Mercado: Don Armando P. Baluyut (2)

A REGULAR Tarlac commuter, for example, will not miss the Voice weekly displayed along the newsstands in Capas, Tarlac. The paper was being circulated there not only to boost its readership as to show the Courier that Capas is not only Beatles territory but also as a new colony to the expanding Voice, now at eight pages.

Escalating the conflict up to Tarlac, the Courier has started saturating Ninoy’s province with the Courier. This could be a tactical strategy which puzzled by chief. What’s Tom up to really? Is he stepping up their war? He asked.

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Convinced that the strategy is not a retreat but an actual dare, Don Armando, despite the pleadings of his managing editor, Mar Pangilinan (who by the way suffered great losses from his chicken poultry because of the pisti) went on to put out a Voice Tarlac edition. If Tom can circulate in Tarlac why can’t he also?

To top it all, the Voice Tarlac edition has hired Catholic priest Fr. Evaristo Marcelino to head the staff, a step which could someday favor Don Armando in his feud with his rival who is very close to the Methodist minister in Lourdes Northwest where Tom usually delivers his Sunday preaching.

In case the strife overleaps natural bounds, Father Marcelino might be pitted against the Rev. Katimawan Regala, a Methodist minister who was reported backing up Tom to the hilt. This could promise an exciting bout because Max Sangil says Fr. Marcelino is the type who never refuses a good fight. Pastor Regala, too, has not run away from a good fight, having fought the Catholic priest in a running battle in Mexico town, if that is what people want to know.

Having grown sick and tired of each other, Don Armando and Don Tomas will not stop at anything short of a gun smoke. For example, in a grand reception tendered to national and Pampanga newsmen by USAF General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. at Clark Field sometime ago, the Voice taught the Courier a Dale Carnegie lesson or two in public speaking.

The Voice, on record, was the first local patriot to stand up and decry the worsening Air Base-Angeles city relations. The Voice interrogated the General on killings and pilferage, followed by an extra super-duper oration on freedom and democracy to the visible dismay of Tom who did not stand up like my chief. I thought my publisher would pull out his old wallet, as he used to do whenever a mulcting cop accosted his erring driver, and take out to wave his certificate of membership in the USAFFE to intimidate superior forces.

While the Voice was talking he was looking furtively at the smirking Courier who was looking at his partner Sr. Lino Sanchez for an encouraging signal, perhaps, for Tom to do likewise, and show who between his enemy is the better speaker, but Lino, with old copies of his tabloid under his arm was looking around for a possibility of making some American officers sign an ad contract with his “Pampanga Tribune”

“Loku la! Loku la riyan!” Don Armando told me half-shouting when he sat down.

“Ela pin malyari keng oratorical keka,” I told him.

“Lawan mu, alang talakad karen. Loku la!” he boomed in pride as Manila newsmen looked at him in awe. General Davis thought the USAF had won a psycho war on the jubilant Baluyut.

Recently, Pampanga media people flew to Zamboanga City to attend the provincial press convention there. Conspicuously absent at the event were Don and Tom who, according to a Sheriff’s office source, frequented the CFI (RTC) daily that even Judge Malcolm Sarmiento to mistook them for agrarian counsels with their heavy brief cases.

The two did not leave town for Zamboanga for one big reason. Each one was watching the other regarding the troop movement of the legal notices at the CFI compound. The two stuck it out there as the convention went on in Zambo Reports said they refused to budge from their advanced command posts even during break time. It was said Tom for that week usually ate fast snacks at the Our Canteen but came rushing back in breakneck speed only to find Don Armando still entrenched in his outpost.

Don Armando, in this case outwitted Don Tomas because my chief has brought his mini-kitchen with him topped by his loyal Thermos bottle for jungle survival. It is no wonder that when curious people took a peek inside his car, the floor was literally stocked with powerful ammunition such as “suman bulagta, suman bulung, tamales” and such other stuff. His driver former Huk Bebeng Policarpio said there was an ‘orinila’ newly bought from Ramona’s glassware in San Fernando, hidden at the baggage compartment for any contingency.

The same curious people who had noticed a split in rank among the two press lords also took a peak at Tom’s car and they found no survival mess kit but plenty of Marcos calendars, affidavits of publications, ad contracts. This meant that Tom can survive without bringing a Thermos bottle while Don cannot do without, a new score which had to be evened up.

In the meantime, the staff at the provincial sheriff’s office where the Yamashita treasures (legal notices and ads) are being fought for became alert and apprehensive when the feuding publishers met in a close-guard position. “A possible deadly encounter,” ex-officio sheriff Celo Mendiola said, “might result in untimely casualties which may put a tragic finish to local journalism.”
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