A Barangay HearingBefore reading this, be sure to first read the previous posting entitled "Potty Mouth Killer."
The day after the evening we reported the incident between the nutcase and me, we went to the barangay post building that covers our neighborhood. Amalia and I got there about 20 minutes before nutcase showed up. The judge asked me again for a few of the details about the spat, such as where and how it all started. He asked me to sketch a rough little map showing how the original traffic dispute came about. I showed him, but I also said that THAT wasn’t the real issue. I told him the actual problem was his continued combative and abusive attitude long after he should have cooled down. I’m not sure he understood what I was talking about; he seemed to be fixated on the traffic thing. I understood his English, but I’m fairly certain he wasn’t getting all of mine. I’m used to that now though.
Nutcase showed up, still looking just as pissed off as the last time I saw him. He was still barely in control of himself. At his arrival we were all ushered into the “judgment” area. The tables in that room were arranged in a “U” shape, with the judge in the center of the “U,” while we disputants sat looking across at each other. I tried to catch the eye of nutcase, but he wouldn’t look at me after much more than a glance.
The judge opened the hearing by saying we were there because of a problem that started after a traffic incident yesterday at 5 pm. In Filipino he then asked nutcase for his name. “JoJo Concepcion,” he answered. So now I knew his name.
Then, looking at me the judge asked me to explain what happened. I got just past the part where I had said, “What the f###,” when JoJo interrupted vehemently.
“No way! That’s not what you said! After I rolled down my window, you told me you said ‘What the f###!’ Then you said, ‘F### you mother f#####r!”
I interjected. “I did not! I don’t talk that way, especially in front of my daughter.” Now I knew this guy was going to lie about the whole thing. So be it.
He sneered. “There you go again, claiming you were scared for your daughter! You’re such a ….” He cursed under his breath. His blood was boiling again—that was pretty evident. At the judge’s behest, JoJo continued the meeting with HIS version. I shook my head in amazement, because the way he told it, I had continually called him a mother f#####, and used other insulting language. I let him go on without interruption, after all I figured, what’s the use?
At last, the judge let me speak again, so I did. “Look, if you think you heard me speak like that, well, I can assure you that I didn’t, because I don’t use that kind of filthy language. It’s not my style. But I do regret that in the heat of the moment that I even used the “f” word to begin with, but I never used a bit of provocative language after that. As a matter of fact, when you pulled up next to me and I could see how angry you were, I was trying to calm down the situation. Why would anyone want to expose their four-year-old daughter to the ugliness of two grown men fighting?”
At that, JoJo was about to jump out of his seat at me. Glaring, his body quivering, he spat at me, “Hey, your daughter isn’t here now! I’ll fight you right now you f###. Come on! Show me what you got! I’ll bash your f####ng face!”
I threw my hands up in the air and rolled my eyes in exasperation. “This guy is impossible!” I looked at the judge and he showed no expression at all—I was puzzled that he didn’t show or voice any disapproval at this nutcase’s outburst. Evidently, the English spoken F word is only another word over here, just an expression; and his provocative behavior was clearly going to be tolerated by the barangay captain-judge. I was amazed, but became resigned to it. The grizzled old guy “playing” judge merely looked on before finally saying, “Okay, enough. Go on.” He nodded at me to continue.
There were two other local gentlemen that I presume were part of the official barangay team of personnel, and they looked apprehensive that they might have to intervene if hothead JoJo really did start a fight in the room. It was a weird situation for me, but I spoke on as asked, “I admit for about a minute I was angry too, which is why I mouthed the words that I did. Then, I reacted to your anger, and that set you off. We were in the middle of the road, so I parked on the side of the street facing away from the gate, got off, and removed my helmet and sunglasses.”
He interrupted yet again, “Yeah, and the way you did all that looked like you wanted to fight, so why didn’t you? You pussy! Asshole, you’re in MY country. You don’t act like that here!”
Amalia exclaimed, “Where do YOU live? You have an American passport. How dare you say that! Do you act like this back home? We don’t act like you are now in the U.S. or we’d be in jail by now!” I put a hand on her arm and gestured for her to calm down and shush. She was as angry as nutcase was now.
He scoffed, “Oh bullshit! Where do you live—with a bunch of white people? No wonder!”
I observed, “You’re right. I’m a visitor here, and I’ll be a visitor if I’m here for 50 years. I MORE than realize that now. YOU can be an American, but I can NEVER be a Filipino. I accept that.”
He went on, “How did you expect me to act right there in the street with everyone watching? You want me to kiss your white ass and say, “Oh yes sir, I’m so sorry sir. You’re right sir.”” He said the last in an exaggeratedly deferential manner, obviously being sarcastic.
I reminded him, “I understand how important saving face is in this country, and I apologized to you several times while you cursed and baited me, but you would NOT accept it. You even drove off giving me the finger saying f### you.”
“Yeah, and it’s a good thing you said sorry too, or I would have smashed your face.”
I smiled at hearing again his broken record response, but still trying to be somewhat placative I replied, “Okay, so you say. I believe you. This bashing my face thing seems to be the way of your world, but THIS is a civilized country and that’s why we came to the barangay to sort this thing out.”
