Kasiyana, a word from the Kankana-ey language in the Cordillera region, means “we shall overcome.”
By VENMAR CECILLE
MANILA – Seven months after Dexter Capuyan and Gene Jamil “Bazoo” De Jesus disappeared, family, friends, and colleagues are still determined to find them as they renew their commitment and enjoin others in their search.
Last December 1, the Task Force Surface Dexter and Bazoo-National Capital Region was able to gather around 100 individuals who expressed their solidarity with the family through performances in an art jam titled “Ang Kasiyana: Sining para sa Muling Pagkapiling”.
“My brother would have loved to be here tonight. He is the singer of the family,” said Eli Capuyan.
He said that Dexter was a choir member in high school and college.
“My heart remains heavy each day. However, seeing the support from our friends, colleagues and even strangers searching for justice, hope continues to live within me,” Capuyan said.
Idda De Jesus-Tiangco expressed the same hope in their search for his brother Bazoo.
“In those seven months, we wonder what would be his reaction to all the things that happened. I no longer teach and his nephew is now studying. He has these little quirks that make us miss him more,” Tiangco said.
She said that the stories of people about her brother strengthened her resolve to find him. “Every action, we try to fight with all we have. We cannot forgive and we cannot forget. […] We still feel that everyone is with us – that no one left us. How do we deal with pain and grief with all the people who share the same heart?”
The art of persistence
Gabrielle “Chuwaley” Capuyan, daughter of Dexter, read a poem that expressed her longing for her father. “Your love lingers even in your absence,” a line from her poem reads.
This poem and other literary pieces by Kapuyan can be read in the Kasiyana magazine, launched during the solidarity night. These works expressed solidarity not only for Dexter and Bazoo but also for all other victims of enforced or involuntary disappearances.
“These pieces hope to reach their families and loved ones, for the people who continue to wait and search for the disappeared, for the people who look forward to a society that no longer permits enforced disappearances, and for every one of us,” the magazine’s foreword reads.
Raven Desposado of Tignayan ti Agtutubo ti Kordilyera para iti Demokrasya ken Rang-ay (TAKDER), a Cordillera youth movement, said that these attacks on indigenous peoples rights activists and Cordillera people are not new. “There is the ongoing case of James Balao who was abducted in the early 2000s. Leaders from the Cordillera Peoples Alliance continue to suffer from the arbitrary terrorist designation of the Anti-Terror Law.”
Among the recent cases he cited was the Northern Luzon 7 where activists and community organizers in the Cordillera region became victims of trumped-up charges of rebellion. They were accused of being involved in an ambush by New People’s Army guerillas who allegedly killed two government soldiers in Malibcong, Abra in October 2022.
Despite the vilification efforts, Judge Corpuz Alzate of the Regional Trial Court Branch 2 granted on May 11 the motion of the seven activists that the charges against them be voided and all warrants against them quashed due to lack of probable cause.
Aside from the ongoing attacks on human rights defenders, the Cordillera region is also beset with indiscriminate bombings and military encampments in civilian spaces, particularly in Baggao, Cagayan and Gawaan, Kalinga.
“Despite all these attacks, we have never forfeited our work, especially in serving the indigenous communities of Cordillera. We also continue to push for more efforts to finally see our colleagues,” Desposado said.