Ina Dolores, at age 76, has proven that age need not be a limit to becoming a woman human rights defender. She has proven that an Igorot woman of Hungduan Ifugao, a mother, a grandmother can have the courage to fight against state oppression not just for the benefit of her own children but for others as well.
Last December 10, during the celebration of the International Human Rights Day, Ina Dolores, marched with hundreds of Igorots calling for all Kaigorotan to rise up against tyranny.
In her speech during the rally, she said; “Ita nga bumakbaket akon ket tuloy-tuloy pay laeng ti harassment ken violations kanya tayo nga taga Cordillera. Idi 1972, naideklara ni Marcos ti Martial Law ket inggana itatta, tuloy-tuloy pay laeng ti Martial Law ngem nakarkaro pay itta.” (Even now that I am older, the harassment and violations against the Cordillera people continues. In 1972, Marcos declared Martial law and until now we still experience martial law and our situation now is very much worst.”
Ina Dolores is one of the women leaders of Innabuyog. She is a founding member of the Ub-ubbon di Binababai ad Ifugao (UBI), the provincial chapter of Innabuyog in Ifugao.
“Oh Freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me. And before I’ll be a slave and be buried in my grave, I will fight for my right to be free.”
Every time, Ina Dolores speaks in an activity, she makes sure to share this verse especially among the younger generation. She has yearned for freedom since she was a child. She and her community in Hungduan experienced state fascism since Martial Law. In the 70’s, the Philippine constabulary would conduct combat operations in their village. There were many times when they had to evacuate from their homes because government soldiers would conduct pursuit operations against the New Peoples Army (NPA). In the evacuation centers where there was lack of water and food supplies, she said that the community including her children would suffer from outbreaks of diseases.
Atrocities committed by government military forces in their community had worsened in the 80’s. She recalls that one villager was tortured before being killed and two other villagers including a woman were gunned down in cold blood. Ina Dolores has witnessed her village including the surrounding forest bombed.
Towards the end of Martial Law, Ina Dolores narrated that she, with other women from their village had to contend with harassment and intimidation from state soldiers. Many among them were interrogated and were forced to admit that they were feeding the NPA. She always stood her ground. She told them that if she feeds the NPA, it is because they are humans too. She further asserted that anybody hungry who passes by her home will be given food and she would do the same to them, the government soldiers if they come to her home.
Time and again, Ina Dolores would say that Martial Law may have ended but their situation remains the same. Their villages are still militarized. People are still suffering from poverty. Many remain poor and still cannot afford to send their children to school or have their sick family members treated properly.
“We are not yet free”, Ina Dolores stressed. This is why she will fight for her rights and people’s rights until the end. She then challenged the youth to be critical and never be silent even when faced by adversities.
“Freedom will only be achieved when power is in the hands of the oppressed majority and not in the hands of the few. This will be achieved only when we continue to rise and break out from the bondage of oppression,” she said.
Ina Dolores is a living example of an exemplary Igorot woman, a mother and human rights defender who serves as an inspiration for other women to carry on.
At present, members of Innabuyog, and many women human rights defenders (WHRD) are again being persecuted by the state. Rachel Mariano, Joanne Villanueva, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Sherry Mae Soledad, Asia Isabella Gepte, Teresa Forag, Shirley Ann Angiwot and Rina Libongen are just a few of these women. Many among them are mothers who have committed their lives to fight for the rights and future of their children and the children of others. Like Ina Dolores, they suffer from harassment and are being vilified by the state and its security forces. But like Ina Dolores, they stay strong and committed to continue the fight against the present tyrannical rule.
Sherry Mae, one of the target WHRD gives a strong testimony:
“Do I not fear for my life and my family’s? I definitely do. Just as I fear for the many lives of people who are being violated every single day when they do not have food to put on their tables, or no health facilities, medicine or doctors they can turn to whenever someone gets sick, or no accessible schools they can send their children to.
I am an activist. A human rights defender. I am very well aware of the risks that I face and the sacrifices I and my family have yet to endure because of this. But I choose to carry on. Because I have already witnessed so much injustices in the system, and I want to contribute to changing that. I cannot simply turn my back from the facts that many have already sacrificed ahead of us for this cause. Like them, I only wanted to serve the masses and give the future generation the life that they deserve, my young children included.”
As long as the system that perpetuates abuse and oppression remains, mothers have always and will always find the courage to protect their children. And many women have been and will always be in the forefronts of the struggle for human rights and for social transformation. # nordis.net