.”

“You think so?” Dennis Faustino was wading into a storm.

“Many are ignorant of the religions of history.”

“Such as?”

“One is obliged to ask the question why is it that the meaning of the word ‘Druid’ means ‘knowledge of the oak.’ One is obliged to ask why the Viking religion and spiritual world based in the book Havamal was based on the Yggdrasil Tree. One is also obliged to ask why North American Indians regard the Poplar tree as the Tree of Life and the conduit to the Great Spirit Manitou, and thus dance around it during a Sundance offering prayer ties to the Creator? Why is there this fundamental similarity when religious scholars studying the migration of Ten Lost Tribes from Jacob’s Twelve Tribes of Israel believe that the Celts, the Scandinavians and the North American Indians all come from the Diaspora from 683BC? I believe there is a common footnote. But that’s just me.”

“Is that so?” Dennis Faustino asked, as they both took swigs from their glasses of Scotch.

“Like Valhalla was to the Vikings what the Promised Land was to the Israelites and what was La Merica was to the old Gauls and Franks, and perhaps like the Holy Grail of the Merovingians, one world religion uniting all in this life is what we’re after.

“What’s this about La Merica?

“Yes. La Merica is where the word America comes from.”

You’re mad!” said Dennis Faustino, smiling and interested in this odd specimen before him. He was half serious and half amused. “It was named after Amerigo Vespucci. So says the textbooks throughout the Western World.”

“Welcome to my world, the world outside textbooks in the realm of the suppressed truths. The Israelites called the ‘Promised Land’ La Merica, which means “the great place beyond the sea.” Wouldn’t North America be that land? They thought so, and believed they were destined to settle this land according to the many passages in Genesis, thus Manifest Destiny. The word America is different than Amerigo. It’s from La Merica. And that’s why it was always referred to as the Promised Land.”

“Is all this true? I know about Jacob’s twelve but this other stuff! Are you sure?

“You’re trying to ascertain the legitimacy these facts, whether the facts are blurred with liberal hermeneutical zeal sprinkled with subjectivity and subconscious political agenda, or are objective and clean.” Dennis Faustino was now weary of Hellmantle’s sanity. To D’Aqs, Dennis Faustino was on the fence whether or not to buy in to these theories.

“Are you joking?” D’Aqs saw the mouth tense.

“No, he never jokes when discussing items of the spirit,” said D’Aqs, trying to avoid an explosive conflict. “That’s the thing with Hellmantle, he loves to shock people. The more severe the shock from the higher degree of obscurity of the fact, the more he thrives. Humor him. I just let him talk. Easier that way,” said D’Aqs, feeling like his cousin might become disrespectful when this man had invited them into his home. Hellmantle waved his hand, looked at Dennis Faustino; the man well versed in general religious history.

“Thank you D’Aqs. Okay then Hellmantle,” he said, wisely filling up Hellmantle’s glass, “that stuff you were talking about outside, about the Knights of the Hospital. What else can you tell me about them?” Having known Hellmantle since the early years at boarding school D’Aqs was aware that he flourished when having something specific. He always floundered with general open-ended questions.

“Weren’t the Knights Hospitaller disbanded because someone owed them money?” asked D’Aqs, supporting their host.

“Yes. In 1137 Pope Innocent the Second issued a bull Christianae fidei religio that gave the Knights of the Hospital ‘extensive privileges,’ which enabled them to accumulate both land and money. The Hospital of St. John, as it was also known, lent monies to King Louis VII of France for the disastrous Second Crusade, and they were able to protect their castles in Syria until the end of the 13th century. The pilgrims continued to come as long as there was a hospice run by the Hospitallers where they could find protection, medicine and a bed on their journey to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.”

Very interesting, Hellmantle,” said Dennis Faustino, now relaxing and watching this unusual motorcyclist. “I’m interested in knights, not trees. There’s a functioning brain in there somewhere.”

“When I bring up religion at the bars in Hong Kong with people from around the world one learns about the history of oppression of various sects and groups of people oppressed by the Catholic Church. But as you know, Doctor Faustino, the Pope and his Roman Catholic soldiers have been oppressing us for almost 2000 thousand years. At one point during the Dark Ages it was absurd how powerful the Pope had become. For example, when the Knights Templar were convicted in the first decade of the fourteenth century, once Pope Clement V issued the list of charges, the Templars were as good as convicted. How could the Templars be proven not guilty if the Pope is literally the seat of God on earth? God must sanction the Pope’s word. It was ridiculous. It still is ridiculous.”

“What else can you tell me of these knights of the Temple?”

“I can tell you that the Nine Worthies who led the First Crusade, were all honored knights by the Pope of having secured Solomon’s Temple from the Muslims.”

“The Nine Worthies?”

“The first nine Knights Templar. They took a vow to uphold honor of God and fight for the righteous, and they took a vow to poverty and weren’t allowed to shave their bears or cut their hair.” Dennis Faustino liked this hand-selected nugget, stroking his beard proudly, in his imagination trained for drama he enjoyed mulling images of himself as a modern-day Templar who played the organ rather than rode a horse, and sang in the choir rather than adventuring to distant lands with sword in hand.

“So their motto was to serve and protect God and the needy?”

“That’s about right,” said D’Aqs, wading in with his own determination from listening to this walking encyclopedia.

“While my dad was alive, and was researching the Knights Templar and about our ancestor Hughes de Payens, he learned of something from a letter that’s stuck with me but is not written anywhere else among the vast body of knowledge we have about the Knights Templar. Written by de Payens himself, who was the actual founding father of the Templars, to all Templars, it said the devil tempts the brothers with pride and ambition with the idea of achieving higher rank. In his letter that was found in the Hellmantle castle archives, it insists that all Templars must resist these desires with humility. Only with patience and humility will they best serve God.”

“Have you seen this letter?”

“No. But I know it also has a rebuttal to any objection that the Order’s military’s duties might be an obstacle to the peace of mind essential for contemplation. He argues that even contemplative warrior monks must perform some labor, and cannot live without devoting time to activities other than contemplation. That’s why I like motorcycling.”

“Sounds noble.”

“It was similar to students of Saint Columba from Ireland who went to Scotland and set up these monasteries that produced warrior monks who would leave Scotland each year for Europe when the message of Jesus was at risk of being lost to history.”

“Form the Celtic Church?”

“Yeah, who were at the time equal in power to Rome. Have you ever heard of the seventh-century maxim: The Celtic Church brings love while the Roman Church brings law?


“These Celtic – Irish – warrior monks founded over forty monasteries in Europe from France to Switzerland.”

“I remember reading about these guys. They walked to the Mediterranean every summer playing the bagpipes and spreading the Gospel.”

“Yep, those are the guys. It reflects the essential thrust of the Ten Knightly Virtues. I only wish I had been mature enough when my father was alive so we could have shared as pint and talked about a lot of this stuff. That is my biggest regret in my life.” The transformation was swift, mouth like an envelope, eyelids suddenly heavier than lead, finally a kink in his chain mail.

“What happened to your father Hellmantle?” Dennis Faustino poured his glass full as well as his own, employing finesse at this obvious change of posture.

“He was killed by some chappies from Rome is what happened to him.” Dennis Faustino looked at D’Aqs as Hellmantle toyed with his Scotch glass, turning it around and tipping it to the meniscus.

“How did they manage that?”

“Agents of Rome have been killing off people of importance for two thousand years. They’re experts at knocking off those who are a threat to their power. My father was no different. After my grandfather was killed in battle in Dien Bien Phu, he took on a lot of the work his father had been doing but the thing about my Dad was that he was very outspoken and was talking to some powerful people who had the means to disseminate information to the public. My brother and I were also interested in what he was doing but we were too damned irresponsible to show any interest. He died thinking I was a selfish kid.” Face sombre, eyes heavy, he stared at his untouched glass. “So I have to live with that.”

“My father died too without me telling him the things I wanted to. Maybe that’s just part of life.” Tremendous grace by the Sagada organist.

“No! It’s not part of life! I had a choice to show interest but I didn’t! We all have a choice, man!” Fire in the belly now back, like a switch had been flicked.

“I’m sorry for your loss Hellmantle, but try to take some comfort that your father is very, very proud of you right now as he watches you ride your motorbike through dangerous areas here in remote areas of my country. How can he not be proud?” Pain swirled, eyes dark and wet, emotion threatening his intellect, Hellmantle processed his words in silence, and then finally spoke thus:

“Yes! You are correct. Nice one. Okay then, here’s to my father Roland the Second. May he be happy in Valhalla and be proud of his son for his diligence and perseverance to complete his work.” They raised glasses and Hellmantle drank his entire glass. D’Aq’s eyed had welled up a little bit.

“Son? Don’t you mean sons?” Hellmantle bolted out of his seat and left for the gazebo outside, leaving Dennis Faustino red-faced.

“His brother died when he was sixteen on a ski trip,” said D’Aqs in a whisper.

“Oh.” Removed a cigarette but didn’t light it. “Were they close?” D’Aqs pulled off his sweater.

“Yes, very close. They were identical twins. I went to school with them both. They were inseparable. Spoke some strange language and were always a team. We all looked up to them. Envied them I think is the better word.”

“Another tragedy for your friend.”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about it since we started our ride and I don’t think twins realize the power they have when they’re together. They take it all for granted until it’s no longer there. Both of them used to do the most outlandish things but I think they could do that because of this support they had for each other.”

“Unconditional love.”

“Yes, but more than that. They could take risks or act the fool but they each knew it was all right. At boarding school it was what enabled them to become the leaders of their class.”

“The loss of a loved father and a brother is hard to take, but a twin brother? Wow.” Empathy in Dennis Faustino’s eyes was palpable.

“And the deaths happened within a year of each other. I wonder if he will ever allow himself to recovered, because he’s certainly changed a lot when I knew him well at school.”

“And you’re a minister?”

“Yes, so it’s in my heart to help him but the problem is I don’t think he wants help, or is capable of being helped.”

“Maybe you’re helping him by just being with him.” A tear fell from D’Aqs’ eye but he let it fall on the table, the salty stain glistening under the chandelier.

Where Dennis Faustino volunteered

Chapter 13

In which Catharine the artist is tracked to the Shamrock Café

and an eerie coincidence of a reoccurring dream


Waking up in the clean mountain air perfumed with the crisp scents of forest, Hellmantle’s first thought was of the woman he had met last year while in Manila for an assignment for the magazine. He wondered if today would be the day that he could kindle that unrealized flame and secure his love interest during his noble enterprise so far north in such a remote setting. He had met the fair-haired artist when she was in the big city picking up art supplies for her little getaway in Sagada. To Hellmantle her invitation to visit her was sincere enough to warrant the effort of the Halseema Mountain Trail and the added degree of trail-biking prowess required to overcome the terrain. Braving valleys with head-hunters among the clouds and darkness was a pittance to him for what might lay ahead with her. Catharine had potential. But he felt something in his gut that he wasn’t sure of. He called it chivalry but perhaps it was irrational extremism?

It was a pre-cognitive feeling that he knew he could never fathom.

Dennis Faustino had already left for the church so he and D’Aqs packed up but did not go over to the church to watch part of the wedding. D’Aqs wrote a note leaving his father’s address in Hong Kong in case Dennis Faustino ever landed on Hong Kong Island. With his PhD he might enjoy meeting his father, a fellow academic. Hellmantle didn’t think of leaving a note and was noticeably impatient as he sat at the top of the steps. Through the open doors of the church across the road they saw Dennis Faustino playing the organ looking a bit puffy around the eyes.

Hellmantle noticed behind the church where there were some graves around an American World War Two memorial. They had been defaced. It bothered him that someone had painted over the engraved letters so the writing on the mantle was illegible. Beside it there was a green shamrock over the gate of the adjoining school called Trinity College, which made him forget about the vandalized memorial.

“Let’s go to the Shamrock Café to ask about the German lass,” he said, realizing that he had started to procrastinate. He tried to be cavalier but he was nervous about finally tracking her down.

D’Aqs waved at Dennis and then they left for café on the main street. There was space in front of some tables to park their dirt bikes, as there were no sidewalks. In the brightness of the morning, the Shamrock Café was tiny.

“She is still not arrived señor,” said the woman with empathy.” No bus yet, but soon señor, very soon.”

“I can’t stay, unfortunately. We’re on our motorcycles and have to be back in Manila in four days.”

“I can leave her a message if you want sir.”

“Hellmantle. Tell her Hellmantle from Normandy came by to see her and consummate our destiny.” The woman put a small piece of scrap paper on the table and she wrote down his name. After she had finished writing he took it to correct the spelling, and added: “Fair artist from Germany, I have trekked a thousand miles on my motorbike to see you but alas! You are not here. But knowing that you are here and known by this bar manager, I am inspired by your honesty and will complete my quest in honor of you. Maybe we’ll have the chance to meet again.” He even left a telephone number for further correspondence at the artist’s discretion due to D’Aqs’ suggestion.

He had left evidence of his presence for her.

