BAGUIO CITY (Apr. 25) — Rice fields were left untended, farm animals went astray in the pasture and could not be found one month after farmers in the Dilong Valley in Tubo, Abra could not leave their homes for the farms due to a military imposition following a post-lent five-day bombing.
“Nalpasen ti tiempo ti panagarado, nabaybay-an dagiti talon,” (The time to plow the rice fields has passed, the fields are left idle) an Abrenian told this journalist. He said even the honey were not gathered when these were due.
His brood and 16 other families in a Dilong Valley barangay could now return to the rice fields and the pasture, but somehow they still had to recollect their shattered dreams for a peaceful life in the valley.
One month of terror has ended when the government troops left in early April.
Pananuman folk have finally been left behind by the army, who, they said, gave them many forms of ordeal during the month-long ground and air assault of the communities in what government troops called “draining the ocean to get the fishes.”
“Makaruruar kamin ta awanen dagiti army,” (We are free to go out of the community because the army has left) a local elder from Pananuman told Nordis in a phone interview Sunday evening. He was referring to the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, led by a certain Col. James Dillan, which arrived on March 2 in the Dilong Valley in Tubo, Abra, which includes four more communities aside from Pananuman.
Fear and anxiety still linger among the local folk of Pananuman and nearby Tubtuba, also a part of the Dilong Valley, according to Jackson Buyagan, 51, a member of the Lupong Tagapamayapa (Peace Council) of Pananuman.
Two elderly women, fainted due to extreme kigtot (fear) resulting from the bombings coupled with the firing of mortar and cannons on the ground.
“Bayat nga agtintinnag ti bomba ti eroplano, agputputok met ti mortar ken kanyon,” (While the airplane dropped bombs, mortar and cannons were fired) Buyagan said. He said this went on daily for five days from March 23 to 27. “Pirmi ti kigtot ken buteng mi isunga awanen ti matmaturog iti rabii kadagidiay nga aldaw,” (The people’s fear and fright was so great that no one seemed to sleep then) he narrated.
Maria, his 48-year-old wife and their neighbor Juliet Badday, 45, fainted when they heard the bombings. They fear for the community. Along with the children, women feared for their lives. They did not mind that the fields were left untended and the carabaos left astray. They just hoped the ordeal would end soon.
Mariano Galisen, in his late 50’s, is not as lucky as his neighbors. He heeded for the away (meadows) intending to look after his farm animals. He was old, Buyagan said, and the soldiers would have pity on him. But he was wrong. He could have lived after he fell on a ravine in the forest had the soldiers allowed his neighbors to follow suit. Nine days after he went into the woods, his his neighbors found his body already decomposing.
“Impapilitna a napan idiay umana idiay away. Mabalin a napan na kinita didiay pagalaan ti diru ket sinabatna dagiti iyukan ket timmaray ngem natinnag iti derraas,” (He asserted to go to the fields deep in the forest. He might have visited the beehives to gather honey but he might have hit the bees and he ran but fell on the ravine.) Buyagan theorized, saying, the other men could have seen him alive had they been allowed by the soldiers to go into the woods to gather honey.
“Isu laeng ti pagalaan mi’t makan nu tiempo ti kalgaw,” (It is the only source of income in summer) Buyagan said.
The army ground and air operations was meant to look for the rebels, according to local folk who attended a meeting conducted by the army. They said they found firearms, reading materials and CD’s allegedly belonging to the New People’s Army (NPA). They bombed the forests and the fields to flash out the guerrillas.
They searched people’s houses and took even the outdated VHF radio system that the barangay officials use to communicate with their counterparts in the other barangays. Abandoned houses were not spared. Soldiers went inside through the windows, a woman told this reporter.
Worse, they butchered farm animals considered beast of burden in this faming communities. The soldiers reportedly took the meat, leaving the head and the carcass in the forest.
Another woman said when the soldiers have left, residents found a decaying cow head in the forest.
After they have sown terror among village residents, they left with nothing but the people’s distrust in the government.
As Buyagan said, there is only one thing they want the government to hear: That they are also human beings who should be treated as humans.
Pananuman, a sitio in Tubtuba is home to some 100 villagers, comprising only of 17 households.
Meanwhile, the Tubo delegation to the 24th Cordillera Day in Baay-Licuan, also in Abra, received an overwhelming applause for their courage. # Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS