Once, we lived in harmony with our Moslem neighbors in the village of Southern Philippines Development Authority or SPDA, formerly known as Dinaig, at Datu Odin Sinsuat Municipality. We felt secured in that village since we have had several Moslem relatives residing at Cotabato City. The city proper is more or less 45 minutes away from our village. One night, while my father was away working overtime at Cotabato City, a notorious gang, suspected to be relatives of the members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF, harassed my family. They were more than twenty and believed to carry small assorted deadly weapons. Without any kind of provocation, these maniacs threatened us and threw stones at our house. They cursed us and shouted “Mga baboy kayong mga Bisaya!” My mother including me and my 3 brothers were inside our house. We were all shocked that night. We didn’t know what to do. My mother was so nervous. There were no cellular phones during that time so we couldn’t contact anyone for help. I was only 10 years old that time. I’m the second child. Our eldest was a high school student, my younger brother was 6 years old and the youngest was barely one year old.
Nobody stood up to defend my family. I thought that we could be massacred anytime. We were all afraid. It was traumatic.
Instinctively, my mother went outside our house and confronted the gang. She was so brave. It was in her blood. She’s an Ilongga raised in South Cotabato at Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat. A place once torn apart by Christian-Moslem conflict in the 70’s. That night, I’ve seen my mother ready to defend us. In the middle of their verbal confrontation, the gang’s leader felt that he was challenged so he climbed over our fence. It was the moment we all feared of. He was already inside the vicinity of our house. He was a meter away from my mother as he continued to threaten her. My mother shouted “Trespassing ka! Pwede kitang ipakulong!” Then the maniac pointed his finger to my mother’s forehead. He cursed our family. He called us Christian pigs.
My eldest brother saw everything. He sensed that my mother was in danger. I’ve seen him cried in anger. He felt so helpless. He was so furious. He looked for my father’s cal. 38 revolver which Papang kept for self-defense. Before, he showed it to us and told us that we could use it in case of life threatening emergencies. Fortunately, my brother wasn’t able to find it but he grabbed his air gun then went outside like Rambo. It was the only weapon he found instantly. When I saw Kuya went outside with his air gun, I grabbed our jungle bolo. I just grabbed it in pure instinct. I also cried in anger knowing that my mother needed our help. My two younger brothers cried in fear inside the house. I followed him towards that fuc@#$ bastard. It was a natural defense mechanism. At that age, I thought of killing. I thought that if somebody in my family will get hurt that night, I will kill them. At instant, without any hesitations, my brother pointed his air gun to the man’s face. I was standing beside the intruder ready to strike him with my bolo. We were all shivering. My mother started to panic when she saw us. She never expected her sons to react so violently since we were all young. She pleaded to us to get inside the house. We didn’t hear her voice anymore. Our eyes were locked on the target. The leader of the gang never budged an inch. It was a scary stand off. My brother’s eyes flashed in anger. I breathed heavily as I held my bolo so high as if I would strike the man in a split of second. I was waiting for him to make a move. Lucky for him, somebody shouted “Mababait mga Kristyano na yan, wag nyo silang galawin!” it was one of our good Moslem neighbors who pacified the tension and negotiated with the rest of the gang outside our house. The leader of the gang finally went outside. After several minutes of negotiation mediated by our Moslem friends, the gang finally backed off.
After that incident, the rest of the neighbors gathered in front of our house. When my father arrived, he looked so worried. He never expected something would happened like that to his family. He immediately proceeded to the detachment of the Philippine Marines. It was the first time I saw my father looked that way. He was terribly mad. My father was a native of Maguindanao. He was half-Moslem and half-Christian since Lola was baptized as Christian when she married my Lolo. It was a long story. It was unusual because mostly, men who married Moslem women were the ones who converted to follow Islam. On the contrary, lola turned Christian so we became Christians too. Subsequently, the Marines immediately went towards our house. They were all heavily equipped. They were ready for battle. When I saw them that night, I could feel the power of their guns. I looked up to them as mighty protectors of the oppressed. My father volunteered to guide them towards the lair of those bastards. However, the marines were not able to catch them. It will be a bloodbath if they will pursue towards the MILF camp.
I opened my eyes. My Scout Ranger classmates looked so weary and tired. I’m already a member of the Philippine Army, I thought. Time was really fast. The flight was taking so long. I felt so restless inside the C130. It was my first time to be deployed in Mindanao after several years of field assignment in Central Luzon. It would be a different kind of homecoming for me.
(To be Continued)