D’Aqs suggested coffee to get Hellmantle back on track. They sat under old wooden shutters with a view of miles of mountaintops and sloping green hills that still felt like the café at edge of the universe by virtue of its vista: strange rock formations protruding upwards like obelisks surrounded by bright green grass and dotted with clusters of pine forests, wooden coffins hanging out of cave openings. It looked like a fairy tale.

“I feel as if I’m in prehistoric Ireland,” said Hellmantle looking out the window.

“Like a fairy tale. I can see why the artist lives here.” But the calm vibe was marred when other foreigners sat right beside them when there was many other tables open in the small café. Loud and excited and immature, it rattled Hellmantle’s sensitivities. Perhaps it was the combination of caffeine and the dramatic vista before him, but he soon felt claustrophobic and spoke thus to D’Aqs in a whisper:

“Why would they sit here when there are so many other tables?” D’Aqs shrugged his shoulders and sipped his coffee. “Watch the tourists’ posture manifest in an array of deviations from their old self. Granted taking the first steps out of one’s shell is a rite of passage everyone must take, I have already stepped in those waters so I don’t want to be privy to others shin splints stumbling out of shells secluded and silent in a small café when the vibrancy of the mountains draws me! I don’t know if that is arrogance or just because my way of traveling is truer than flying in from some airport. I dislike being around green tourists. Perhaps it’s an imperfection of mine, but showing man’s imperfections is the essence of telling the truth, non?

Hellmantle was so antsy that he repacked his backpack and fastened it to his motorcycle with the bungee cords. As D’Aqs waited for him to fix his pack, he realized that he too was becoming claustrophobic. He wasn’t sure if it was the attitude that came from young westerners ending up in exotic locales fresh off a bus talking of television shows that was infringing upon his sense of adventure too. Perhaps it was his newborn love for motorcycling that had shown him another form of traveling: the purity of its degree of freedom having changed his previous idea of travel.

“Let’s go Hellmantle.” For a moment he watched the tall man in the motorcycle jacket and scraped black boots with laces tied around the top of the boot leaving a toe hole free, gold-rimmed glasses shining in the mountain sun.

“Yes! Let us move on! Time to go find the Dutchman with the map. Not finding my Fair Lady will not deter me from my duty at hand!” They started their engines with some moxie to show the green tourists sitting with their fat bellies they lived in another dimension of life, one where danger was real and where skills were a required ingredient to get from point A to B. When D’Aqs was pulling his gloves he saw a woman walking towards them, hair left to its own accord, bag drooped over a shoulder that might have been the reason for the tilt of her head. At first he thought it was the German artists but she was clearly brunette. He didn’t know her but he tipped his helmet to be polite.

Senorita, Buenos Dias,” he said, finding dormant words.

With ease she put her hand on his handlebars and said:

“Don’t tell me you rode here from Manila?” He felt the flush of his cheek from the pride; he had to say yes. Her eyes sparkled gray in the sun. “That’s braver than most.”

“It wasn’t my idea. It was my cousin’s,” he said, bashful.

“We’ve met somewhere, haven’t we?” When she came closer he smelled her that sent his physiology haywire. He had always believed there was someone out there destined to be his partner through life but hadn’t been fortunate to find her.

“Are you a…an artista?” Her hand grabbed his with the same ease as her hair had in the soft breeze, as if silk.

“We have met!” He wanted her to keep her hand on his forearm, forever.


“Or was it in my dream?” He hand abandoned him going to her mouth, lips thin and pink and inviting. “Oh my God! You are!” Cheeks flushed, eyes piercing. He knew what dream she was referring, the same one he had had over and over again.


“You’re a priest or something, aren’t you?”


“Because I know.” In all the vicissitudes life had thrown at him he had never felt safer than this moment.

“I was recently a missionary in Burma,” he said, his voice calm despite the tidal waves in his heart.

“Across from that big fort in Mandalay? Just a guess.”

“You mean Fort Dufferin?”

“Yes! That one.” Their eyes could not let go.

“I must say, this is truly extraordinary! The stone church across from the fort, the one near the Buddhist monastery with all of Gautama Buddha’s parables written on those stone tablets, was where I was stationed until I went to where George Orwell used to live when he was an Imperial policeman from 1923 to 1928. Poor guy left with his health in tatters.”

“That’s classic!” eyes warm and without malice. “I must say, this is truly extraordinary! In tatters.” Her laugh caught Hellmantle’s attention through the sounds of their engines.

“My angel!

 “No way!” she said when she recognized Hellmantle. “You did come!”

“I have traversed many miles to see you!” Overt and clumsy, his awkwardness gave D’Aqs a strength he had never experienced before. Catharine put her hand on his forearm again, her eyes intent on him. Hellmantle turned off his engine and hugged her, his hair all over the place.

“Are you brothers? You have the same eyes…almost.” Catharine then made it clear whom she was enamored with when she looked into D’Aqs’ eyes with meaning.

“We’re cousins,” he said.

“Well, I am flattered. I think that’s the right word.” She put her bag at D’Aqs’ feet as if she had been doing it all her life.

My fair lass! We shall consummate our kindling fire so that I may fulfill my destiny of finding the map!” Catharine looked at him with concern, and then remembered Hellmantle’s strange ways.

“I certainly remember meeting you.”

“I knew it!” he said.

“You’re the type of man a woman remembers,” she said, feeding the Man from Normandy the words he desired to hear. “I really like your beard. It’s very…bright.”

“I knew there was an a priori understanding between us!”

“A what?” She giggled, looking at D’Aqs that said she was aware of Hellmantle’s eccentricities. She looked at the dried mud on her sleeve after the embrace left from Hellmantle’s riding jacket.

“Here, let me get the note I just left you!” He flew to the counter to retrieve the note.

“He’s funny.”

“Yes, he is funny.” The understanding was bridged. They could already communicate between the lines. When he shut off his engine he felt none of the terror he always had around other women. Yes, Catharine was the one he had been waiting for.

“Sagada of all places we meet.”

“I was just thinking the same thing,” she said, the moment with tremendous gravitas.


When they sat at the table beside the shuttered window D’Aqs had never been happier, especially when she pressed her leg against his under the table. It was exactly what he needed to quell insecurities that arose when he could witness her beauty. And he could see that she loved it from her expression, which he read as not wanting to change her present situation.

Hellmantle busied himself with retelling their exploits so far on the trip, taking special care to highlight the manliness required to ‘conquer the Halseema Mountain Trail.’ Showing tremendous social tact she gave Hellmantle her attention so that his illusions wouldn’t shatter, which was something D’Aqs had learned to do too.

“So we took the old missionary trail to see you despite the fact that it has cost us some valuable time,” he said, coming close to his conclusion.

“Thank God for that! Otherwise we wouldn’t have met.” The double entendre was confirmed with the subtle flinching of her leg against D’Aqs’. He wondered how Hellmantle, who was uncomfortable with human contact, could sustain a relationship with a woman. The thought pained him because he was the last in his family line to carry the surname Hellmantle.

“I don’t know your family or much about you but something in my intuition told me that you have a purpose in my grande scheme.”

“I know what it is,” she said, playfully.

“It’s so that D’Aqs and I can fulfill our holy mission in the name of love, chivalry and the Holy Grail!” D’Aqs, knowing now what the searching for the Grail meant, couldn’t help himself from asking:

“Where is your family from? You know we’re from Normandy who recently fled to Quebec during the war.”

“I think I said I was from Germany, which is right because I was born there but my family for centuries is from Groningen in Belgium. My last name isn’t German.” He and Hellmantle looked at each other, D’Aqs giving him the nod to ask the question.

“What is your surname?”

“My name is Catharine Asher.” It meant nothing to D’Aqs but Hellmantle suddenly stood up.

“There is no reason for you to deceive, so that really is something: Asher! Actual footage,” he said, and straightened his posture. “I’m Roland Hellmantle if you recall, and this fine lad here is-“

“I’m D’Aqs Grosjean,” he said, henceforth using his original surname.


“It’s a shortened form of D’Aquitaine. It means of the water.”

“My mother’s family is from there.” Hellmantle, becoming more agitated the more he looked at his wristwatch, spoke thus:

“I remember now! It was the spelling of your name Catharine with the “ar” rather than the “er” that caught by attention.”

“I recall when you asked the spelling of my name. You had a…a reaction.”

“It’s rare that your name is spelt with the “ar,” but for me it signifies that your parents are aware of the massacre of the Cathars during the ninth century. And for me that was the Sign.” Looking at D’Aqs he said: “See? There was a reason.”

“And Hellmantle is loath to pass by a Sign.”

“Don’t tell me, your family is not Catholic.”

“No, my father is always talking about Catholics and history. It really made me bananas when I was younger.”

“Same with me.”

“I never got it.”

“Nor did I.” He unintentionally grabbed her hand, which she held and put under the table so Hellmantle’s spirit wouldn’t be unbuoyed.

“He would be an Orange Man if he could, but he wasn’t born in Northern Ireland! But now that we have met and we know you are an Asher from the tribe of the same name, we are set to attain our quest. And that means now!” D’Aqs knew Hellmantle was not one for long good-byes so when he paid for the food and coffee and went to his motorcycle to put on his kit, he knew he wouldn’t wait for them.

“Will you-“

“Yes! I will. I love Hong Kong.” They gave each other a long hug, D’Aqs immediately drugged by her pheromones.

“You have to call me because you don’t have a telephone!”

“You know I will. At the end of next week after you guys are back. Ride safe here though. And use your head.” She looked wearily at Hellmantle. “Make sure he doesn’t do anything too extreme. We have a lot to catch up on D’Aqs.” He knew she was thinking of her reoccurring dream, the same one that had sustained him through forty years of celibate patience and faith that one day he would meet his mate. How rare was this moment! He decided then that God existed, and to honor Him and Catharine he would grow his beard.

On the way to the ‘eighth wonder of the world’

Chapter 14

About Hellmantle reaching the rice terraces

and finding a way to the northwest


Hellmantle rode to a place just out of town where they sold gas from reused pop bottles and asked for gas.

“Sorry, only regular,” said the gasman, plastic bottles filled with leaded gas on a hacked-up roadside table beside him. Hellmantle didn’t want to hear these words so he asked him again:

“You have unleaded please?”

“Regular only.” The gasman said the closest place to get unleaded gas was in Bontoc, or they could wait until two for their resupply.

“That’s sixteen kilometers away, which is about a twenty-minute ride,” he said to D’Aqs.

With gas now an issue, Hellmantle chose to ride on fumes towards Bontoc instead of waiting until two in the afternoon for more and surely another coffee with his Fair Maiden. Apart from the fuel concern, all the moguling had taken its toll by loosening a screw so that it had fallen out, leaving part of the chain guard rubbing against both the chain and the tire’s knobby treads. A chain loose from all the first-and-second-gear climbing he had done so far, it had to be dealt with before the chain buckled in the chassis. Choosing not to share his concern for the chain buckling, due to a previous incident he had had while off-roading along the northern border of Thailand and Burma, he removed one of his bungee cords and hooked the metal prong through where the screw used to be, taking full advantage of the tough plastic fiberglass faring, and then hooked the other end to the far side of the seat.

“It won’t work,” said D’Aqs, after looking at this handy work. Hellmantle nodded, took out a piece of string and threaded through and looped it around the frame below the seat, tying it tight.

“If the string can hold the chain guard from slipping down a centimeter, then it should be okay.”

“But watch, when I sit on it.” Hellmantle’s weight flexed the back shock absorbers and weakened the tension of the string. D’Aqs was close to suggest they get tools from town when Hellmantle took hold of his water bottle, drank all its contents, tied the string to his bungee with lots of tension, and then wedged the empty bottle between the rear faring and the bungee cord.

“You know something,” said D’Aqs, hand to chin. “I think that might work.” Genuine emotion of pride in D’Aqs eyes. Perhaps it was his flushed cheek from the Shamrock Café, but he was so enthused about the contraption that he bent over to make sure it was firm.

“Here-“When D’Aqs pushed the empty bottle into place his hand slipped, cutting the skin open on the palm of his hand against the folded end.

“Clutch hand. Bummer,” said Hellmantle, trying to hold in his laughter. D’Aqs studied the cut closely as Hellmantle erupted.

“Could you?” He motioned to his knapsack, so Hellmantle retrieved his dopkit, the same one he had when they shared a dorm twenty-five years ago, and placed the Band-Aid along the inch-long cut as best he could.

“Right along the crease of the hand. Might prove to be a bad cut in a few days. But not now! Let us go to the rice terraces my cousin, fumes or not!”

With the rattling gone the ride was a degree better for the man from Normandy, which was good because he had entered the Eighth-Wonder-of-the-World territory. On the more rider-friendly surface he and D’Aqs had good cruising as they climbed in second gear towards Bontoc. Riding side-by-side with Hellmantle for long stretches, D’Aqs again could see his mastery of the two-wheeled balance; trail-biking like a finely tuned instrument.

