seeing is believing episode 1: autumn 2002 episode .
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March 29th, 2005

Went to Tacurong City yesterday. The place is just an hour away from home by public transport. The reason? A lady columnist of a local paper was gunned down evening of 24 March.

Maria Garcia Esperat, 45, mother of four, a chemist by profession and former government employee, had been exposing massive corruption within the bureaucracy, including a high-ranking police official. Through her effort several cases were filed against public officials who she believed were involved with massive graft. Warning had not been lacking from friends and relatives. As a matter of fact, the crusade she started merited the deployment of 2 policemen as security.

But it was Holy Week. So she told her guards to be home with their families. Unknown to her, she had been cased for a week by look-outs of a hired professional assassin. At 7:30 PM of Good Thursday, the gunman walked straight to her living room where she was seated with her youngest, a10-year old son. The murderer greeted her casually, drew a .45 caliber pistol and, Bang!, shot her in the face at close range. Another life ended.

Well, this is Philippines, one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Second, actually, by a latest survey. Well, this is Philippines, again, second in the number of journalists killed worldwide, second only to Iraq. Had it not been for Bush war of aggression in Iraq, the Philippines is first!!! Thanks and no thanks, George W. Bush.

What does this make as regards to the plight of indigenous peoples who are fighting the same evils as those that Marlene fought? Looking at Marlenes home and family, shes better off than any tribe member. She has influence, too. But there she was, an easy prey of a brutality that merits the indignation of a sane society. And the tribe members? Well


March 24th, 2005

Have sent text messages requesting Datu Makapukaw for updates. His line has been silent for more than a week now. I'm sure nothing bad had happened to him. The datu had passed through many dangerous situations inthe past and has learned well how to keep himself safe.

So far, this I know: the arson, strafing and levelling of farmlands that were published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer had momentarily stopped. Thanks to the urgent letters of appeal sent by concerned individuals and groups.

But atrocities had moved to another area, resulting to another death of a tribe member last March 4. This, too, we also know so far: current attempts to drive out indigenous peoples from their lands is a consequence of the government's thrust to promote export crops such as pineapple and bananas. This is happening not only in Bukidnon but also in other areas in Mindanao.

I could only wonder how people would relish eating bananas and pineapples that may have been tainted with the blood of peasants and indigenous peoples who were driven out of their lands to raise those crops.


March 11th, 2005

Received another text message from Datu Makapukaw: "Kuya(meaning elder brother) Joey, one of DatU Diego Alim's men, Maximo Saplina, Jr. was shot to death. He washit twice in the body, presumably with a Garand rifle, 11 in the evening of March 4." Datu Makapukaw said he learned of the incident later and was unable to shoot in video the victim as he had been buried.

Datu Alim is the chairperson of SMTA, a member of the NAKAMATA coalition. They believe the suspects are thesame as those who perpetrated the atrocities in Don Carlos last December and January.

Will write more as soon as data comes in.


February 24th, 2005

Its getting rough once more for NAKAMATA. New assaults commenced last December and continues to date. Please open the following to know more: http://news.inq7.net/nation/index.php?index=1&col=&story_id=26706 and http://news.inq7.net/regions/index.php?index=1&story_id=27423 Above this is the possibility of two leaders, Datu Makapukaw and Datu Johnny getting arrested soon. Their "crime?": arresting and confiscating a chainsaw used in illegal logging within their ancestral domain. A rich local businessman who, I was told, has the support of some of the towns top elective officials, owns the chainsaw.


November 2nd, 2004

I was busy on a research paper a few days back when I received a text message from Jonie Cul-om stating that the NAGTIMMMA area is about to be bulldozed. Jonie is the guy in the SIB film shooting with the WITNESS camera the child survivor in the ambush which killed his own father. Jonie was asking for the camera which at that time was in another NAKAMATA area. NAGTIMMMA is one of the members of the NAKAMATA coalition - a member which had suffered the most number of casualties in while asserting their land claim. I immediately requested Datu Makapukaw to deliver the camera to Jonie, and also check on the area. The following day, he sent a message that some 80 hectares of land had been bulldozed to give way to a pineapple plantation for Del Monte. The dwelling units of the tribe nearby will soon follow, he said. He added later that one had been killed, not saying who is responsible. Knowing the history of the area, I have the feeling that the incident is related to the recent bulldozing and the impending demolition of tribal houses. And this may trigger more retaliatory killings... There has been no further update as to this date.


November 25th, 2003

I'm back in Mindanao now. The film festival cph:dox in Copenhagen was undeniably a great success even if it was the first time that such kind was conducted. Great young staff there...Seeing is Believing was screened 3 times and always drew full capacity. It was also broadcast twice in Danish television. Petition letters were readily signed in behalf of NAKAMATA. Back here in Mindanao, the suspected murderers of Datu Ananias Tahuyan and Rodolfo Dasig were finally arraigned last July 28. Dionesio Salcedo and Ramon Clementir both pleaded not guilty. The pre-trial was held last September. Four more court hearings will be held next year (between March and May). How long the presiding would hand his decision, no one can predict. Justice system here in the Philippines grinds slow - unless. of course, a case involves celebrities. In the eyes of the dominant society here, the likes of Datu Tahuyan and Rodolfo Dasig are not celebrities. Meanwhile, the leadership of NAKAMATA continues their struggle for their land claims...


November 14th, 2003

I'm on my fourth day now in Copenhagen - a truly beautiful city - as one of many guests of the cph:dox film festival. The festival, obviously well-organized by a dynamic staff and volunteers, began last Friday and would end this Sunday. I have had at least 6 interviews since I arrived, an indication of the interest generated generated by Seeing is Believing. All interviews touched on the violence perpetrated against NAKAMATA. Many of those who have seen the film were quite surprised that such violent attacks still happen aven after the Marcos dictatorship. "Nothing has substantially changed in the Philippines?", they were inclined to ask. It also made many happy to hear that NAKAMATA had not suffered any death after Rule of the Gun in Sugarland and Seeing is Believing went public. Nonetheless, their attention has to be drawn to the fact that attacks are rooted in the tribe's assertion to have their lands back; that unless our government recognizes such right and thereby grant the tribe their ancestral domain certificates or titles, violence is sure to erupt anew in the days to come.


November 8th, 2003

Next week, Seeing is Believing will be screened in Copenhagen, during the cph:dox documentary film festival. How time flies... Two years ago this month, the NAKAMATA coalition and I were rushing to finish a 10-minute film that depicted the murders of three of their leaders. The output was Rule of the Gun in Sugarland which is posted at the WITNESS website. Months later, Seeing is Believing by Kat Cizek and Peter Wintonick was also completed. The indignation raised by these two films created tremendous pressure. For the first time in decades, the government ordered an investigation of the murders. Of the three suspects identified by witnesses, one was arrested. The second suspect was killed when he shot it out with the arrresting National Bureau of Investigation agents. The third remains at large. Undoubtedly, too, the films and the accompanying campaigns had prevented further serious assaults against members of the coalition. Of course, a number of harassment did come upon some members, but unlike before, none got killed.Tribe members are certainly happy for the fact that none of them had been killed since the two films came out. But as many of the leaders had told me, the world may have forgotten the reasons for the attacks against them: their assertion to have what are traditionally theirs - their ancestral lands; assertions that invite assaults from those who are currently benefitting from them. The government may rightly claim that it had somehow eliminated the attacks, they told me, but it must not forget that unless their land claims are recognized, violence will continue. "We must have our lands back!" they told me. This demand, I hope, would reach the ears of those who will attend the screening. Tribe members may be relatively safer now. But without lands under their control, without their lands that are their source of life, it may not take long when many of them may die, not from bullet wounds, but from hunger and sickness.