JoJo snorted, shaking his head in his contempt for me.
I went on. “Like you said yesterday, JoJo, I DON’T know who you are. I’m here today to get this thing over between us. I don’t want to have a war that goes on forever. Looking over my shoulder is not my style.”
He broke in. “Hey, I’m a man! I’m honorable. I’ll fight you to your face.”
I marveled that he didn't see the irony of his last statement, of being honorable and all, while acting and talking like a complete animal. I realized that this man's views were not "normal," at least not a civil type of normalcy. He was acting and talking exactly like an American gangbanger, which I began to suspect that he was. I went on..."Okay fine, that’s good to know, but what happened yesterday is NOT worth fighting about, and by now, you should realize that, just as I did yesterday. But my last view of you was an extended finger while you screamed f### you. The only reason we are here at all today is because I want to make sure this is finished. It wouldn’t have been necessary at all if you hadn’t been so disrespectful to my wife yesterday night.”
He blew up again, “Hey, SHE came to MY house…” Amalia spoke up in Filipino and the two of them went at it, but I noticed he didn’t call her bitch or kabet, or resort to any other name-calling. I put my hand on her arm and told her to calm down and to let him show his true "colors" to the judge. “Come on, rise above his level Babe,” I told her.
The judge then "officially" allowed Amalia speak, and she explained in Filipino what happened at JoJo’s house. The two of them continued to point and jaw at each other, until finally I told Amalia that all this was senseless, and to calm down. Staying consistent, JoJo once again reverted to the use of the foul language of the American “street.” I got the distinct impression that this guy must live in “the hood” back in the States; and sure enough, when Amalia asked him where he lived in the U.S., saying that people didn’t act like this where she lived over there.
“Oh, bullshit! Where are you from? It’s like that everywhere!” he spouted.
I butted in, telling him, “I know the situation you come from JoJo. You’re from a large city in California aren’t you? I recognize your attitude man.”
“I live in San Francisco, why, where did you live?” He asked.
“Oakland and Alameda.”
“Okay,” he nodded, “Then you DO know. It’s the same over there.”
I didn’t tell him this, but in fact, back in the 70’s, two young 18-year-old fellow marines who didn’t know any better, stepped foot into a Filipino hangout right outside Alameda Naval Air Station, called Ginni’s Little PI. A gang of young Filipino thugs beat them so badly that both of them ended up in critical condition for two weeks. Their faces were so completely black and blue from the kicks and punches they sustained from at least a dozen gang punks that they were completely unrecognizable. They were very nearly killed. Our CO ordered the rest of us NOT to retaliate, as indeed, we were planning to do. Eventually, Ginni’s was burned down, but probably by another rival gang. So yes, I know EXACTLY what ugly world this angry twisted man is from.
I mentioned I had been in the marines stationed there and JoJo blew up again.
“Big f####ing deal! So you were a marine! So show it! Come on!”
This guy was just becoming annoying now, and I looked at my watch not wanting to miss a second appointment to assist a veteran after already missing an earlier one. I looked at the judge showing my annoyance, and shrugged resignedly.
The judge took the hint and said, “Okay, we are here today so both parties could speak their piece and to arrive at some kind of reconciliation. I want to know from both of you if this thing is over?” He looked at me for an answer.
I started, wanting to get to the end of it all, “I already apologized several times yesterday, but if it helps, I’ll do it again now. We aren’t neighbors, and we don’t have to see each other ever again, in fact, that is my preference, so that level of conclusion is just fine with me. As far as I’m concerned it’s over.”
His anger somewhat deflated, for the first time, he said quietly with little emotion, “I’m going back to the States tomorrow anyway.”
The judge paused for a few moments looking for something in the stack of papers and items next to him on his desk. Curiosity got the better of me, and I started to ask during the silence, “What part of San…?”
My wife, still steaming at his insults, kicked me and snipped, “Don’t talk to him. You’ve already apologized enough!” She was right, but I wasn’t taking any of this as personally as either her or JoJo.
The judge, having found the logbook he was looking for, wrote three or four lines in it and announced, “So both of you have agreed that this is finished. I want you to sign your name under my statement that says you agree that you have resolved your differences and agree not to pursue any further actions concerning what has already transpired. Do you agree to do this?”
I spoke up first, “No problem. I’ll sign.”
JoJo merely shrugged and grudgingly responded, “O po.” (Yes sir).
The judge handed me the book and I signed it. Then JoJo signed it. But the judge wasn’t done yet. “I would like to see the both of you shake hands before leaving this room.”
I looked across the room and saw JoJo scowl and grit his teeth. I took great pleasure in his distaste. I have no idea why. I spoke up one last time, “Fine with me. It’s up to him.” In Filipino I said, “Bahala ka,” which means ‘it’s up to you.’
He got up to leave, and having to pass me on the way out, I stood up and stuck out my hand. He took it briefly and wasted no time going. Thus ended the barangay hearing.
Later, I’ll comment in a new post about what I have became conscious of as a result of this whole affair. For now, it’s good enough that I have simply recounted what happened at the hearing.