AS HOLY Week comes, we reflect on the themes of death, resurrection, martyrdom and hope.
And these are virtues that I reflect upon while I attended the wake and tribute for a slain Lumad leader of Talaingod this week.
Datu Kaylo Bontulan, age 40, a young chieftain of the Talaingod Manobos who have been displaced from their ancestral lands the past five years, was killed on April 7. He was in Kitaotao, Bukidnon to visit Manobo families who fled to that place in the midst of military and paramilitary hamletting in Talaingod. He met his death when aerial bombs fell on the village.
The people who spoke at his wake describe Kaylo as gentle but firm, soft-spoken but intelligent. He amazed people during the Lumad’s Lakbayan in the past years with his fluency in Tagalog and Cebuano as he articulated the problems that the Lumad in Mindanao have been facing for decades.
He speaks without feeling he is below those who are professors or doctors, said UCCP Bishop Hamuel Tequis, whose church compound has become their sanctuary for five years.
His message was clear, the Lumad before had everything. Their forests and rivers nourish them and their children. They know peace and sharing.
But when investors came, their forests were cut off, their plants died. Next came the soldiers who recruited paramilitary and persecuted them for defending their land.
They have lost their paradise, their home where Pantaron Range resides, one of the last remaining untouched forest that is the water source of Pulangi, Agusan and Davao Rivers.
This struggle to defend their land has brought Kaylo and other tribal chiefains to Cebu and Manila. Kaylo spoke about the importance of education. He pointed out during school forums that if children in cities can study comfortably for ten years without fear, how different this is for the children in Lumad schools whose schooling is disrupted militarization.
His message was always clear and urgent, says one farmer leader. He always tells people to unite, as it is the only way to defend the ancestral land.
Kaylo was silenced by the claws that drove his people away. He is buried in a cemetery near Haran, as the paramilitary had barred his family’s wish he be buried in the cradle of his tribe. Only his immediate family was allowed to attend the wake.
But Kaylo is not silenced. During the wake, the Lumad leaders of Salugpongan and Pasaka, and Lumad advocates believe his message and legacy will be carried on. His message will be carried on as more will follow his words to bring justice for the Lumad and to defend Pantaron.