Voice of a Lumad widow: Our land, our blood

Voice of a Lumad widow: Our land, our blood

Mark Saludes

The widow of slain Lumad leader Dionel Campos talks to Rappler about the killing, and the Lumad's quest for justice and protection of ancestral land

TANDAG CITY, 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 media crew with filming gear. It was her first time to talk about what really happened on September 1 to people she didn’t even know. It was her first time to talk about Lumad culture and beliefs without her husband.

She is Jocelyn Campos, the widow of Dionel Campos, one of the 3 Lumads 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,” she said.

(I saw my husband lifeless, a hole in his head and blood flowing in the dirt.)

“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,” Jocelyn said.

(They want to kill all Lumads. They will execute all the leaders to frighten everybody. We want nothing but to take care of our ancestral land. Why should they do this to my husband?)

On September 1, the Magahat paramilitary group allegedly attacked a tribal school in Surigao del Sur province. Supposedly linked to the Philippine military, the group is accused of torturing and killing an educator and two tribal leaders.

The attack caused an estimated 4,000 residents to flee their homes, mostly to an evacuation camp in Tandag City, the capital of Surigao del Sur. (READ: Human Rights Watch: Heads should roll over attacks on Lumad)

According to Jocelyn, her husband performed his duties as one of the leaders of their village. One of their beliefs as Lumads 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,” she said.

(Our lives are in the mountains. We plant crops where we get our food. We evacuated several times because of harassment. They want us to vacate our community.)

Pursuit of a better life

“We may be primitive but we are not backwards,” Jocelyn said in a local dialect. She was talking about how the Lumad dedicate their lives to protect “Lupang Ninuno” (ancestral land).

She said that the root of this tragedy was her husband’s choice to fight for their clan’s claim on ancestral land. She told Rappler 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 Lumads 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 vacate the complex and make way for the entry of large-scale mining,” said Jocelyn.

Andap Valley is a complex covering the mountainous areas of Marihatag, San Miguel, San Agustin, Tago, Cagwait and Lianga in Surigao del Sur. Jocelyn claimed that they witnessed how mining destroyed Claver in Surigao del Norte.

COPING. A Lumad family displaced by the conflict in Andap Valley has to wait for food provided by different aid groups and the DSWD. The Lumad are used to farming in high lands and getting their food from their own crops.

She believes that the capitalists and mining companies are using the government to suppress them, utilizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitary groups as private armies.

She claimed that these capitalists and the Philippine government are conniving to kill their own people.

“I was asking these for so long. Why do poor people remain poor and why do rich people become richer? Is it because they have money and we have nothing? We are always caught in the crossfire. Even in education, we are discriminated.”

“The Lumad community strived hard to put up a school, but what did they do? They are accusing us of supporting the NPA (New People’s Army). They are accusing us of using the school as a training ground for the communists,” Jocelyn added.

Children in the crossfire

Jocelyn said that her husband had a dream 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 will 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 of more than 3,000 Lumad who fled their villages.

“Whenever we will 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 the classes,” Jocelyn added.

Eufemia Cullamat, the 55-year-old niece of the slain Datu Bello Sinzo, said that evacuations are common. There were large groups of Manobos who vacated their villages in 2005 and 2009 because of harassment and a killing incident.

“We are not used to this and we don’t want our children to grow up with fears. We want to go back to our communities but it will only happen if the government will disarm its paramilitary groups,” Cullamat said in the native dialect.

CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE. A Lumad child washes dishes after the family's meal.

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 aid groups. Suppressing tears, Jocelyn told Rappler that it hurts her 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. Lumads 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 can 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 of what will happen next, but I trust my people as my husband trusted them. They will protect us,” Jocelyn ended. – Rappler.com


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