When approaching Bontoc D’Aqs felt his engine overheating from lack of oil. He was aware it needed a top up before but had forgotten about it. It had been pushed it out of mind due to all the thoughts about Catharine. He feared for the health of his engine and the damage done if he ran out of engine oil. Gas was one thing but oil was a whole other ballgame. It was truly a hand-of-God moment when just as his engine began to sputter he pulled into the Spring View Inn in Bontoc. When he parked, just as he was about to turn off the engine it stopped on its own. The engine had seized from lack of oil. He wouldn’t have been able to ride another hundred meters. He had reached civilization by the scrape of a claw but didn’t mention it to his cousin. He didn’t want him worrying about a motorcycle mishap as it would deter from his focus and cause ripples in his temperament.

After purchasing oil and refueling with unleaded gas, he had to wait twenty minutes for the oil to seep into the engine while Hellmantle tightened his chain and studied his contraption with the chain guard. It didn’t look pretty but it was firm and holding and effective.

Full of fuel, they left for Banaue with impatience and zeal but the road was tough, which caused D’Aqs a lot of pain in his clutch hand. The closer they inched toward Banaue the more bright-green rice terraces, with entire sides of mountains carved out to grow rice. The rice terraces conformed to the grain of the valley creating a synergy in an eye-catching natural geology. The more rice terraces Hellmantle saw, the more he wanted to see. More than just fields to grow rice, they had been hewed out of mountains and were a marvel of human will to overcome isolation.

When they arrived fog hung low concealing a full visual of the rice terraces. Entrapped in the middle of the mountains, darkness fell quickly so Hellmantle decided to stay at a place called Patina’s Café. Just after dinner he and D’Aqs relaxed with empty plates and half-full beers in front of them, Hellmantle’s map open. 

“The highway here is the best route I think,” he said, pointing at the main paved highway running south from Banaue that hooked up with a main highway going due north on the east side of the Sierra Madre Mountains to Aparri.

“This main highway here that runs north through the Cagayan Province is the one we want to take,” said D’Aqs, practical and logical.

“What about this road here?” A thin line crossed the mountain range from Banaue that ended right in the middle of the mountains.

“It’s not for vehicles it looks like. It’s not a road. Probably for local people to work the rice terraces.”

“It must go through!” said Hellmantle. “Going around the mountains is time consuming and it is antithetical to my motorcycling instincts!” D’Aqs feared another Halseema Mountain Trail experience but worse. He saw them stranded in the middle of nowhere with only one option to turn back. He knew his cousin liked the rush of cruising to the bruising terrain of variation and incongruities.

“The highway is a safer call Hellmantle.”

“There must be a way through the mountains. Why would it just end like that? It’s the map. Besides, it would be pretty cool to get through there with all the rice terraces around. Apparently they spread out for some 400 square kilometers mainly east of Banaue.” He looked outside at the fog. “There’s only one way to find out.” Mischief on his face.

“No. No way.”

“With our dirt bikes we could endure a walking trail.”

“We can’t afford to be stuck in the middle of nowhere,” said D’Aqs. “I have to be back in Manila to catch my flight on Monday morning. I’m not free to change my return date.”

“My flight leaves Monday too so I’m in the same boat, but I am still free.” He took a long drink from his San Miguel beer to emphasize his point. “This taste of freedom here in the mountains of the Cordillera Mountain Range whets my appetite for more.” D’Aqs knew he wasn’t able to make him see reason.


In the morning it was still overcast so Hellmantle decided to hang out in the market in the middle of Banaue still hopeful it would clear up. Instead it rained harder. Under a small canopy of a stall in the market at the main intersection, Hellmantle opened his map and pondered the small road again.

“The thing is D’Aqs, if we take it we will be immersed right in the heart of the rice terraces. I know the road is off the beaten track but I believe God is our co-pilot and will see us through on our quest for the Dutch Padre.” By chance a woman in the market also sought respite from the rain under the canopy, so Hellmantle boldly asked her about the road heading east.

“Not for car,” she said.

“It goes through the rice terraces, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, but it is a trail for oxen.” She regarded him as a lost tourist, looking at him with compassion, as if he were a lost puppy.

“It doesn’t go through the mountains?”

“No.” She shook her head in the negative. “It stops after a kilometer. No go for you,” looking at his motorcycle.

“On my map the line stops in the middle of the mountains before it reaches the main highway.” Hellmantle showed her but she couldn’t readjust her perspective to see where they were on the map. For sure cartography was not taught in schools he realized.

Exasperated, he saw a woman with folded tattooed arms chewing betel nut watching him from another stall. Beginning to feel the nip in the air, Hellmantle walked over and bought a package from the lady. D’Aqs was curious what betel nut was so Hellmantle took a betel nut, wrapped it in a green leaf, sprinkled the white powder in the middle like a taco, added the mystery element to the mix, and then wedged the item between his cheek and gums.

“It will warm you up,” said Hellmantle, chewing the beet-red intoxicant. “It is an elixir for a motorcyclist in these rugged parts, the added ingredient for explorers when faced with adversity!” So D’Aqs followed his example but spit it out after a minute’s effort.

That is disgusting!”

The rain was pouring now and the little hut in the market was not enough to keep them dry.

“I don’t want to ride some cushy highway the long way on a dirt bike,” Hellmantle said. “I prefer to explore the Eighth Wonder of the World on a small mud trail over a mountain range!”

“I don’t like cushy highways either,” replied D’Aqs, playing the hand of the squire but also looking at the red cut on his hand he sustained on his way to Bontoc. “But it would guard against trouble, such as hitting a dead-end in the mountains.”

“Let’s take the mountains. The journey is the destination!” Hellmantle put on another layer and then started his engine. In a sudden outburst Hellmantle and D’Aqs maneuvered through the market, rode past an old church without a bell tower and crossed the river to the walking trail. There was only mud and dirt surrounded by deep green foliage but it was a welcome change. Immediately empowered by the more traditional dirt-biking path that was ahead, he yelled back to D’Aqs:

“Our dirt bikes are designed specifically for this type of off-road situation! Open up your throttle and bounce off the bumps!”

After only a few miles, both were covered in mud. As if attempting to make the best of a bad business, Hellmantle threw himself into the riding, speeding around corners with the certain knowledge that no Jeepney was going to come headlong into him. Completely isolated from cars and noise, he sped forward and upwards past rice terraces on either side of him with a newfound joy towards a destination that seemed unattainable. The path gave him what all true trail bikers wanted: a traffic-free trail unhampered by the nuisances of modern society weaving through exotic landscapes.

For D’Aqs, after chewing that little bit of betel nut, warmth flooded through his bloodstream making him warm and more daring. Even so it was tough to keep up with his cousin. But it was a totally new experience for him. For him nature had never bestowed so much beauty in one area of the world. The hue of the vegetation and the absolute peace he felt being immersed in the bosom of what God had created inspired him. Fear absent, he was catapulted into a new realm of being. He began to understand the reckless passion of his cousin for this type of adventure and berated himself for being Doubting Thomas.

Around a corner and over a waterfall flowing over the dirt path, Hellmantle passed rice terraces wholly isolated and pristine. Green fields spread out down-graded leveled slopes towards a river where a line of small huts spread for a mile down to a valley below. Judging by the hardiness of the few natives that gawked at him as he rode by, the terraces were built by sweat and diligence. Terrace after terrace, and mile after mile protected by the natural walls of rock, it was a world of carved-out fields where man had tamed sides of mountains. These were the rice terraces that the tourists didn’t see; these were the real wonders, he thought. He took another turn and before him was an almost perfectly stepped slope of terraces in symmetrical harmony that stepped down to a forest where red-roofed huts were clustered in the middle of a rice terrace surrounded by palm trees. The rich red of the rooftops contrasted against the trees and the light green of budding rice like green hair shimmering on water. Hellmantle was stunned.

“I am in a different planet,” he said to himself.

Hellmantle and D’Aqs rode along the empty trail for hours through mud and inclines threatening success of reaching the other side. For Hellmantle the muddier it became the more fulfilling the experience. The motorcycling joy he experienced snowballed with every mile. He was impelled to speak thus:

“Only those who do not fear fear can ever understand the heights of enjoyments of a ride like this! A fall and broken bones and brushes with your mortality are experienced as the thrill of danger! The cold slap of mud on my face does not chill down my spine; it enthuses my soul for more and fortifies that which we call self. This is the affirmation of life and a corporeal reminder that I am living life! An honest inclination is worth a thousand contemplations!”

Both cousins thought riding through the Sierra Madre Mountains on a trail that was so small that it disappeared on a map was perhaps one of those rare instances when you felt you were achieving something significant, something more than finding a padre or a lost map. You and God were the only witnesses to the coordination that was required to navigate such terrain and moments of greatness that were brought into being to save your life by running off the trail over the dge. It was a moment of flashing brilliance that went with you to your grave.

Soon Hellmantle and D’Aqs fought the dying sunlight and faced the prospect of being stranded. Hellmantle pulled over at a small shelter at the side of the road for a minute to consult his map and wait for D’Aqs to catch up. He saw that he was now past the point where the line on the map stopped. The only village around was a place called Mayayao. Hellmantle also realized that he was almost 6000 feet above sea level.

By the time it was completely dark in the thick of the Sierra Madre Mountains, they became accustomed to riding in the dark as they ploughed through the silence of the mountains soon riding right through the village without seeing it. It was only a minute outside the village that D’Aqs realized they had passed through Mayayao. Hellmantle was so carried away with his flow that he hadn’t even noticed the village!

Returning to the village the only light on was on top of what looked like the town hall. Hellmantle led the way up the steps to learn that it was the police station of Mayayao. The policeman said that there was a place for them to stay, pointing to an area of darkness at the turn in the road beside a river. When they walked over and knocked on the door, to their surprise a young woman answered and said that she had rooms available for the night.

The rice terraces near Banaue

Chapter 15

About what happened to our intrepid philosopher

in the middle of the Sierra Madre Mountains

Mayayao, Sierra Madre Mountain Range, Ifugao Province


On seeing the state of Hellmantle and D’Aqs, covered in debris and sporting a muddy countenance in general, the young woman smiled at the tall men and said all the rooms were vacant. When she was told they had ridden into town on their motorcycles, she shook her head but admired them with her eyes. After providing them with peanuts and chips and beer and water, she took them to the rooms around the side of the building to three rooms under the main floor.

“This is where missionaries stay when they pass through,” she said. D’Aqs shivered in his wet clothes. “That’s why we named the rooms after the first three chapters in the Bible.” She pointed above the doorway.

“Genesis, and this one is Exodus,” said D’Aqs, feeling as if he had found a hidden secret among his own people called by God to bring the Gospel to those who were still in the dark. He had never seen this missionary-specific accommodation in Burma.

“And the third is Jeremiah,” she said as she smiled and left them. D’Aqs stood squinting at the signs above the doorway.

“She said each room is named after the first three chapters of the Bible? Not quite. The first two books are Genesis and Exodus, but the Book of Jeremiah is in the middle of the Old Testament.” The room was cold but dry.

“Then why do you think they chose it?” The man from Normandy was busy stuffing peanuts and beer down his throat.

“Couldn’t say.” The way D’Aqs removed his boots showed the pain he was in, particularly his clutch hand.

“If they chose the Book of Jeremiah purposely they probably know their stuff,” said Hellmantle. “It’s one of my favorites.”

“Why’s that?” Hellmantle took a long swig of his beer. D’Aqs cracked open a beer and stared at the wall across from him where someone had painted a mural of a rice terrace.

“Among the greatest dates in history for me is not 1492 or 1066 or 1798, but 586BC,” said Hellmantle in a lecturing tone. He paused to see if D’Aqs understood the importance of the date. D’Aqs shrugged his shoulders.


“For me this date was a moment when history hung in the balance. Since then there have been no serious threats to the chosen family.”

“I’m not getting it.” D’Aqs was now used to Hellmantle’s strange ways of communication, and the nuances of suggesting how ignorant he was of this hidden history that only the chosen knew.

“No, it doesn’t appear so. You never studied the family records and appreciated our historical significance in the Bible story.” He sighed and shook his head for emphasis. “This was the date that the three daughters of the Royal House of Judah left with their scribe Baruch and traveled from Jerusalem via Spain to Ireland. There, one of the three daughters married a Celtic King in a town that eventually got its name – from the princess named Tara.”

“The Hill of Tara. Sure, I know of that,” D’Aqs was chuffed he could show some degree of knowledge.

“Well then you know Irish Celts hold three sacred assemblies in Tara every year?”


“And ever since Princess Tara was crowned a Celtic Queen, all the kings of the United Kingdom have been crowned with the Stone of Destiny under the throne. The Stone of Destiny was brought over with Jeremiah, Baruch and the three daughters, which is said to have been Jacob’s Pillow.”

“I’ve heard of the Stone of Destiny but never knew how it came to Britain. But how do you know this stuff?”

“Books my brother, books. You see I’m an archivist. I dig deep into the archives for certain subjects, and the Book of Jeremiah happens to be one of them. It’s all in the Book of Jeremiah. It’s there to read. This sacred stone, this Stone of Scone was brought over when the entire royal family of the Royal House of Judah had been killed by the invading Assyrian army in 586BC. All the male heirs of the Royal House of David were killed including Zedekiah, the father of the three daughters who saved the bloodline from extinction and brought the line of chosen Judah to the green pastures of Ireland where they quickly married into the royalty of the Celts – their long lost cousins in the British Isles. They arrived with the royal lion on their shields and the chosen bloodline was introduced into the British Isles. This is where the lion comes from in the British lion and the unicorn coat-of-arms.”

