More than three years after he was abducted by hooded men in front of his welding shop in Maa, Sabdurah Abdullah Ala remains missing. It took a while for his devastated family to recover from the shock and grief. But today, they honor and remember him by fulfilling his dreams and wishes. And theyre still praying for him to finally come home. Davao Today’s Grace S. Uddin reports.

DAVAO CITY Three years ago, Sabdurah Abdullah Ala, a Moro barangay leader in Maa, this city, disappeared without a trace after unidentified men grabbed him outside his shop. The abduction occurred soon after the bombings of the Davao International Airport and the Sasa Wharf in this city, and after authorities pointed to Muslim extremists as the perpetrators.

Up to this day, Ala is still missing and his family is still waiting — patiently, achingly — for him to come home.

Alas family has been grieving for more than three years now. Even though they have somehow recovered from the initial anguish of the disappearance, Aminah, Alas wife, said things will never be the same. For her and her children, every day since her husbands disappearance has been a struggle.

Sabdurrah Abdullah AlaIt has been totally hard, she told recently. It was better before because at least there was someone to share your problems with. Now, I am left always on my own.

After his kidnapping, Aminah said her family tried very hard to get on with their lives.

During the early weeks following her husbands disappearance, Aminah, who used to be on the chubby side, grew thin because she lost her appetite. She became nervous and anxious all the time. She spent months depressed, crying all the time.

Their youngest daughter, Mariam, would break down and cry, even to this day when the child remembers her father.

It took a while for Aminah to find her footing back. Her children and relatives encouraged her to be strong, for her and her family’s sake. Soon, with the help of such groups as Karapatan and Bayan Muna, she bounced back and was soon coordinating with them in searching for her husband. At one point, they went from police precinct to police precinct to find him. They never did.

Ala used to work as a welder; he ran a small shop right in front of their house. But after the abduction, the machines in the shop were abandoned and ruined. Aminah had no choice but to close it down.

The small store that Aminah had ran, selling all kinds of banana, also closed down. She now runs a small sari-sari (variety) store with one of her daughters. I have to work on my own now, no matter how small the income. At least we have enough to buy some goods, Aminah said.

Although their six children are all grown-up — five are already married and only one, Mariam, lives with her now — Aminah said life became harder since her husband was kidnapped because they had practically relied on him for survival.

Her son and the husbands of her daughters make a living quarrying sand in a river nearby. There are times when the river is flooded and not suitable for quarrying; when that happens, they would have no income.

Thanks to the big gmelina trees that her husband planted a few years ago, they were able to put up a hollow-block business, with proceeds from the trees as capital. Even when he is no longer with them, Aminah said, her husband still makes his presence felt, with his children reaping the fruits of his efforts, no matter how small.

Aminah said he had so many plans for the family. One of his wishes was to buy a vehicle. So even if he was no longer around, I and our children tried to fulfill his dream, Aminah said, pointing to a green Multicab they had just bought.

They bought the second-hand vehicle by selling their old motorcycle. The entire family will be using it for the hollow-block business.

Aminah described Ala as a very loving and helpful partner. He often checked what was lacking in the kitchen and would never leave me doing all the household chores, she recalled. When she was pregnant, she said, Ala would take extra care of him and would go to great lengths getting the food that she wanted to eat.

Although they were Muslims, Aminah pointed out that she was his only wife and never thought of taking another. Ala would often call her Ling while she would call him Lang.

She remembered him as a funny man, who would make all sorts of jokes. One time, while she was pregnant, he cracked a joke about one of the women in town. Aminah grew jealous and furious. That was the only time that we had a serious fight, she recalled, laughing. I even planned on leaving him because I was really mad.

The year before Ala was abducted was the couples 25th year anniversary. Ala would have been 49 this year, said the 46-year-old Aminah.

As a father, Ala taught his children to strictly follow the Koran. As a result, their children grew up with no vices. He also made it to a point that the children attend to their studies seriously.

But even though he was a disciplinarian, Aminah said her husband had a good relationship with his children. He was like a barkada, a friend, to them, she said. He would gather the children before bedtime in the living room and he would tell them stories and crack jokes, Aminah said.

There was so much laughter in their modest home, said Aminah.

Today, Aminah is buoyed by the good memory of her husband. If there was one thing she misses most, she said, it was his goodness. He was a good husband and a good father.

I know he is just around. Wherever he is, I always to pray to Allah that he is fine and taken care of, she said. If he is alive, I hope they will send him back home to us. (Grace S. Uddin/

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