Into The Land of Dragons and Crocodiles
A short story written by Johnnie J. Lim
Sulu is one of the places in the Philippines known for its culture and people. It is also known for its agricultural and marine contributions to the country. Sulu is a great place. It could be considered as a haven of pride because of its fascinating natural beauty. The issues that make Sulu bad to other people in the country and to the world are only caused by small group of people who deviate from the real identity and dignity of the Tausug people. Modesty aside, Sulu is the home for the brave for only the bravest survives in the land. The archipelago is also known for its legendary clans that up to now still emerge as the undisputed families. This is the subject that inspires me to write this story.
“Mother! Give me my sword, mother!” The young man requested. Nursiba looked at him. She was reluctant to grant the request of her son. “Give it to me, mother! I said, give it to me!” His voice echoed like a thunder in a misty heavenly bodies where dragons dwell in an eternal mountain of flames. It was the first time he lost resentment to his mother. “Sakur! Stop it!” The eldest brother interfered. “You can’t win the fight with anger. You can’t do it!” Omar explained. He knew that Sakur wanted to defend the land, the dignity and identity of their clan. But he had not yet recovered from the previous encounter with the crocodiles. “Why, Omar? Are you giving up everything to them? To those green-eyed monsters? Don’t you see what they’ve done to our land? Can’t you see what I mean?” Sakur exclaimed in a tempestuous manner. Omar looked at their mother with a slight feeling of embarrassment. “The last blood of the clan must rule the land.” He had it in his mind. He knew the wisdom behind the fiery anger of his brother, the young dragon. The wisdom that forced him to reminisce the history of his journey into the land of the crocodiles. The land of the greedy. The field where the smartest overrules the wisest. The plain where the strongest remains in the limelight of power. The arena where only the bravest survives. Fangs begets fangs, claws begets claws, weapons begets weapons, and goons begets goons.
The scenes continued in his mind. Fair nature twisted into a bloody arena of an endless fight. “We will not give up this fight. If we stop, we will lose. It’s a big shame to our clan. We shall not allow them to defeat us till the last drop of our blood,” Omar declared to his men. That was few years ago.
“Father, we need a back up for this plan,” a young man suggested. He was insisting to have the approval of his father. He was Kadil, the second to the eldest son of the unbeatable warrior of a place called Patikul. They were the knights in shining armor in their society. And they must defend this identity. Everybody knew it throughout the entire kingdom of Sulu. The cows, the frogs, the rats, the dogs, and even the venomous serpents knew it. All would run in no directions once the crocodiles attack. And all would follow like a group of humble sheep with just one bare look of the most deceiving reptiles in nature. “I have commanded our clan members from the mountain to come later in the afternoon to join us, Kadil,” Harun exclaimed. “Calm down, Kadil. I won’t let the history repeat. Your brother died when he attempted to face our enemies with his immature behavior,” the father explained. The man was known as ‘Maas Batu’ to all natives in the land. He was noted for his bravery, too. “We should regain our dignity and stop people from believing that we are a threat to this community,” the old man added.
On the next morning, the wrath of the two legendary clans burst into the air. Thousands of bullets flew into the atmosphere like showers of meteor coming from the outer space. With curiosity, I occasionally looked up the sky to enjoy the sight while everyone began to flee in fear. I was alone in the house since the other night. Everybody had left to the mountain when the rumor about the fight spread in the neighborhood a day before. So no one was there to drag me out of the place. By and by, the awesome sound of the M-79 and B-40 came from the two opposite directions with no exact calculation of the estimated target distance. From east to the west, and from west to the east. Truly when evil dominates the mind, fear is forgotten. That was the idea I conceived amidst that deadly field where houses vanished in no time being destroyed by the blazing fire.
So the crocodiles attacked. Hundreds of them rushed into the battlefield and were determined to win over the legendary dragons of Sulu. But then, my curiosity to feast on the sound and the impact of the bullets and bombs was disturbed when a tank of a cylinder burst inside one of the burning houses about 100 meters away from the building where I positioned myself. And the presence of few residents, mostly men, who didn’t abandon their houses, gave me enough courage to continuously witness the fight between the prehistoric reptiles and the legendary flying reptiles that breathe dangerous fire and smoke.
