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The Grateful Bandits


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

Monsieur de la Gironiere, a French planter and trader, who visited the
Philippines a lifetime ago, or more, told stories of the islands and
their people that are taken in these days with a lump of salt. Among
these narrations is one pertaining to the bandits who in the first
years of the nineteenth century were numerous and troublesome
on several of the islands, and who were alternately harassed and
befriended by the officials,--chased when they had money and well
treated when they had parted with most of it to cool the sweating palms
of authority. Gironiere was visiting the cascades of Yang Yang when
he found himself surrounded by brigands who were chattering volubly
and pointing to his horses. They did not at first offer violence, but
presently he understood that soldiers were in chase of them, and they
were considering whether it would not be wise to kill the horses, lest
the troop, on its arrival, should seize them to aid in the pursuit.

Gironiere could not afford horses often. He eagerly assured the
thieves that he would not give his nags to the military; that he
would, on the contrary, depart by the road over which he had come,
in order to avoid meeting the soldiers, and this promise he made on
the honor of a gentleman. The leader of the brigands saluted, and
the Frenchman drove away, as he had agreed, the thieves watching him
until he was out of sight. For months after this incident he had no
trouble with the natives. His household goods, his garden products,
his poultry were spared. Some years later, when he had definitely
cast his fortunes with the Spaniards, he accepted a commission as
captain of the horse guards at Laguna, and it then became his duty
to trouble the very robbers who once had spared him. Their fighting
was usually open, and, as the marksmanship on both sides was the
very worst, it was seldom that anybody was hurt. Truces were made,
as in honorable war, and the leaders corresponded with one another
as to terms of battle or surrender. One unofficial document received
by Gironiere cautioned him to look out for himself, as there was one
in the bandit ranks who was ungrateful. "Beware of Pedro Tumbaga," it
said. "He has ordered us to take you by surprise in your house. This
warning is in payment for your kindness at the cascades. You kept
your word. We are ready to fight you now, as you would fight us;
but we don't strike in the back. Tumbaga will shoot you from hiding."

Gironiere was a crafty person, likewise a cautious one. He knew where
to send an answer to this epistle, and he sent it: "You are brave men,
and I thank you. I do not fear Tumbaga, for he is a coward. How can
you keep among you a man who would shoot another in the back?" Just
look at that for slyness! And the message had the effect he desired
and expected. Some brave bandit got behind a tree a couple of weeks
afterward and shot a bullet through Tumbaga. Thus was the power of
the brigands weakened, the safety of Gironiere assured, and good
feeling re-established between the law and its habitual breakers.

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