I seldom talk about this. Because this was in the past. And you know, for a young mind, it was scary to having go through such experiences. As much as possible, I do not want to remember them. But I think I need to share them so that those who do not understand will hopefully get an inkling of how it is to live in fear.
When I was in Grade 2, the whole family moved to Davao Oriental for greener pastures. (Please note that this was almost 40 years ago.) My father continued being a butcher there, which is what he knows best. His meager income was not enough, so being the eldest daughter, I had to help earn more to live. But well, this story isn’t about that. (Ask me about working hard at a young age when we meet and I will tell you all about that.) I only mentioned it because I remember, despite our poorness and all the hardships, my sisters and I had good memories of growing up.
Except when the insurgents would attack nearby and we hear the shots go off. The description we use for that is – “encounter”. It was a normal thing when we were growing up. The NPA had an encounter with the military. Or a Muslim Extremist group had an encounter with the military. Hence, the exchange of bullets.
I kept all these at the farthest back of my mind because no one should ever go through something like that. You wake up in the middle of the night, thinking there was thunder. Only to realize later on that the insurgents used M-79 to attack a nearby detachment (walking distance from our house). That’s what we were told. Supposedly that’s a gun with bullets as big as a small can. Never saw them. Never wanted to. For fear that they might come back and we get included in the fight.
The back of our house had a hole where we can hide in times like those. We called that “paksol.” The hole, that is. That was a normal thing too.
There was one time – we were so scared to move so we just hid under our bamboo bed. I remember my sisters crying. And Pearlie, the one next to me said, should we jump in the window? Mama shouted are you crazy? The fall will kill you, not the bullets. This was at the 2nd house we rented, located on the 2nd floor. The people renting at the ground floor became friends and were hitting the ceiling/floor with a long wood to coordinate with us. They wanted us to go down. Being on top when bullets were flying everywhere, isn’t that safe after all.
But well, when you do not have much choice, life continues as usual after the said encounters. You adjust to the situation. And you pray that someday you rise above that.
Fast forward to when we moved back to Davao City when I was in 2nd year High School. We rented a small shanty in Agdao. Back then it was called “Nicaragdao”. Nicarag means tremble. Agdao was nicknamed as such because it was a killing field then.
I remember the “zonings” , the act where all men in the neighborhood were checked and counted. Do you know how it feels when you have to pray so hard that your papa will be spared from being harmed everytime a zoning is done? You just don’t know what will happen next. You can be reported as one of the sparrows (the snipers or something like that) and then you get to be put in jail. Or worst, killed.
Papa remained to be a butcher. Until, his cousin hired him to be a part of a crew, where travel to Cotabato , General Santos and nearby areas was a necessity. This is when they look for livestock.
Several times, they got shot at by Muslim bandits, because they refused to stop in their check points. Yes, terrorists checkpoints aren’t new. That’s a normal thing in the past in some parts of Mindanao. When you stop, you get robbed. So you avoid them at all cost. At least that’s what my father and the rest of the crew did. They had money with them you see. And when you lose that, the business stops and you lose your job too.
So their driver would “fly” according to papa to avoid the bullets hurled at them. I do not know how they lived through those times. But they did. Thank God.
During this time, I became a fan of the now President Rodrigo Duterte. I heard him give a speech when I was in high school. He was running for Mayor of Davao City then. He promised to clean up Agdao and the rest of Davao City. It took him years but he did it.
Over the years, the peace and order situation all over Mindanao became better. When you go to Davao Oriental, we have a Welcome Center now. A museum too. Which showcases our province’s beautiful spots , culture and heritage.
Compostela Valley , Bukidnon , General Santos City and Cagayan De Oro became tourist spots. And business hubs as well.
Except for the areas where Muslim extremists thrive. People are scared to venture there. If they do, they make sure that traveling is done during day time. Have you ever seen children (12years old and above) carrying rifles? I have. We were selling land to the Banana Plantation workers in the ARMM area one day. And stupid me, I did not realize that we were already in a dangerous zone. So it came as a shock when I saw those kids. Scary , yes. But we made a huge sale that day. Obviously people were looking for options, a safer place where they can move to.
Then 2017 came. The Mayor I admired, who is now the President of the Philippines, had to declare Martial Law for 60 days in Mindanao. Because a new breed of extremists who pledged to become a part of ISIS and are waving ISIS flags, need to be stopped at all cost.
The Marawi incident isn’t new to us. The fight, the senseless killings, the fear… These are not new to us. I know how the victims feel because I lived through it. Maybe not as bad , but the emotional trauma is the same.
Over the years, our City got bombed several times. People died. We cried. But we always stand up. That’s what a real Mindanaoan does. You strive to be stronger.
The present Martial Law does not bother us. At all. In fact, we love the presence of our military and police. Davao Gulf is guarded by Coast Guards. The armies are fighting, really fighting the insurgents and terrorists. With the intention of finally ending these decades of war. Maybe it will end. Maybe not. But at least our present government is doing something about it.
Davaoenos are a different breed. We had a father who properly trained us for something like this. He has instilled discipline in us. We have developed resiliency over the years. We rise up when needed.
I hope and pray that the Philippines will have peace. The enemies are financing any war they can think of to stop our President from doing what he does best, protect and serve the Filipinos. But knowing him, he will fight head on.
So do we.
To those who have never lived in Mindanao. Just shut up.
Your opinion maybe important to you. But unless you have gone through what we have went through, your crappy words do not matter to us.
Try hiding in a paksol. Try pulling your children, any family member to safety (under the bed/anywhere) so you won’t get hit by stray bullets, or better yet – try living in Marawi or any place in Mindanao where there’s a war and then get back to us after you experience that.
To those who are trying to understand what is going on. Thank you for trying. Rest assured, we are fine. It is business as usual for our city. It is safe and peaceful too. Our government is doing its best to protect the people. It is about time for these atrocities to end. We have suffered long enough. Forty years or so is more than enough. We need a break.
To the Human Rights group, I am all for helping. But if you really care, don’t the victims matter more than the rights of those who burn houses, chop off people’s heads, drug dealers, etc?
In a few years, I will be 50. That’s half a century. 🙂 I hope that I will wake up one day and see a richer and better Philippines.
We can only have that though, if we have good peace and order situation. Davao City grew from a slump to a billion dollar haven because our Mayor ensured that there is peace and order.
Mindanao , one day, will become one. One step at a time.
And if the rest of the Philippines will get their act together, then maybe one day, the Filipinos will have a passport that is at par with any western countries.
We have that chance now. So to all the Filipinos out there, help our country, however way you can. Do not stand in the way of progress. Even if you hate the President. We only have one country. Let us love the Philippines , more than loving the politicians.
Let us all be Filipinos.