HEAR NO EVIL
Back On the Road
“Back on the Road”
Things had pretty much petered out with the Soviets. I had decided that I didn’t really want to mess around in military materiel anyway. It was crazy and cutthroat business. Pesky people had a way of popping off - permanently. Several of my previous “partners” had popped up - petrified – with several more orifices than God had originally intended. Talk about blowing a business deal!
There was no telling whom or what was going to come out of the woodwork and I had no desire to become a casual casualty in the Communist climb towards capitalism. The liberated Lenin-ites could go their way and I was going mine. It was safer.
As a result, I did not expect to be playing with the Bureau boys much longer. I assumed that with the demise of my Soviet associations and the fall of the U.S.S.R., my usefulness to the FBI would also come to an end. It was time to regroup and rebuild.
Since ending the partnership, I had acquired a new associate while attempting to supply canned vegetables to Iraq. She was a Southern Belle, more precisely a steel magnolia. She was quite out of the ordinary; a new-born Christian with a soft southern drawl. Prophecy, interpretation of prophecy, the laying on of hands and speaking in tongues were as normal to her as speaking with God, which she did on a daily basis.
Religion had always repulsed me. Usually, I ran the other way. I had seen more rotten things done in the name of Christ that I cared to count, but Belle was different. She wasn’t trying to convert me; she was just telling me what she had done that day. It usually began with: “I spoke with God today and He said…” Discretely, God entered our dialogue. After a while it became normal.
On another project, supplying sugar to Nigeria, she was heading to Alabama to meet with some of her other associates who were also new-born Christians. Apparently there were a boatload of them out there. She would call me when she got back into town.
She returned and rang through. One of the people at the meeting had turned out to be a prophet. Having arranged to ride with her to the restaurant, he told her that God had a message for her and then proceeded to give it to her.
What the hell was this all about?
Belle told me that the prophet would also pray for me if I wanted it.
Did I want a modern-day Moses praying for me?
Since I had never met this fellow, I figured:
This ought to be good!
This prophet person doesn’t know me from Adam, or Eve for that matter.
I hadn’t heard from God in decades, come to think of it, not ever!
He sure as hell hadn’t responded when I yelled at him about Madame-Mere.
I can’t wait to hear what He has to say now – if anything!
“O.K., do it.”
Belle called me a couple of days later. I was sitting alone in a darkened basement office when she rang through. I told her to go ahead and give me His message. My life wasn’t going terribly well anyway, so it couldn’t hurt to get a second option.
It was short and sweet; definitely short; definitely not sweet. She read it off:
I had been:
Sitting there, in the dark, alone, I was numbed, too stunned to utter a sound. Each phrase had felt like a nail being driven into my coffin. My mind reeled under the impact.
So few words.
Hell, this was an epitaph!
It ought to look real good on my tombstone!
I had always been an extreme extrovert - but not now. It was true; all too true. Now, I was a recluse. How the hell did this guy know that?
I tried to deny it. I tried to find fault anywhere, in the phraseology, in anything, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t even deny being a recluse. Six months earlier, after my life had hit the wall, I had taken the phone off the hook and severed all ties with the outside world. It was a re-evaluation and rebuilding time; a time for solitude and reflection.
Every word and every phrase rang with that undeniable crystalline clarity of absolute truth. It was all true. Every devastating word.
For years I had been looking for God, not very hard, but looking nonetheless. We had not been on speaking terms. Well, He may have been speaking but I certainly hadn’t been listening.
I was all ears now. I wasn’t sure where this was going, but God had definitely gotten my attention. I couldn’t ignore Him any longer.
Soon after I had been divinely diagnosed and dissected, Southeast Asia began to beckon. As the months passed a couple of the projects in the region proceeded on schedule. It had been a while since I had worked steadily in the area. It would be good to get back in the swing and get on with my life.
While, I waited for the proposed projects to either fully ripen or die on the vine, my speculations were momentarily muted by an off-the-wall event. On February 26th, 1993, the World Trade Center in New York City was bombed – apparently unsuccessfully since it didn’t come crashing down.
It seemed like the supreme non-sequitur. The Gulf War was over; we even had a new president, unsullied by the conflict. We were tootling along, minding our own business and bam, somebody ups and bombs a building in New York City?
Damn, what the hell was that all about? Perhaps the Unibomber wasn’t so ‘uni’ after all. Maybe he had a pen pal. Whatever.
For a few days, all the television talking heads and egotistical experts expounded on their exclusive explanations of the event against a backdrop of apathy and ignorance. Nobody knew nothing and made it ostentatiously obvious.
Soon enough, the world resumed its normal dimensions and life went on. No one told us that our world had changed. But it had – forever. We were just too ignorant to recognize it. So was our government.
One of the Southeast Asian projects finally reached fruition. Against all odds, Indonesia hit critical mass first. I had not spent a lot of time in Indonesia; military dictatorships with swarms of pseudo-soldiers at every street corner had a knack of rubbing me the wrong way. You never knew when they were going to shoot or at whom – especially round eye, white guys.
However, the project seemed serious. Some well-positioned people wanted to build a resort in southern Sumatra. More importantly, they had finally finalized their finances. They even had a legitimate Bank Guarantee to go with it.
My job was to arrange a long-term loan using their Bank Guarantee as collateral. It seemed pretty straight forward.
An Egyptian-born, former UN Commissioner for Indonesia had effected the introductions. Presumably, he would not tarnish his reputation by playing with inappropriate people. I had done enough of that already.
All we had to do was fly to London, collect him and continue on to Jakarta. There we would pick up the Bank Guarantee and then deliver it to our Lender in London and let him sort out the details.
First of all, you cannot get to Indonesia from here or most anywhere without passing through most every other country along the way. It didn’t make a difference whether you traveled from West-to-East or East-to-West. Before we were done, we ended up trying it both ways.
D-Day arrived and I hopped a plane bound for Boston, arriving in plenty of time to meet up with Belle and amble towards the international departure lounge. I ambled, I strolled, I sauntered; still no Belle. More disturbingly, no one, nowhere, no how showed her on any flight going anywhere. According to everyone’s records neither she nor any feeder flight to Boston existed. I sat at the gate and watched everyone else board the plane. No Belle, no tickets; no tickets no boarding. I was grounded in Beantown.
Then, just as the gatekeepers began closing the final door, Belle magically materialized - off a non-existent flight unknown to any other airline or their databases. We dashed onboard as the door slammed shut behind us. The plane was already rumbling down the runway before we were able to settle into our seats and fasten our belts. Next stop was London’s Heathrow airport.
Having finally caught our collective breath, I asked Belle about her flight to Beantown. According to everybody with whom I spoke, there was no flight, listed or unlisted. She told me that the airline had to flush their pilot out of an airport lounge; this after she had been previously informed that there were no more flights, scheduled or otherwise, going to Boston that day.
None of it made any sense. Whatever had happened was neither ordinary nor natural. After my epitaph, I found it a bit eerie. Maybe God was a lot more involved in my life and other people’s lives that I had ever thought.
Not surprizingly, London was overcast and drizzly. We corralled our luggage and headed out. Wisely, we had decided to stay at the airport hotel. The weather did not encourage extra excursions.
Unwisely, we stayed up three-quarters of the night with two Irish associates with whom we proceeding on projects in Ghana. It was grand fun but the cost was high.
The following day, we stumbled out of bed and managed to check out of the hotel in time to meet our Egyptian. Then and there, we nicknamed “Cobra” because of his serpentine, hooded eyes.
We crossed over the concourse, returned to the airport, checked in and headed for our flight to Jakarta. London was still leaking when we left.
First stop was Zurich. The vista had not noticeably improved. It was equally overcast and dismal. Grey dominated the horizon. Fortunately, we did not stay long, departing as dusk darkened the countryside.
Next stop was Abu Dhabi, which required an active adjustment. It was hot, bright and sunny with no hint of precipitation. We spent several enjoyable hours wandering the Duty Free stores in the statuesque terminal, picking up an international fax machine for Jakarta.
Once again, we reboarded our plane which had been pleasantly refreshed during our stopover. This was the long leg of the flight – 15 or 16 hours in air.
Finally, after 58 hours of sitting and flying and flying and sitting, we touched down at Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta. Like Nigeria, the windows instantly fogged up. Like Nigeria, Indonesia was habitually hot and humid; the vegetation lush, verdant and aggressive. It was back to the Tropics.
Thankfully, our Indonesians were there to meet us and kindly hustled us off to the hotel. A hot shower was definitely in order.
Suitably abluted, we reconvened in the coffee shop and began to discuss the project in earnest. Our Indonesian counterparts were great; the project less so.
A few days into our visit, the project hit a snag. True to form and in strict observance of Murphy’s Law, problems popped up with the paperwork.
