The stories do not end with the deaths and disappearances. Beyond the names and faces of the victims are the equally tragic stories of their families who are left to face not only the loss or absence of their loved ones but also a life permanently scarred and a shattered family longing to be whole again.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
PART 1: Breaking Ties, Wounding Lives
A bamboo sofa, a center table with a vase full of plastic flowers, a few kitchen utensils and traces of blood on the ground are all that’s left inside the house of 37-year-old Precy Guevarra in Barangay San Jose Malino, Mexico town in Pampanga, 71 kms north of Manila.
Precy and her three teenaged boys have not gone home since her husband, Arnel, was shot at close range by hooded-men around 10:30 p.m. of July 21.
Precy said her husband’s assailants were actually looking for her father-in-law, Conrado, a peasant leader in their village who lived at the house across that of Precy’s. Since the assailants could not find the older Guevarra, they instead forcibly entered Precy’s home and killed her husband in front of her and her children.
“Hindi namin maintindihan bakit ginawa nila ito sa amin,” (I can’t understand why they did this to us.) was all that Precy could say while begging off from the interview. “Sana maintindihan nyo po, masakit pa sa amin ang nangyari. Ayaw na sana namin ikwento nang ikwento para makalimutan na namin,” (I hope you understand, the pain is still there. We prefer not to tell the story over and over again to enable us to forget.) she said.
This reporter was entertained by Precy and some of Arnel’s relatives under a mango tree, just beside a deep well pump and a shed that used to be a pig pen.
Precy and her sons are not the only family of victims who have left home after a death destroyed their household. Jennifer Barbas and her six children also left their home in Sta. Rita, Samar after the murder of her husband, 30-year old Alrico, and her 10-year old son, Jeric, on July 3, 2005. Recently, 25-year old Joan Abellera and her three young children abandoned their home in Barangay Parista, Lupao in the province of Nueva Ecija after her husband, Rodel, was abducted allegedly by soldiers on July 31.
Yet, as the killings and disappearances all over the country continue, the number of families of victims of human rights violations who have been forced to leave their homes likewise increases.
Estranged from home
For a normal family, home is a sanctuary, Prof. Sarah Raymundo of the University of the Philippines-Sociology Department said in an interview. “The home is not just a physical structure but it is perceived to be the safest place for an individual,” she said. However, when something violent happens inside this sanctuary, the house becomes a strange place. “For the family, it’s not the same house anymore,” the sociologist said.
It is after the funeral that the real mourning sets in, Raymundo said. “Pagkatapos ng libing, wala nang nakikiramay. Dito nararamdaman ng pamilya na wala na yung mahal nila sa buhay,” (After the burial, the daily visits of people expressing their sympathies and condolences stop. That is the time when the family feels the loss of their loved one.) she explained.
No time to mourn
The family also feels betrayed, Raymundo added. “The tendency is for them to withdraw from the community because they do not want to relive the violence they experienced.”
In cases where the family is also being hunted after the violent incident, the family would not have the time to mourn properly, Raymundo said.
This was the case of Jennifer and her children who had to leave their native place in Samar and had to hide from one place to another because the killers of her husband tried to trace them. “Kasi ayaw nila kami magsumbong,“(They do not want us to report the incident.) Jennifer said in an interview.
Jennifer said that she strongly believes that soldiers were behind the murders of her husband, Alrico, and their 10-year old child, Jeric.
For a year and a half before Alrico’s murder, soldiers who she only knew by the names “Gabuay,” “Gatdula,” and “Delio,” rented her husband’s tricycle every time the soldiers would go to nightspots in Tacloban City in Leyte. She said the soldiers paid her husband P100 to P150 ($1.95 – $2.92 at an exchange rate of $1=P51.38) a night.
Jennifer was not at home when her loved ones were murdered but it was her second son, Alrico Jr., who witnessed the incident.
For Jennifer, running away from soldiers was not a walk in the park. After the five-day wake, the entire family left for Cebu, and later had to transfer to a convent in Tacloban City. Their final stop was here in Manila where they have taken refuge in an undisclosed place.