D’Aqs grunted.

“Regardless of its historical impact, the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament is one of the great stories in our canon of historical literature. And it goes some way to explain the connection between northern Europe – particularly Ireland, Scotland and England – and the bloodline of the Royal House of David. It wasn’t until I had put in many hours of research that I began to uncover what the connections are. To me this is the most important forgotten piece of history they don’t teach at school.” Hellmantle, flushed in the face, opened another beer and ate even more peanuts.

“What history?” The beer was already making D’Aqs sleepy as he casually picked at the cut on his hand.

“The Red Hand in the Northern Ireland flag was said to come from some legend from a battle between the north and the south, but it actually comes from the Book of Genesis. In the account of the eldest heir born into the royal family, it describes how there were twins born, but the rightful heir – Zarah – went back into the womb and was not given the honor of being the first born. A red string was tied around Zarah’s finger before going back into the womb. The string was to recognize the inheritance of being the first born and the rightful heir. It was this line of Royal David that was saved from extinction when Jeremiah and the three daughters came over to Northern Ireland. This bloodline is still carried by the British Royal Family today. The Northern Irish flag is actually a red hand mounted on the Star of David under the royal crown. You have to ask yourself why these symbols are used? The red hand and the red string: how plain could it be especially placed in front of the Star of David?”

“This bloodline of the chosen line came from Ireland?” D’Aqs, very doubtful and fearful his cousin was living in a world of illusions and selective religious history, thought he would let him get it off his chest. After all it had been quite a day.

“Ah! Well, the mother of the three daughters was named Scota, so when Princess Tara from the House of Judah married the Celtic king Fergus the Great on the Hill of Tara in Ireland, they became known as the Scots. These Scots from Ireland went to Scotland and conquered the Picts, and settled what is modern-day Scotland. This royal bloodline eventually made it to the British throne through James the Sixth of Scotland, who became James the First of Great Britain, which fulfilled the prophecy in Genesis. King James was a Stewart, a name that means to serve. And it was this James who commissioned the King James Bible.” D’Aqs was speechless for a moment.


“Yes, fulfilled the Biblical prophecy.”

“So then that’s why Scotland has the red lion rampant as their emblem?” As any man of the cloth would know, the lion of Judah was the famous symbol from the Bible but how it ever got into Britain had always been a mystery to D’Aqs.

“Yeah. And it’s red because of the red thread on the finger of their forefather Zarah, who was the twin of Perez.” D’Aqs had to concede Hellmantle’s reference to the Book of Genesis.

“I do know that in the Book of Genesis it describes when one of the twins’ fingers is tied with a red piece of string symbolizing the true inheritor of earthly power.”

“This is what the red hand symbolizes: that the three sisters landed in Ireland from Palestine way back in 586BC. This is the hidden history of the British Isles.” It was clear his mind was racing with unsaid facts and information from the countless pages he had read over the years as an expatriate that was coming to life from all the betel nut he had chewed and the day’s riding. To encourage him, D’Aqs took out his Good Book and, since he knew the Book of Genesis much better than the Book of Jeremiah, he found the passage Hellmantle was talking about in Genesis, He read it aloud:

Genesis 38:28 When the time came for her to give birth, it was discovered that she was going to have twins. While she was in labor, one of them put out an arm; the midwife caught it, tied a red thread around it, and said, “this one was born first.” But he pulled his arm back, and then his brother was born first. Then the midwife said, “So this is how you break your way out!” So he was named Perez. Then his brother was born with the red thread on his arm, and he was named Zarah.”

Yes, that’s it. The name Zarah means ‘scarlet.’ And actually, while we’re on names, you know what ‘Britain’ means?”

“Yes. It means ‘people of the covenant,’ in Hebrew.” D’Aqs enjoying the sparring.

“What about the first name ‘Brian?’”


“It’s a variation of the word Britain, like Bri’an. It means person of the covenant – meaning agreement between the Israelites and God.”

Hellmantle pondered for a moment with the Bible in his hand.

“There is this great silence about all this knowledge that it boggles the mind. Why aren’t these truths taught? H.G. Wells was right when he wrote the religious life of Western countries is ‘going on in a house of history built upon sand.’ As I see it, at this point in history it’s about learning the history of the migration and location of ‘peoples of the covenant.’ My point is that religion today is more to do with the Book of Jeremiah and what it tells us about our family history rather than trying to figure out how one can be born from a virgin mother. So few people know a very important truth about the Bible: that the Europeans have an Israelite origin. Ancestors of Jacob landed in Europe. For example, direct descendants of Jacob’s son Zebulon are one tribe that still exist today as one people in Europe: The Netherlands. They were known as sailors and experts at sea and their symbol on their shields was a ship. These are the modern-day Dutch.”

“Are you serious?

“I told you I’m always serial when discussing this. I’m actually surprised you’ve never been exposed to all this. You know Britain means people of the covenant but you don’t know about the British Israelites. So many symbols of Great Britain are from the Bible.”

“So where did they land?”

“I don’t know them all but I remember the tribe of Dan settled Denmark, and named the Dan River and the Danube River. The Danes were considered the strongest of the three Viking tribes, the Norse being excellent seafarers and the Swedes going down the Volga River and taking over Russia.”


“The Rus were a Viking tribe from Sweden. They ruled Russia for centuries.” Surprised at D’Aqs lack of historical knowledge, he added: “And they had a settlement in Sicily and modern-day Chechnya, and Dublin.”


Dublin was a Viking fort. The Vikings were all over the place. For example, they were basically the policemen of the Silk Road to China.”

That’s hard to believe.”

“Doubt all you want Thomas but they’re still finding Vikings buried along the Silk Road. Look it up.”

“And us? As Normans?” Sleep was descending on his eyelids like bricks.

“We’re are descendants of the tribe of Benjamin.”

“And the Swiss?”

“The tribe of Gad. They grabbed the best land in Switzerland. I believe the symbol on their shield was a leader of troops, and as a fact Switzerland has the oldest army in Europe known as the Swiss Guard.”

“The Pope’s army.”

“They wear the rather loud regalia with the stripes and whatnot.” D’Aqs’ doubt was gaining force with this matter-of-fact delivery of this dubious piece of knowledge about the Netherlands being one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

“I’m sure you don’t mind me asking but how can you be sure of this?”

“Scholars have been researching the Lost Tribes recently and have tracked the tribes by language and symbols, but mainly by genetics. There’s a map that exists that tracks the movement of the tribes with the majority going to Northern Europe, but also a strain going to modern-day Afghanistan. I believe it is the R2 gene that is the marker for the Afghan piece.”

“But. But they’re Muslim.”

“That’s true but they became Muslim after Mohammed penned the Quran around 700AD. God dictated it to Him because the previous message had been tampered with by Rome. It says that in the Quran. At one point it states: ‘It is not suited for Almighty God that He should father a son.’ And ‘They say, “Verily, those who make up a lie against God will never succeed!’” D’Aqs closed his eyes and ruminated through what he had just heard.

And then he heard Hellmantle mutter virgin birth under his breath. D’Aqs fell asleep thinking about Jeremiah and the hidden history of the family story of the Bible. He only had a restless sleep.

The wall inside the room where missionaries stayed

Chapter 16

In which a record is given about the brave Hellmantle

through uncharted territory on his trusted dirt bike


Rising, Hellmantle put on his boots and went outside to see where exactly he was. The missionary inn was on a riverbank at a bridge that was the eastern boundary of Mayayao. An open area like a plaza with shacks facing the police station on the hill was the center of the mountain hamlet, an area for oxen and commerce. After an evening of wolfing down peanuts, crackers and the Book of Jeremiah, it was still too early to get gas but he was sure they could fill up when the sun rose a bit more. It was still the crack of dawn.

Keenly aware of the position they were now in, they had three days before they both had to return to Hong Kong but they still had to ride to the top of Luzon Island, west to Laoag City, and then down the west coast to Manila: a total of about 1000 kilometers. Despite climbing to the northeast not finding a church with a bell tower that housed the Dutch priest, the truth was there hadn’t been any churches in such remote places as the Halseema Mountain Trail, Banaue and the heart of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Hellmantle was confident that they would find what needed to be found because he had faith that he had been chosen to fulfill this divine mission and had read all the signs so far.

When D’Aqs came out of the missionary rooms and sat beside him on the riverbank he looked like he was in pain.

Tu ne cede mails, sed contra audentior ito,” Hellmantle said when he saw him studying his face. D’Aqs simply raised his eyebrows at him.

“What are you talking about?” Creases were etched in his cheeks.

“It means ‘yield not to adversity, but press on more bravely.’”

“If we can get through.”

“But does not pain make features hard, telling of an education into the deep-end of humanity and an exploration of the corners and crevices unseen? Acting without believing deeply can never yield a fruitful crop. Better it is to not act when purpose is built on a wobbly cliff!”

“Are you always this reckless? Always this cavalier?”

“To me it smells like a vacation here, but I know it’s only a Viking’s life I’m living.”

“Or should I say ‘gung-ho?’” As usual, Hellmantle avoided looking directly into his eyes, but he sensed his frustration and worry.

“If you believe in God, don’t you think that we’ve made a tremendous effort and that He is watching over us?”

“I do Rollo, but we’re in a tight situation. What if the trail ends over the next hill? Then what?’

“See, you don’t have faith that we are destined to succeed. I really don’t get that. But maybe it’s because you don’t realize the profound importance of our mission. You see, it has always been prophesized that one of us – one of the descendants of Christ – will correct the wrongs that Rome has done by proving they corrupted His message. I feel it in my bones.”

“Maybe I worry too much. Fair enough. I’ll try to dispel my doubt. I’ll have faith in you and God.” D’Aqs patted him on the shoulder. He saw Hellmantle flinch.

Hellmantle spread out a map at his feet.

“If the trail holds we should hit the rolling foothills of the Sierra Madres and the main highway north to Aparri this morning. If the trail doesn’t end, we could make good time.”

“Why?” He looked at Hellmantle with puffy eyes.

“Because it’s downhill. And when we hit the paved highway, riding should be quite crisp.” Hellmantle constructed a betel nut in substitution for his morning coffee. Once it was complete he popped it into his mouth and chewed it until his saliva turned bright red.

“How can you chew that stuff?”

“Takes practice. Want one?”

“Maybe later.”

“Later? I don’t believe there is technically such a thing as later. It might help you become impassioned and help buoy your sagging spirit.” He looked at the river with a glint in his eye.

“All right. But you need to engineer it for me.” And Hellmantle did just that.

“Just keep it between your cheek and gums. It seeps through your gums, but whatever you do don’t swallow. Spit the red juice out. Only when it breaks up and the taste has waned can you swallow a bit.”

“Got it.”

“And try to enjoy yourself out there today. This is fantastic riding.”

D’Aqs managed to hold the betel nut in during the initial flood of bitter taste and spit out the juice. When they had packed up and ready to go his color had reddened noticeably.


The bridge

They filled up with gas and left Mayayao on the trail hoping it wouldn’t end. Arms and legs sore but the visual magic of rice terraces hidden deeply in the range eased their physical pain. Nagging pressures of time lay outside Hellmantle’s immediate realm as he negotiated the line of the mud trail through small valleys and down winding slopes closer to sea level. Coming to a bridge with one of two wooden planks for tire tracks missing they were forced to balance precariously over the one-foot wide plank to get across. For D’Aqs this was a much more delicate task due to his inexperience and injured clutch hand, He managed to cross with a scream to the heavens for help but when he reached the other side he had one leg up in the air to balance, running over a large stone that dislodged the direction of the bike. D’Aqs flew off his motorcycle and landed on a rock beside a tree. Hellmantle was unable to suppress his laughter but the sound of his engine covered his schadenfreuden. D’Aqs sat up grabbing his ribs.

“Are you-.” Laughing too hard, Hellmantle stopped.

“My ribs.” As Hellmantle laughed he knew riding a motorcycle with a broken rib or two was not a good situation to be in, so to curtail his bellowing he put another betel nut in his mouth.

“Ah, can’t be that serious. You weren’t going that fast.”

“I can’t…breathe.” Hellmantle dismounted to check his cousin’s ribs. A slight indentation on his left side, a sure sign that two or three ribs were broken.

“Just don’t breathe too deeply for now. Go slowly until we reach the highway and it should be better riding.” D’Aqs moved very gingerly when he remounted his vehicle in obvious pain. When he began riding Hellmantle could hear his cries of anguish.

The sun overhead was now very hot. After crossing the bridge they stopped on a crest of a hill where they saw a horizon of hills sprawling for miles as if anthills of pointed rock. Hellmantle pulled out his betel nut and made two, handing one to D’Aqs who took it without a word. They chewed and spat and knew that they would reach the highway going north to Aparri. For D’Aqs the vista looked like waves had been carved into rolling troughs frozen on a rough sea of rock. It was too beautiful to breathe.