September 24th, 2003

I'm in Palawan island right now. I had been in contact with people's organizations who belong to the Palawan NGO Network Inc. and did video documentation on the effects of the presence of a nickel mining company south of the island. As usual, the company's largest stockholders are those close to the corridors of power. In the Philippines, that is enough warning that abuses may have been committed in pursuit of the operation. The powerful always had a way of breaking laws and rules, don't they? The company is nearing completion of infrastructures that would allow it to operate a hydrometallurgical processing plant using sulfuric acid. This, after it had secured last year - under questionable circumstances - an Environmental Compliance Certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (again, this is a government agency that, because of its various questionable issuances, had been dubbed as the Destruction of the Environment and Natural Resources). The complaints of indigenous peoples here are no different from those of NAKAMATA and others all throughout the country. Their consent to the new project, they allege, were done through deceit. So the threat of the new processing plant now looms unless the government revokes the ECC. As it is, mining activities had already done a lot of damage to farmlands. Last Sunday, video footage taken of a stream of chocolate-like fluid flowing in the stream showed it goes down to the sea. A ranking company official that I had talked to days earlier said the company had silting ponds to catch the laterites from the mining areas. Well, there might be - there actually are - but they don't serve their purpose. And the DENR whose personnel, I was told by informants, used to spend most of their days and nights in the company guest lodge seem to overlook the fact! Now, now, now, what does it need for them to look the other way around?


June 3rd, 2003

Datu Winefredo Sumael, chairperson of NAKAMATA, was recently with me at home in Banga, South Cotabato. He stayed for two days and wrote a brief summary of how the WITNESS camera had been used so far. In general, he wrote, the camera: had been very useful in gathering materials which they could feed to local television and other media outlets; enhanced not only the status of NAKAMATA, but also of the whole tribe in south-central Bukidnon (the coalition is the only group I know in the province who is able to use a digital camera for documentation purposes). But it makes people who are in power angry, he said, whenever they record their pronouncements. He didn't say why, although he quipped in jest that nobody would want to be caught lying through their teeth! Uh-oh... The datu also said that plans are underway for a huge mobilization by indigenous peoples in Bukidnon - a form of assertion of their right to their ancestral lands.


April 22nd, 2003

The Nakamata Council of Elders meeting pushed through last Sunday, 13 April 2003. Danny Paca, who assumed leadership of the Tribal Organization of San Jose after the murder of Samuel Bento, had this to say: Five members were doing land preparation for the planting of corn on a 5-hectare area when 4 armed men opened fire at them. The assailants wre armed with armalite and carbine rifles. The carabaos (or water buffalos) may have served as shields for tribe members. The result: one carabao dead and another wounded. Fifty year Oscar Sulatan was hit in his right foot, just near his ankle. The bullet went through and through. He is now recuperating. Tribe members have recognized one of the assailants - a certain Eden Ribajado, said to be among those hired by a rancher who is laying claim over 1,029 hectares of land. The Nakamata Council had agreed that a case afgainst the perpetrators must be pursued. What complicates the problem for Danny Paca's group is the alleged interest of the current Bukidnon Provincial Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri over the same area. It is unclear yet for the tribe for what purpose would the governor want the land for. But there is a general feeling among members that tribe members may end up with little or none at all. The governor's son, Jose Miguel Zubiri, is a congressman of the province - a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippine Congress.


April 9th, 2003

> > Got text message from Datu Makapukaw at 7:30 AM > today. The Tribal Organization of San Jose (TOSJ) > whose former chair Samuel Bento was murdered > September 2001 was assaulted yesterday. Goons > strafed members who were doing some land > preparations for their crops. One was wounded and is > now in the hospital. One farm animal (a carabao - a > domesticated water buffalo) got killed and another > one wounded (which would most likely end up in the > market for sale - as meat). Tribe members had > already gone to the police to have the incident on > record (in the police blotter - that is, if the > police would ever care to put it in there). What an > irony. Just last night during the chat forum with a > television station in Australia after the screening > of Seeing is Believing. I said that there had been > no killings...yet... Now what stokes Nakamata > (harassment, murder, etc) appears to resume once > more. Thanks to the new provincial governor (who was > alleged to be interested in the TOSJ area) and whose > son is also the congressman in the area???? > >


April 9th, 2003

> > Got text message from Datu Makapukaw at 7:30 AM > today. The Tribal Organization of San Jose (TOSJ) > whose former chair Samuel Bento was murdered > September 2001 was assaulted yesterday. Goons > strafed members who were doing some land > preparations for their crops. One was wounded and is > now in the hospital. One farm animal (a carabao - a > domesticated water buffalo) got killed and another > one wounded (which would most likely end up in the > market for sale - as meat). Tribe members had > already gone to the police to have the incident on > record (in the police blotter - that is, if the > police would ever care to put it in there). What an > irony. Just last night during the chat forum with a > television station in Australia after the screening > of Seeing is Believing. I said that there had been > no killings...yet... Now what stokes Nakamata > (harassment, murder, etc) appears to resume once > more. Thanks to the new provincial governor (who was > alleged to be interested in the TOSJ area) and whose > son is also the congressman in the area???? > >


April 9th, 2003

Got text message from Datu Makapukaw at 7:30 AM today. The Tribal Organization of San Jose (TOSJ) whose former chair Samuel Bento was murdered September 2001 was assaulted yesterday. Goons strafed members who were doing some land preparations for their crops. One was wounded and is now in the hospital. One farm animal (a carabao - a domesticated water buffalo) got killed and another one wounded (which would most likely end up in the market for sale - as meat). Tribe members had already gone to the police to have the incident on record (in the police blotter - that is, if the police would ever care to put it in there). What an irony. Just last night during the chat forum with a television station in Australia after the screening of Seeing is Believing. I said that there had been no killings...yet... Now what stokes Nakamata (harassment, murder, etc) appears to resume once more. Thanks to the new provincial governor (who was alleged to be interested in the TOSJ area) and whose son is also the congressman in the area????


March 16th, 2003

90,000 evacuees from 3 towns. 40,000 from Pikit alone. 90 per cent are children, according to a non-government organization monitoring the situation. All these because of a government offensive against a ragtag band of kidnappers and terrorists allegedly being coddled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front? As of last Saturday, March 15, ground bombings (the previous days, there were also airplane bombings) by the military continue. Earlier, President Arroyo visited the area where a general told her that "the military is in full control", whatever that means. Many people in Pikit quip that its basically a "war of the generals" that the president is not aware of. In Nakamata’s front, the council of elders met last March 9. Same problem. Poverty continues to stalk the members. In this aspect, the evacuees of Pikit are better off with their supply of relief goods (no pun intended). Datu Makapukaw also said that he is on AWOL from the Presidential Task Force 63. He felt that he’s being used merely as a decoration. His recommendations, he claimed, were never considered by the Task Force. So where to now? The government appears too preoccupied with a war that it had caused and continues to wage on local grounds; at the same time giving its all-out support to Bush’ insane approach towards Iraq. So much fund for war, not peace...


