September 22, 2009 By Bob Lim
Four years ago, an outsider was tasked to administer an institution we all hold very dear. He's left but as a personal tribute to him and in appreciation of all the good things he has done for our alma mater, let me repost the attached fairy tale which I wrote just days after he left us.
Hope I won't bore you.
MISTUN: A Fairy Tale
Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a new kingdom called Mistun.
was up in a mountain, nestled atop rolling hills. Its grounds were awash with green. Rimmed by lush forests, cool breeze constantly blew in and dense fog often lingered to bathe the entire kingdom with mist. In the distance, one could savor the panorama of a placid blue lake. Its tame waves quietly crashed against cruising olden boats and gently slapped shallow shores where villages teemed with stilted huts. Amidst the haze, one could also catch a glimpse of the Lady, supine in eternal sleep, not once rousing nor even stirring and supremely content her imposing silhouette was enough to calm the waters and still the trees in the surroundings. At times, swirling clouds darted in and out of the blue sky, jolted by occasional bolts of lightning and accompanying claps of thunder. The fleeting kaleidoscope of overlapping
blue-green-blue was a vista never to be missed.
there thrived many subjects, among them native residents and transient commoners who came from places far and wide. They lived and studied to master the basics of their chosen future trade. They mingled to know each other, learn their distinct cultures as well as respect their customs and traditions. They slept, ate, played and studied together, enduring hardships in the kingdom till it was time to leave. They became a tight band of brothers and sisters sharing a unique experience, united in peace and living in harmony.
The kingdom was ruled by a progression of sovereigns, each wielding regal power in his own way. Some were strong rulers while others were weak. The wearer
of the crown was at the mercy of a Supreme Anointer who enthroned and dethroned monarchs at his beck and call. Thus, princes and pretenders to the throne jousted for the Anointer’s attention no end, lustily
coveting the crown, while vassals vied endlessly for the king’s ears to protect their fiefdoms. Jesters and other knights, all with +!@#$s in their armor, as usual abounded in the Royal Courts, always feigning
concerns for commoners. They had only royal favors in mind.
The first king was Anthony the Benevolent. He was plucked from a distant land to rule Mistun. Like a true shepherd, he tended to his flock as if they were the last creatures in the world. King Anthony the Benevolent was old and headed for abdication yet he fought for the rights and welfare of the commoners before anything else. He was well- respected and beloved by the pioneering subjects. To conduct his decrees with dispatch, capable and willing ministers and royal servants dutifully served him. In the end, he stepped down from his throne with rancor in his heart.
In the years that followed, nine more Mistun rulers were anointed. Some were regent kings to serve briefly while others completed their reigns with mixed disdain or acclaim by the commoners. The longest reigning monarch was a local warlord who, while ruling with an iron fist, built moats and ramparts, towers and walls and other structures to house, feed and teach his subjects. For a period, a native princess was even crowned to reign over Mistun. After a short interregnum, she was succeeded formally by a local commoner who studied and rose from the ranks in the kingdom.
The commoner-turned-king was intelligent and well-intentioned. He wanted to reverse the worsening plight of his subjects. Having lived, studied and worked within, he knew what were to be done. Mistun
was slowly falling apart, its territory being gradually encroached by outsiders and its mission being intentionally interdicted by competing warlords, vassals and regents. Its royal coffers were practically empty its castle and cottages needed urgent repairs. All these had to stop he swore during his coronation.
But then deja vu! The king was, by inevitablel precedence, held hostage by his own royal household and clannish tradition. He brought in his own army to guard against scheming pretenders yet failed to secure its own borders. He was compelled to surround his court with mere minions to ensure survival rather than defer to wise counsel from competent ministers. Helpless, he surrendered the royal mission to clan pressure which spurred lapses in his royal ministration. Survive he did yes but, alas, at the expense of his subject’s welfare and the kingdom’s condition. Mistun indeed by default was further falling apart.
Before his reign ended, the Supreme Anointer dispatched riders all over the land to look for a worthy successor. Regents at last nominated three local courtiers for selection after a lengthy search. All were apparently qualified to rule the kingdom. But the Anointer surprised the subjects when she installed instead one of her former generals as king of Mistun. Princes, lords and ladies, vassals, tradesmen, servants and commoners
all opposed the enthronement of a monarch from another land, especially one with no foot mark in royal courts like Mistun.
As seasons passed, Richard the new king slowly endeared himself to his subjects. This he accomplished not by unsheathing his sword nor raising his lance but by compassion and sincerity. King Richard the household, reordered the priorities, balanced the coffers, began worthwhile projects, rebuilt the castle and cottages, delegated authority, reformed craftsmanship, kept away intruders and, the noblest of all, cared for the welfare and growth of his subjects. He resolved
to ride out his mission in pursuit of a vision with unrelenting gallop.
Sooner than his enemies suspected, the outsider king was readily welcome in the end and became fondly known to his subjects as Richard the Lionhearted. By sheer example, he restored the code of chivalry among his knights and fair ladies in the round table. By visiting fiefdoms and far-flung lands, and reaching out to local princes and vassals, he rekindled the
dreams and regained the trust of most of Mistun’s lost subjects. And by leading openly in the battlefield, he inspired courage and raised morale among his warriors. Not a single fire-breathing dragon was spared.
Former commoners and other kingdoms took notice of this proceeding renaissance of Mistun. In no time at all, they started to trek back bearing gifts, overly confident presents would be put to good use. Other royalty from afar
offered their wealth and expertise to support the activities in Mistun.
Many more structures were built out of benefactors’ generosity. Plans and programs to further the kingdom’s reclaimed glory were afoot. Pride among the household and commoners returned.
The original doubters and non-believers of Richard the Lionhearted’s anointment steadily turned converts to the outsider’s brand of kingship. At long last, here’s a big dreamer whom they could identify with. And yes, here’s an Arthur with his humaneness, a Midas with his dexterity, a Solomon with his wisdom and an Alexander with his courage rolled into one. Mistun was again in good hands and all was well in the kingdom.
Then one day, the Supreme Anointer suddenly changed her mind. She removed King Richard the Lionhearted without fanfare, interrupting the dreams and aspirations of his
subjects. But true to his character, he bowed to the supreme mandate with grace. He even decreed to all that the incoming king be accorded a welcome a royal deserves. Despite the sorrow of his subjects, the
despair of former commoners and the plea of his knights to fight back, on the appointed day he relinquished his orb and scepter to the new monarch. In a last gesture of magnanimity, amidst vigorous chants of ‘Long live King Richard the Lionhearted’ by his subjects, he proudly raised the arm of his successor.
The trumpets are silent now, the drums mute. A new reign has begun. The old king may be gone yet the lasting legacy that he so toiled to bequeath Mistun
will be forever remembered and treasured by those who lived during that brief shining moment. It is written and it can never be erased.
Greece had its glory, Rome its grandeur. Once upon a time in a faraway land, the kingdom of Mistun had both. And Mistunians almost lived happily ever after.
Sic transit gloria mundi Mistunia! So passes the glorious world of Mistun.
(A former commoner’s view by Bob Lim 01/25/08)