At that moment, Omar didn’t notice his brother. Sakur was as swift as the wind. He jumped out of the window and flew into the air. He knew that even without the sword, he could defeat his enemies. His wings were strong. His body was as vigorous as that of a god’s. So into the air he spread them. He flew swiftly over the golden valleys up into the clouds. He flew higher and higher to exert more energy from the glittering light of the sun. He was never afraid to die. A dragon is a dragon.
“Mother!” Omar shouted. “Sakur is gone! He didn’t listen to me. But I can’t let him go alone” he concluded. “What do you mean?” The mother investigated. But Omar didn’t say anything. Like what his brother did, he too, ran out of the house. He gathered his men and together they flew into the air. They flew higher and higher that no one could see what mystery they had. They were heading towards the danger, the unfinished battle of the century. And they had nothing in their mind but to win the fight.
It was uncomfortable to hide in a place where the air was polluted by smoke. The atmosphere turned hotter due to the conflagration. But I dismissed it in my mind. I was terribly interested to see more……and learned more about the feud between the two undisputed clans in the kingdom of Sulu. And before my very eyes, I eyed how frightening was the fight. Reptiles versus reptiles…fangs versus fangs… weapons versus weapons.
“The dragons are wise. But when anger strikes, they never choose their enemies. They don’t even care to give a second thought of killing whoever stands before them especially those who challenge them.” This was the belief I learned and had kept in my mind which became true that day. I saw them, the real dragons. And in that day, they fought to the last minute of their lives. Their eyes were fiery. Their voice was like an awesome sound of the thunder. And from their mouth, came the never ceasing flame of death and the eye-tearing poisonous smoke.
Sakur was a brilliant fighter, and so was Kadil. For me, it seemed to be the encounter between the titans. The battle between the powerful warriors. And the war continued. Dragons versus crocodiles. Crocodiles versus dragons. The ground almost broke into halves. It shook like it was hit by an Earthquake. Omar together with his men was also there fighting against the army of Kadil. From a distant place, I heard the roaring thunder of their temperament. The amazing sound of their high-tech weapons. I could even hear them saying, “TO HELL WITH THE LOSERS, THE STRONGEST MUST WIN!” However, none of them was proclaimed as a winner in that all-day long fight. Yet, none was considered as a loser either. No one dared to stop them. No one tried to interfere. Even the military was at lost for a command.
A week after, the residents returned to their homes. But to their surprise, nothing was left to be seen, not even debris of a structure. I knew I was one of those who witnessed the fight. But even my eyes could not tell where the exact location of our house was. It was not easy to trace. The residential place completely turned into a dead field. It was over. Everything was over, but not the war between the two clans. And the endless nightmare of the fearful encounter between them will remain as mysterious as a sleeping volcano that lives for a century like a legend in the land of the dragons and crocodiles.
Johnnie J. Lim is a graduate of Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Philippines with Master of Arts in English. He was an Editor-in-Chief during his college at Mindanao State University where he finished his Bachelor of Science in Education major in English and graduated as journalist of the year. In 2008-2009, he worked as an English teacher in Non-Destructive Testing Technology Institute, 2nd Industrial City of Dammam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where he taught General English to college students. In 1998-2008, He worked as an English teacher and later became the Language Coordinator in Notre Dame of Jolo College, Jolo, Sulu, Philippines. He also served as one of the representatives of the American Studies Program Committee through the initiative of the Thomas Jefferson Information Center of US Embassy Manila in putting up American Studies Resource Centers in some of the colleges/universities in the Philippines. In 1994-1996, he worked as a high school English teacher and adviser of the school paper in Luuk National High School, Luuk, Sulu, Philippines. Mr. Lim has conducted a research entitled "Students' Reactions on Code Switching among Teachers". He is also conducting studies about mysticism. He loves writing. Email add: firstname.lastname@example.org