March 9th, 2003

Twenty seven houses razed to the ground. One 60-year old farmer missing. The following day, he was found dead in a shallow grave. His body bore several hack wounds and a lone bullet wound that went through his body. The alleged perpetrators: elements of the Philippine military. No, this is not an old account of atrocities committed against NAKAMATA. They happened just last week! The burning was on March 3, the first day that I was in Pikit, North Cotabato - the battle scene between seccesionist guerillas and government forces. Fightings began February 12. Residents say it is a continuation of the "all out war" declared by ousted president Joseph Estrada and is now being pursued by militarists in the current Arroyo government. The civilians, expectedly, suffer the most. There are 38,000 evacuees in North Cotabato alone, out of almost 90,000 in three adjacent provinces. Pres. Arroyo visited the area middle of the week. There, she was assured by a general that the military is in full control. Everybody, especially the evacuees, keep wondering what that means. Their demand is clear: for the military to pull out of the area so they could start tending their abandoned farms. "Wala may samok kon walay military," (no trouble in our place if there is no military) the evacuees assert. If the military has full control, the parish priest told me, how come those 27 houses were burned. Even if the military says the rebels are responsible for it, how did the rebels succeed doing that and escape unnoticed. The area is less than two kilometers from the nearest military detachment - and it happened in broad daylight! ...Well, talking of another NAKAMATA situation...


February 26th, 2003

Just came back from Dawan, Mati, Davao Oriental (east side of Mindanao) to document recent atrocities committed against partner organizations of the Interfaith Movement for Peace, Empowerment and Development (Impede). This NGO led by Fr. Medz Salomia was also featured in the film Seeing is Believing. Last August 2001, we were able to record on video the assault done against the nearby forest. The footage and the succeeding film that we co-produced helped in he investigation and led to the suspension of the company. Local organizations, encouraged by the success of their efforts, went on with the biodiversity protection and conservation of the Balete Bay - a 725-hectare body of water that is the main source of food and livelihood for thousands of families surrounding it. The people had organized fish wardens who were deputized by the local government to catch illegal fishers. They became active beginning August last year. In early November, they built a coast watch, a sort of a guardhouse right in the middle of the bay. The governor herself came to inaugurate it. Two weeks later, unidentified men burned the structure. This was followed by mauling of those identified with the peoples' project to protect what they call is their life-source. One was badly mauled that he lost his left eye. The victim is a father of three, the youngest of whom is a one-year old girl. Beyond these efforts to revive and protect their life-source are projects, initiated by the government, that loom as larger threats: conitnued illegal logging, the granting of a mining exploration permit, and the quarrying of a cement factory. the irony of all these is the fact that the department (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) which empowered the coomunities to take action in behalf of their life source is the same department that issued permits to the most threatening activities near the bay (permit to cut logs which led to illegal cutting, the mining exploration permit, and quarrying). The agency seems to pit poor fisherfolks against large capitalists, the ourcome of which is predictably violent as in the burning of the guardhouse and the mauling of individuals identified with restoration and protection efforts. None has been apprehended so far, inspite of very strong leads pointing to suspects to the crime. Not unlike the plight of Nakamata, certainly... As additional note, Alex Cabornay of the National Bureau of Investigation sent a text message yesterday: 3rd suspect in the Tahuyan and Dasig murders still on the loose. Continued surveillance is ongoing; it's difficult to arrest a suspect who's always on the move, the NBI said. But can't the suspect be apprehended while on the move?


February 10th, 2003

It's a long depressing month for NAKAMATA. There was the arrest of one its members - Dionisio Dokit - for frustrated murder. He remains in a detention center in Malaybalay. The charge is frustrated murder, a case file many years ago but was revived recently. Other members believed it is pure harassment against Dokit who, months previous to his arrest, had been very active in patrolling the claimed ancestral land. The regular Council of Elders meeting of the coalition for December was also cancelled. The council has to rush completing a document required by a presidential task force. It is one that should have been long prepared by another support group but, for some reasons, was abandoned. The coalition leadership had been at loggerheads with the local coordinator of the support group for quite a number of months already, and they hope to sit down and settle once and for all their differences. At the moment, Nakamata had also sent a formal request to another group for research and legal assistance. A response is still being awaited. But again, depression - even frustration - are occurences that NAKAMATA is used to already. Otherwise, they wouldn't have survived this long. The three days that Datu Sumael and his secretary spent with me at home early January were full of optimism. One that always makes them wonder is why funding agencies doesn't seem to trust them to manage their own projects. "Is prejudice against indigenous peoples also inherent among funding agencies?" they asked. I told them I am not in a position to answer that.


January 9th, 2003

"Good evening Joey. Where are you now? The police arrested Donei. Please call us. Have pity, please call as our load (for the cellphone) is about to run out. Call us please, have pity on us." This was the text message I received from the Nagtimmma area at 7:30 pm. Donei, I assume is Dionisio Dokit, a member of Nagtimmma who had organized a group to conduct regular night patrols to protect the community and to prevent land schemers from occupying any part of their claimed territory. I called to ask for details... Donei was arrested 3 pm by elements of CIDG (Criminal Investigation Division Group) of the police command in Malaybalay for frustrated murder. Something fishy surrounding this incident: first, it is normal here, as part of harassment to arrest a suspect on a Friday afternoon. First, it deprives the suspect time to post bail (the court closes Friday afternoon and would reopen Monday), so he would be in the hands of his captors for at least 2 full days, allowing therefore more intimidation and what have you for the suspect to admit to ANY crime! Second, no one in the community what the 'frustrated murder case' is all about. Third, why police from Malaybalay (the seat of the provincial government of Bukidnon) when Donei is from Don Carlos town (I have heard that one of those benefitting from the sugar plantation in Nagtimmma area is a retired military officer from Malaybalay... I want to find out if there is any connection here). Well, well, well, what a start for the New Year... I'm leaving for Bukidnon early morning tomorrow... Will keep you posted, folks.


January 7th, 2003

Exchanged text messages with the National Bureau of Investigation yesterday afternoon. Atty. Alex Cabornay, the agent who led the raid on the Salcedo brothers, said intensive surveillance is still underway for the third suspect. I requested that I be allowed to join the raid, if possible, once they are able to determine the suspect's whereabout. In the first raid that I joined, we failed to arrest anyone. It took the NBI more than six months before pinning down the two. I wish the second time that I join them, we'll get the last suspect. Arraignment is expected to follow soon. Justice for Nakamata is finally coming...but not the end of other harassment in the coming days. I was told that there still are other criminals in the area who ready to kill for a fee. Authorities must work out on this.


January 4th, 2003

HAPPY NEW YEAR! For more a week (beginning December 29) I lost my internet connectivity at home. Phone line was dead and there was no repairman available from the company. It's because of the holidays, I was told. Bless this country for its love for holidays. For a period of 14 days beginning December 22, there were only 5.5 working days! But not for those who had been harassing members of Nakamata. Just before the end 2002, I received text messages from Nagtimmma that armed men are once more hovering in the area. I texted the police and requested for patrol. I got a response the next day saying the police were not able to go as they have to investigate a murder case in another area. But the chief promised to visit the Nagtimmma area. Received no text messages since then (except for two requests from the area: please send new load for cellphones!) so I assume everything is alright...for the moment. Not knowing what's happening in the area makes me uneasy, and not receiving any info from the tribe even through text is worse...and having no intenet access, well, is a disaster. One positive development, though, is the seeming eagerness of the new police chief of Don Carlos town to respond to Nakamata's call for assistance. That is good enough item for the opening of this new year.


