LIANGA, Surigao del Sur – After a year, burnt and scattered school materials, dilapidated houses,and untended farms greeted hundreds of Lumads upon their return in Sitio Han-ayan a village in Lianga town Surigao del Sur province on September 3, Saturday.
Children were running all over the place of excitement, while the adults proceeded to their houses after a year of living inside the Sports Complex in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.
Jose Campos chairnan of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod (Mapasu, a community organization)
recalled how their community looked like before they left.
“Hinlo man jud ni unya mga butang naa sa sulod (This is really clean and the things are inside [the houses],” Campos said.
Campos said that they left most of their things as they could not bring it when they evacuated last September 1, 2015. On that day, community members of Sitio Han-ayan of Barangay Diatagon fled their villages after three of their leaders were killed by a paramilitary group called the Magahat Bagani.
School director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultral Development (ALCADEV) Emerito Samarca, then chairman of Mapasu Dionel Campos, and Datu Bello Sinzo were executed early in the morning in front of school teachers, children, and community residents.
Samarca was found lying on the floor of his office with his throat silt and his stomach stabbed, Bello and Campos were killed at Km. 16, a few meters away from Sitio Han-ayan, with gunshots.
Community members left their villages over the threat of the Magahat-Bagani to be killed if they will still stay after two days. They sought refuge to the provincial capital of Surigao del Sur in Tandaga City and occupied the Sports Complex.
The community was then occupied by soldiers.
The 75th Infantry Battalion Commander Col. Isidro Purisima told the Lumads during a ceremony said, “we are here to secure the community” after the September 1, 2015 incident.
The troops left the community on September 2, Friday in the afternoon hours after the “turnover ceremony”.
A year after
Yenyela G. Ondayong, a 4th year high school student of Alcadev said that when they arrived, they immediately went to their school.
Ondayong said she felt sad when she first saw the building where the faculty room is, where Samarca was killed.
“It is a painful to see the place where we were gathered [by the Magahat] where Tatay Onil and Tatay Bello were killed,” she added.
Ondayong said that they are thankful and hopeful to see again their land and their school that was built by their slain leaders.
“Even though we had headache due to the heat and we are sweaty, our minds are motivated,” she said.
“We were really happy that we are able to step on the grounds of our community, that we can already see our school, our dorm, and faculty,” she added.
She said they are also glad that they are no longer seeing military troops but instead the presence of their teachers.
Missing flagpole, scattered books
On their way to their school grounds, the children found their flagpole missing. Grasses were all over the pathwalk, and their school materials were all scattered.
Both students and teachers and with the help of support groups, started the cleaning of classrooms and throwing damaged school materials.
“Our dorm was also messy, but we were glad that it was not destroyed,” Ondayong said.
On September 2, Friday, Campos, together with other leaders of support groups made an ocular visit to their community.
He said the housewares and the farm animals of the Lumad were already missing. Some houses were already dilapidated with almost bare left with no walls, just the basement and roof left.
Michelle Campos, daughter of Dionel Campos, expressed her dismay on what happened to their house and the community after a year of being ‘protected’ by the military.
“It was like they make our house as their playground,” she said, adding that their “roof already had holes of gunshots.”
“Even our walls are damaged,” She added.
Despite the happiness that Michelle and others felt on their return to their homes, they could not still hide the sad memories that led them to fleeing the community.
She recalled the happy memories, as she described, before the bloody incident on September 1, 2015.
“Back in the days, it was clean here, prosper and abundant,” She said.
“It is all coming back to my mind, the times when we were free from fear,” she added.
Michelle said that back then, their house and the small store in front of them was where teenagers like her have chit-chats, and children can freely play wherever even in the forest looking for fruits.
“We were all happy because we were contented with what we have,” she recalled.
For Jun, a farmer living in Purok 9 for 20 years said that it was not his first time to evacuate, but this was his “longest” time away from their community.
Upon his arrival at their community, Tatay Jun helped in clearing out grasses from their lawns.
“The house could be hardly seen, there are even rats inside,” he said.
Jun admitted that he is not even sure how long would it take for them to clean rehabilitate their community.
Rebuilding hopes, homes
Michelle said upon their return to their communities, they still feel uneasy knowing that the suspects of the killings of their leaders remain scot-free, even with an arrest warant.
On September 8, 2015, criminal charges were filed against Marcos Bocales, Marcial Belandrez and Kalpet Egua before the Surigao del Sur prosecutor office. The three reportedly led the attack in the KM.16 and Sitio han-ayan at Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town.
Michelle said that even though authorities had already acted on their case, “we could not see their sincerity for it has been a year, yet even the nails of the criminals are not shown to us.”
But she said their return is “the first step on achieve justice.”
“We will continue to struggle on the search of the justice for us,” Michelle said.
For the community to recover, Campos admitted that it would take them a long time to rebuild it.
He said that they are going to resume the classes as long as the books, and classrooms can be used.
“We held our classes in the oval (Tandag Sports Complex), we can do it now that we are back,” he said.
He said that it will take a year to recover their food source as most of their farms were left unattended for so long. The group is calling for support from various groups to provide them farm tools and seedlings of food crops. (davaotoday.com)