It got worse; a rapid return was required.
Oh joy! Another 58 hours in transit.
Just to vary things, we decided to go back in the opposite direction. This time, it would be Jakarta, Singapore, Tokyo, San Francisco and Chicago as we racked up the air miles.
I remember very little of the trip; other than talking gibberish in Singapore and ordering beer at Narita airport in Japan. San Francisco and Customs must have gone fine; I had no memories whatsoever.
Apparently, ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ had been the great and grand adventure. ‘Around the World in 8 Days’ ain’t.
Having arranged and assembled the assorted papers, we religiously retraced our steps and ultimately rolled into Jakarta at dinnertime.
Once again, we were herded to the hotel, rushed to our rooms, allowed fifteen minutes to freshen up and then run into a dinner meeting. Much like the trip from Jakarta to Chicago, I remembered precious little of the meeting. I did recall signing something.
While we had been back in the States, Indonesia has received a surprize visit from the boys of International Monetary Fund. They were less than pleased with Jakarta’s fiduciary performance.
Prior to and during our first visit to Jakarta, Indonesian banks had been churning out bushels of Bank Guarantees. These were all backed by the IMF. The Indonesian Bank Guarantees far outnumbered the authorized IMF guarantees. The IMF declared all funding festivities at an end.
Overnight, Indonesia’s banks hit the wall. Their Bank Guarantees, devoid of financial food, dried up on the vine. Our Bank Guarantee for the project died with the rest.
Friends and family in Singapore had some ideas which they thought my salvage the situation. There was one piece of good news; Singapore’ Changi airport was a single, short, non-stop flight from Jakarta.
Cobra, our Egyptian, had preceded me to Singapore. During his time there, he had been introduced to a local potentate by an Arab acquaintance. A few days later, I was introduced to the Prince.
This casual encounter turned out to be the mother of all random run-ins. I had not planned on spending any time in Singapore this trip. It was a spur of the moment thing, caused by the IMF. The Prince just happened to be there at that time, he did not live there. His trip had been unplanned. Cobra’s companion had also just happened to be in Singapore. Neither his trip nor Cobra’s had been scheduled. They lived continents away for one another. All the players had to be in the right place at the right time. They were. With the epitaph still fresh in my mind, my suspicions on ‘random’ involving divine intervention skyrocketed.
The potentate turned out to be the Muslim Prince of a subjugated people. In Indonesia, he was called the ‘Datuk;’ in Malaysia the ‘Dato’ and in the Philippines the ‘Datu.’ They all meant the same thing: “Leader/Prince.” His Highness had a bunch of other titles most of which I didn’t understand. I settled on ‘Datu;’ it was simpler.
Datu and his family had lived in the neighborhood for the past 600+ years. His founding father had set sail from Yemen, met and married the local Chieftain’s daughter, converted all the locals to Islam and then began mating up a storm.
Following in the Founding Father’s footsteps, his forefathers had gone forth and multiplied, intermarrying with most everyone within a few thousand mile radius. Thirty generations of marrying and multiplying had racked up a large number of relatives.
To varying degrees, the Prince was related to most everyone of note in Southeast Asia and beyond. For him, the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) area was one big, continuous family reunion.
Datu was about my height – 5’ 8” or 5’ 9” and roughly 180* pounds. Dark-complected with matching hair and eyes, the Prince looked more Malayo than Arabic. 600+ years of intermarrying with the locals had taken its toll. He was stocky and solid; compact in a mildly portly way. He sported a bit of a belly which he affectionately called his ‘rice bowl.’
His princely presence made him seem bigger; ‘larger than life.’ HH had compelling eyes and sported an intriguing scar, the result of a bullet, which had somehow entered his neck and exited his jaw. Apparently, he had been one helluva hellion in his salad days.
The Datu was completely accustomed to having his questions answered and his needs satisfied. He saw no need to discuss matters since it wasn’t open for debate. There was always a slightly startled look when his immediate desire had not been instantly gratified.
HH had done his bit to maintain the family tradition. He had sired well over a dozen sons and finally a daughter. It had taken several wives to accomplish this feat. The family name was definitely living on and on and on.
The Prince and I spent quite a lot of time together in Singapore. It gave both of us an opportunity to learn a bit more about the other.
In many ways, we were totally different. In other ways, we were surprizingly similar. We hit it off and began to work together.
I had been unable to find funding for the Sumatran project. The IMF crackdown on Indonesian Bank Guarantees had crushed the lending community. At least for the foreseeable future, that project was dead in the water.
