From Under This Hat: It has been 32 days


By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

It has been 32 days now since James M. Balao fell victim of enforced diasappearance.

Last Friday in a rally organized by colleagues, family and friends a mabtad was re-echoed. It is fetad against enforced disappearances.

One speaker in the rally from central Bontoc who found it in her heart to pitch in her much valued help, seemed scared to be among angry militant organizations and their red banners. Apparently her rage at the violent abduction and more so that it can only be an enforced disappearance made her speak strongly against the act and the enforcers.

She made it clear that she was no member of any of the organizations in the rally but nevertheless she called on her townmates and fellow Cordillerans to cooperate, help find and surface James for it is the right thing to do.

She believed this abduction could not be done by a Cordilleran (“saan tayo nga aramid dayta”), she expressed this taboo was respected by the people of these mountains. She illustrated this as she narrated a community mobilization in Bontoc she had participated in to express her vehement condemnation of what was done to James.

She said, there was one time when the New People’s Army had captured seven soldiers of the Philippine military in the Mt. Province, the elders of the community with her among them called a mabtad to bring these soldiers back safe and alive.

For a few emotionally tensed and fired-up days, they negotiated, stood vigil through the night and pleaded for their release. The “prisoners of war” were safely handed over to them. They even had to make sure the military command will not maltreat them or count them as casualties when the community handed them over to the local command.

The people’s concern and value for life was very high and clearly expressed in this community action. The people together, in the face of a vengeful military and the NPA revolutionaries, showed no fear just the overwhelming concern for the lives and safety of the prisoners.

She strongly pleaded publicly to those who took James to surface him. And, as other speakers also expressed “for the abductors to find courage in themselves to surface him and if he had committed any crime together let us deal with it in the proper and legal process.”

  • * * * * *

Milestones: My family, colleagues and I would like to express through this column our deepest sympathies to the family of the late Bishop Richard Abellon Sr. who passed away October 16.

The grandfather, father, mentor, Bishop and my, along with others, refuge when my young son and I were abducted by the military some sixteen years ago. May his lifework be an inspiration to all of us whose lives he has, in one way or many other ways, touched. To his children and grand children, his good service and life experience is the weight of the Cordillera on our shoulders that we can generously share among others to continue guiding us thru strife and peace. #

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