September 24, 2009 was just like any ordinary day in my life. I woke up early, went to our town center and bought food provisions for my family. The day passed by casually, nothing special. After dinner, we shared some stories, corny jokes, had hearty laughs, and then came bedtime. Another common day passing by in the life of an ordinary Filipino family in the countryside.
Then at around 10pm, we were already in deep slumber when I was awakened by faint voices outside our “nipa” hut. “Tao po, pwede po makisirong saindo ngon-yan na banggi?” (Hello, can we take shelter for the night?”), the man outside said. As I rose from my sleeping mat, I tried to identify the people outside our door. It was raining hard. Early morning of that day, I heard over the radio the coming of typhoon “Ondoy”. This must be it. Ondoy has come. And, I have unknown visitors whom Ondoy made uncomfortable. I need to help them.
After mustering enough courage, I was able to utter some words, “Igwa pong high blood ang nanay ko sagkod takot po iyang nakakahiling ning tao na igwang badil lalo na po dai nya bistado." (My mother has a high blood pressure and she fears anyone carrying guns especially people she does not personally know.). One of the men, in an attempt to give me some sort of assurance, replied, “Togotan po nindo kaming makisirong ngonyan lang na banggi, mahali man po tulos kami sa aga para dai kami mahiling nya.“ (Please allow us to stay, we will leave early tomorrow so that she won’t see us.) What can I do? Can I force them do leave us alone? Of course not!
After helping them settle down, I went back to my sleeping mat. I found myself awake and looking at the dimmed light of our kerosene lamp. My parents were soundly asleep. My son was snoring, unaware of the potential danger due to the presence of unidentified heavily-armed men just outside our main room. Deep inside my womb, I can feel that my baby is kicking. Perhaps, he is assuring me that everything is ok. I comforted myself. I rubbed my tummy gently as if telling my son to stay calm for the night. I slowly lay down my trembling body with thousand thoughts scrambling in my mind. I can sense they are not government agents. If they are not then what if the police or military suddenly come? Gunbattle will surely ensue and we will be right in the middle of it! What will happen to us? Get killed? What about my old parents, son and unborn baby? And what if they found out that I have a brother who is an Army Scout Ranger? They might harm us right away. Oh God! Without doubt, I have truly put my whole family in danger!
Our visitors were having their coffee when a commotion took place. I heard one of them shouted, “Kalaban, kalaban!” (“Enemy, enemy!”). Then, I heard someone shouting, “Fire!” Staccato of gunfire were everywhere. Hearing this, I hurriedly climbed our stairs. I pulled my father towards our room. We have nowhere to hide. We got no cover because our house is made only of bamboo! “We’re dead!”, I muttered to myself. Bullets were piercing through our bamboo walls. Suddenly, I felt a gnawing pain in my leg. I was hit. Blood was flowing through my abdomen too! A little while later, I heard my father groaning in pain. He was hit too. My son and my mom were crying. No, they were wailing to high heavens! I was helpless. I cannot stand up to help them. As more bullets tore through our roof and walls, I desperately prayed the fighting to stop. “God, please don’t let anyone from my family die…please!”, I mumbled to myself.
As they treated me and my father, I was so sad that this thing happened to us. I was still trembling. I was blaming myself. But this must be our fate. It must be God’s will. “Don’t worry, a helicopter is coming to take you to the nearest hospital if needed.”, the leader of the soldiers firmly assured me. It was still raining.
An hour later, one of my brothers who live nearby came rushing to our aid. He convinced the Scout Ranger officer to release us immediately so that we can be brought to the community hospital. “Okay. I will let them go. The first aid treatment has stopped the bleeding.”, he said. I was happy that we were allowed to leave. I was worried for my father. He was crying in pain. As we were carried by our neighbors along the muddy path towards the nearest road, I cannot help but cry. I cried because we have just became victims of this war between the rebels and soldiers. My family is composed of farmers who are law-abiding citizens of this country. We are one poor family who can even barely make three-square meals a day! Why is this happening? Why us? I cannot find any answer to my own questions.
Due to the lack of equipment, we were transferred to a larger hospital which has complete medical facilities. Without haste, the doctors operated on me to save the wounded fetus inside my womb. He was alive when he came out. I was happy after seeing him. “His wound is fatal but we are trying to save him as much as we can.”, the doctor frankly said. I pitied my son. He is an innocent victim of this war. A war being fought by his uncle. It is a war that has caught us in the line of fire. The Scout Rangers, I am sure, do not intend to hurt civilians like me. They would certainly avoid shooting immediate family members of their fellow Scout Rangers.
Later, the doctor came back and brought the saddest news. My son has expired. He was only 8-months old. I felt so sorry for him. He is the last remembrance that I have from his father who was recently violently murdered by a neighbor. “God, why I am given all these trials?”, I exclaimed. “Lord, help me rise up and withstand all these odds. I am used to all hardships. I can make it. I know You will never abandon me and my family.“, I prayed.
The military authorities came to visit me. They offered to pay for all the expenses we incurred in the hospital. I was also told by the doctor that some human rights groups wanted to see me including GABRIELA and KARAPATAN. I consulted my family and some friends about our situation. Trusting their collective advice, I decided to go with the military authorities who respectfully offered the medical facilities inside the camp.