Hellmantle led the descent from the mountaintops through the valleys following rivers and crossing more decrepit bridges. Just as the sun was reaching the top of the sky he unexpectedly hit the paved road running north. Turning left without stopping, he rode the wide-open road with no cars to be seen for miles. Stunned by the smoothness of the road, it was like riding along a carpet after the trail they had just traversed. He opened up the throttle to top gear rolling towards the Cagayan River, the rustic landscape empty like the road.

Hellmantle and his injured squire made excellent time through this no-man’s land until they came to the first example of Spanish presence: a 16th-century church-fort. Both a church and fortification and still standing but without a roof, a rich rust-colored brick wall surrounded it with a side part that was likely barracks for soldiers. It was on the frontier of Spanish settlement from the north, like the settling of the American West coming from the Pacific. This colonial endeavor hid a barren and mountainous region too difficult to penetrate. Indicative of how the old colonial power built to both protect and worship even here in the forgotten outback of Philippines’ northeast, it was an awesome and surreal in this frontier where local head-hunters still practiced their traditions.

The old fort beyond the Sierra Madres

When they finally reached the huge Cagayan River, it was flooding over the shores overtaking shrubbery, trees half-submerged and the grassy plains covered with muddy water. Following this largest river in the Philippines, they soon found another church beside the river that was like a fortified turret with a small chapel.

“Not quite a church is it?”

“But not quite a fort either,” said D’Aqs.

“More like a small castle. Or a belfry with crenellations.” Hellmantle wrapped another betel nut in a green leaf, sprinkled the white powder on the construction plus the mystery ingredient and then popped it into his mouth, twisting his nose.

“Yeah, sure, where Colonel Kurtz lived. And, while you’ve got your betel nut out, roll me up one will you?” He nodded and began to engineer a betel nut for D’Aqs. Plants of all kinds grew out of cracks between the stones, vegetation threatening its survival.

“This is the first Spanish piece built along the river. Must be the farthest point south up the mountains from the northern coast other than the other one we saw. Henceforth let’s be on the lookout for any church in operation sporting a bell tower.” He finished the betel nut and handed it to D’Aqs, who twisted his face into a tortured look.

“Ah!” He almost spat it out.

“Wait! Chew it for a minute and then you’ll get the liquorice taste. It’s okay actually, and it’s a good balsam for riding pains.”

“Good, because my ribs are sore, not to mention that cut on my hand.” There were some things Hellmantle assumed others knew, and one of these things was that you were not to swallow the betel juice, but that was exactly what D’Aqs did, which promptly caused him to throw up. Of course Hellmantle couldn’t help laughing at D’Aqs Grosseteste clutching his ribs and barfing.

Almost fell off his motorcycle – both of them – one from barfing and the other from laughter.

Once the bile was sufficiently expelled, D’Aqs gripped his throttle, revved his engine and took off ahead of him. Riding for ten minutes they then encountered something very strange. On the riverbank hidden under thick foliage was an old stone pub. Its wooden sign hanging over the door was still intact. It read:

Fumes & Bubbles

“An old Spanish pub!” Hellmantle yelled. “Still standing but lost and forgotten! Amazing! Probably built in the seventeenth century when these other church-forts were built. Think about that: two-hundred years before the French Revolution!” The weathered stone and simple layout beside the water was an ideal setting for cocktails. It was even relaxing to look at.

“Location of many drunken Spanish nights,” said D’Aqs. “What a great name for a pub.” His motorcycle creaked as it cooled down.

“I wonder how many people have ever seen this.” No people or huts or farms for miles, it was as if it were built, used and then forgotten in total isolation, waiting here patiently to tell its story to the intrepid traveler who would one day find it. Ivy had overtaken the pub so the stone foundation from the road was barely visible. Hellmantle tried to get close to it but the foliage was like a wall full of hanging green snakes. The stones were worn by rain and storms but the pub’s foundation was still solid. Brush too thick for him to reach the glassless window, there was a marking on one of the stones that caught his eye.

“D’Aqs come here! There’s something here I want you to see.” He followed Hellmantle to a carved insignia beside the missing front door. Hellmantle took out his knife and hacked some of the vines away from the stone but couldn’t get close enough to touch the stone because of the sheer volume of foliage.

“No!” D’Aqs yelled. “It can’t be!” There was a carved cross in the stone they both recognized. “Yes, it is! It’s the cross of the Blonde Aquitaine!

“What are the chances?”

“It’s the same symbol on the letter from de Steward.”

“Since we’re here D’Aqs, at this relic of the past where such oaths to honor were discussed, I shall like to invite you to join our society, not because you have earned it but because you are entitled to it because you are a Hellmantle. Er… a Grosseteste.”

“I didn’t know you were a member.”

“Of course not. How would you? I’m aware that you are not yet initiated into the society, so telling you anything about the code will breach the secrecy laws of the society. But now, with the extreme unlikelihood of this coincidence, I can only interpret this as a sign from God and therefore offer you the opportunity to join our secret society.”

“Okay.” D’Aqs had heard of the society’s existence but had never known anyone who was a member or had any contact with the group.



“Okay. Whom do you serve?

I serve God.” Simply and calmly.

“Well, that was easier than usual. Good answer.

Such are they whom God chooses for himself and gathers from the furthest ends of the earth, servants from among the bravest in Israel to guard watchfully and faithfully his Sepulchre and the Temple of Solomon, sword in hand, ready for battle.

“A quote from our spiritual father who lived in Saint Sulpice. Experience is the only teacher for the man of adventure, for it is the true revealer of truths hidden in the paragraphs of endless history books. After all, the difference between hoping and having is doing.”

“It is indeed.”

“The Royal Society used our motto: nullius in verbatake nobody’s word for it; see it for yourself. But there is a cost for us men of experience. For the evolved, fitting in becomes a near impossibility. So a man of intelligence with a depth of empirical data must define his own category. A man who has evolved must always live on an island, or he must forever live in a castle surrounded by a moat cutting off all those who don’t qualify for the key. Do you accept this fate?” D’Aqs understood the thrust of the agreement, giving it some thought before answering.

“Yes cousin, I do.”

“In the famous words of the Duke of Burgundy many centuries ago:

You must adhere to our code of chivalry for the reverence of God and the maintenance of our Christian Faith, and to honor and exalt the noble order of knighthood, and also to do honor to old knights so that those who are at present still capable and strong of body and do each day the deeds pertaining to chivalry, shall have cause to continue from good to better; and so that those knights and gentlemen who have worn the order should honor those who wear it, and be encouraged to employ themselves in noble deeds.”

With a warm smile, Hellmantle held out his hand. When D’Aqs shook it Hellmantle slipped him the grip and gave him a quick wink from the left eye. D’Aqs had now been initiated into the society and was now a brother.

“Remember, that now as a brother of the Blonde Aquitaine, you are required to adhere to the Code of Chivalry, and employ all the etiquette and respect to all those who deserve fair treatment. All those who do not exhibit courage, justice, mercy, generosity, faith, nobility or hope, merely represent obstacles in your way to achieving the quest so bestowed on the shoulders of all brothers. And this quest is: finding the missing scroll.”

When D’Aqs smiled his teeth were red.

The old and forgotten pub: Fumes & Bubbles

Chapter 17

Which relates to Hellmantle of Normandy reaching

the northern coast and the rubble of Aparri

Maharlika Highway, Cagayan Province


With time now becoming short, there were still no developments as to where the Dutch Padre could be. Fatigue and pain fettered D’Aqs, and doubt shackled the concealed zeal he had been using to his advantage. Hellmantle however, was even more ebullient about the crusade and believed more fervently that their treasure was about to be unveiled. For D’Aqs it was exhilarating to be around a man of such resonant belief whose abandon was both a hazard and an exaltation. Single-mindedness had never been so explicitly shown to the missionary before. Something about it bestirred him to action in the face of all practicality, aware that he would never be the same after this trip.

They had followed the road due north past the crossing point of the Cagayan River through a catena of small towns until darkness and fatigue hit them in Tuguegarao, where they stayed for the night. D’Aqs didn’t move at all the entire night he was so physically depleted. Early the next morning Hellmantle spearheaded the way to Aparri on the northern tip of the Philippines, the location where the Japanese attacked a few days after Pearl Harbor. Hellmantle found more churches but most were dilapidated. The river levels were still deluging the road but they managed a good downhill clip until they saw seagulls and felt the sea breeze on their mugs. For Hellmantle, Aparri was a place he felt drawn to visit, like a trophy to grab, the farthest outpost of Spanish settlement on the northern island of Luzon that could house the church and the Dutch preacher. There were more vestiges of Spanish habitation the farther north they traveled until they reached Aparri.

D’Aqs was shocked at the carnage he saw. Like Berlin and Tokyo after the war, the Allies had bombed Aparri, but unlike Germany and Japan, it had never been properly cleaned up. There was no Marshall Plan to rebuild the debris that lay scattered at the mouth of the Babuyan Channel at the South China Sea. Instead the old part of town was rubble with squatters living in the ruins. It was easy to see how the area had once been beautiful where seagulls fed at the estuary and palm trees swayed in the wind. What struck D’Aqs the most was not the rusted iron scrap of blasted bridges or the mud-heaped wreckage, but rather the expressions on the people’s faces. He saw the unmistakable hatred in the eyes of the children who greeted them as they rode by. There were no friendly waves or smiles that had peppered their tour so far. Instead there were only hostile looks of blame. For D’Aqs, rather than feeling scared being stranded in the rain somewhere in the mountains after dark with no place to sleep, the greater fear for him was his machine breaking down in Aparri. D’Aqs felt like they were moving targets, as if someone might hop in their car and follow them, cut them off and rob them. Hellmantle was particularly conspicuous with his long blonde hair and beard.

His helmet still dangled from the strap under his arm as he rode.

Hellmantle found the shell of the original church but it was a pile of stones and garbage. Having no operational Catholic churches in Aparri, they agreed to go west along the northern coast. As they left a boy on the side of the road spat at D’Aqs, the gob of spit hitting him in the face, which caused him a momentary loss of control of his motorcycle. Skidding, he almost wiped out on the pavement. Hellmantle heard the skidding and stopped.

“What happened?”

“A kid back there spat at me! He got me right in the face!” Hellmantle couldn’t see the child but didn’t itch to confront anyone in Aparri.

“Count yourself lucky. Bad vibe here. So let’s get the heck outta here.” After wiping his face, but a bit slowly due to his broken ribs and hand grievance, D’Aqs carried on and followed his cousin west towards Laoag City.

Riding out of Aparri by backtracking to the bridge over the Cagayan River, it was D’Aqs who was haunted by the hostility. Children and adults glared at him as he passed as if he was part of the army who cankered their town. However, thinking about it as he rode west, he couldn’t blame them for their bitterness. First the Spanish, then the Japanese and then the Americans, Aparri ended up a flattened city with funds for reconstruction likely pocketed by local government officials. Left with nothing after doing nothing to deserve it, the havoc of war had destroyed their livelihood. It was such a drastic contrast since the Philippinos had been so friendly during their ride throughout the week.

West of Aparri moving parallel with the sea, they covered mile after mile keeping their eyes looking ahead, trying not to provoke eye-to-eye contact with anyone who might feel they were trespassing on their land. Dennis Faustino’s warning entered D’Aqs’ mind. Not wanting to tempt fate, he was relieved to cross the Abulung River where they stopped at the first church along the northern coast. Down an empty road through small roadside villages that kissed the South China Sea, they saw the first functional Spanish church complete with bell tower in the town of Pamplona. Emitting a rusty hue as if sun-soaked, the church appeared to be made of burning brick, its two white-domed towers contrasting against the glow of the brick. It had the fortunate effect of calming D’Aqs’ nerves.

The church-fort in Pamplona on the north shore

“No services here,” said Hellmantle, squinting. “No Dutch Man-of-the-Cloth.”

“Just happy to be across the river.”

“Aparri was an anthill of hate. And to think I have to be back in the office in forty-eight hours. We’re about 800 kilometers from Manila”

“The roads are better now.”

“The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving,” said Hellmantle.

“Wasn’t that in the Fortes In Fide et Amore?” There was a wink in that left eye of Hellmantle’s.

“We can hit Laoag City tonight, and then tomorrow Vigan, which is supposed to be cooler than Intramurous in Old Manila. Remember old man, the capacity of a second effort marks the difference between ordinary and extraordinary men. The mileage we had achieved has left us in a good position to take on the entire west coast during our last day of riding. We need to make it to Laoag today though. One must never count on anything until it is done, n’est-ce pas? To quote an old Viking proverb:

Praise not the day until the evening has come; a woman until she is burnt; a sword until it is tried; a maiden until she is married; ice until it has been crossed; beer until it has been drank.”

Back on the road they encountered fort-like churches with enormous flying buttresses built with seashell to withstand the strong ocean winds. Constructed with the sea in mind and weathered by typhoons from the ocean, these Spanish wonders of architecture were pieces of art despite their sacked façade. They had been plundered but their shell construction still stood in testament to their sound architectural design. Doors hung off crooked hinges below arches chipped from history left to the ravages of time.