December 26th, 2002

"There are armed men planning to attack us," was the text that I received around 9 last night. It came from Fortunato Villamor, a brother-n-law of one of the leaders in Nagtimmma. I advised him to keep everyone on alert, and that I'll be texting the Don Carlos chief of police and his deputy. I got their numbers when Datu Makapukaw and I passed by the police station on December 21. Surprisingly, chief of police Florito Lumbab immediately responded. He sent thanks for the information, but made no mention of what he intends to do. I assumed though that he would be sending a team to patrol the area. So I texted Fortunato that the police had been informed. An hour later, I asked if there was a patrol conducted. Got no response from him. Makes me wonder if something had happened last night.


December 25th, 2002

Ooooops! My blog on 22 December with the line US 50 cents should have read US$ 50. Still, that's very, very, very cheap a price on any form of attack against anybody. First of all, NO ONE must never be physically assaulted... It's Christmas Day now - a day most Filipinos celebrate. Even our friends in Nakamata, though most of them remain "unconverted", observe the holidays with their "Christian" neighbors. Must be hard for them seeing so much lavishness amidst their hunger. The last time I visited them (that was December 21, during the Council of Elders meeting), the leaders told me that their (majority of the Nakamata members) main source of living is by being paid laborer in the sugar plantation. In one year, they said, they're able to work for only 7 months (for weeding, cane cutting and hauling the canes to the truck which brings the produce to the sugar central for milling), and that entails moving from one plantation to the other. The average pay is a measly 100 pesos/day (US$2) gross. With all their cash advances for food while working, the average take home pay is about only half of it. In one year, the average total net income is only US$200. It is an amount way, way below the poverty level here. So while the landlords and others feast on their cakes and other sweets, those who helped brought them those have only the bitter side of existence. Merry Christmas!!!


December 22nd, 2002

With Datu Makapukaw, I went to the Don Carlos police station to verify reports that 2 of the 3 suspects to the killing of Datu Tahuyan and Rodolfo Dasig had been apprehended. It was true. Dionisio Salcedo voluntarily surrendered to the mayor of Valencia City (the former police chief of the same city) last Tuesday, December 15. He is now detained in a police camp in Cagayan de Oro City. Last Thursday, agents of the National Bureau of Investigation raided the hideout of his brother Florencio. The police report said he fired at the agents. That prompted a shootout resulting to his death and of another who was not identified by the police. But my sources say the second fatality was an official of the village where the raid was conducted. The police said a hand grenade was found in his wallet. Still at large is Clementir. But we were informed by various sources that he has sent a surrender feeler, perhaps wanting to avoid another "shootout" which may lead to his death. Another good news is that other criminals who used to hide in the Nagtimmma area and are being reportedly being used by politicians and scheming landlords to drive the Manobo out of their legitimate claim are starting to leave; perhaps, wanting to avoid another "shootout" which may lead to their untimely deaths... I wish that suspects would be apprehended alive so they can pinpoint (in the absence of torture, I pray) who hired them. I heard that for only 2,000 pesos (less than 50 US cents), guns-for-hire would shoot any Manobo dead. Life is cheap in a country where impunity seems to be an accepted practice even among high government officials.


December 21st, 2002

With Datu Makapukaw, I went to the Don Carlos police station to verify reports that 2 of the 3 suspects to the killing of Datu Tahuyan and Rodolfo Dasig had been apprehended. It was true. Dionisio Salcedo voluntarily surrendered to the mayor of Valencia City (the former police chief of the same city) last Tuesday, December 15. He is now detained in a police camp in Cagayan de Oro City. Last Thursday, agents of the National Bureau of Investigation raided the hideout of his brother Florencio. The police report said he fired at the agents. That prompted a shootout resulting to his death and of another who was not identified by the police. But my sources say the second fatality was an official of the village where the raid was conducted. The police said a hand grenade was found in his wallet. Still at large is Clementir. But we were informed by various sources that he has sent a surrender feeler, perhaps wanting to avoid another "shootout" which may lead to his death. Another good news is that other criminals who used to hide in the Nagtimmma area and are being reportedly being used by politicians and scheming landlords to drive the Manobo out of their legitimate claim are starting to leave; perhaps, wanting to avoid another "shootout" which may lead to their untimely deaths... I wish that suspects would be apprehended alive so they can pinpoint (in the absence of torture, I pray) who hired them. I heard that for only 2,000 pesos (less than 50 US cents), guns-for-hire would shoot any Manobo dead. Life is cheap in a country where impunity seems to be an accepted practice even among high government officials.


December 21st, 2002

It was fun at the internet yesterday, seeing both Datu Sumael and Datu Saliling try their (trembling) hands compose and send e-mails. The way they find the characters in the keyboard is what we call here (in jest, of course) as "Magellan" (after Ferdinand Magellan who "discovered" the Philippines in 1521 when, after many months of travel, made a sighting of Cebu island in central Philippines and landed his troops there. So, after both Datu Sumael and Datu Saliling made a sighting of the desired character(s) on the keyboard (which took sometime), they finally landed - with care - their fingers on it. At their first attempt, it took them almost an hour to send me an e-mail containing only two sentences! And one can feel the pride in them having successfully sent one...


December 20th, 2002

My son JA and I arrived in Bukidnon 6:30 AM yesterday, while Datu Sumael and coalition secretary Claro Saliling arrived at our designated meeting place in the afternoon. Datu Sumael had heard that one of the 3 suspects to the Tahuyan and Dazig murders had been arrested. This morning we got information from Datu Makapukaw that Dionisio Salcedo had surrendered to the mayor of Valencia City who turned him over to the police in Cagayan de Oro City last Tuesday. So two more suspects left. There must have been tremendous pressure from various support groups abroad that the government is now acting on the complaints by Nakamata. According to Datu Makapukaw, the regional NBI office is now asking for the custody of Salcedo. Right now, Datu Sumael and Claro Saliling are trying their hands on the internet. JA is now coaching them on its use. The training is accentuated by laughters as both "trainees" are literally trembling with their fingers on the keyboards. As soon as they get the feel, I'll let them get into my blog to write something... Meanwhile, here's Datu Makapukaw: Dear friends in WITNESS and other support groups: Thank you for your heartfelt support and for creating the SIB Web site. I'm just arriving from Malacanang Manila working there, as newly appointed employee in NAPC or National Anti-Poverty Commission's Consultant in the Province of Bukidnon. I am greatly surprised when the office of the President called me for reporting as the above stated position. I think through this position, I can help a lot for asserting the rights of Indigenous Peoples here and through God's help I can perform accordingly. Once again, thank very much to all. Datu Makapukaw Here's Datu Winefredo Kalalagan Sumael: te ngaran te nakamata hai si datu kalalagan dekelan mid pasalamat te langon ne midorop kanami,mairing te witness org.,kalihukang bisaya wey necessary illussions ne iyandey himalew ne is hiro wey gagew ran kanami ne ware en perem edtemanan,eboyoendey daan te magbebeya ne begeyi ren te maopiyan kadlalawa wey malogayad ne ontong. (In behalf of Nakamata this is Datu Kalalagan expressing our sincerest thanks for all those who helped/are helping us such as Witness, Kalihukang Bisaya and Necessary Illusions. It is our hope that their concern for us would not cease. We pray to the Almighty to give all of you good health and long life).


