Saturday, September 15, 2007

Memories of the Manili Massacre

Memories of the Manili massacre just won't die. At least for the relatives of the victims and for Barangay Captain Teng Addie Nagli in Barangay Manili in Carmen, Cotabato.

As a seven-year old child then, Nagli has only the faintest memories of that fateful day of June 19, 1971 when he survived a grenade blast in a mosque full of people but the pain remains. He lost both his parents and more than a hundred other relatives and neighbors.

"The community was called for a meeting inside the mosque at dawn by PC Captain Langgam," recalls Nagli. He said men, women and children braved the rain and biting cold to be able to attend the meeting.

"We had no idea that the supposed-to-be peace and order meeting would snuff the lives of many of our relatives and neighbors," Nagli said.

He narrated that when all the people were inside the mosque, the armed men bolted the men's entrance but kicked open the women's entrance.

Nagli said the armed men ordered his father to go out and surrender his guns and other firearms.

"Wala man mi mga armas ug wala mi mai-surrender. Gidala nila akong papa sa among balay duol ra pud sa mosque ug nakadungog mi ug buto. Gipusil nila akong papa (we had no firearms so there's nothing to surrender. They brought my father to our house a few meters away from the mosque and then I heard shots. They killed my father at close range)," Nagli recalls.

Nagli said that Captain Langgan then told the people inside the mosque to call on their God and pray because they would all be killed.

"Gilabay nila ug granada ang sulod sa mosque. Mura ko ug milupad 10 inches gikan sa salog ug nakit-an nako ang parte-parte sa lawas sa mga tawo nipilit sa kisame sa mosque (They lobbed a grenade at the mosque and I felt myself lifted from the ground. Then I saw body parts stick to the ceiling of the mosque)," Nagli added.

Nagli recalled that he was shielded by the others who were nearer to the grenade, thus he was spared from death. He however sid that he could not forget the stench of the ankle-deep blood which flooded the floor of the mosque to his dying day.

"Ang ako lang mahinumduman init kaayo ang dugo ug nadat-ugan ko ug daghang mga lawas mao nga wala ko makita sa mga sundalo (all I can remember the blood was so warm and bodies heaped all over me so the soldiers did not see me still alive)," Nagli recollects.

He added that when the armed men were no longer around, he saw all the dead lying in a pool of ankle-deep blood. There was a child with a hack wound on the head; an old man with a dagger still stuck to his right waist," Nagli added painfully.

"This is where I cried. I'll never forget what I saw till the day I die. Even up to now when I think about it my heart tightens. Mora'g maka-revenge gihapon ko (It makes me want to take revenge) because the wounds of the incident is till here," Nagli added.

He also said that the incident triggered the war to erupt between the military and the Muslims.
"Justice has not been served to us until this time, so it's not that easy to forget," Nagli said.

Charred Remains

The group of media practitioners from Davao City headed towards the burial site beside a big kaymito (tar apple) tree which stands guard as a silent witness to the massacre
three decades ago.

Only the charred, waist-high remains of the mosque walls stood as a mute reminder that beneath the grassy patch lay the bodies of 72 people who were killed in a heartless massacre.

Hadja Hafia Joy, chairperson of the Socsargen state revolutionary committee and an ex-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) combatant was unable to contain herself and wept as the memories of the massacre and the loss of her loved-ones engulfed her.

"Hindi basta-basta maaalis ang sakit na nararamdaman namin. Ang mga Muslim ay hindi dapat pinapatay na parang mga hayop (it's not that easy to erase the pain that we felt. Muslims should not be killed as though we're animals)," Joy said.

She added that what added to the pain is that the Christians helped the military in the pursuit against them without even digging into the roots of the conflict.
Joy said she can relate to the pain because few days after the Manili massacre, hundreds of Muslims were slaughtered in a similar incident inside a mosque in Malisbong, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat.

Glimmer of Hope

For about three decades after the massacre, the people of Manili have been left on their own to face both man-made and natural calamities. The Manili residents suffered more clamities in the following years, like the infestation by rats and locusts, the El Nino, and the "all-out-war" of 2000 that burned their only school building and another mosque.

The barangay of Manili, which is just about 10 minutes motorcyle ride from the main highway seemed isolated from rest of the world and did not receive any assistance from the government.

They fought their own battles and only got a taste of assistance when Government of the Philippines/ United Nations Multi-Donor Programme (GOP-UNDP) came and offered development assistance to war-affected communities right after the signing of the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement in 2001.

Rehabilitation started in 2001 with the help of the GOP-UN/MDP3. Eighty (80) housing units were constructed and distributed to residents in Sitios Bual, Kanaman and Center. A Barangay Development Planning was conducted to address the community's needs in August 2002.

The Multi-Donor Programme has identified Manili as a Relief and Rehabilitation community and consequently a Peace and Development Community (PDC). As a PDC it has undergone community organizing and capacity-building activities.

Peace and Development Advocate (PDA) Eddie Yap said that the community had just had training on Early Warning and Disaster Preparedness conducted by the Relief and Rehabilitation component of the GOP-UNMDP3 in August 2002. They were able to put into good use what they had just learned.

Presently, there are already 163 PDC's in 15 provinces in
Mindanao and replication plans are underway in the provinces of Davao del Sur, Sarangani and Western Mindanao.

Yap said that the 163 PDC's are all doing successfully well in their respective areas. With 1,500 PDA's working hand in hand with the residents of the 163 PDC's, transformation from socio-political government to peace and loving advocates is not hard to attain.

The pain may not be totally erased from the memories of the living relatives of those who perished in the Manili massacre but with the assistance and guidance of the GOP-UNMDP, their lives must go on.*

No comments: