Ubonoy Botod Manlaon

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By Ging-ging Avellanosa Valle

Bahin sang Bubay

Sunday, April 20, 2014


ONE can only guess at her age but feeling her hand resting on my palm for a while, albeit hesitantly, I could sense that beyond the number of years that she has lived with her family in Talaingod, Ubonoy Botod Manlaon, a Manobo woman have known better times than anyone else in their tribe.

“Teody,” her nephew, who acted as her interpreter during a brief talk that we had, have said that she have had delivered 15 children already, some of whom were already having their own families and living separately. Nevertheless, she looked younger with her raven black hair and frail-looking body.

Almost incomprehensible as she started to recount in her native tongue her ordeal in the hands of her captors for a week, Ubonoy was shaking when she recalled her experiences, gesturing with her hands and her eyes seems to blaze as her body shook, indicating her fright and discomfort at the thought.

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As I tried to visualize her nightmare on March 10, 2014, as told by her interpreter, Ubonoy have walked all the way from San Fernando in Bukidnon towards Talaingod crossing Pataron Mountain range. With her was her tiny puppy that she carried along, one that had kept her company all throughout her unimaginable nightmare.

For years, Ubonoy have traversed this route, and have grown familiar with the rainforest and the ecosystems that had become her own. But on that fateful day, she did not have any inkling that something was afoot. Upon reaching a certain sitio of Barangay Palma Gil, she was gripped with trepidation when she saw several uniformed armed men which she later realized to be members of the government troops. What followed next was beyond her gravest expectation.

Listening to Ubonoy with her intense face as she recounted her appalling experience fill me with ire as I could not understand why some soldiers could be so arrogant, contemptible and indifferent to do such a thing, to humiliate a defenceless, diminutive and fragile-looking old woman. Were they forgetting that it was their own mothers who beget them out into the world? Are they not seeing the women in their lives in this little woman?

Ubonoy showed her tattoos, as she related that soldiers have questioned her having it on her hands and her torso. The tattoos are commonly seen in the bodies of the female members of the tribe as cultural practices dictate. And she said, one soldier lifted her blouse to see her tattoos on her abdomen and then without shame, he lifted her blouse even farther and exposed her shrunken breast, asking her if she have had children.

It was one act of profanity that humiliated Ubonoy so much, but she said, it seemed like the soldiers were making fun of her embarrassment even as she cried and shook with fear. During this time, she tried to hold close to her heart her puppy, the only living thing that had given her courage and strength to withstand her predicament.

For days thereafter, Ubonoy endured even when she was stripped naked by her captors, tied her hands and feet and not allowed her to defecate, or even urinate away from their probing eyes. And so she would just urinate on her dress. What more, she was left out in the cold after she was later untied, and was not given any cover to protect her from the rain and the cold nights. Every after two days for the rest of the week she was used as a “guide” and made to walk in front of the soldiers who commanded her to bring them to the location of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Such brutality must be investigated and must not be left unnoticed. This is a grave crime that the national leadership must address immediately as the indigenous peoples in Talaingod could not anymore tolerate such abuse of power.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 21, 2014.

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