December 16th, 2002

The traditional Catholic Misa de Gallo (Holy Mass celebrated at 4 AM or earlier, and culminates on the eve of Jesus' birth) starts today here in the Philippines. Religious leaders here take pride in saying that the Philippines is the "only Catholic country in Southeast Asia". I don't know if that has any connection at all to our country also having one of the highest crime rate in the same region. Which takes me, of course, back to the plight of Nakamata - the oppressors of whom profess to be devout Catholics or "Christians". Ahhh, what an irony! I'm getting ready now for my Nakamata trip and a visit to one of Witness' partners in Mindanao. My son Toto JA is coming home from Manila tomorrow. He will be joining me henceforth in my work. He'll give the internet introductory course to Datu Sumael and the coalition secretary before weekend. A helping hand is always welcome.


December 13th, 2002

Last night, I exchanged text messages with Cedric Yamba. He occupies a sizeable area just in front of the Nagtimmma settlement. During the interview with Probe Team last year, he said he intends to use the proceeds from his sugar plantation to buy arms and use them to shoot whoever attempts, tribe members included, to take away the land from him. He sounded differently last night. He now wants to initiate a dialogue with Nagtimmma and Nakamata leadership and wishes me to help do that. Datu Sumael already knows this and says it would be good to try. I promised Yamba that I'll pay him a visit next week. I know the guy is armed and has his own followers. I hope meeting him is not a trap...


December 10th, 2002

Datu Makapukaw is still in Manila. He had been there since the last week of November upon invitation of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) under the Office of the President of the Philippines. Yesterday, he texted that the was taken in as Consultant of the Commission for ten thousand pesos per month (about $200 US). He said he will cover the area where Nakamata is, and will be based at his home in Quezon. He couldn't say yet the details of his work with NAPC. He will be home by Dec.16. As always, I hope his work will do a lot of good for Nakamata.


December 9th, 2002

I was in Dumaguete City, in the Visayas Region, from December 2 -5, on invitation of Tim Higham (Regional Information Officer of UNEP). It was the gathering of members of the Philippine Environmental Journalists Inc. Tim had requested me to be there we could screen Seeing is Believing. As expected, the journalists were shocked to see the plight of Nakamata, that violence still exists in a way that they thought had already ceased with the fall of Marcos. Too bad that there wasn't enough time for interaction. But the film and the use of video is challenge enough for them to go beyond the "comfortable" way of reporting issues and events. Sometimes, one can't help feeling bad finding out that it needs a bloody violent incident to wake people up.


December 1st, 2002

I was told that the regular Council of Elders Meeting that was supposed to be held today had been reset on December 21. It will be held in Datu Diego Alim's territory. It was a new agreement - that Council of Elders Meeting will be rotated in the different areas of Nakamata. Makes sense, I thought. We went to Datu Sumael's neighbor who has television. I played Seeing is believing with around 12 people around the 14"TV. Again, makes Nakamata proud, although seeing once more their fallen comrades made them quiet for a time. Before I proceeded back to Davao, Datu Sumael and I agreed that I'd come back on December 19. I will give them a crash course on the use of the internet. This would allow them to send urgent messages and others faster and to a larger group. December 19 and 20 must be enough for them to learn the basics. I also intend to deposit some amount to the internet cafe during those days. It will be an amount which Nakamata can consume for a month. That way, they need not worry about money to pay internet use when they decide that they must use it.


November 29th, 2002

I arrived at the Don Carlos bus terminal at 12:30PM and immediately informed Datu Sumael. He advised that I stay put and he will have me picked up by a motorcycle. From the terminal, it's only about six kilometers away from Nagtimmma area. I get the feeling that they want to extend better security for me this time with that motorcycle ride offer. In less than ten minutes, Datu Sumael and the driver came and we immediately proceeded to Nagtimmma. I can see glow in the tribe's smiles when I arrived. One good news: one sugar planter who used to harass them before (even shoot at the tribe if they get near his area) has suddenly became very friendly with them. He had even hired a group of Manobo to guard his plantation! I was told that the guy had been waiting for me since yesterday and would want to talk to me. We sent message that I am around. Unfortunately, he is in another town. I'm curious what he wants to discuss with me.


November 28th, 2002

Wasn't able to leave for Nakamata today. I received confirmation, re: my invitation to screen Seeing is Believing to a group of Filipino environmental journalists in Dumaguete City from December 2-4. The event is supported by the United Nations Environment Program. It was UNEP Asia Pacific Programme Officer Tim Higham who initially extended the invitation while we were in Singapore. >From Bukidnon, Datu Sumael kept texting if I had left. I told him I can't. He said Nakamata had been missing my presence. Also today, I bought new cellcards to load Datu Makapukaw's and Datu Sumael's mobile phones. Nagtimma had already organized a night patrol (armed only with bolos - similar to machetes) to guard their community for any assault.


November 27th, 2002

Datu Makapukaw sent text stating that he'll be leaving for Manila this Friday. He was requested to give a report to a presidential body that looks into abuses against indigenous peoples. He would be definitely be reporting about assaults against Nakamata and recent events there. I bade him good luck. My meeting with Datu Sumael had been set this Friday. I will be with them for at lerast three days. The Datu resides in Maramag but goes daily to Nagtimmma area with the camera... just in case, he said.


November 26th, 2002

I'm in Davao City now, in preparation to my visit with Impede, another Witness partner based in Davao del Norte. By Friday, I expect to be in Nakamata territory, visit Nagtimma and talk with the leaders. (I wonder what's up there now). I'd look for a cheap cellphone to replace my broken one - just to stay connected with the coalition.


November 25th, 2002

Was "textless" until today, and had no idea what's happening at Nakamata territory. The feeling of being "disconnected" is really frustrating. Reminds me of a lady from Unicef present during the TVE Asia Pacific Workshop in Singapore. I concurred with her on the idea of democratizing ownership and use of new technologies such as cellphones, video, computers and the internet. Imagine if only the rich and powerful have all of these (which I'm sure they already have) and use them to further advance their interest...Imagine a repressive government owning and controlling all of these new technologies, with its citizens given the least access to them or none at all... Imagine a Nakamata elder who, faced with an impending violent assault, could not even get hold of a cellphone to text only a four-letter word: HELP! ...And how many kind hearts would there be in this world willing to empower people like those of the Nakamata with new technologies?


November 24th, 2002

Got an early text message from Datu Sumael, saying Hello, then asks when I would be in the area. Anytime this week, I said. This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of the month of December, I reminded him. The Council of Elders meet that day and I told him I will be attending. Lots to share... Everything is fine in Nagtimmma area, he assured me, but the tribe remains on alert. I was about ready to send another message when...oooops, my cellphone fell from the table, got broken and refuses to function again. It's a terrible feeling to get disconnected in this age of new technology and amidst a situation that demands regular communication. Aaaaaargh!!!


November 23rd, 2002

Arrived home in South Cotabato at 10:00 PM. The first thing I asked my wife is for any note from Datu Sumael and Datu Makapukaw. Nothing untoward happened, she said, but the tribe remained on alert.  With this assurance, I kept thinking back to what I said to the participants of the TVEAP members inSingapore: that the video had actually deterred further assaults against Nakamata. I'm sure of that. But then, no one will ever know when  insanity comes to those who had been earning from the sugarcane and begins shooting people again. Another text from Datu Sumael said that they remain on alert as members frequently see at least 3 armed men roving around the area as if doing reconnaissance work...


