Photo Essay: Kuni’s burial

Jun. 21, 2024
Photo from Oblates Brother Kelly Mark Socias

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Kuni Cuba, a 16-year-old Dulangan Manobo, was looking forward to his senior year in high school next month, with a scholarship from a Catholic ministry in his community in the municipality of Senator Ninoy Aquino in Sultan Kudarat.

School meant “going up and down the mountains every day” but he was passionate, says Oblates Brother Kelly Mark Socias, whose congregation, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), runs an indigenous people’s ministry.  

But Kuni made his final trek home to Barangay Kiadsam on June 11 inside a coffin, carried by villagers and relatives. Last June 8 at dawn, he was shot dead by soldiers under the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion.

Photo from Oblates Brother Kelly Mark Socias

Earlier, the battalion commander said in the news that Kuni was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). But Kuni’s two friends and brother, who were with him in his final moments, told a different story.

They were going home after spending a night attending a party in another village. It was already past curfew when they trekked back and encountered the soldiers.

One of them heard the soldiers shouted, “Atras! (Retreat)” but still opened fire at them. The boys ducked and ran to the cornfields. But Kuni was fatally shot.

Kuni’s family, in reports from Radyo Bandido, were indignant over the battalion’s claim that Kuni was a rebel. Later, the military made an amicable settlement with the family through the facilitation of the town mayor.

Bringing Kuni home, Brother Socias wrote on his Facebook post, was a “long trek up and down the mountains.”

“It was truly a long trek through beautiful scenery, perfect for adventurers. However, the thought of why we were there led me to a different feeling. The cool weather, even under the sun, felt different. The 360-degree view of beautiful mountains made me sad, knowing that someone who used to walk the path I was taking will no longer see them in this life. And, many indigenous people who have been in these mountains for ages will no longer feel safe in their own beautiful land,” he said.

Photo from Oblates Brother Kelly Mark Socias
Photo from Oblates Brother Kelly Mark Socias

It was a sad day for the community to see a young life ended. Socias described how Kuni as “enduring and doing extra work to earn allowance for his studies.”

One of the members of the ministry told Socias, “Brother, if a Manobo is killed, sorry is all they get.”  

Photo from Oblates Brother Kelly Mark Socias
Photo from Oblates Brother Kelly Mark Socias

The Lumad in Mindanao have longed for peace, and education for their youth. This time again, the Lumad, the Oblates community, and other Lumad rights advocates call for a stop to militarization in Lumad communities. (

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