Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Without A Trace: The Forced Disappearance Of My Husband

My name is Letecia Mancera-Musa and I am the wife of Francisco Musa who involuntarily disappeared in the early part of year 2000. This is our story:

“I have been married to my husband Kiko for 25 years. We raised our five children in our modest house in Barangay Mina, a remote farming community in Camalig, Albay. We live a very simple life. My husband works in our coconut farm where he also plants root crops and vegetables. At one time, we also tried selling rice grain in our village to augment our meager income.

I am a typical Bicolana housewife in the countryside who stays home and takes care of the kids. When our children are in the school, I routinely clean the house, prepare the food and attend to our small retail store. In the late 90s, most of our children were already in high school. Usually, I am alone in the house during school days because my husband stays in the farm house until in the late afternoon. He normally comes home at around 5pm during which I serve him his favorite merienda.

Kiko is a very responsible family man. He sees to it that his children are well-provided in school. He wanted our eldest child to become an engineer. He once told me that it was his dream as a kid. He never finished high school because his parents were too poor to send him to school. Hence, it became his lifelong dream to let one of his children achieve his very own ambition. For that reason, he urged me to double our efforts to save more money for the education of our children. We did everything to earn more income. I maintained a small sari-sari store while he planted vegetables and root crops that he sold to our neighbors every harvest time. We also raised livestock in our backyard. Gradually, we were able to save money that we deposited in our rural bank account.

One day, I received a letter addressed to my husband. There was no information about the sender. Since he was away in our farm during that time, I waited for his return in the evening. I was thrilled what was the letter about. I was thinking that it was from one of our relatives in the neighboring village. When he arrived, I immediately told him to open it. “This might be a letter from our cousin who owes us money.”, he told me as he open the envelop. Both of us got the shock of our lives when we read the short message contained in the letter. “HINAHATULAN NG BAGONG HUKBONG BAYAN-ALBAY SI FRANCISCO MUSA NG KAMATAYAN DAHIL SA KANYANG PAGIGING ESPIYA NG MILITAR NG PASISTANG GOBYERNO NG REHIMENG ESTRADA.” (Mr Franciso Musa is meted the death penalty by the New Peoples Army (NPA) of Albay for his being a military informant serving the fascist government of Estrada’s regime). Both of us were speechless. He was not aware about his alleged offense. We did not discuss our problem with our children who noticed our sadness during dinner. We were not able to sleep that night. Every time the dogs were barking continuously, I would hug him tight. “Maybe, they are now here”, I whispered to him. He repeatedly assured me that the letter could be a hoax. “I had never worked as a spy for the military”, he said. “You know me better. I have no other job aside from tilling our farm”, he assured me. I could not contain my fear, my body was shaking . I can sense that he is in grave danger. I told him to refrain from going to our farm. Due to my insistence, he stayed in our house for the next few days. I was aware he was bored staying in our house. He practically had nothing to do after doing all the household chores that I normally do everyday. He had repaired all the fences. He improved our house by doing the carpentry job himself. I knew he really wanted to do something.

One day, he pleaded to visit our farm. “I think that letter was a big joke.”, he said. “Look, my vegetable plants are now probably harvested by someone else”, he added. My heart pounded heavily. I cannot explain the fear that I felt. “Am I overacting?”, I asked myself. I was so hesitant to let him go. With his insistence, I allowed him to leave. I let him bring his favorite “baon” (food provision) composed of steamed rice, hard-boiled eggs and smoked fish. “Don’t worry about me. See you in the afternoon.”, he assured me as he bade goodbye. I accompanied him outside. Deep inside me, I really did not want him to leave.

As the sun started to set behind the horizon later that day, I became more nervous. I waited for him as I prepared our dinner. I could not tell my children about my anxieties. As darkness had already come, there was no sign of his coming. I told my children to eat their dinner first. “I will wait for your father. He is coming late tonight.”, I told them. It was becoming late in the night. I opened our window and waited for him there. I could hear the nocturnal sound of crickets and the whistle of the wind which occasionally blow on my face. “Is he coming tonight?”, I kept asking myself. I was thinking that he might have been suddenly invited to a drink by some friends. I also thought he might have decided to sleep over at our farm house. “No. He tells me first when he decides to stay overnight in our farm.”, I murmured to myself. I soon found myself asleep by the window. I fell asleep in sitting position.

