Suffering from goiter, Precy seemed very tired even as it was only 12 noon. Bulatlat later learned from a relative that Precy had just arrived from selling fruits and vegetables in nearby villages. She rode a tricycle driven by her eldest son.
That was their only source of living, Precy later said, “Ito lang ang naiwan sa amin ng aking asawa.” (This was the only thing left to us by my husband.) She related that they buy the goods to sell from a market in Angeles, Pampanga as early as 1 a.m.
When asked if her children could be interviewed, Precy said it was not possible because they were not around. Her eldest son had transferred to a relative in a neighboring village while the other two boys lived with other relatives in the area. Precy would just sit down under the mango tree after she had sold the day’s merchandise. She said she would sometimes go home to her parents who lived in the next village or sleep with her in-laws. “Kung saan na lang ako abutan ng gabi, dun na ako matutulog basta may kasamang kamag-anak,” she said, “Halos hindi na kami magkitang mag-iina.” (I sleep where the night catches me for as long as I am with relatives. My children and I seldom see each other.)
The latest update from the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) shows that the number of killings has reached 730 while 181 persons have been abducted and remain missing.
But the travails of Precy and the wives, relatives and children of those killed and abducted illustrate that the violations do not start and end when the victim is killed or abducted. The pain being felt by the victims’ families goes on for years after the tragedy.
For Joan and Jennifer, their hardships did not end when they left home. Their dire circumstances have forced them to ask relatives and orphanages to care for their children.
Joan’s husband was abducted together with his mother, Tessie. The mother and son are still missing. Their relatives have done the rounds of military camps, hospitals, morgues, funeral parlors and every site where bodies have been found. While searching for her husband, Joan said, she, at first, brought her children along. “Pero nahirapan na rin ako lalo na dito,” (But it was difficult especially with this infant.) she said referring to her eight-month old child.
As a consequence, she had to leave her four-year old child with her sister in Laguna, south of Manila, while her five-year old son now lives with another relative in Valenzuela, north of Manila. The two young kids were about to enter pre-school but it would have to wait till next year.
Jennifer’s six children had to be separated from her as well. She had to leave her three older children with her sister while the other three were brought to an orphanage. Jennifer herself lives in a women’s crisis center where she serves as volunteer.
“Malungkot, mahirap,” (It is lonely and hard.) Jennifer said to describe her family’s situation.
Both Joan and Jennifer admitted they were forced to part with their children because they had lost their means of livelihood after the loss of their husbands.
In a patriarchal society like the Philippines, Raymundo said, the two women’s predicament is common to most poor families in the countryside. The man is usually the breadwinner while the wife is left to take care of the home and the children. “Widows feel alone and disempowered by the loss of their husbands. Ironically, because of their deep love for their children, they are forced to give them away in the hope of giving them a better life,” she said.
However, these women hope that their separation from their children is only temporary. “Magkakasama din kami balang araw, pag may ibubuhay na ako sa kanila,” (We will be together again as a family when I already have the means to support them.) Joan said.
Asked if she could still endure being away from her children, “Mahirap man, pero…,” (It is difficult but…) Jennifer said, before she excused herself for she could no longer hold back her tears. (Bulatlat.com)