Three Poems for Rebelyn Pitao


By Katrina Macapagal

“It is not the policy of the military to involve the family or children of the rebels in our fight. We are open for investigation and we will cooperate with any investigation regarding this.”

— Maj. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, Eastern Mindanao Command chief, in response to the abduction of Rebelyn Pitao

according to reports,
this might be the worst summer yet.
expect that the temperature will rise to 40 degrees
from this month onwards. the secretary of health
has given a familiar seasonal warning:
we must protect ourselves
from the scorching sun. never step outside
without a hat or umbrella, or sunblock SPF 30, preferably.
or don’t go out at all.
most of us nod in agreement, we stay inside our homes,
exclaim a few profanities
at this goddamn weather. we fan ourselves and drink coke
for comfort, hoping that these little acts will help
remove the sticky sweat on our brown, burning skins.

a song on the radio celebrates the advent
of this warm season. but in this country
there’s no such thing
as a gentle summer breeze.
the asphalt streets angrily spout steam,
babies wail like sirens from police cars
and firetrucks, women wipe their brows while cooking
in front of the furnace while men sit and light cigarettes
one after another. everywhere there is restlessness, even as some stay still
and others roam about, all looking
for shade, shelter, salvation.
others look to the heavens and pray, good lord,
please send a gust of wind
or a drop of rain.

but summer brings no good news, only humidity.
in this country there’s no such thing as a gentle summer breeze,
only raging winds that carry stories
of cold-blooded murders from the south, like that of a young woman,
who was consumed by the heat. under the sun she stood,
without hat or umbrella, a teacher carrying her father’s name
that her students knew so well.
she beamed and embraced the warmth which signals
the beginning of a welcome break
from unfinished lesson plans and unchecked tests.
but she didn’t know that her break will last
for all summers after this one.

this summer we swelter and we melt, we feel
as though the blood in our veins
will reach a hundred degrees.
and we are reminded of bullets and heat that go off
from the fire of a warm gun. this summer
we remain alive.
we sweat because we are alive. only
the dead do not sweat.
we mourn and weep
for the woman who wasn’t warned
that this would be the worst summer yet.


By Ina Stuart Santiago

Now another young woman has fallen victim to state terror. Twenty-year-old Rebelyn Pitao had just embarked on a career as a teacher. But unlike other eager, aspiring mentors, Rebelyn happened to be the daughter of “Kumander Parago”, legendary NPA leader operating in Southern Mindanao. This was her only crime.

— Carol Pagaduan Araullo, 12 Mar 2009.

She must have thought otherwise: she lived for
service. In the smell and dirt of the anger that
fills the spaces of her life-work. In a rundown
structure, knowledge is secondary, survival is to
count one-ten-thirty dead children walking,
a forgotten space, murdered by no memories.

She must have known: many others have died before
her. Father’s principles were named rebellious,
terrorist, evil. he lives through many deaths, lives
in the face of impending doom. the hands of the State
imprison him. he fights and liberates. he lives and dies
through every cold moonless night: of war.

She must have known: the dangers were present. She
had Uncle murdered, a Brother survive. The enemy is
clear: the government refuses to see speak listen,
the president eludes question, men in uniform lose
in the contest of power propriety pride peace. They
will kill, in the name of their own lives.

She must have known: after a full day of teaching,
that tricycle ride, the van that blocks their way. Her
memory must have served her well: of Father and
Brother and Uncle. She must have thought: I am but
another Pitao, and nothing else. Another civilian
made enemy without knowing it.

She must have known: and screamed as much as she
could, looked her abusers in the eye, as they tied her
down, taped her mouth. She must have looked at them
with pity: they were making a fool of themselves. She
must have thought: to call them rabid dogs, is an injustice
to animals. To name them is to give them meaning. When

She must have thought: they are nothing. But those
who will pay. For blood, hers and of those before her.
She must have thought: the day of reckoning will
come. It is clear. It is real. It is mine.


By Alexander Martin Remollino

They made her go a thousand times through hell on earth
before making her disappear
from the face of the earth.
And her only sin was this:
that she had a father who refused to sleep
in this night of our people.

(Posted by Bulatlat)

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