At sunrise, I and my eldest son went to our farm. I really wanted to know what had happened to him. I wanted to see for myself. I entertained many thoughts about his fate while we trekked the muddy path towards our farm. It was about an hour away from our house. Arriving there, I began scouring the place for any sign of him. I saw the left over of his food. He finished his lunch. I saw the newly cut grass in his vegetable garden. There were no other signs of him. Footprints were also seen around. People usually pass by our farm. We also have some friends in the neighboring farms. I asked the people around the place about any information about him. They had seen him working there the whole day but no one had seen him heading towards home. He had vanished without a trace. We could not locate him. I always considered him alive because I never saw his dead body. I wept everyday that I waited for him - a very painful wait. I can feel that he is just around somewhere. I always prepared his food as if he is coming anytime of the day. “God is good.”, I reminded myself. “He will take care and bring back alive my husband one of these days.”, I assured myself as I said my prayers.

I spent the next years of my life waiting for my beloved husband. I and my kids still celebrated his birthday as we normally do. We usually go to mass and prepare his favorite chicken adobo during his birthday. I maintained the tradition together with my children. I did not notice that several years have passed already after he disappeared.

Some of my neighbors and relatives suggested that I file a case against the CPP-NPA-NDF. I was told that I can show the letter they sent me “sentencing” my husband to death. Someone told me to go to the Commission on Human Rights and file a complaint against them. I consulted my children because I was confused on what to do. All of them prevented me from filing a case against the CPP-NPA-NDF. “They might kill us all, Mama!”, my eldest son averred. “We have lost Papa, please don’t do something that will make them angrier.”, he pleaded. I felt that my son was right. I have lost my husband but I still have all my children. There is no way that I will sue the unknown perpetrators though I strongly believe the communist rebels have something to do with my husband‘s disappearance. There might be some people around our place who are their members. To suffer in silence is unfair but it seems to be the best option under the situation.

It was last month (September 2009) that I heard over the local radio about a gravesite found in Brgy Taplacon which is just near our village. I felt a jolt deep inside my heart as I increased the volume of our transistor radio. “The skeletal remains of a man bore signs of torture. He is wearing a red underwear.”, the radio announcer said. “Oh my God! Is that Kiko?”, I asked myself. I can still vividly remember that he was wearing a red underwear the last time I saw him. “God, my husband is dead?!”, I exclaimed. My daughter-in-law jotted all the contact numbers provided by the military spokesman. I felt a shiver down my spine but I still hoped that it was not Kiko. I have always wanted to see him alive.

Upon learning that the skeletal remains were brought to PNP SOCO office for identification, we immediately rushed to see them. The police officer on duty waited for us at the lounge. “Can I ask you a few questions?”, he said. “Anything, sir. Just speak louder because I can’t hear clearly.”, I replied. The officer asked me about the possible identification marks that I can pinpoint as that of my husband’s. “He has a gold filling in one of his teeth. I was with him when we had it installed. I was sure about it.", I told the police officer. “Okay, let us check the remains inside.”, the officer told me.

I was trembling as we walked towards the room where the remains were temporarily stored. As I came near the bones, I immediately saw the red underwear. It is still very clear. I can still read the brand. It was the same one I bought in Legaspi City during his birthday! Then, I saw the dentures. I can not utter any word anymore. I could not be wrong. I and my daughter-in-law cried. My husband is dead. It is only now that I am certain that he is indeed killed by the criminals. Is this the kind of justice they are proclaiming? How can they openly claim to be the people’s army? It's a shame! They are killing defenseless people without any fair trial after being accused of some alleged crimes!

Raising a family on my own is truly hard. Almost everyday I cried. I endured many years without my husband. He vanished without a trace. Now he is back but our family can not relive the happy memories that we had. Kiko, my husband and a good father of our children, was forcibly stolen from us. Though I cried a bucket of tears, I can never bring back Kiko alive. We will forever miss Kiko’s jokes, his laughter, his gentle manners, and his determination to give us a better life.

I am now in the twilight years of my life. It is my fervent hope that these senseless killings in the name of a pathetic ideology will finally come to an end. I only want a peaceful future for my children and grandchildren. I do not want them to suffer my sad fate."

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