“All we want is for our children to know how to read, write and have a better life ahead of them. The Lumad took a stand to protect the environment and give our children education but they don’t want us to do that. The government and the capitalists want us to remain uneducated, primitive and weak.”
By MARK Z. SALUDES
TANDAG, Surigao del Sur – She was steady. She was subtle, holding her bag on her lap while waiting for the camera to roll. It was her first time to talk to a media crew with filming gears. It was her first time to talk about what really happened on the 1st of September to people she even doesn’t know. It was her first time to talk about Lumad culture and beliefs without her husband. She is Jocelyn Campos.
She is the widow of Dionel Campos, one of the three Lumad who were allegedly killed by paramilitary groups in Diatagon Village in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. She was not in the village when it happened. She was working on something that day. “Nadatnan ko na lang na nakahandusay ang asawa ko, butas na ang ulo at umaagos na ang dugo niya sa lupa,” (When I arrived, my husband was already lifeless, with a hole in his head and blood flowing in the dirt.) she said.
“Gusto nilang patayin ang mga Lumad, uubusin nila ang mga lider para matakot ang lahat. Wala naman kaming ibang gusto kundi alagaan ang lupang ninuno. Bakit kailangang gawin nila iyon sa asawa ko?”
(They want to kill all Lumad; they intend to execute all our leaders to frighten everybody. All we want is to take care of our ancestral land. Why did they do this to my husband?)
According to Jocelyn, her husband performed his duties as one of the leaders of their village. One of their beliefs as Lumad is to protect the environment as the primary source of their food and livelihood. “Ang buhay namin nasa bundok, doon kami magtatanim para meron kaming makakain at ikakabuhay. Ilang beses na kaming nag-ii bakwit dahil lagi kaming nahaharas. Dahil gusto nilang umalis kami sa lugar namin.” (Our lives are in the mountains; we plant crops for our food. We had to evacuate several times already because of harassments. They want us to leave our community.), she said.
Pursuit of a better life
“We maybe primitive but we are not backward,” Jocelyn said in Visayan language. She was talking about how the Lumad dedicate their lives to protect ‘Lupang Ninuno’ (ancestral land). She admitted that the root of this tragedy was because her husband chose to fight for their clan’s interest, for their ancestral land. She told this reporter that a true Lumad is a protector of nature, vanguard of the mountains and army of the environment.
“We know that businessmen and capitalists have a huge interest in our lands. They want to pursue mining and logging but we, the Lumad don’t want mining operations in our areas. We know the bad things that it will bring. Andap Valley is rich, they want us to vacant the complex and make way for the entry of large scale mining,” said Jocelyn in Visaya.
Andap Valley is a complex covering mountains areas of Marihatag, San Miguel, San Agustin, Tago, Cagwait and Lianga in Surigao del Sur. Jocelyn said they witnessed how mining destroyed Claver in Surigao del Norte.
She believed that the capitalists and mining companies are using the government to suppress them. Utilizing the AFP and its paramilitary groups as private armies, she said these capitalists and the Philippine government are conniving to kill the people.
“The government is not taking action to give justice to the victims of the killings. There is no government… there is no justice. We are looking for the real government, for real justice. It is painful for me,” she said.
“I have been asking for so long: Why do poor people remain poor and why do rich people become even richer? Is it because they have money and we have nothing? We are always caught in the cross fire. Even in education, we are discriminated against. The Lumad community strived hard to put up a school, but what did they do? They are accusing us of supporting the NPA, they are accusing us of using the school as training ground for communists,” Jocelyn added.
Children in the cross fire
Jocelyn said her husband dreamed of a better future for their kids and the rest of the Lumad children in their community. Dionel tried hard to fulfill that dream and when the time came that a school was built for their children, he knew it would change their lives.
“All we want is for our children to know how to read, write and have a better life ahead of them. The Lumad took a stand to protect the environment and give our children education but they don’t want us to do that. The government and the capitalists want us to remain uneducated, primitive and weak,” Jocelyn said.
The Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) has no choice but to transfer and resume its classes at the Surigao Sports Complex in Tandag, Surigao del Sur, which serves as the evacuation center for more than 3,000 Lumad who fled their villages.
“Whenever we vacate our village and live in evacuation centers like this the most affected are the kids and their education. It was a relief when ALCADEV decided to continue classes,” Jocelyn added.
Eufemia Cullamat, 55 years old and niece of the slain Datu Bello Sinzo said evacuations are common for them. There were large groups of Manobos who vacated their villages in 2005 and 2009 because of harassments and a killing incident.
“We are not used to this and we don’t want our children to grow with fear. We want to go back to our communities but it will only happen if the government will disarm its paramilitary groups,” Cullamat said in her native tongue.
We are not NPAs
Sitting on a pile of firewood, Jocelyn and her two kids patiently wait for their turn during the distribution of food from different food aid providers. Suppressing a teary eye, Jocelyn told this reporter that it hurts so much every time she hears people especially in the government and the military tagging them as Reds.
“We are not NPAs, we have no firearms. We just want a normal and peaceful life. Lumad don’t want conflicts nor taking up arms. My husband died serving his people in a peaceful way. If we are communists or supporters of NPA, we will not be here. We will be in the mountains or in their doorsteps,” said Jocelyn.
She was not sure how long they could cope with these changes. She admitted that until now, she doesn’t know what to do but she believes in the Lumad and the community’s unity. “I am not sure what will happen next, but I trust my people as my husband trusted them. They will protect us,” Jocelyn concluded.