Long after the planting was done, the soldiers detained them and refused to let them go home. Ellen said the soldiers suspected that if they let the residents go, they would snipe the soldiers with their “hidden guns.”
“Many of my companions were already hungry and had stomach ache,” she said.
One soldier even threatened her and refused to believe when she said she knows nothing about the NPA because she was only a student. “Sir, if you do not believe me, you can go to our house and check my school things,” she said to the soldier. The soldier then threatened that if he did not see her in the community, then she must be with the NPA.
Jennalyn had a different story about her encounter with a soldier. A soldier asked for her cellphone number. He offered to send her to school. Jennalyn dismissed the offer as attempts at courtship. “He seemed as if he was courting me,” she said. “I told him I didn’t have a cellphone, but I have a cold,” she joked.
Wishing for a School
“Just because we live in an interior village, soldiers perceive us as NPA rebels,” Ellen said.
There is no electricity in Bay-ang. During leisure hours, youths gather at the barangay shed and tell stories and sing songs. But when the military is around, they just stay at their own homes out of fear.
As a result of the frequent evacuation, Bay-ang residents neglected their rice fields and vegetable and root crops. The children complain of hunger, especially during the lean months after harvest.
“Our livelihood was ruined. We got even poorer. We don’t get to eat three times a day anymore,” a youth said.
Yet Ellen and Jennalyn said they do not want to live in another place, in spite of the hunger, and remoteness of Bay-ang. Given a choice, they would not want to evacuate again to escape another round of military abuses. “I can think clearly here in my own village,” Ellen said.
The two young girls said Bay-ang would be the perfect place if only the army’s atrocities would not happen again and if only the people could cultivate their farms in peace. And, if only they had a school. (Bulatlat.com)