HH and I made our farewells and once again, I headed for the States. Circling the planet two times is an ordeal. Twice within two months is torture.
I finally made in back on home turf. As customary, my Bureau buddy, Jack, his sidekick and I got together, ordered a couple bottles of Greek wine and rehashed my trip.
As I laboriously explained the current Indonesian situation and their frozen finances, I waited and watched for their eyes to glaze over. When they did, I waxed eloquent until I couldn’t handle anymore. It was a cheap shot, but what the hell; it had been a bloody long trip.
Indonesia, or for that matter any Third World country, held little to no interest for the FBI. They were only concerned about the key countries, like Russia or China, those which had the potential to attack America.
As recompense for badly boring them, I related my encounter with the Prince. For the Datu, there was a flicker of interest, though I’m not sure if they knew what to do with him. It wasn’t everyday that one of their people played with princes of any variety.
Anyway, I had done my duty and dutifully debriefed with them. After that, it was up to them.
The Prince and I communicated on almost a daily basis. In his case, “communication” must be defined in its loosest possible connotation.
The Datu had a tenuous toehold on the English language, at best. This, coupled with an absence of enunciation, made all of our conversations, especially the telephonic ones, a test of true grit. It became my considered contention that when the bullet had exited his jaw, it had taken his diction along with it.
Coupling the Prince’s command of spoken English with my Nam-impaired hearing had severely cramped my comprehension. It was a miracle that we able to understand one another at all. Perhaps that’s why we got along so well. We were operating in different universes and didn’t know it.
Our first project was a Casino, not that far a stretch from the resort project in Sumatra. Actually, a Casino was just a resort with gaming on the scoreboard.
As it turned out, it had been a good thing that the IMF had killed the financing for the resort in Sumatra. Unbeknownst to us, the proposed site of the Indonesian resort was directly down range from a very volatile volcano. To make matters worse, the property was also precariously perched on a tectonic fault line, appropriately named the ‘ring of fire.’
I had belatedly learned my lesson. From now on, in that neck of the woods, I wasn’t going anywhere without a consenting geologist.
Datu and I were responsible for arranging the land and licenses for the Casino. Our potential partners were to supply the rest. We had several American gaming groups interested in the project.
Through the summer and fall, The Prince and I nailed down the prime properties and settled the licensing with the appropriate authorities. Once the interested parties were ready to powwow, he would fly to the States and we would do a series of face-to-face meetings. It appeared that December was going to be a very busy month.
Since the Russians had been the basis of my bargain with the Bureau, I was a bit surprized when Jack rang through a few days before Thanksgiving. We had not spoken together since my last debriefing during the summer. I almost didn’t recognize his voice.
We played catch up. We chitchatted about the ‘good ole days,’ debated the state of the nation and discussed the status of the world in general. In short, we shot the breeze. It was a good time
Just before we rang off, I was asked about the Datu and how he was doing. This sort of surprized me since previously their interest level in the Prince had registered somewhere between nil and nada.
The questions came hot and heavy:
“Was I still working with the Prince?”
“How was he doing?”
“Had he ever mentioned the Abu Sayyaf Group?”
“Obviously not, I don’t know who or what it is.”
“Would you check into it?”
“Would you call me if you get anything?”
“O.K, but why do you want to know.”
Jack then explained that a week earlier, on November 14th, this Abu Sayyaf Group had just kidnapped an American missionary and linguist, a fellow by the name of Charles Walton. They wanted to know what the ‘intentions’ of this group was. Since they were Muslim Filipino in origin and HH was Muslim, Jack thought that he might know something.
I closed with the caveat that I would discuss it with the Prince and get back to them. Unbeknownst to me, the other shoe governing my life’s direction had just fallen. “Random” my butt. Divine intervention had intruded once more.
While I didn’t comprehend it at the time, nothing would ever be the same again. I had just crossed a Rubicon without knowing it.
Damn, a couple of weeks before I couldn’t spell ‘counterterrorism;’ now I was up to my neck in it!
What was this crap all about?
Preparations progressed on the Casino and a couple of weeks later, the Prince finally surfaced in New York City after 4 days in transit. All of a sudden, 58 hours in transit didn’t sound quite so bad after all. Somehow he had managed to make it all the way to Hawaii. There, for some inexplicable reason, he had been sent back to T’aipei. This was followed by significant stopovers in Tokyo and Anchorage before his ultimate arrival at JFK.
