The Soldiers Came, and the Classes Stopped

Several others were also beaten up. Soldiers attempted to abduct another resident, but his family protested and asked for their arrest warrant.

After three days, the whole population of Bay-ang packed up their belongings and evacuated to Matalod village. They stayed at the abandoned campus of the Samar National Agricultural School (SNAS) until they returned to Bay-ang in 2007.

A week after they left Bay-ang, some of the residents returned to check the area. The soldiers were gone but their homes had been ransacked; their valuables, farm tools and all their farm animals were gone.

No More Classes

At the SNAS evacuation site, the teacher continued to visit the Bay-ang evacuees and held classes for Grades One and Two. The next school year, in 2006, the teacher did not come anymore.

As a consequence, many Bay-ang youths and a few adults were able to finish only up to Grade Four. Many, especially the young men, opted to stop schooling and just found work near SNAS.

Jennalyn and Ellen stopped going to school when their families evacuated to another province. They enrolled again when they returned to Samar in 2006.

Even when the Bay-ang residents were already at the SNAS, the military continued harassing them. Twice, soldiers held a barangay assembly and accused the Bay-ang and Matalod villagers of being “NPA supporters” and threatened to use force if they did not confess. In the middle of the night, soldiers wearing masks tried to enter the evacuees’ dwellings, either looking for suspected rebel supporters or pretending to be NPA rebels asking for a drink.

Worse, six residents died at the evacuation center. Among them were a newly born child and his mother, and a six-year-old girl who died from typhoid fever. Ludelo suffered from internal bleeding for six months after he was tortured, and eventually incurred typhoid fever and died at age 20.

Before the evacuation, the multi-grade classes were held at the four-by-five meter, wooden-paneled barangay hall. Even as the Bay-ang village returned to its usual buzz in 2007, the former classroom was silent.

Continuous Harassment

On Sept. 13, 2008, soldiers of the 46th IB came again to the village in pursuit of rebels. Nonito Labong, the SK officer who was abducted and tortured in 2005, was in the hut in his farm when the soldiers arrived. Scared, he ran and soldiers shot him down. The army men then took Nonito to the hut and burned it down. They burned two other huts that they passed by. His family found his scarred remains in a shallow grave.

Bay-ang residents again left the village on Sept. 19 and went to the town proper to ask help from San Jorge Mayor Nancy Grey. They stayed for a week at the mayor’s staff house.

The villagers returned to their homes after a week, but not after they got cedulas signed at the back by the 20th IB’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Carlito Vinluan Jr.. This, the officer said, should be presented to soldiers to prove that they really are residents of Bay-ang.

But the cedulas became expired and did not stop soldiers from harassing the villagers in the rice fields in March 2009.

Ellen recalled that she was among the 13 Bay-ang residents who were planting rice when soldiers passed by and stopped them. A soldier who carried a cellphone camera took their pictures without asking permission. They asked questions about NPA rebels then told them to continue with their work.

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