Rehashed plot fizzled and the struggle for Pantaron continues

Jan. 26, 2020

One thing that no amount of intimidation can break is the unbending spirit of brotherhood among some 500 aggrieved evacuees at the sanctuary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines who have long suffered being displaced from their ancestral lands. Such firm resolve to pursue their righteous cause have helped strengthen the faith of the UCCP Bishops and those at the center in their continued support for the Lumad’s just struggle.

“The United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area stands firm on our commitment to serve the indigenous peoples in Davao region. By doing our duty to act as shepherds of the poor and the deprived we manifest our unwavering commitment to defend the rights of those who are deprived of their civil liberties. The continuing harassment and possible filing of charges against UCCP Haran Mission Center is a threat against the commitment of the church to do Christ’s mission of ministering to the oppressed and the marginalized.”

This statement clearly said it all. Thus despite the continuing vilification and harassment that they have to endure, the UCCP stood by their decision to continue supporting the Lumads for several decades already.

Presence matter. It’s a lesson that everyone even the “uninvolved” among the crowd of on-lookers and the curious milling around the live drama at the “Haran siege” yesterday have learned.

The characters involved in the scene that unfolded early morning of Chinese New Year until late in the afternoon were so vividly and “effectively” portrayed by each of the actors, such that clearly, even without any cue, spectators readily knew who were the villains or antagonists, and their victims.

The story was perfectly timed and planned such that one cannot help but be glued to one’s place, anticipating what would come next. Thus, even before the day was over, we already knew what would transpire at the end of the day’s breaking story.

In fact, it was really not new as it was just a “repeat performance” by the same set of antagonists, and unwittingly, there were no changes to the plot, hence, the ending was already predictable, and well, was kinda boring. Like how the first drama that unfolded some years back, the “knight-in-shining-armor” came to settle the dispute between the contending parties, and well, this time, it was the younger version, and the dialogue was almost the same. The “director” or “directors” who might have been just around the corner hiding from behind tainted windows of their cars might have forgotten to change the script, hence, the usual “ … and they left unhappily ever after …” unsuccessful with their dark intentions.

However, for the Lumad mothers and the very young children, it was the same nightmare that has refused to disappear. For the many women and children who suffered the first attempt of the ALAMARA to break down the gates some years back, and who were once again assaulted and traumatized by the brazen attack from the “zombies” dressed like their fathers and elders, and were destroying the walls of their sanctuary and shouting at them, intimidating them, it was indeed scary and very fearsome.

Resolute faith

I could not help but be tearful however at the sight of little children holding on tight to their mothers, their eyes giving away their fears and dread. I could almost see the women shaking with horror at the thought of the possibility that they would be forcibly dragged up to the trucks waiting outside the sanctuary for them and be brought out to uncertainty.

I could feel their fright as well as their anger at the situation, as I watched the live coverage on social media, thanks to several active young members of the press who courageously and dutifully covered live the whole episode “blow by blow”, even when they were barred by the police from entering the sanctuary.
I, too, felt I have become a victim of this shameless desecration of a sanctuary where God has brought the homeless and the voiceless.

It’s abominable and blatant how police authorities mouth meaningless words as their action clearly showed where their sympathies lie. “Action speaks louder than words,” so to speak, but it seems, they never learned their lessons. What was most appalling was the way they tried to cover the dastardly acts of the paramilitary by not even apprehending those with bladed weapons and bolos among them. Unfortunately for the police force, there were several photos showing the Alamara lumads wielding bolos and the metal cutter, their faces gloating with wicked glee.

Even then, the best part though of the day’s episode was when a young Lumad leader was recorded giving his respects to an elderly Datu who has turned his back from the struggle of the tribe. In a surprising move that was not anticipated by the antagonists, the young leader of the Lumad confederation PASAKA assured Datu Guibang that he is still revered by the Lumads as a leader of their decades-old struggle to protect the Pantaron.

Datu Guibang looked stunned to hear such show of respect and reverence from Jong Monzon, who assured him that he and the rest of the younger lumad leaders will continue the struggle that Datu Guibang had started in 1994, this despite all that had transpired during the day such that the Datu was speechless.

What a great ending to an otherwise antagonistic beginning of a story. It was that sudden twist of plot that took many by surprise and made God’s mysterious ways of protecting His people more visible. Praise God indeed!(

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