It was good to see the Datu again. We did our rounds of meetings in the “Big Apple” and then headed south to the “Big Easy.”
In strict adherence to Murphy’s Law, our reservation had been bollixed. As a consequence, the Datu and I bunked in together. It ended up being an eye-opening experience.
The Prince combined a boyish naiveté with a lethally imposing demeanour. His moods were mercurial. He could be exuberant one minute and chilling the next. It was going to take some time to adjust.
Our negociations progressed amid a series of entertainment extravaganzas. One night, we were scheduled to attend a boxing match. The Prince was jazzed. This would be his first fight, ringside.
As we were preparing to leave for the fight, a button popped off his Nehru jacket. HH got flustered. He had no concept of needle and thread and did not know whom to call to remedy the situation. As his bunkmate, I felt honour bound to handle matters.
My hitch with Uncle Sam had trained me to be self-reliant. I grabbed the hotel sewing kit and began to reattach the button. The Prince watched avidly. Apparently, he had never seen this done before.
While I was making repairs, the phone rang. I answered the call and then handed the receiver to the Datu.
Though not lengthy, the dialogue was undoubtedly deep and not in English. Tension filled the room. The Prince hung up the phone and watched pensively as I completed my mission.
Returning his jacket, I asked him about the last phone call. Since our arrival in New Orleans, HH had seemed distant and distracted. The flurry of phone calls had not improved matters.
My query cracked the code of silence. Things had heated up on the home front. One of the Prince’s adherents had taken matters into his own hands and eliminated an offending Army General. He has subsequently been captured, charged and convicted.
The calls had been coming from the doomed man’s family and friends, seeking princely intervention in the hope that HH would have the death penalty set aside. In their minds, their son had fought for the Prince. Whether he had done it with or without the Datu’s foreknowledge and/or consent was not a factor for them.
The Prince’s hands were tied. Regardless of the motive, the law was the law. In good conscience, he could not intercede. A crime had been committed and the price had to be paid.
He seemingly smiled, shrugged his shoulders and slipped on his coat. Without another word, we left for the fights.
Ringside, the Prince was beyond excited and exhilarated. He was the proverbial kid in the candy store, relishing in the requisite cigars and catcalls. At some time in the past, he had seen Mohammad Ali fight in Manila and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The quality of the boxers wasn’t quite as good as watching Ali but the ringside seats more than made up for it.
After leaving the din of the smoke-filled arena, the warm night with its quiet ambience silently surrounded us. I could actually hear what Datu was saying. As we crossed the car lot to return to the Casino, we were accosted by a well-lubricated fellow seeking redemption. In his current condition, he had mistaken HH in his Nehru jacket for being a “man of the cloth.” Security shot out from the shadows. They grabbed the guy and vanished into the darkness. I hadn’t even seen the security. I was nonplussed, the Prince nonchalant. I definitely had a lot of adjusting to do.
Back at the hotel, we checked for phone messages. There had been one from the home front. The Prince rang through. The news was not good.
Sentence had been carried out. HH hung up, placed another call and began making funeral arrangements. After all, the fellow had been family.
Not one iota of emotion had emerged throughout the entire episode. Apparently, the Prince had previous experience in these matters. I had not.
It had become readily apparent that I had a lot more adjusting to do than I had originally figured. This was going to take some time.
My past travels in Asia had taught me that the ‘value of life’ was determined differently in Asia than it was in the West. I had not understood that this applied to ‘family’ as well. It was one hell of a refresher course.
This incident helped to solidify our bond. We were not all that different from two soldiers who had shared the same foxhole.
HH began to open up. We discussed the situation in Southeast Asia, the status of his homeland, his history, his family and his goals and aspirations.
The Prince wanted to liberate his people and reclaim his homeland and heritage. He had dedicated his life to this goal.
In achievement of this goal, he had been shot, imprisoned and exiled. During all of this he had still managed to produce over a dozen sons and one daughter. There was not doubt; the line of succession was seriously secured.
Somewhere, along the way, we finally got around to Abu Sayyaf. Thought a bit reserved about the ASG specifically, the Prince waxed eloquently about the plight of the “Moros” (Muslim Filipinos) in the southern Philippines. In succession, they had fiercely fought the Spanish, brought the Americans to a negotiated standoff and inflicted major damage on the Japanese invaders. They were now battling the Catholic regime in Manila.
