Rain beat down heavily on the wooden houses. The Chico River, murky from downstream wash-off brought about by the season, raged into the night. In the quiet, serene village of Tomiangan, tribe and clan members busied themselves about for the first death anniversary of Rafael Markus Bangit—leader of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Bayan Muna, Binodngan Peoples Organization, and the Malbong tribe in this province.
BY AT BENGWAYAN
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 19, June 17-23, 3007
TABUK, KALINGA (480 kms. north of Manila) – Rain beat down heavily on the wooden houses. The Chico River, murky from downstream wash-off brought about by the season, raged into the night. In the quiet, serene village of Tomiangan, tribe and clan members busied themselves about for the first death anniversary of Rafael Markus Bangit—leader of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Bayan Muna (People First), Binodngan Peoples Organization, and the Malbong tribe in this province.
Lakay Pedro Bangit is both surprised and glad to see the gathering of Makoy’s friends and colleagues from far and near. He receives us warmly inside, with good coffee. Basi is also served to warm and fuel the busy night ahead. He nudges us later for the technical set up for Makoy’s video tribute. We gladly comply.
In the videos, Makoy’s uggayam (Kalinga ballad) is played on incessantly, surrendering hushed voices to silence. The old man’s eyes are firm yet searching as he listens and watches. Agustina Bangit, wife of Makoy and mother to their four children, resigns to a calm demeanor and only she knows her thoughts and feelings.
A day earlier, June 8, Makoy’s family, colleagues from the Kalinga chapter of the CPA, relatives and friends trooped to Echague, Isabela, a three-hour drive from Tabuk, where Makoy and Mrs. Gloria Casuga were killed last year. Prayers were offered and candles lit, and a short program was held with a statement from family and friends vowing to relentlessly pursue justice for Makoy. In indigenous customs, this is carried out to bring home Makoy’s soul. It was a year ago on this day that Makoy was politically assassinated in Echague.
Makoy was also remembered in Baguio City on June 7, where he devoted the last of his precious time and skills in the CPA’s regional office as regional coordinator of the Elders Commission and the Binodngan Peoples Organization (BPO). An ecumenical memorial service was offered at the Lady of the Lourdes Church, with the full support and coordination of the Diocese of Baguio, Association of Women Religious for Baguio and Benguet, HUSTISYA-Northern Luzon, the Regional Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Cordillera (RECCORD), the CPA, and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance. A special tribute from the Knights of Columbus commenced before the service, to honor their brother Makoy, who was active in the Knights (Zubieta Council) in Tabuk.
Back in Tomiangan, Makoy’s grave is cleaned, mountain flowers, wine and a little cooked meat is placed on top. A very worn out streamer, which was already caked in mud, bearing the call “Justice for Makoy, Justice for Alyce, and all victims of state terrorism,” still hangs by the road,. It overlooked Chico, and is visible to all passing vehicles and locals. Pigs are butchered at the back of the house to feed the 200 or so people who would attend the memorial service on June 9.
Salidummay’s Banwar ti Umili (People’s Martyr) is sung with conviction at the end of the mass, after the priest closes with a benediction, by the indigenous youth who offered their voices on this day of remembrance. At the benediction, the priest reminded those who are present to struggle to remain steadfast in faith and principle in these unending times of adversity, under the events by which Rafael Markus Bangit’s life was taken in cowardice.
“Not everyone is beckoned to this calling. It is a calling that is not simple nor easy. But it is a calling that significantly considers the welfare of others,” the priest says.
Makoy’s successors in the CPA-Kalinga leadership are still very much under threat. CPA-Kalinga Chairperson Andres Wailan, and Secretary General Tony Ngayaan joke that being tailed by unregistered motorcycles, with no license plates, is “a common sight” in their daily lives. But such a statement does not merit any laughter, only shudders, as this manifest the unabated, no-holds-barred implementation of the national policy on political killings.
By July 14 next month, the Anti-Terrorism Law or the Human Security Act of 2007 will take effect amid broad protest, international condemnation, inquiries and findings, and the growing number of political and extra-judicial killings. It will be a sordid state of affairs. What is certain is a more bloodied state of human rights. Thus, meriting for efforts in the call to work together to stop the killings.
It has been a year, but Makoy and Mrs. Casuga’s family still yearn for that justice they are denied of. It is still at least a comfort to know that people have not given up. That people who have worked with Makoy, those who met him only once, and those who never met him at all, are one in the long search for justice for him, for their fellow Kalinga who are victims of extra-judicial and political killings.
This sentiment was well expressed in the statements and testimonies from colleagues, friends and family members, who exemplified resoluteness despite the gravity of having lost a member of the family under the circumstances of state terrorism and fascism.
A joint statement by the Cordillera-wide Stop the Killings Network, HUSTISYA-Northern Luzon, CPA and the CHRA calls on the Filipino public, the Cordillera peoples, to rage anew against this state terrorism. It calls on the citizens of other countries, especially those that invest heavily in the country in the form of military aid and development assistance, to join the peoples of other nations and international bodies in condemning the unabated political killings and in demanding that the Philippine government respects the sanctity of life. It tells us too that indeed, this justice we all long for will not be served on a silver platter, thus, the inevitable need for unity and concerted action.
Before heading back home in the midday heat of Tomiangan, we pay our respects to Makoy, agpakada (to bid farewell momentarily), and down a cup of basi on our way down the footpath. The Chico River flows in its gentle murmur below the footbridge. The same river that flows freely today, because of resistance and struggle that Makoy was largely a part of in his youth. It tells us too that like a river, justice will find its way and come to, alongside the unrelenting struggle for our life and human rights. Northern Dispatch / Posted by(Bulatlat.com)