When they arrived in the city of Laoag, D’Aqs felt a mixture of sadness and relief. Relieved to have reached a city where he was safe, he was equally sad that they had now left the on-the-edge adventure of the Cagayan and Apayao provinces of the north where tales of piracy and plunder and headhunting were still handed down in the big cities like Manila.

They settled in for the night but could hear a succession of loud explosions of firecrackers, both forgetting that it was New Year’s Eve. Dirty, windblown, tired and starving for good food, the Merovingian cousins wolfed down dinner and a few beers and called it an early night, something Hellmantle hadn’t done on a New Year’s Eve since he was in his early teens.

Under the splash of fireworks in the sky that night Hellmantle had a dream. He was climbing a mountain but when he reached part way up he saw a massive turret-like fortress. It was made of stone with ramparts built in Spanish colonial architecture but he never reached it. He climbed almost to the top but he stood absorbed by the quality its workmanship. The land was rugged and cold with snow around jagged rock and waterfalls, becoming aware of all the nameless faces that had contributed to its construction. He saw dozens of faces including the Fathers Albert de Rheume and William Brasseur and Leo Vande Winkle. Their skin was dry and cracked from the wind and sun and their robes frayed around the edges. They each held a hammer and were walking past Hellmantle to highest tower at the pinnacle, their hardened features showing the signs of hard work and discipline. When they walked past him he took out his camera and tried to take a photo but it was so steep that he couldn’t focus his zoom lens. He could only capture part of it. He had to lie on his back to capture only a glimpse of the tower that reached up to the heavens, standing out like an antenna that reached into the clouds. It was a fort that was totally safe with impregnable walls that used vertical distance as its moat, and it struck him that it was also the quintessential church since it was so close to God.

Hellmantle woke up just before his 5:00am wake-up call.

“Only the devil’s disciples sleep past sunrise,” he whispered aloud in the darkness.

Old churches overgrown with foliage

Chapter 18

About the final day of the motorcycle journey through Luzon

and discussing the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel in Vigan

Laoag City, Ilocos Norte Province


Hellmantle and his missionary cousin left Laoag for Manila in the dark. They rode due south. It was true that D’Aqs was now in quite a bit of pain with his ribs and cut clutch hand so he was slow in the morning, whereas Hellmantle was almost manic. To lift his spirit, Hellmantle said to him:

“God favors us today My Son! I had a dream last night that portends impending bounty! I feel it so it must be so.”

Hellmantle and the man with the broken ribs rode for a full hour and a half before the sun came up, by then they were well on their way to Vigan City. When they reached the city, it appeared as a fossil stuck in amber in a dried-up river. The old Spanish town had remained unaltered since Juan de Salcedo founded it in 1756. In front of some old storefronts were old wagon wheels still in place since the time of horse and buggy, carriageways and wooden doors and cobblestone roads just as they were nearly 250 years ago. In the old town two-story merchant houses that sold everything a colonial settler would need to establish themselves in their new land still functioned. With the main church and city hall laid out around a central park separating them in a well-proportioned urban plan, like a gem hidden in the rough, Vigan stood like a jewel along one of the greatest strips of real estate in the country.

Colonial Vigan City

He and D’Aqs rode to the church with a bell tower in the middle of town. It was both run-down and freshly painted, as if a coat of paint would protect this house of prayer against the ravages of the coast.

“The priest in charge of services is named Melvin Arinicqo,” said D’Aqs, looking at the sign beside the entrance to the church. They both entered the calm and cool interior of the church, Hellmantle walking slowly in his motorcycle boots. A dozen people sat on pews with heads bowed, praying. A fresh wind blew across the benches through the open windows on either side of the church.

“See the portrait of Jacob?” D’Aqs nodded. “As you know, my missionary cousin, Jacob’s the biggie; the kingpin of the Bible.”

“Yes, he was a biggie. The father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Jacob, grandson of Abraham and son if Isaac, was renamed Israel by God.”

“So you know how the House of Judah and the House of Israel, lineal descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob, split and then fought each other for two hundred years before the Assyrians conquered Palestine, led by Nebuchadnezzar?”

“Yes,” replied Hellmantle. “Before the Diaspora. From a top-level down view, from the sons of Jacob sprang twelve tribes but under King David they were united and known as Israel. After the death of Solomon, Israel divided into two nations: one was the tribe of Judah who based themselves in Jerusalem became known as the House of Judah. These peoples became known as Jews. The ten northern tribes who rejected Solomon’s son became known as the House of Israel. They had their capital in Samaria. Entire books in the Old Testament are dedicated to the power struggle between the House of Israel and the House of Judah. The ultimate division between these two houses happened in the Red Sea port of Elath (Kings II 16: 6-7). The House of Israel was overthrown by the Assyrian empire. They were led into captivity beyond the Tigris River and basically settled in the southwest of the Caspian Sea near the Caucuses.”

“Yes, Hellmantle.” His voice was a whisper as they both stood in front of the massive portrait of Jacob.

“So then you know the House of Israel in the northern kingdom consisted of the all of Jacob’s descendants except the two tribes of Judah and Levy that made up the House of Judah?”

“Yes, Hellmantle.”

“So the House of Israel gazelled from the Middle East in 683BC and settled mainly in Scythia, or modern-day Russia in the Caucasus. When they were in the Caucasus, I think around modern-day Georgia, they became known as Caucasians. From there they went mainly into northern Europe and Scandinavia and the British Isles. When the House of Israel fled from Palestine for southern Russia they were lost to history after that. That’s why they are called the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. They were lost but they have been found!

Hellmantle, manic in the eye, held up his hand and spoke thus:

“As you know Jesus’ primary thrust was to find his lost flock.”

“You think that Jesus’ primary thrust was to find his lost flock, which were the Ten Lost Tribes?”

“Certainly. Jesus says in Matthew 15:24: ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ Jesus is the shepherd who is gathering his lost flock. This flock, of course, was the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, or also called the ‘House of Israel’ in the Bible.”

“I know this stuff Hellmantle.”

“In Genesis it says Abraham was chosen to be the forefather of a nation through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed, but the whereabouts of the descendants of the House of Israel were lost. In the Letter of James, for example, it says of him: ‘James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.’ The letter, written by James the Disciple, is addressed to the twelve sons of Jacob, the primary family in the Bible. His other primary thrust was to unite the Twelve Tribes of Israel once more.” Hellmantle was trying to whisper but his voice was so intense that it carried. People trying to pray stared at the two tall men standing in front of the portrait of Jacob.


“So not only are we descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, we also have the bloodline of Jesus. I’m interested where Ten Lost Tribes of Israel went and where they are now. It’s a worthy question and one so rarely asked. Yet this remains untaught to students of the Bible.” D’Aqs, relaxing his posture and taking his hand to his chin reflected for a moment after hearing his Asperger cousin’s summary, suddenly having clarity after the manic delivery and jerky hand movements. Threads of thought were connecting that had previously been loose ends, so that he now saw what he was saying – the canvas of his painting now had a deciphered logic and underpinning to it all.

“Yes, okay. I can see that. We are Israelites. Yes. How many hymns have I sang talking about the Israelites and I never thought they were only Judah and Levy. Going to the Caucasus after Palestine I’ve heard before but never the connection of the word Caucasian. The Scythians I’ve heard of too but didn’t connect them to settling Europe. The northern Europeans and Scandinavians and people of the British Isles being where the Israelites settled makes sense to me too, especially that stuff about the lion and the unicorn and the red hand and the rampant lion.”

“And the Stone of Destiny.”

“That too. If Jesus had children there’s certainly a lot of hype around our families to incline one to believe it. But yes, Jesus sought to gather his lost flock, the House of Israel that disappeared after the Assyrian conquest. The House of Judah is still in play and together with synagogues and adhering to the Law of the Torah as we had before we left. I suppose it’s your presentation of all the information that frazzled me but I see it now.”

“So then you are no longer my doubting cousin?

“I’m doubtful about a lot of things still but I’m seeing a ray of light in your overall view. I’m extremely skeptical about the Mormon story about the origin of the Red Man but I have to admit I’ve never done any reading on it.” He put his hand on Hellmantle’s shoulder expecting him to tense up. “Even if we don’t find the Dutch preacher I can say I’ve come to know you better, as well as your unique view of history. That’s something of worth at least.” Hellmantle broke away from his hand and spoke thus:

“But we shall find the Padre!

“We have today Hellmantle. I’d say our chances are pretty slim.”

Oh ye of little faith. A minister. The irony.”

Just then they saw a young priest walking down the aisle, who didn’t look Dutch. He smiled and then disappeared behind the chancel.

The cousins returned outside where sunny skies lured them back onto the road, riding south along the west coast towards Manila. The ride took on a feeling of reverie, passing town after town and church after church until they had passed through Santa Maria, Candon, Santa Cruz and San Juan. Most of the churches were derelict and disintegrating historical vestiges and some only colonial detritus. The road was busier but smoother than what they had had, so with Hellmantle out in front they made good time down the coast.

They stopped at a church with a big fort with colossal flying buttresses coming out of the walls to a second inner wall where there was a rather plain church. Hellmantle and D’Aqs climbed up the main stone steps through the outer wall and then up the wooden steps in the turret where Hellmantle popped a betel nut. From a hundred feet up, they could see their route south and the stretch of oceanfront that connected with the Bataan Peninsula.

“I reckon we have traveled two hundred kilometers so far,” said Hellmantle, spitting the rich red juice out the window below. “And we have another 250 kilometers to Manila.”

“But still no sign of the Dutch preacher and the map.” In the wind that assailed them from a hundred feet up they could see the thin white line outlining the waves hitting the shoreline. Countless palm trees covered the land.

“Could you move your flight to Hong Kong forward?” D’Aqs asked him.

“No. But it wouldn’t be good form anyway. We gave ourselves enough time to make it around the island. We’ve seen two-dozen churches and no Dutch preacher, but to take more time would be to fail, or like changing the rules mid-game. If we don’t find what we need to know then that’s God’s way of saying that it was not meant to be. But I believe we will prevail as all the signs are in play. It’s been an honest effort so far. That’s the most important thing.”

“Reaching Manila from so far north seems unrealistic.”

“With you now, having taken the vows to chivalry and the Blonde Aquitaine, how can we fail? Belief is half the battle when it comes to achievement!”

“OK, that’s fair. I understand what you’re saying. It’s a good policy.”

Despite his belief of the impending failure of the task to find the church, D’Aqs savored the view from the turret.

“The fate of the journey hangs in the balance but, I don’t know about you and your ribs, but I am going to enjoy the ride no matter what.” He could see that D’Aqs was down in the mouth, either from his injuries or from despair at failure to find the church and the Dutchman, so he pointed to a church far on the horizon to bolster his spirits.

“See that lone church on the horizon that stands like a twin-towered castle with the classic Spanish architectural flourish?” He nodded and stared in amazement at the dreamlike image.

“Quite a piece that one.” It was like a cream-colored house of God shining a light from the middle of its center pillar as if beckoning them to go there on their motorcycles.

“See, it’s a Holy Quest,” said Hellmantle because the entire structure of the cloud formation above the church showed a light shining from behind a cascading dark mass. The sky revealed God’s den above as if His own hand had selected this Spanish church near the end of the peninsula. White fingers of lightning flashed down to the cross above the five arches.

“Marvelous fortune my brave squire! Perhaps God has slipped through the crevice of time and His divine spirit resides in omnipresence at that church.” He nodded in silence, enjoying the beauty of it all.

“There’s something there we must see,” said D’Aqs, spirit buoyed. They walked back to their motorcycles and rode south along the ocean. Hellmantle passed more and more villages with more people at the side of the road waving at the two helmetless, fair-haired cousins go by. Dogs and children amid indigenous tumbleweeds and dust soon became a hindrance running out on the road just before the sun started to set. It was also at this time when they saw a little shack built in a tree. Soon there were clusters of tree houses at the side of the road. Squat, wide-branched trees held tree houses where families lived. For fifty miles the land was swampy so tree houses made of wooden planks had been built. The people had not cut down hardly any of their trees.

“Tree houses!” he screamed from ahead of D’Aqs. It was just after the tree houses when Hellmantle and D’Aqs arrived at a town named Agoo. Once the center of Catholicism of Colonial Spain, the church was in the center of town with a red-trimmed hue around the corner stones as if it had magical power. Hellmantle parked his motorcycle beside the church and they walked to the Agoo Basilica, their legs rubbery from the miles of riding.

Agoo painting found in the cathedral

Chapter 19

About the sermon given in Agoo Basilica and what they find

at the church with the rouge bell tower

Agoo, La Union Province


Great murals and paintings of the saints adorned the walls, pews packed to the limit so people stood in the main doorway. The first church on the journey that hadn’t been looted, Hellmantle imagined the churches they had seen adorned with paintings and neat with shellacked wood carved by skilled hands before the plundering. But the beauty of Agoo Basilica, its symmetry of parts, saddened him because it brought to mind that sackers had stolen so much. The organ, the vestments, and even the priests’ robes were so full of the Holy Spirit that his sadness, magnified by exhaustion, made his heart leap up to his throat.