Soon after independence, the newly-minted Manila Moghuls began to address their chronic overpopulation on Luzon by shipping their destitute Christian brethren to Mindanao. At the outbreak of World War II, Mindanao was over 75% Muslim. By 1970, the Muslim percentage of population on the island had dropped to under 25%. The natives were not happy.
Long time locals were losing their lands to make room for the new Christians, corporations and commercial concessions. Manila mouthed all the appropriate promises and honoured none of them.
The ‘Moros” had had enough. In the early 1970s, they founded the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The days of discussion and dialogue were done. Falling back on their time-honoured traditions, they came out fighting.
HH wholeheartedly endorsed the cause and traveled extensively on their behalf to gain global Islamic recognition and support. He had even done a desert meeting with Khaddafi, who had generously contributed a $1,000,000 to the coffers.
Khaddafi finally interceded and arranged the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, by which a Ceasefire/Peace Treaty was activated between Manila and Mindanao. Immediate hostilities were halted.
Internal Islamic issues erupted. Some Moros supported the ceasefire with Manila. Others didn’t and a riff between the two erupted in 1977. That same year, the unsatisfied faction of the MNLF, who were mostly Maguindanaoan, formally filed out of the organization and formed the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). The MILF was not settling for semi-autonomy; they wanted the whole enchilada. A smaller more radical sect, not satisfied with either the MNLF or the MILF, segregated themselves, split off and set up the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group).
Later on, I was able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. At the time, I was operating in the dark, as was most everyone else, including the Bureau.
The Abu Sayyaf Group, Arabic for “Father of the Sword,” had originally been founded as the ‘Mujahedeen Commando Freedom Fighters’ by Iranian missionaries, sent by the Ayatollah Khoumeni in the 1970s. It had been reconstituted in 1991 and renamed in 1992 by its re-founding Father and moving force, Ustadz Abdurajak AbuBakr Janjalani. He had used ‘Abu Sayyaf’ as his personal call sign, a tribute to Prof. Abdul Rasul Abu Sayyaf, the man who had recruited him in 1986 to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. The majority of its members came from Janjalani’s home island, Basilan.
Janjalani had fought in the Soviet-Afghan War along side Ramzi Ahmed Youssef, Wali Khan Ahmed Shah and Abdul Hakim Murad. It was also rumoured that he had spent time with Osama bin Laden, though bin Laden had not made it into the field until after the Soviets had left the playing field.
Prior to that, the Ustadz had completed his Islamic studies and military sciences in Saudi Arabia and Libya. He was a fervent fundamentalist. Women wore black, men white or grey. Bright colours were not allowed.
Welcome to the 8th century.
Because of his Afghan experience, Janjalani’s group began to receive major donations from Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. The southland had heated up.
While the Prince did not necessarily approve of the shifts and changes in the south, he fully supported and endorsed the Moro right of self-determination. He said:
“Live and let live.”
“Muslim issues should be settled by Muslims.”
“It’s a ‘Moro’ problem. ‘Moros’ should handle it, nobody else.”
The MNLF and MILF were homegrown groups. They were founded by ‘Moros’ for ‘Moros.’ The Abu Sayyaf involved a lot of foreigners.
Certain aspects of the ASG appealed to HH. He appreciated their dedication, vitality and commitment. The ASG was going to do more than talk. They were willing to put the money where their mouths were.
Having been a hothead in his salad days, the Prince understood their mentality. Nonetheless, he was not comfortable with all the non-‘Moro’ participation. He did not appreciate the ‘imported’ Arabs in the group.
HH tabled the conversation. ASG had become an embarrassment.
Having finished our business in the ‘Big Easy,’ we went to the airport. We bade our farewells and parted company; he for Asia and I for the holidays.
We did not have a chance to speak before Christmas, but he called me the day after to wish me a happy new year. He brought up the topic of the Abu Sayyaf:
“I have good news and bad news.”
“The Abu Sayyaf freed Charles Walton on December 7th.”
“That’s great. What’s the bad news?”
“They bombed the San Pedro Cathedral in Davao last night. Seven people were killed.”
What is this all about? They kidnap somebody and then set him free.
A couple of weeks later they blow up a Catholic Cathedral on Christmas day, killing people.
What are they thinking of?
I thanked him for the call and the information, and then wished him a happy new year. There wasn’t much else to say. 1993 was coming to a close.
It had been a strange year. Both God and the Datu had entered my life. God had actually intervened. While I wasn’t sure where this was going, He definitely had my attention.
There was no telling what 1994 would bring.