Sayrin and Her Long Trip to School

She left school before she started her second year in college to join the New People’s Army in Aurora province. Sayrin fondly calls this as her long trip to her new school – the school of life in the countryside.

BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 34, September 30-October 6, 2007

AURORA PROVINCE – Two deep wounds from an M-14 bullet cut across the right leg of Ka (short for kasama or comrade) Sayrin. Sitting on a makeshift hospital bed made of bamboo wood and white rice sacks inside this New People’s Army (NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines or CPP) camp somewhere in the outskirts of this province, Ka Sayrin managed to smile (and sometimes laugh) despite the obvious pain brought by the wounds.

At exactly 3 in the afternoon of August 22, about 60 soldiers from the 69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IB PA) attacked Ka Sayrin and 11 of her comrades while resting in one of the barangays (villages) in this province. The signal fire from the soldiers hit Ka Alex who was sleeping inside a taffeta hammock. “Nagulat ako nung marinig yung putok. Tapus, nakita ko tumutulo na ang dugo mula sa duyan,” (I was surprised when I heard the sound of gunfire. Then I saw the blood dripping from the taffeta hammock.) Ka Sayrin said.

That single shot caused the martyrdom of Ka Alex who was hit on the head and, according to the villagers, was stacked up inside a military chopper together with most of the NPA guerillas’ belongings. “Nakuha nila (the soldiers) ang mga pack namin,” (They got our backpacks.) Ka Sayrin said adding that only two of her comrades were able to save their back packs.

The guerillas were forced into a defensive mode, Ka Sayrin said, but were able to fire back. At the end of the firefight, reports from the masses said four soldiers were killed while many others were wounded.

Meanwhile, Ka Sayrin was hit on the right leg while two of her comrades were hit by shrapnel, one on the buttocks and the other on the face and leg.

Retreat

The following scenes remain vivid in Ka Sayrin’s memory and she tells them with gushes of nervous laughter while on the verge of tears with occasional verbal relievers as she ends most of her sentences with “pero, okay lang.”

Ka Sayrin said one of her comrades who was hit was left on the ground. “Akala namin patay na s��ya,” (We thought he was dead.) Ka Sayrin said because they saw blood flowing from the face. This comrade was left alone for three days without neither food nor medication. But he was able to find solace in the hands of the masses who found the guerilla fighting for his life in the middle of the cogon fields.

Meanwhile, with only 10 of them left, Ka Sayrin said she and her comrades were able to ask assistance from the masses who readily provided food for the guerillas who were on a long retreat. “Nakapagpabili kami ng bigas at nanghiram kami ng kaldero,” (We were able to purchase rice grains and borrow pots.) Ka Sayrin said.

The guerillas survived the next five days running along the mountains with only instant noodles and sardines to keep them alive. “Naku, umuulan pa,” Ka Sayrin gushed. “Kaya yung pagkain namin laging may sabaw na ulan. Wala na ngang lasa ang noodles.” (It was even raining. Our food always had rain as soup stock. But the noodles became tasteless.)

With survival foremost in their minds, Ka Sayrin said she almost forgot she was badly hit on the leg. “Lakad lang kami ng lakad hanggang makarating kami sa kampo,” (We walked on and on till we reached our camp.) she said. She only realized her leg was becoming numb and infected when they reached the camp after five days. “Yung binti ko para nang binti ng elepante,” (My leg was as big as an elephant’s.) she recalled.

Long trip

As she sat down for the interview, it seemed it was only then that Ka Sayrin realized she has gone far too soon.

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