They stood at the doorway listening to the priest, who they could barely see, but the voice was strong and triumphed over ceiling fans above the arches. The sermon went like this:

“The word of the Lord came to me again: ‘What do you see?’ And Jeremiah answered: ‘I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north.’ The Lord said: ‘From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,’ (Jeremiah [1:13-14]). God remembers when their faith was like a bride, and says: ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the House of Israel.’

“’The House of Israel had become a corrupt and wild vine. But O faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah.’ You may ask who are the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the twelve sons of Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham? All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him:

Around Jacob’s deathbed he calls forth his twelve sons:

Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in the days to come.

Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;

Listen to your father Israel.

Reuben, you are my firstborn,

My might, the first sign of my strength,

Excelling in honor, excelling in power.

Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,

For you went up onto your father’s bed,

Onto my couch and defiled it.

Simeon and Levi are brothers –

Their swords are weapons of violence.

Let me not enter their council,

Let me not join their assembly,

For they have killed men in their anger

And hamstrung oxen as they pleased.

Cursed be their anger, so fierce,

And their fury, so cruel!

I will scatter them in Jacob

And disperse them in Israel.

Judah, your brothers will praise you;

Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;

Your father’s sons will bow down to you.

You are a lion’s cub, O Judah;

You return from the prey, my son.

Like a lion he crouches and lies down,

Like a lioness – who dares to rouse him?

The scepter will not depart from Judah,

Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

Until he comes to whom it belongs

And the obedience of the nations is his.

He will tether his donkey to a vine,

His colt to the choicest branch;

He will wash his garments in wine,

His robes in the blood of grapes.

His eyes will be darker than wine,

His teeth whiter than milk.

Zebulun will live by the seashore

And become a haven for ships;

His border will extend toward Sidon.

Issacher is a rawboned donkey

Lying down between two saddlebags.

When he sees how good is his resting place

And how pleasant is his land,

He will bend his shoulder to the burden

And submit to forced labor.

Dan will provide justice for his people

As one of the tribes of Israel.

Dan will be the serpent by the roadside,

A viper along the path,

That bites the horses’ heels

So that its rider tumbles backwards.

I look for your deliverance, O Lord.

Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders

But he will attack them at their heels.

Asher’s food will be rich;

He will provide delicacies fit for a king.

Naphtali is a doe set free

That bears beautiful fawns.

Joseph is a fruitful vine,

A fruitful vine near a spring,

Whose branches climb over a wall.

With bitterness archers attacked him;

They shot at him with hostility.

But his bow remained steady

His strong arms stayed limber,

Because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,

Because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,

Because of your father’s God, who helps you,

Because of the Almighty, who blessing you

With blessings of the heavens above,

Blessings of the deep that lies below,

Blessings of the breast and womb.

Your father’s blessings are greater

Than the blessings of the ancient mountains,

Than the bounty of the age-old hills.

Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,

On the brow of the prince among his brothers.

Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;

In the morning he devours the prey,

In the evening he divides the plunder.

“Book of Genesis, chapter 49, verses 2 to 28.” The priest paused. The silence was filled with shuffling and coughing.

“’But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save you as a great band of survivors.’ Genesis 45, 7.” Bless thee, thy word of God. Amen.”

The organ music started for three hymns before the people departed. At the stroke of six the first ring of the bell, a loud speaker from the bell tower blared soothing music of divine choir voices with a strong voice preaching the Word of God. In the center of town beside the bustle of the main road, everyone stopped moving to listen. Even Jeepneys stopped. Like the voice of God coming from above, people stood in solemn respect for the divine word while the rouge bell tower struck six chimes.

Hellmantle watched the white-haired priest greet his flock in front of the lectern when suddenly the priest looked at him. His eyeglasses reflected light from overhead chandeliers but Hellmantle saw his head lift slightly. Eerily, it was the same face he had seen in his dream.

The priest walked towards them at the doorway. Difficult not to notice, they stood head and shoulders above most Philippinos in the church.

“Good you could make it,” he said. Hellmantle detected an accent but not the country of origin. “Come from Manila?” His eyes piercing as if sharpened by the glare of the sea.

“Yes, from Manila. Though we motorcycled here from the north,” replied Hellmantle.

“The north? Vigan?” his voice wispy and dry after the sermon.

“We went through Banaue and across to Sierra Madres to Aparri and over to Laoag and then Vigan.” The priest looked closer at the two of them. Hellmantle noticed that the priest’s nose was as crooked as an oak branch.

“Why would you do that, son?” Hellmantle could now see the clear eyes behind the glasses.

“We’re looking for a Dutch priest who once knew Dane Hellmantle,” said Hellmantle. “Dane Hellmantle was a Legionnaire who fought in Dien Bien Phu.” Startled, his reflex was to take both of them by the arm out to a sheltered patio beside the church near the back away from a crowd of people standing around them. The three of them were soon out of sight through an old corridor.

Part of the fort near Agoo

Chapter 20

Concerning the Dutch Padre and what he knows about the hidden map


“You know Dane Hellmantle?”

“I’m his grandson. Roland Hellmantle is my name.” Eyes widened, the priest reached for his hand. Lines from nowhere came alive when his face crumpled into a warm smile.

“I am Father Leo Vande Winkle,” voice grave. “And I have been waiting a very long time to hear from a Hellmantle.” On the stone bench he put his hands on his thighs shaking his head, perspiration from the sermon on his forehead. He looked at D’Aqs with eyes that held a question.

“I’m his cousin.”

“And he’s an Anglican minister who was a missionary in Burma,” added Hellmantle. A nod that was perhaps an international wink between all missionaries, acknowledging pain and chronic obstacles to overcome in foreign lands teaching the Good News to those thirsting for the hearth of wisdom.

“You preached in Sayangan?” Surprise crossed his face. “We stopped off there for a night and saw your name on the board listing missionaries who preached there at the church.”

“You took your motorcycles up the Halseema Trail?” He spoke as a man, not as an out-of-reach priest. “That must have been something!”

“He’s an experienced rider,” said D’Aqs.

“You knew my grandfather?” Discomfort from compliments, eyes darting to the ground.

“I sure did. I met him when I was in Hanoi in the early fifties,” reaching into his memory bank. “There was an important center for the church there in Hanoi when the French were still in power. While I was there I found time to unwind from the heat, and that was when I met your grandfather in the Café D’Artistes. Your grandfather was a real live wire.” He chuckled. “He loved to sing his war songs from the Legion when he drank too much.” His brow darkened. “He died August 24th, 1954, I can remember: the second last day of fighting.” Father Leo Vande Winkle was quiet for a moment. “Everything changed after that. Everything. That was the end of colonial rule in Vietnam.”

“Did he ever say anything to you about a map?” Hellmantle glanced at D’Aqs, and licked his cracked lips.

“Yes, the map. It was like a Holy Quest for him. I think that’s why he confided in me as a newly ordained priest back then coming from Holland. He told me about a map he buried, in case he was ever killed.” Standing up he faced them both squarely. “I always wondered about what he told me because I never heard from anyone after that. I half assumed that someone else had found the map, a fellow Legionnaire for example, and that my responsibility for keeping his secret was forgone. I do know one thing though: he cared about what he told me because he believed in it.” He studied the mud-covered dirt bikes by the curb. “You’ve come looking for me, haven’t you?”


“How far?” Expression of guilt.

“About a thousand kilometers or so,” Hellmantle replied, dust dried on his face, chest puffed proudly, chin jutting outwards. Hellmantle wanted to tell the Dutchman how great the trail biking had been, but he refrained.

“I am grateful you have come to unburden my shoulders with this message, which I hope is some source of religious significance. I recall from the Great Dane, as he immodestly referred to himself, that the map had something to do with finding an original scroll from Jesus’ ministry. Of course as a Catholic priest I could never entertain these ideas, but we were the same age and we both had a passion for religion and history.” They both nodded, and D’Aqs was surprised to see the same brief blink in his left eye that Hellmantle had given him when he became a Blonde Aquitaine. Without thinking, both Hellmantle and D’Aqs winked back. He was only looking at Hellmantle so D’Aqs’ wink went unnoticed. The Padre’s head bowed, and then he sighed.

“One night your grandfather said that he planned to bury a map that he had found from a fellow soldier. I thought it was all exaggeration, especially since he was so fond of French grape juice. Personally, I always thought he could have done with a little more understatement.”

“All Hellmantles love red wine!” His outburst made him regard Hellmantle with more caution. That was when he realized his grandson didn’t look at him in the eyes.

“Yes, well, he said a French prison was the most secure place for the map. I think he suspected that the French days were numbered and that the prisons would remain regardless of who won the war.”

“What did he say?” asked Hellmantle, now sounding impatient.

“The Great Dane said the map was a route to a document relating to the New Testament. He suspected agents of Catholic Rome would find out and catch him, so to hedge against this possibility he told a stranger. His choice was an open-minded man of the cloth, which happened to be me. So he told me his secret as a backup in case he should fall.” Suddenly Leo Vande Winkle looked around suspiciously, as if by reflex, and then directed Hellmantle and D’Aqs back to where he kept his vestments and religious regalia, a table and chairs near a basin beside a closet. A portrait of Jesus hung prominently on the wall.

“So what did he say?” Hellmantle nearly exasperated.

“He told me that if ever a Hellmantle found me I was to tell them that the map is buried in the east tower at the prison lying at the mouth of four rivers behind the inscribed stone and hidden by an oak.”

D’Aqs was stunned but Hellmantle didn’t miss a beat.

“Did he say where that is?”

“Sorry, My Son. I only remember the map to be at this prison, an old French colonial, in the east tower where four rivers meet. I think there’s some inscription hidden by an oak tree.”

“Vague,” said Hellmantle, “but something.”

“I am old now, and too old to look for such a place. Besides, the Great Dane said it was for his son to find the map, not I. I should be retired but I wanted to remain here just in case the Great Dane’s son or grandson would sooner or later find me teaching here in Agoo. I had to be here to hand off this message. Now that that is done, I can carry out my days in peace knowing it has come full circle and the two dots have been connected. I know not what it means or what can come of it, but I am honored to have done this for a loyal friend. Compassion is the foundation of humanity.” Hellmantle’s eyes showed him to be engaged in rapid calculations, so it was D’Aqs who replied:

“Thank you Father,” he said, bowing slightly. “Compassion is the foundation of humanity. Indeed.”

“Come, let’s have some tea.” He filled a kettle with water and lined up three clean mugs neatly in a row.

“His beard was just like yours, if I remember correctly,” he said to Hellmantle.

“I never met him. What was he like?”

“Your granddad, Dane from Normandy as I always called him, was like a knight errant who spoke proudly of his family tree and his exploits around the world in search of justice and religious truth. But he spoke of Thomas the Disciple the most. He was fixated on the idea that Thomas was the identical twin of Jesus.”

“The Son of God had a twin brother?” said D’Aqs.

“It was his favorite topic. But I have a feeling that was because he had lost his identical twin when he was a young child.”

“My grandfather had an identical twin?”

“He told me once over drinks in Hanoi his brother died only a few years into life but when he drank too much he used to tell me of these images and fragments of memory of his brother.”

“Do you remember his name?” The Padre, solemn, shook his head.

“He never spoke his name out of respect.” D’Aqs pointed at the portrait above the kettle.

“Doubting Thomas,” he said. “Also named Jude Thomas. Some say it was the brother of our Savior.”

“Yes. Have you heard of this theory of Thomas the Twin? That Jesus had a twin brother?” Hellmantle nodded like a connoisseur, but D’Aqs shook his head slowly, encouraging the Dutch priest to keep talking.

“The name ‘Thomas’ actually means ‘twin.’ The other instances in the four gospels where he is mentioned he is referred to as ‘Thomas Didymus.’ The word Didymus actually means ‘twin’ as well, so ‘Didymus Thomas’ means ‘twin of twin.’ I think ‘Thomas’ is Hebrew for twin and ‘Didymus’ is Greek for twin. We know that Jesus had brothers named James and Jude and perhaps more, but within the cannon of gospels known to scholars, Thomas is also referred to as ‘Jude Thomas,’ particularly in the Gospel of Thomas discovered this century.”

“You have The Gospel of Thomas?”

“Yes I do Roland. Hard to find aren’t they?”

“Indeed they are Padre.” Leo Vande Winkle laughed.

“Just like your grandpa,” he said, smiling. He found the Gospel of Thomas from a small bookshelf and opened it. “Okay, we know that Jesus had brothers: James and Jude, and with Thomas referred to as Jude Thomas in many of the gospels within the cannon known to scholars. But there is a line in the Acts of Thomas, from the Gospel of Thomas, that says: “Twin brother of Christ, apostle of the Most High and fellow initiate into the hidden word of Christ, who dost receive his secret sayings…”  Hellmantle stared at the portrait of Thomas and scratched his chin. The Padre handed them both a mug of tea.

“What was the Dane’s interest in Thomas?” D’Aqs asked, intrigued.

“He thought that Jesus survived the crucifixion and went to India where Thomas, his identical twin brother, was living and preaching somewhere in Kashmir Valley.” Hellmantle showed no surprise in his demeanor but in D’Aqs’ face was shock.