November 22nd, 2002

It's the last day of the TVE workshop here in Singapore. A number of the participants had said goodbye, but not without expressing their appreciation for the "great film" (referring to Seeing is Believing) and their sympathy for Nakamata. I, myself is raring to go home. So much to catch up with Datu Sumael, Datu Makapukaw and the rest of the Nakamata leadership.


November 21st, 2002

Haven't received as of today email from my wife Renee, re: latest update at Nagtimmma. I'll take that to mean that no untoward incident had happened(yet?) in the area. At the Davao City airport, before I left for Singapore, I requested DAtu Sumael and Datu Makapukaw to keep sending updates via cellphone. I left mine to my wife and requested her to e-mail me if something serious happens. The screening of Seeing is Believing during the workshop went fine. Sam of Witness also gave an overview of what Witness does, and its collaboration with its partners. I think many were surprised that such bloody things still happen in the Philippines. A number of the participants approached me after the screening and expressed their appreciation for a film well done, and their sympathy to Nakamata. At the moment, too, Nakamata and I are expecting word from Canada, re: the ancestral domain documentation proposal submitted. I hope it passes the committee...everyone is already raring to start work.


November 20th, 2002

The first day of the workshop (Fifth Regional Workshop of the Asia Pacific Video REsource Centre Network sponsored by the Television Trust for the Environment, among others, with WITNESS as a co-organizer. Theme: Knowledge-based Activism for Strengthening Civil Society: Post Johannesburg Challenges) here in Singapore just ended. There are more than 30 participants. There were film showing, lots of discussions on the use of video and others related to video production. What's keeping me on my toes now is the fact that tomorrow, Seeing is Believing would be screened in one of the workshops. I can't wait how the others would react to the film. But right now, I'm already consoled by the prospect that Nakamata's plight would reach a very wide audience...


November 19th, 2002

Already at the airport when Datu Makapukaw asked if I can recall the military officer whose name I took while doing fieldwork last year. The family name, yes, but not the first name. The guy is a ranking officer of Bukidnon's Provincial Mobile Force. I asked Datu makapukaw why. He said that the military officer maintains a 10-hectare sugar plantation within Nagtimmma's area. (Doesn't surprise me anymore. To me, it helps explain for the late action - or none at all- by local authorities in responding to complaints from tribe members in the area). I told Datu Makapukaw and Datu Sumael that I'm about to leave for Singapore to attend a workshop, but will always be in touch with them. I also assured them that letters of concern about possible attack by Salibo after his wife's burial may have started arriving in Malacanang and aother national government officials. That, I said, should add security to themselves and the area (am crossing my fingers now!). With that military officer in mind, I can't help but ask: "Will security be ever provided to them?" Looking at the dark side of it, those people benefitting from the sugar plantations in Nagtimmma area would in fact welcome the sight of Manobo tribe members killing each other.


November 18th, 2002

I'm in Davao City now helping edit a film for my daughter's office. In the edit studio, beginning 6 PM, my cellphone beeped at least twice per hour. I had requested Datu Sumael to do that for update. The VTR editor, I noticed, appeared annoyed at times (who would not, anyway). Every beep kept me up my seat, praying ang hoping that everything is fine with Nagtimma. The video had been deployed, Datu Sumael told me, and a "brave cameraman" already assigned. I laughed. Earlier, during their training, I insisted that the first qualification of a cameraman (especially in their case), is one who has lots of courage - a brave one. Everybody was. Thjey had experienced how valuable video footage, as evidence, are to them.


November 17th, 2002

Text messaging between Datu Makapukaw, Datu Sumael and myself today had been frantic, to say the least. I would have wanted to rush there but it was just impossible as I have yet to prepare myself for an important trip. At any rate, the suspect to the ambush of Salibo's wife was identified as Ely Diaz, now in the custody of the police. What worries Datu Sumael is their fear that Salibo may launch an attack against them tomorrow, Monday, November 18. Salibo is putting suspicion on Nagtimma's participation in the death of his wife and words had spread about his possible retaliation. About 10 PM, I texted Datu Sumael how their security precautions were. He said fine, so far, and everyone is on high alert. I went to bed hoping not to have a nightmare.


November 16th, 2002

There is tension now in Nagtimmma, Datu Sumael told me by phone. They have valid reasons. One, Eddie Salibo had filed claims over a 300-hectare land, parts of which overlaps with Nagtimmma’s claim. Second, his group is reportedly armed and Salibo has the making of a ‘warlord’. Third, he had aired suspicion that Nagtimmma could be behind the ambush and there is word that he would retaliate after his wife is buried this Monday. Salibo is not a legitimate claimant, as far as I know. He does not come from the area. I was told that he had been recruiting people, for huge sums, to join him and occupy parts of the former Bukidnon Farms Inc. He had made several threats against Datu Cul-om, chair of Nagtimmma, to back out. He even mauled the Datu June last year. Nagtimmma is holding ground. "They’ve always been alert, anyway," Datu Sumael said.


November 16th, 2002

There is tension now in Nagtimmma, Datu Sumael told me by phone. They have valid reasons. One, Eddie Salibo had filed claims over a 300-hectare land, parts of which overlaps with Nagtimmma’s claim. Second, his group is reportedly armed and Salibo has the making of a ‘warlord’. Third, he had aired suspicion that Nagtimmma could be behind the ambush and there is word that he would retaliate after his wife is buried this Monday. Salibo is not a legitimate claimant, as far as I know. He does not come from the area. I was told that he had been recruiting people, for huge sums, to join him and occupy parts of the former Bukidnon Farms Inc. He had made several threats against Datu Cul-om, chair of Nagtimmma, to back out. He even mauled the Datu June last year. Nagtimmma is holding ground. "They’ve always been alert, anyway," Datu Sumael said.


November 15th, 2002

Both Datu Sumael and Datu Makapukaw went to the area to check, according to their text messages. Their initial report, indicated that there was a casualty and one suspect had been arrested by the military. The suspect was said to belong to the same group that ambushed and killed Datu Ananias Tahuyan and Rodolfo Dasig last September. The victim this time is the wife of one Eddie Salibo, a Manobo.


November 13th, 2002

Received a text message from Nakamata coalition chairman this morning stating that somebody ‘s house from Nagtimmma area had been strafed. He was using a borrowed cellphone as he already had ran out of load. He also promised he would visit the area and check for himself what actually happened. Back to 'normal' once more in Nakamata territory? Normal means regular threats, harassment and occassional shooting...


November 13th, 2002

Received a text message from Nakamata coalition chairman this morning stating that somebody ‘s house from Nagtimmma area had been strafed. He was using a borrowed cellphone as he already had ran out of load. He also promised he would visit the area and check for himself what actually happened. Back to 'normal' once more in Nakamata territory? Normal means regular threats, harassment and occassional shooting...


November 12th, 2002

I just learned that Seeing is Believing will be screened in Singapore during a workshop-conferencesponsored by TVE. That would be from November 19-22. Sam of Witness will be there. There'll be other people from various parts of the world. Certainly, that the screening would also be a lot of push for Nakamata. Networking, alliance building: these are things that I hope would be realized in activites like this.


