THE FELLOW WE CALL “TUTA”
There was this weird story about a man who claimed to be a dog.
One day, he went to a shrink and sought confirmation on his belief about his canine posturing. The psychiatrist was of course amused but went on to check the veracity of his patient’s mind.
“Since when have you realized that you are a dog?” The Doc asked.
The client replied, “Since I was still a puppy!”
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During Martial Law years, I oftentimes hear derogatory labels against those consenting people subservient to the powers that be. They were referred to as “tuta” or lap dogs. To be called a tuta then was the ultimate insult.
* * * * *
Sometime past, I remember a follower friend.
He was also labeled “tuta” but that fellow never claimed to be a creature lower than man. Yet his demeanor, his actions and even his predispositions point towards canine devotion. Well, not the political kind but a personal one. He was Reynado de Guia, a good and prominent name to start with. He hailed from Bulacan and his roots may have been from accomplished clan in the province. Except for the fact that this Reynaldo never had a good education. As a matter of fact, he never had any education at all. He merely grew up and subsisted under the shades of the town’s Cock fighting Arena. He virtually lived amidst filth, dirt and rudeness.
Until one fatal Sunday at the height of a festive 5-cock derby, hell broke loose and in the pandemonium stood a bloodied man and another splayed lifeless on the ground in front of the arena. Shots were heard from different corners, uniformed barangay tanods and policemen suddenly materialized freezing everyone inside the congested dome.
A person was pointed out as culprit but lifeless and another, standing in front although looking innocent, was picked up for questioning. In a gambling den where vice is the order of the day, there are no sane or respectable answers. The one near the fatality was the one charged accordingly.
Reynaldo was easily tagged the suspect and nobody gave a damn. He was a non-entity after all, a street rat, a road urchin, a bum, a taong grasa. A few months after, the judiciary handed down a verdict sentencing the assailant to serve time in the penitentiary for 15 years. Reynaldo, then a budding 23 year old errand, was shoved into the prisons. In a few months, he would be sent to spend his penalty in Iwahig Penal Colony. He was easily absorbed by the prison population. Ever supple, ever subservient, ever docile, ever compliant, he was instantly the runner and go-to guy of almost everyone. He never complained even if he would perspire blood for doing an errand. He was that submissive.
Sometimes, in the prison camp his fellow inmates would even suspect that there was an error in the court’s judgment that he killed someone. It looked like he was compelled to admit somebody else’s crime. Since, he knew nothing about law, nothing about fairness, nothing about justice, he merely accepted his predicament as part of his social life. He lived excitedly though in the company of his fellow convicts. He was a picture of a good institutionally adjusted person. He never had any trouble with anyone. As a matter of fact, everyone wanted him as buddy.
It was in Iwahig Penal Colony where this fellow was assigned in my quarters as helper. I was then Iwahig’s Superintendent. And since the officer’s quarters was a huge house, with 7 enormous rooms, from a distance it looked like a spooked mansion. More so, it had been an antiquated facility built ahead of the prison camp back in 1912. In other words, people in the area would swear having been frightened by what had been said as ghostly apparitions and poltergeist manifestations.
Furthermore, a number of prison superintendents died in said dwelling place.
The Birth of a Puppy
Hence, a lot of those assigned in the quarters would rather stay somewhere in the vicinity than reside inside, well, except for the resident Superintendent himself. And at that time, in my case, I had no choice but stay. And every time I woke up and open the door of my room, a person was splayed sleeping on the door mat. It was Reynaldo, the assigned quarters helper. It was his nervousness staying alone in the big house that he decided to sleep within the knocking distance from his superior. It was such act that gave him his label “tuta.” Because for all it took, a puppy usually sleeps on the door step of its master bedroom.
Reynaldo or Tuta to us remained loyal to the point of dependency on my presence. When I was reassigned back to Manila, I have to secure a personal request to transfer a number of loyal prisoners back to the Penitentiary where I would be posted, and Tuta was one of them. He served his full term in Muntinlupa and as soon as he got his release papers, he immediately reported to me as if I had a contract with him to fulfill. Of course, I still could accommodate the fellow but I required him to visit his family, his relatives first and with instructions for him to eventually yield to them.
He did but after a week, he was back where I was staying.
And what a complication I had to lead. At that time, I had several households to visit and personally attend. And in every household where I will sojourn, I had Tuta with me. Even if I would secretly travel to stay in one specific address, Tuta would know and in no time would be around in that place too. Once reunited however, I never had the gall to shoo him away. I would even gallantly invite him to stay up until the day I would transfer to another.
In my estimation, this fellow Tuta may have seen me as home already, much like children on their mother, wherever they are, however they may be. And fortunately, the fellow was never a baggage at all. He has got initiative all over and anyone observing his motion would even be tempted to plead to him to be cautious in performing a task. He had the habit of completing work suicidally.
I left for Mindanao and well, left silently Tuta in my former turf. He never knew how to navigate any farther and would just, according to him, pray that my stint in the Southern island be shortened that I may be able to return. During the period, Tuta had served my relatives, friends and allies one after another. Most of the time though, he would be out in the street, acting as barker in jeep station, or as ground conductor in bus terminals, or as cigarette vendor, street hawker, whatever.
He would also get into trouble and would be arrested for minor infractions earning for him a scar or two on his head and some broken bones on his arms and hands. For him, it was part of his endless quest for life in the street. He would court and seek refuge among homeless families in the street but would be shooed later. He had no other place except on the place where his master left him. And so, he would trek regularly on the spot where he was left hoping that someday, his lord would appear.
The reunion of lord and subject
Years later, I would complete my term and would be reassigned back to Manila. And every time I would land on my officer’s quarters, I would be surprised to see the fellow greeting me with various expressions. One day, he would claim that he spiritually felt I was already around; another day, he would aver that he heard a voice telling him that I was already in the area. Nonetheless, my loyal servant was always there waiting for me.
And the years had a telling blow on his physique. He would grow old several times over. When he was my helper in Palawan, he was even mistaken as my son. Three decades later, whenever I would oblige Tuta to assist me carry my groceries; my friends would rib me for exploiting the strength of an old man!
Time has come to part ways. I vowed out from the service and I intend to confront the challenges of old age on my own. I gave Tuta, my longtime friend and a sedulous follower, the resources to tackle reality without the thought of homing in. We have to face two different realities. And we must be ready to fit into it up to the end in a manner respectively.
Tuta still could not appreciate his obligation to himself, as he is always focused living within the realm of an idea that he has an anchor. Like a ship without an anchor, in his mind and reasoning, he would just drift aimlessly in the ocean without my shadow. He pleaded to remain and even through promise that I will not abandon him was already good enough although in reality it is the other way around. For him, my promise was enough and my word would make him strong to tackle survival.
I left my friend with a promise and word to make him sane; and he was contented. But I left him just the same. It is time; Tuta must grow up into a dog! (Of course, that is sentiment, not fact.)