It could've been me. It could've been me killed in a massacre of 58 men and women, 32 of them members of the media. It could've been me slaughtered mercilessly. It could've been me now celebrating a year of injustice!
I might be the 25 year old Noel "Bogs" Decena. We probably share the same passion for journalism. We probably have the same dream of having our names huge among the bylines and television news programs. We could've been friends. He could've told me so many stories about Mindanao, his proud birthplace. I could've compared notes with him about the conduct of our job. But he just can't. He can't do any of those anymore.
Bogs used to be a Circulation Manager for the local newspaper Periodico Ini. He was the eldest among three siblings; the youngest among the troop of reporters following the story of the rivalry between the clan of Ampatuans and Mangudadatu. Bagito they would call him - a neophyte media practitioner. On the morning of 23rd of November 2009, on their way accompanying the women members of the clan of Mangudadatu to file their patriarch Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu's certificate of candidacy, to Shariff Aguak, they were halted by 100 armed men. Only to find out, there they would meet their end. Bogs Decena was killed.
It could've been my mother. It could've been my mother killed in a massacre of 58 men and women, 32 of them members of the media. It could've been my mother slaughtered mercilessly. It could've been my mother now celebrating a year of injustice!
Genalin Mangudadatu was probably not much different from my mother in talks about motherhood. They probably share the same dedication in serving their respective families. They could've chatted animately. They could've talked about the huge difference of their status in life but most likely realise, that after all, at the end of the day, they're simply just mothers, always on the goal of working tirelessly for the best welfare of their children and husband. But no. Genalin Mangudadatu can't do it anymore. She just can't.
On the morning of the 23rd of November 2009, she was brutally killed. Prime suspects are no other than the family of her husband's top political nemesis. Her vagina was slashed 4 times by a dagger. Her eyes speared. Her feet sliced. All in all, she received 17 gunshots all over her body. Genalin Mangudadatu is dead.
It could've been my father. It could've been my father killed in a massacre of 58 men and women, 32 of them members of the media. It could've been my father slaughtered mercilessly. It could've been my father now celebrating a year of injustice!
Bong Reblado might be my father, but no he isn't. Yes he has a son about the same age as me, but no. My name is not Jude Reblado. My father would've been ashamed of himself if he get to meet the older Reblado. His son would tell stories of how great their dad is. He considers journalism as his vocation. He loves his wife more than anything else. He considers his family his prime gem. Maybe I'll let him talk to my father so mine could take a few notes from him. But he couldn't. He couldn't do it anymore.
Bong Reblado thought he knew the Ampatuans. He was wrong. Whatever linkage he might be referring to, it didn't spare him of the sinking oblivion he is about to get buried on. His brother and own son found his dead body. An eyeball and an ear - gone. His son couldn't believe it. But years of spending time with his father couldn't fool him. It was really his father, killed on that fated morning of November 23, 2009. He could never report for the Manila Bulletin again. He could never challenge his sons anymore for morning push-ups nor hug his wife in front of all his children to see. He's gone. Gone forever.
It could've been you my friend. It could've been you, a friend of mine who's reading this right now, killed in a massacre of 58 men and women, 32 of them members of the media. It could've been you slaughtered mercilessly. It could've been you now celebrating a year of injustice!
You my friend might be as clueless as Daryl delos Reyes when he happened to be riding on a vehicle that chose to traverse that cursed road that morning. After all, you're too burdened of your own family's dilemmas to care about two former political allies now fighting head on head for gubernatorial seat like him. He wanted to buy his mother their own house. So he bought a land that he pays monthly through his wages as government employee. Now he won't be able to live in that dream home of his.
Unluckily, they passed by a road marked by Death himself, when the vehicle they're on happened to be get mixed-up in a convoy of reporters and political clan members, ambushed by a large group of armed men. Call that being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The brutal fate overlooked the fact that they are not even aware as to what is happening that exact moment. November 23, 2009, his dreams were buried with him. Daryl delos Reyes's died in confusion.
Behold! Fathers and mothers; brothers and sisters; men and women; all of us, yes, even you, all victims of the massacre that took place on this very same day exactly a year ago. Let the world hear our cry for justice. Let the world witness our mournings and crusades. Let not that we forget every single story almost buried on that hell of a mass grave there at a lowly hill in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
Remember these names. Remember their stories.
Noel "Bogs" Decena
Alejandro "Bong" Reblando
Daryl delos Reyes
Santos "Jun" Gatchalian
Archie "Ace" David
Fernando "Ferdz" Mendoza
McDelbert "Macmac" Arriola
Gina dela Cruz
Bartolome "Bart" Maravilla
Napoleon "Nap" Salaysay
Concepcion "Connie" Brizuela
Photo Credits: ramica-ideas.com
Sources: ANC Presents "Under the Same Sky"
Sources: ANC Presents "Under the Same Sky"
ANC Presents "58"
National Union of the Journalists of the Philippines