November 11th, 2002

There is a pending request for me to look into the plight of a group of T'boli in Sinolon, some 20 kilometers from home. I've been to the place. Same story: lands titled by settlers; tribal leader killed soon after ancestral land rights were asserted (this was in 1996); killer still on the loose and keeps killing others for a fee; no one dares to make an arrest; then, finally, the local court upholds the settler's title as legal and the T'boli lose because of a technicality! NAKAMATA, compared to this, is lucky - in the sense that suspects had been issued warrants of arrests, although no one had been arrested. It (the arrests) won't take long from now, I guess, with the pressure to be generated by this site.


November 10th, 2002

Datu Sumael sent another text saying the November 6 meeting was re-set on November 14 -15. Some data that were supposed to be presented to Nakamata had not been completed, according to him. Datu Makapukaw, on the other hand, had not responded. Must have run out of load, too. Next week, I'll be receiving some fees for a piece of work that I'm doing for another organization in Davao City. It won't be much, but I can definitely send the two datu some load for their cellphones.


November 8th, 2002

Finaly, Datu Sumael sent text message, from a borrowed cellphone, saying the meeting did not materialize. He did not indicate any reason. He also asked for apology for not responding soon. Reason: he ran out of load. The meeting is reset for November 15-16. Two days. Items for discussion must be serious enough for a two-day meeting. I hope, too, that people from "imperial Manila" would attend the meeting. Pardon the pun, Manila is offered referred to by Mindanaoans as "imperial". This is for the tendency of people (government officials or private institutions) coming from that place to dominate people from other places. Personally, I think it's similar to having a "superiority complex" - anyone or anything outside Manila is "inferior".


November 7th, 2002

I keep thinking of Datu Sumael's text message when I told him of the potential of assistance coming in (this was after the chat). "Daghang salamat, tani matuman," (Thanks a lot, we hope they materialize) he said. Can't help sensing two things from that reply: the tribe's desperation for help. Second, for a people so long abused and subjected to a history of broken promises from those mandated to attend to them, I can't blame him if he sounded unsure if Nakamata would, indeed, receive any assistance. Keep hoping, datu, I prodded him. Our struggle is now on a higher plane. The world sees us now, in spite of efforts to throw us into oblivion!


November 6th, 2002

Inquired thrice via text message how the meeting with Datu Sumael and a partner organization went this day. He was to meet a representative of this organization to clear issues that had been negatively affecting the coalition. There seems to be an effort by some quarters to break the solidity of Nakamata, I was told weeks ago. I wonder why the datu didn't respond. I can only think of one reason why: he may have ran out of load and had no money for a reload to his cellphone. Here, one can actually buy a reload for 100 Philippine pesos (less than US$2). It's cheap for a technology that would allow you 100 text messages to any point in the country - messages that could be very critical in certain occasions. But then, even if it's cheap, what can one do if one is almost penniless most of the times. This reality raises once more the urgency to extend assistance to Nakamata.


November 5th, 2002

Received text message from Datu Sumael expressing his thanks for the messages of support and encouragement that I conveyed to him. Those were the ones mentioned in the chat after the SIB broadcast. Tomorrow, they'll have a meeting with another support group to clarify some issues. I hope it would come out fine.


November 4th, 2002

Just logged out of the SIB chat. It's amazing. In between, I communicated via text message to Datu Sumael and Datu Makapukaw, re: 100,000 TV viewers in Canada and how the film generated interest. Split second communication all across the world. They said thanks to all those behind the project. We pray, too, that the film would create more pressure in their behalf. Thank you, everybody. God bless.


November 3rd, 2002

Post All Souls' Day, in memory of Samuel Bento, Ananias Tahuyan and Rodolfo Dasig: Often I'm asked to ponder between life and death. Ain't no use doing for the latter, I had always said 'Twould come in any form, midnight or noon. It's what one makes out of one's own life. That, to me, is what matters. When anyone lives for others Death it is but a continuation of others' lives.


November 2nd, 2002

Tomorrow, the 1st Sunday of November, is the regular meeting of the Nakamata Council of Elders. I wonder how many would not make it because of lack of transport money. But I'm quite sure, there would be a 100% attendance, except for 2 "problematic" organizations. These two "problematic" organizations' chairmen had not been attending the regular meeting. Datu Kalalagan had told me that one non-organization in the area had been urging the two to pull out of Nakamata for reasons that the coalition leadership could not understand. This November 6, the coalition leaders would meet the representative of this organization to clear the issue. Makes me wonder, too, why this organization who claims to be pro-indigenous peoples is trying to break a very solid group. I had been informed, too, that Nakamata had accepted a new member and that two more organization-applicants are being processed. Tough task ahead of Nakamata... and I fervently pray they would get support.


November 1st, 2002

The candle by the altar I made had been consumed. Will light another one tonight. Ahh, staring at the candle light and recalling those who had died for a just cause gives one additional courage to move on.


October 31st, 2002

I'm not familiar with how the Manobo and Talaandig remember their departed ones. Certainly, they do have a practice on this. Today, it's the eve of All Saints Day for the Catholics and it's their practice to start preparing for offerings. I don't profess myself to be a devout Catholic. But I do practice paying tribute and respect for deceased relatives. And to people who died for a just cause. Today, I added leaders of Nakamata who were killed last year: Samuel Bento, Ananias Tahuyan and Rodolfo Dasig. Made my own little altar and made food offering. Lighted a candle, too. Poured a glass of beer for me (there was already a glass of beer in the altar), raised it in the direction of the altar, thought of the three while looking at the candle light. Your lives will not go to naught, I murmured with deep reverence.


October 30th, 2002

Datu Kalalagan sent text message this morning saying thanks for the pre-paid card given him and a good trip back to his home. He has a borrowed cellphone, but no load. I realized only now: it's now a year since Samuel Bento, Ananias Tahuyan and Rodolfo Dasig were brutally killed. The killers still on the loose. I wonder, too, if local authorities are keen on making a follow-up on the arrests. November 1 and 2 are days observed by Filipinos in remembering their departed ones. I wonder how Nakamata members do that. Certainly they do remember their dead.


October 29th, 2002

We headed to the bus terminal past 2AM: the datu and secretary for Bukidnon, I for South Cotabato. Before I fell asleep in the bus, I was relishing the scene of the datu and secretary confidently responding (in the vernacular) to Jocelyn's queries, and further explaining salient points of the proposal. How I envy their self-confidence, even in an environment (like the first class hotel) that they are not used to. It is seldom seen among people who have been long oppressed and deprived. I remember one of their elders who years ago told me that one thing that the tribe must never lose is their capacity to hope. "Our plight is pushing us to the edge of despair. But we chose to hope. It is in hoping that we can act with resolve to change conditions for the better," he said. I now can picture Datu Kalalagan going back to his people spreading words of hope. Tonight, I'll have a good sleep.


October 28th, 2002

Our meeting with Jocelyn was set at 2PM. We spent the morning reviewing our proposal. I prepared a lunch of rice, fish, vegetables and chicken adobo. Oh how they loved the meal! Must be ages when they last had one good meal. Nice to be filled as we don't know how long the meeting would take. Off we went to Marco Polo hotel past 1PM. I'm not at all surprised at the confidence the datu exuded amidst the "alien environment" of a first class hotel. Finally, Jocelyn came out of the elevator. Without hesitation, I introduced the datu and the secretary. Jocelyn apologized for being unable to visit the community as she normally does. Security problem. There's been a series of bombings throughout the country. Like kidnapping for ransom, bombing appears to be coming out now as a "cottage industry", ha!ha!ha! We had the meeting over cups of coffee. (I had a big laugh when the datu told me outside the hotel that the coffee served does not have sugar!!! Tribe members are used to have richly sweetened coffee).


