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Pulong-pulong sa kaunlaran

(This is an excerpted sequence from Mangkokolum's unproduced screenplay, "OPERASYON," a fictional account of the failed Operation: Jabidah in the 1960s.)

CU of saba banana fills entire screen as voice over cackles ceremoniously:


GEN.CORTO (In voice over). Here's our target, gentlemen!

SLOW ZOOM OUT to reveal:
INT. Modestly furnished, no-nonsense conference room with heavy drapes lining the walls. A long conference table with five seated figures, one on his feet, each in formal dark suits, their faces made indistinct by swathes of shadows and skeins of light from a slide projector. A projection screen occupies one end of the room where the close-up of a saba banana remains projected, spat out by projector on the table. Huge calendar on a wall proclaims the year, 1967.


GEN. DIAZ (Raspy, hoarse-voiced). We've heard it before, gentlemen. Nagkaleche-leche ang referendum sa Hilagang Borneo. Ba't kasi naisipan pa 'yung referendum... Akala... marami nang Pinoy doon. Marami na nga, 'di ba?


COL. KURATONG. (Patronizing.) Tuloy ang paglikas ng maraming Pilipino doon, sir. We have monitored the migration in the last five years. The whole territory covers about thirty thousand square kilometers. One vast stretch of pure green hell. Mas malaki pa sa Mindanao. Hindi natin kayang punuin ng tao.


GEN. CORTO. Halos sitenta porciento ng populasyon... migranteng Pinoy.


PANGULO. (Subtly seethes. Professorial tone). My predecessor thought we had the numbers to win a referendum. Pumayag ang Malaya do'n. Tinanong ang populasyon. Pilipinas o Malaya ba ang gusto nilang mamahala sa teritoryo... Those Filipino migrants... Okinana. Itinakwil ang kanilang gobyerno. Betrayed their own nation...


GEN. DIAZ. (In tired, matter-of-fact tone.) Our countrymen denied their own country. But we will not be denied, Mr. President. (Pats the inscrutable figure beside him.) What do you think, Datu Abduldol?


DATU ABDULDOL. (Thick-accented.) Walang nabago ang referendum. Ari-arian pa rin ng mga Kiram ang Hilagang Borneo. Hindi p'wedeng angkinin ng Malaya. Sa bansa pa rin natin.


COL. KURATONG. We can't trust voters to know any better, sir. Besides, we didn't resort to our standard operating procedure. Guns, goons, and gold, he-he-he...


SOLICITOR-GENERAL (SOL-GEN). Hindi na mahalaga ang resulta ng referendum. The voters gave up our government's administrative rights. Pero we still have proprietory rights over the territory, sir.


PANGULO. Good point, Mr. Solicitor General... You're saying?


SOL-GEN. We still can validate and consolidate our rights to the territory, sir.


PANGULO. Paano?


SOL-GEN. (In his element. Elocuting). Kumikilala ang mga umiiral na batas sa tatlong paraan ng pagsakop sa disputed territory. Una, outright occupation of the territory. Our people have occupied the claimed territory. Ikalawa, colonization of the territory.

Nakakaduda 'yan. Mukhang hindi inokupa't sinakop ng mga kababayan natin ang teritoryo. Sila ang nasakop, sila ang okupado. Kahit gano'n meron pang ikatlong paraan...

D. ABDULDOL. (Eager). Ano ang nalalabing paraan?

PANGULO. (Cold-blooded). And our last option is...

SOL-GEN. Outright capture of the territory. Kunin.

PANGULO. (Passionless). Despues, kunin. Gusto ko ang pananaw mo, compañero. You just put into one word what I had in mind. Kunin. Kasintunog ng anarkistang Mikhail Bakunin. Ano nga ang sinabi ng kumag na 'yon? "Give me a hundred dedicated men and I will turn Europe upside down..." (Pauses for a few beats, mulling.)

Sa palagay ninyo, ilang dedikadong tauhan ang kailangan natin?

GEN. DIAZ. (Chuckles wryly). You're suggesting a military solution, sir. No more civilian diplomatic antics?

COL. KURATONG. We need a more forceful, more permanent solution to the North Borneo problem, if I may say so, sir.

(Tense silence for several beats. )


PANGULO (Squints his right eye, grows grim as if gripped by a terrible vision. Perorates). Isipin na lang ninyo kung gaano kalaki ang teritoryong idadagdag natin sa bansa. Vast virgin forests for logging concessions. Oil fields. Gas fields. Vast real estate for construction development. Mabubundat tayo. Makukuntento ang ating mga cronies at kamag-anak. (Pauses, allows his words to sink in.)

Malaki 'yon kaysa Mindanao. Do'n natin itambak ang mga bundok ng basura ng Maynila. Do'n itapon ang mga squatters. Napakalawak niyon. Isalpak natin ang lahat na maisasalpak, believe you me...


GEN. DIAZ (Infected). We can move sakla, sabong, masiao and jueteng operations there. Pati money collection rallies ng El Pudday!


GEN. CORTO. And sauna baths, beer houses and videoke... Eat Bulaga, Game Ka Na Ba, at iba pa... Pati si Mangkokolum!


SOL-GEN (Perplexed). Hindi pa uso ang mga 'yan ngayon. We're in the 1960s, remember?


COL. KURATONG. P'wedeng dalhin ang bank robbery at kidnap for ransom.

D. ABDULDOL. Titiba tayo sa barter trading at smuggling!

PANGULO. (Emphatic). I want Sabah!

OTHER CONSPIRATORS (Equally emphatic, trembling with anticipation). We want Sabah! We want Sabah! We want Sabah! Rah-rah-rah! Sabah, Sabah, Sabah-Ziss-boom-bah!!! We want Sabah!!!

A side door opens; a retinue of waiters led by a Maitre D' go in, each one with a tray full of piping hot saba-based snack items - nilagang saba, banana cue, turon, maruya, etc.

MAITRE D' (Exaggerated). Excuse us, sers. Heto na po ang inyong orders.

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