This is not really about me, but about the people I meet, the places I visit and the stories I want to share.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Alias Striker and Aerial Strikes

“Nakakain na ako ng hita, ikaw gusto mo kumain?”, quipped Alias Striker when I asked him if it was true that they were resorting to cannibalism in their fight against Moro rebels in the 1970’s.

Despite his advanced age, Alias Striker is part of the Reformed Ilaga Movement, an armed group resurrected to fight against Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters in Mindanao. As the tension in the region particularly in North Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Norte continues to heat up, first and second generation Ilagas are arming themselves to defend their families.

The group gained notoriety in the 1970’s when they waged war against the Moro National Liberation Front. According to the spokesperson of the Reformed Ilaga Movement who introduced himself as Mike Santiago, they were called “Ilaga” which in Hiligaynon language means rat, because they attacked their enemies just like rats in the middle of the night.

Their name also became an acronym for “Ilonggo Landgrabbers Association” since most Ilagas were settlers from Negros and Panay islands who speak Ilonggo or Hiligaynon. Of course, this name did not sit well for the Ilagas.

The government has already warned the Ilagas against pursuing MILF fighters since it will only fan the flames of animosity between Muslims and Christians. North Cotabato Vice Governor Manny Pinol said he will “stop the Ilagas at all cost.”

Malacanang and the military have also reminded the Ilagas not to complicate the on-going military operations against the group of Commanders Umbra Kato and Bravo.

In its campaign against the two MILF commanders, the government has even circulated “wanted” posters with pictures of Commanders Umbra Kato and Bravo. Charges of murder and arson were filed by the government against the two commanders.

But the MILF leadership has always stood by their two commanders even if they were branded by the government as renegade leaders.

MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, in a rare press conference inside Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao reiterated that their botched homeland deal with the government is the key to peace in Mindanao. It was the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that led to the MILF attacks in the region and it is safe to assume that only a final homeland agreement will pacify the MILF commanders.

With the military continuing its offensives against Commanders Umbra Kato and Bravo, there seems to be no peace in sight in Mindanao. Military officials keep on saying that they have specific targets – the camps of the two “renegade” commanders.

But as the days go by since the MILF started their attacks, the number of civilian casualties continue to rise.

Twelve-year-old Ruben Pano lost his grandparents, and an uncle in an attack in Pikit town being blamed on MILF sympathizers of Commander Umbra Kato. Their house was razed into ashes and all that is left are the memories of harassment they got even if they were already staying in an evacuation center days after the attack.

Some children though have become immune of the bombs and bullets that have become part of their daily lives since the military airstrikes began. They all watched in awe as we were shooting OV 10 planes in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, not knowing that the bombs they were seeing could have killed innocent civilians nearby.

And true enough, collateral damage knows no boundaries - Muslims or Christians, MILF fighters or soldiers - practically anyone in the way of a bullet or bomb is a natural target.

Salampunay Umbay is just one of the widows of war in Maguindanao. She says she lost her husband after an OV-10 fighter plane dropped bombs on their village in Mamasapano town.

One of the bombs that the children in Datu Saudi Ampatuan were watching could have been the deadly bomb that found its way in Mamasapano, killing the husband of
Salampunay.

The body of her husband was to be found five days later. Worse, Salampunay does not know where to find her eight children after they were separated from each other as they panicked after the military attacks on their town.
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The non-government organization Mindanao Emergency Response Network says the number of deaths will increase as there seems to be no stopping the firefight even during the holy period of Ramadhan.

“Wala namang pinipili ang bala,” says Rose Ebus, MERN convenor.

With this grim scenario ahead of us here in Mindanao, can’t we just go on with the peace process, continue deliberating on the MOA by consulting all sectors concerned and let’s all move forward without firing a single bullet, without launching a single howitzer and without dropping a single bomb?

9 Comments:

Anonymous Lionheart said...

Ei Kuya... Since anjan ka sa bakbakan, ingat lagi... Isipin lagi ang safety...

7:48 PM

 
Blogger Deaconess Rhiza said...

hi! saludo ako sa tapang n'yo! sana nga maghari na ang kapayapaan hindi lang sa mindanao kundi sa buong mundo.

happy birthday po! i pray that God will continue to bless you! be an instrument of God's peace always!

4:08 PM

 
Blogger jan celiz-magtoto said...

hey! a bit sensitive topic we have here. i hope you can still participate. here's our coffee break this week http://labskiddies.blogspot.com/2008/10/coffee-break-ver-139.html

4:03 PM

 
Anonymous Benj said...

I admire your guts in taking calculated risks without being too careless.

The loss of life is tragic but it seems like none of the two sides are going to back down. The Philippine nation was built on shifting sands and it's pretty clear that imperial Manila will not get its way every team. Both sides have different ways of getting a settlement - unfortunately, there lies a disconnect in the actual method of solving the problem.

6:30 PM

 
Blogger Adrian Ayalin said...

Thanks guys, it's been awhile since i last covered something dangerous. Pero buti na lang din ganun, kasi pag nagcocover kami ng dangerous story, ibig sabihin me namamatay. Kaya wag na lang, better na walang storya.

3:15 PM

 
Blogger Reena said...

hi. i'm starstrucked! i can't believe i read your blog. haha...i can't believe Striker ate human flesh...why'd you stop blogging?

9:29 AM

 
Blogger lateralus said...

dude, go back to blogging again! hehe

7:19 PM

 
Blogger Warrior In Scrubs said...

Eating the flesh of fallen enemies is an old ritual among Ilonggo warriors of old--including Alias Striker, who is of Ilonggo descent.

Others even drink the blood of fallen enemies.

The conflict between Ilonggos and Bangsamoro people is deep-seated and is pretty well documented in history--even dating back as far as the Spanish era.

I've written about this generations-old conflict here:

1. http://warriorinscrubs.blogspot.com/2009/01/arnis-kali-eskrima-training-groups-in.html

2. http://warriorinscrubs.blogspot.com/2008/07/remembering-north-cotabato.html

4:59 PM

 
Blogger = rOzie = said...

Hi Ma'am/Sir;

I'm Rosalyn Mae Sto Domingo from the College of Mass Communication, UPD. On Behalf of our 11th Department Extension Research Project presentation entitled: IMPRESS10N: Impact of Media Presence on the 2010 National Elections,” I would like to invite you to our public presentation on March 14, at the Media Center, UP CMC.

In line with this, we sent you the whole invitation, with the press release to the email address you posted. We hope you can look into it. =)

We hope you will find our invitation worth your time. Thank you! =)

Here are our contact details:

Rosalyn: (0916) 2437-992
blackrose_kaito@yahoo.com

URL: http://11thderp.multiply.com/

3:50 PM

 

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