October 27th, 2002

Datu Kalalagan, the coalition secretary and I met in Davao City this afternoon. Datu Makapukaw didn't make it for lack of transport money. Also with them is Danilo Paca, chairman of the Truibal Organization of San Jose. He came along as he would be securing needed data for his community in another office. It was a lunchless five hour ride from Bukidnon to Davao City, the datu told me. No budget for food, I was told. They were lucky enough to be able to find transport money. Although hungry, the datu was nonetheless excited at the prospect of meeting the Canadian Representative from a very large International NGO. We retired in my daughter's apartment before midnight. Of course, that was after we shared a huge meal of rice, fish and vegetables, including our optimism for the project proposal that we had submitted months before.


October 26th, 2002

Just informed Datu Makapukaw and Datu Kalalagan regarding their October 28 appointment in Davao City this afternoon. Finally, they would be able to personally present and explain Nakamata's plight to a potential Canadian partner. Datu Makapukaw's excitement over the news is apparent. He must be. I know that to them, the meeting could spell hope or despair. I'm pretty sure, too, that Datu Kalalagan and the rest are on their knees invoking the blessing of Magbabaya (Manobo word for God, the Creator). Me? I'm keeping my fingers crossed... as always. I've never lost hope even during most desperate situation. This is one thing I learned from the tribe.


October 25th, 2002

Ah, finally, got e-mail notice on a possible meeting between a potential Canadian partner and Datu Makapukaw and Datu Sumael before the end of this month in Davao City. I know how much they would be delighted in just having an opportunity to talk directly and (this I would expect) literally beg for help from anyone who cares to listen. Yesterday, I received text messages from the two datu, inquiring when they would go to Davao (have they found money for their fare, I can't help but ask myself. From their place to Davao City and back cost almost a sack of rice - enough to feed a family of 5 for 20 days). Now they would be happy to receive notice. Time to cross our fingers...


October 24th, 2002

Just observed a group of 15 people, a mix of Moros, indigenous peoples and settlers do some planning to advance peace in their common territories. It's amazing how dialogues can transform former protagonists. Why can't this happen in Nakamata territory, I ask myself. Nakamata members are open to this. The trouble is, I told myself, the other parties aren't. They seem to be faster in drawing and firing their guns at hapless people than to sit down and listen to their valid complaints.


October 23rd, 2002

It took us 2.5 hours by pumpboat to reach the area where native Moros had been waiting for the entire day. It rained hard just as we disembarked by pumpboat that cruised the Pulangi River. During the ride along Pulangi River, I kept dipping my hands in the water. It's the closest I could connect to Nakamata territory. Pulangi's headwater is in Bukidnon, passes through Nakamata territory, then to North Cotabato where I am now. The rain poured just as I completed wrapping my equipment with cellophane bags. I got totally wet like, most likely, the rest of Nakamata members who do not have a decent roof to cover their shelter - or "shanties", as local officials and landlords in the area call the Manobos' dwelling units. Ahh...what condescension can make of human beings...


October 22nd, 2002

Leaving again for North cotabato, not far away from NAKAMATA area. I'm certain to hear more about the sad plight of indigenous peoples in the area. I wish I could sneak for a day to meet with Datu Sumael and Datu Makapukaw. They, including myself, are very anxious on meeting somebody from Canada who might be able to help them continue with their research on each member organizations' ancestral domain. I wonder what food NAKAMATA members are preparing for their families... if there is any.


October 21st, 2002

Preparing to leave again for North Cotabato. I wish I would be able to sneak through the Nakamata area to inform them that someone from Canada is due to arrive in Davao City on 27 or 28 October, and that I'm trying to arrange if Datu Sumael or Datu Makapukaw could possibly be present to meet the person. It's all about their application for a fund to complete their ancestral land documentation. If not, then I'll have to send a text message to Datu Makapukaw. No messages from them as of today. I'll take that to mean that no untoward incident had happened, and that everyone is busy looking for anything to serve to their family's next meal... and that everyone is safe. Are they?


October 20th, 2002

What a joy to receive a text message from Kat that Seeing is Believing won a prize at the Hamptons Film Festival! If only those who had seen it could take interest in the plight of Nakamata and help do something so that our government would more seriously attend to their sorry condition.


October 19th, 2002

I'm on my way back now to South Cotabato, feeling sorry that I wasn't able to sneak into the Nakamata area. But I had been informed that regular meetings of the elders (every first Sunday of the month) is always held, no matter what. The last time I joined the meeting was two months ago. Every one pays for his own transport fare (which could be hard for some elders) and a small contribution for lunch. But the spirit is always high whenever the leaders meet. There would be laughters, tales of pain, of anguish. Always, there is the _expression of hope that, soon, conditions may change for the better. I think HOPE is all that Nakamata members never lose... what an optimism in the face of oppression and deprivation.


October 18th, 2002

Received a text message from Datu Makapukaw. I called him immediately through my cellphone (Lucky, there was a good signal near the town center). He said he joined agents of the National Bureau of Investigation in an entrapment operation.A fiscal was apprehended inside while accepting bribe money that he demanded from a complainant. I thought all along that the suspects in the Nakamata murders had been apprehended. The news of a fiscal demanding bribe to fix a case only reveals another reality. Justice in Nakamata area can only be bought. Who has the money, wins.


October 17th, 2002

I moved to another area: the village of Lebpas. Funny, no municipal government recognizes the area as a legitimate village. It used to be part of the town of Pres. Roxas. By presidential executive order of then president Corazon Aquino, Lebpas was taken out from the town and, hence, no longer receives subsidy from any municipal government. The village is populated by about 400 families of Aromanen Manobo and Maguindano Muslims. It is obvious that members of both groups have their own firearms. But I was told that for the past two years, none of these firearms were used against the other group. They are used for defense and for hunting.  The two groups have a long history of peaceful coexistence, interrupted only by assaults by government troopers on suspicion that the area is a rebel lair. Often, I am tempted to ask: would it do good if some of the Nakamata members arm themselves for defense purposes?


October 16th, 2002

I moved to another area where there had been killings in the early 1970s. During the "all-out war" ordered in January 2000 by now deposed president Joseph Estrada, the place became a battle scene for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and government troopers. The place is the village of Ugalingan, Carmen. One fact that impressed me here is the solidarity built at the grassroots level by the residents themselves - settlers and native Muslims. This they accomplished opening themselves for peace dialogues, and asserting such peace initiatives to the government for recognition. Makes me wonder: would this possible in the case of Nakamata? Honestly, given the realities in their area, I am not that optimistic.


October 15th, 2002

Just came from an area inhabited by Maguindano Muslims. This is the village of Manili in Carmen, North Cotabato. From this place, it takes another 2 hours to reach the nearest Nakamata area. I was shocked to find out in the village of Manili that, way back in 1970, seventy two (yes, 72) Maguindanao Muslims were massacred inside their mosque! The perpetrators were government-organized militiamen who were then led by Philippine Constabulary personnel. As in the case of Nakamata, it's all about control of land by the powerful. Ahh, Mindanao... so rich a land that it had become a big temptation for those who already are in power.


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