One Ordinary Day in the Life of Pontoy

IMG_1356IMG_1362IMG_1363IMG_1350February 18 was just one ordinary day in the life of one ordinary man named Alfonso Diacoma—Pontoy to friends. That morning  he had risen early: too many things to do, he would say, the garden patch he needed to till, to water or to spray for pests, and the Anglo-Nubian goats he had to bring to pasture. (These days when times are hard, goats provide the ready cash to spend until the season of corn harvest. Pontoy’s goats are the envy of neighbors).

The picture above shows that portion of Cebu Trans-Central Highway, Cantipla 1, near the waiting shed built from the donations of San Miguel Corporation. Just mention the name “San Miguel waiting shed” and people know what you are referring to. That stretch of the highway cuts across the province, connecting Cebu City to Balamban. The Trans-Central Highway is one good thing that happened to Cebu. Go touring here in your SUV or a hired van. My best suggestion is on a motorcycle. The sights are superb. You could treat yourselves to Japanese sweet corn sold by the kilo, its scent permeating the air with the aroma of newly harvested Brassica vegetables (broccoli, pechay, cabbages, mustard, spinach, and the like). Shoot the scenes digitally. My past remembrance here is seeing a crew making a clip of one bikini-clad calendar girl lying spread-eagled on top of quarry stones. Ah, these mountains with its innocence and reverent fun also has its share of human exploitation…

Pontoy was one of those men, heads of families in Cantipla 1 whom I had taught. At one time a Bible class met in Pontoy’s house, a small affair he considered his mansion that is home also to his son, his daughter-in-law and his grandson.  Built from the proceeds of the produce of the farm that he tilled, it once exuded with the domesticity and warmth of a wife, Pontoy’s spouse, Mrs. Diacoma (she of the Bontuyan clan) long gone now. We would meet there Sunday nights, and this seventy-year-old widower liked to ask questions on the state of the dead in the other realm, which I answered as best I could from the Bible.  But while everyone in the audience who attended the class was ready to embrace the truth, Pontoy persisted in his belief.  The problem was religious pride.

Pontoy likes “pastors” and ministers and wishes they were Catholics like him. We could talk till the middle of the night and he would not stop till I drop or droop. Pontoy’s brushes with death and with dangers, the cream of his stories, are proverbial, to say the least. The worst one, he said, was with his brother-in-law, Avelino Bontuyan, a gun-wielding lawless man who called himself the sheriff of the mountain, who as an NPA cadre during Marcos times had snuffed out 17 lives and as a military agent during Cory Aquino’s times had snuffed out an equal number of NPA lives. Pontoy’s brother-in-law became man Friday to Gen. Tiburcio Fusillero who made it his duty to the Republic to reforest this part of Cebu National Park.  Avelino Bontuyan got the ire of many in this mountain land because of his unneighborly habits and ways, so they said, and became involved in a blood feud.  One afternoon, he was gunned down.

Pontoy had seen death, pictures of death, of flesh rottening and decomposing, and listening to him could make you stop eating.

That morning of February 18 Pontoy found a good pasture beside that stretch of the highway a few meters from San Miguel waiting shed. Although it was 8:20, one could not yet see the sun up because of the mist.  Pontoy saw what he thought were two dead giant pythons; in reality it was a pair of decomposing thighs.  His first reaction was to run, but he gave it another look: it was the body of a woman, naked from the waist down.

He called on Igmedio Narra (his wife is also a Bontuyan), councilman of Tabunan, of which Cantipla 1 is a part, and reported what he saw. The matter was reported to the police who came in patrol cars.

The body was that of Judith Jastiva who was reported to have been abducted by a group of men in Labangon on February 9. Nine days after, her body was found in a mountain pasture in Cantipla 1. The police surmised that she may have been dead for four days already.

On February 19, based on what the police said was “circumstantial evidence,” Leonardo Jastiva, Sr., “pastor” of the Seventh-Day Reform Church in San Isidro, Talisay City, was arrested, charged with masterminding the kidnapping and murder of his wife.

Two days later, however, the “pastor” was released.

These days even when the sun is not up you still see Pontoy pasturing his goats. He could entertain you with his latest story and you bet there is much truth to it.


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