“There is no dispute about the fact that Thomas went into Asia Minor and died in northern India,” said Hellmantle. “It’s been documented.” The dust and dried debris on Hellmantle’s face caused Father Vande Winkle to laugh.

“But I am a Catholic priest and I should not speak of Jesus surviving the crucifixion. It is only what we discussed when we were both in Hanoi. I only share my thoughts with you in honor of Dane from Normandy who unites us now nearly forty years after his untimely death.” A great silence followed his words until the mosquitoes came out when darkness fell.

Full of providential zeal, Hellmantle, impatient, said goodbye to Father Vande Winkle and they throttled their way through the remaining towns along the west coast, aware that they were fulfilling a holy pilgrimage on the first day of the New Year. Battling traffic on the outskirts of the metropolis of Manila, something dangerous happened to Hellmantle. Fatigue overwhelmed him and he fell asleep as he rode in the dark, veering off the road into a flat ditch, but the bumping of the wheels woke him up. Jolted awake instinct kicked in and he steered his CR250 back onto the road. D’Aqs witnessed it behind him. The dusty air had left a film on his glasses that magnified the glare of the oncoming headlights. They both slowed down a gear, realizing fatigue could kill them, especially with so many vehicles now on the road so close to Manila. But they reached the city by 2:00am. Hellmantle and D’Aqs had ridden for almost twenty-four hours on their final day. For the final few hours, D’Aqs too began to sway from fatigue, saved only by the momentum of two-wheeled balance – and perhaps by the will of God.

Church in Manila

Chapter 21

About the return to Manila and the coup that causes

the Great Man from Normandy grief

Manila, Philippines


It is here in the narrative that a newly found source of information sheds new light on what happened to the fair explorer from Normandy and his loyal cousin D’Aqs when they returned to the capital Manila. Upon waking up to the honking of horns from taxis and motorcycles outside, Hellmantle prepared to return his rented motorcycle before his departure for Hong Kong in the afternoon but he was informed by the concierge that the airports were closed due to an impending coup. He asked the front desk to double check to see if the airports were open or not, and it was confirmed that the airport was closed and all flights leaving the country were halted. The concierge said he will notify him when he hears the airport is open again. Strangely it didn’t ruffle Hellmantle since it was out of his control and was in the hands of Fate.

For our purposes recounting Hellmantle’s exploits, how he spent the day remaining in Manila waiting for the opening of the airport shows the extent of his neuroses from his Asperger’s Syndrome coming out in full force. Primary characteristics of which include an inherent lack of empathy with others, obsessive behavior and his all-absorbing interest in a single topic.

Hellmantle called an old friend who lived in Manila who told him he was just informed by his boss that a coup as immanent. Getting off the phone, he knocked on D’Aqs door to tell him the airports were closed.

“D’Aqs, have you heard about the situation?”

“Um, no. What situation?” D’Aqs was looking worn out and he was still favoring his broken ribs.

“The political situation here in Manila. My friend who lives here said that there may be a coup today.”

A coup? You can’t be serious.” Posture slouched, winded by the news.

“I don’t think our flight will be leaving today. My buddy said the airport is closed. The political turbulence is pretty severe.” For a moment D’Aqs forgot where he was and what city could possibly put him in this situation.

“Well, we should return the motorcycles soon before there is any potential violence.”

“Or we could keep them for one more day and explore Manila. The passion to explore should never be squashed by fatigue!” Obsessive behavior blinded him to the physical pain D’Aqs was in, and perhaps caused him to engage him with the idea of even more exploring on the bikes. Reluctantly, with his ribs still hampering his breathing, D’Aqs followed suit and soon they were out in the hot sun on the congested streets of Manila.

As an experience rider, Hellmantle led the way practicing what he called bike hugging: finding a main waterway and then following the road that ran alongside the river down to the sea. In doing this here in Manila, D’Aqs discovered that there was no shoreline per se. Where the water ended and the shacks began, there was only blackened garbage. The water in the river was a thick soupy black color that showed no signs of a current despite being a mile from the ocean.

Dodging dragonflies, the cousins reached a dead end with only a path leading to an inland bay where there were a dozen bamboo shacks built on sand that was always wet from the changing of the tides. But what he saw on the shore defied description: plastic bags, plastic barrels and plastic netting, Styrofoam packaging, chopsticks and bottles, garbage bags and light bulbs, sandals and teapots, broken down motorcycle parts and aerosol cans, rope and pieces of manmade wood products, pop cans and shoes, broken chairs and gasoline containers, steel drums and foam, beer cans and whiskey bottles, jars and scooter tires, plastic buoys and the defleshed carcass of a dog, lighters and plastic cartons, garbage pails and helmets, broken flashlights and broken signs, dead fish and fishing line, window shutters and abandoned bags, paint cans and feces, fishing lures and coconuts, empty beer cases and decrepit fans, juice containers and cigarette packs, broken mugs and oil cans, dishwashing detergent and Slurpee cups, assorted pieces of ratty clothing and empty water bottles. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

The smell was a combination of rot and salt water and sewage.

Still moving forward, they passed churches packed to the limit. People stood at the end of pews where doorways opened to the courtyards. The priest sang in Latin as the entire group repeated what they heard. Despite the hardships and squalor, the country truly had a Christian soul.

Hellmantle found a café where they relaxed and had a coffee. In front of the café at the intersection was a sign that read:


“So Vander Poodle said it was buried in the east tower at the prison lying at the mouth of four rivers behind the inscribed stone and hidden by an oak.”

“That sounds about right.”

“So then I guess I’m going to Vietnam.” D’Aqs looked closely at Hellmantle for a long moment.

“You’re going to northern Vietnam to look for an old French prison with an oak tree? Is that right?”

“It looks like that. I’m not going to telephone around. Best to be there and look.”

Outside there was tension in the air. There were only a few people on the streets.

“You never knew your grandfather had a twin brother?”

“Never. It was never mentioned.”

“They say having twins skips a generation.” A television at a makeshift kiosk on the corner of the street broadcasted the coup live. The announcer said in English:

The Quiet Revolution, as it is being called, began when Erap secured an 11-to-10 vote against opening incriminating evidence from the bank. This has triggered People Power Two. The hundreds of thousands of people here demonstrating at EDSA Shrine in the aftermath of half of Erap’s cabinet resigning promptly followed by the military chiefs. But Erap has snuck away from the hangman’s noose on the President’s barge down the Pasig River with his loyal and wealthy cronies.”

The television showed images of Vice President Gloria Arroyo standing beside a five-star general and the point man of the movement, Orlando Fernandez. Tanks surrounded the palace and it looked – like for a moment – no one knew who was now in charge. Erap had lost the support of the army. It appeared as if he had dropped the ball and now the Vice President had been sworn in as new chief.

“He slips out like a thief in the night,” said Hellmantle.

“I like it how he is now calling his defense ‘our peace offensive.’ Interesting combination of words: peace offensive. That’s a good one.”

“They say he made out with eight million in bribes and kickbacks from a gambling racquet, and another three million in personal funds.”

They decided to go to the Makati Sports Club, the private club where Hellmantle was once a member. He said it had reciprocal privileges with the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Hong Kong, where he was currently a member. It was late when they arrived there so they went to the snack bar where there were two men sitting at one of the tables.

“So what are you going to do? Ride around north Vietnam until you find a prison and east tower and an inscribed stone behind an oak?” D’Aqs was trying to clearly define the next step.

“Pretty much I’d say.”

“Well that’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?”

“And what, my good sir, is not extreme about the trip we just completed?”

“One is a human being we’re finding and the other is a document you’re digging for. It’s different.”

“Both missions are holy and therefore possible. How many prisons can there be with an east tower near Dien Bien Phu?” It was when he was mulling over this question when they both became acutely aware of the other two men in the snack bar. One man was taking notes in a notebook while the other spoke with vigor. It was only when he looked in their direction that they recognized Orlando Mercado, the point man in the coup who was just on television at the EDSA Shrine. His shirt stuck to his chest with sweat from the coup.

Hellmantle kicked D’Aqs foot under the table.

“That’s Orlando Mercado, the Secretary of State, who was the chap who resigned on Friday as the chief of the military defectors. He was the guy at the EDSA Shrine.” Fair skinned with pudgy cheeks, his cheeks were still flushed from the events of the day.

“I thought it was him.” And so they listened:

“I was worried about bloodshed,” said Orlando Mercado. “I had heard that they were going to call in the marines and that the PSG would fight back. The President called me in. Without the Americans the arena would be empty and we’d be in suspended animation. And suspended animation is a vacuum to bloodshed. In fact I’ve resigned my position but we’ve been instructed by the newly appointed President Arroyo to hold our positions. I thought it was such a waste that such a President who was the hero of the poor would go out in such a way.” Hellmantle and D’Aqs looked at each other and then looked down at the floor as if in thought.

“Well, that will be determined by the courts,” said the reporter.

“I think it’s amazing that such peaceful power can topple an immoral President.”

“Bad spirits will be felt if Estrada stayed in.”

“Not like you wake up one morning and say ‘this is going to happen today.’ It needs to be triggered. Not to say names but some senators started to move towards…”

“…either rig the vote or suffer the consequences.”

“It’s not like I convinced him,” he said to the interviewer with the recorder. “Oh Jesus, there were attempts but I was always arguing.”

“Sir, after what time did you decide?” asked the reporter.

“After watching the rally. There was a move to oust him, it looked like Erap was in a lapse. It wasn’t a quick, decisive move. It was myself and the entire administration. I didn’t mention it to the Vice President.”

“Why should she give up the presidency that was there? It wasn’t so much political, or to satisfy the poor, it was a question of tearing apart society.”

“If it’s one thing we’ve learned from all this, all politicians dream of becoming number one in the country, but I think it’s wrong to let the presidency be beyond the reach of the law and objectives of his office, so you can do anything. This experience was a near-death experience. There’s only one thing you have to think about: survival. Because death is all around. There were attempts-“

“But you were unaware of Duarte?” Mercado was silent for a moment. “How would you describe your relationship with senator Duarte?”

“Well, we met and became good friends. There’s an election coming up. I can do anything. I can get a teaching job at the university.”

“How did they welcome you?”

“Ah, they said: ‘Welcome back, welcome home.’ They knew I was on their team. Again, it goes back to Marcos… Actually, there are people who have fallen that we don’t remember. You’re too young to know about the perfume scandal. You know Jimmy Carter was not a great president but he is one of the best ex-presidents in American History. When you’re done in office, it shouldn’t mean you run away. I did not make any deals. I don’t have a crystal ball. When you go trip through dark places, you’re never clean when you walk out of it.”

It was about then that the Secretary of State – the man who stood beside the General of the Army and the new President of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo, only hours ago – caught wind that the two foreigners at the next table were eavesdropping on him. They stood up to go but Hellmantle bolted out of his seat, cut Mercado off from walking out of the snack bar beside the pool, and said to him thus:

“Mr. Secretary of State,” said Hellmantle full of bluster. “Having lived here in your fair country and having seen the wrongs and corruption perpetrated by your once beloved movie star el Presidente Erap, may I shake your hand for upholding the principles of justice, fair play and serving God.” He put out his hand but Mercado was too flabbergasted to take it. “For in your courageous actions you may have prevented a bloody civil war, which this country has seen all too often. Too many times have I found myself standing with clenched fists hoping for a politician with integrity to step out of the shadows to make a stand against abuse of power and the bending of law here on King Phillip’s Island! So you, sir, deserve a warm handshake indeed for your bravery and dignity. I salute you sir!” He stretched out his hand again to a bewildered and skeptical Orlando Fernandez, who looked at D’Aqs sitting wide-eyed like him, watching. A subtle nod from D’Aqs to the Secretary of State communicated that the bearded man in front of him was half mad. So relaxing the frown on his face, Mercado shook Hellmantle’s hand but was promptly hugged. The Man from Normandy patted him on the shoulder as they separated, and said:

“Sir, you give me comfort knowing there are still men of principle in government no matter if it’s Hong Kong, Mexico or the Philippines. It inspires obedience to the Scriptures and it gives me faith in humanity. Thou shall not steal. You have provided me with the glimmer of hope I have thirsted for many years, and I will remember always your fidelity to reason, adherence to the Ten Large Ones from Moses and your backbone to fight what can only be regarded as the evil in man!”

Realizing he must leave before this bearded foreigner spoke more gibberish, Orlando Mercado nodded at Hellmantle and D’Aqs, and then left the snack bar followed by the reporter. Hellmantle was serious when he spoke thus:

“Don’t you see?” he said to D’Aqs.

“No. I don’t see.”

“It is a sign from God. The change of regime is symbolic of the changes we will cause from our most significant discovery. We have found the Dutch Padre so we have now confirmed the legend to be true. We are now armed with enough information to take our Holy Quest to the next level. We are on course to change religious history, just like what has happened tonight here in Manila. God is showing us that our discovery will be akin to a regime change at the highest level. Have faith my dear cousin that our destiny will be such that we shall be remembered for all time.”