MAY their souls rest in peace. It seems like it was twice the thrill and nightmare of the blockbuster “Friday the 13th” movie. The fact is, it’s real and it did happen few days ago.

What makes the first incident doubly outrageous is the collateral damage it spilled over among concerned families, friends and relatives. That practically explains the futility of war. These killings, the vicious cycle of civil strife, continue on and on. Who suffers most? There’s a long list of statistics of innocent civilians, their lives sacrificed against their will. Statistics are vital indicator of reality.

Except for the first experience I had, the two other incidents just defy descriptions, hitting me real hard beyond human comprehension. No problem with the first one as the time spent was merely for the vigil of the late retired Army 2nd Lt. Jim Jimenez, who passed away because of long lingering Big C illness on his lungs and pancreas. He was flown in from Bacolod to be interred in Greenhills, as it was his death wish to be with his soulmate who also passed away not too long ago. He was buried, anyway, the following day.

Across the chapel where I spent vigil was another chapel with two military personnel their casket draped with Philippine flag. Personally, it was the first time I observed a chapel with two caskets. Incidentally, there were only three people spending vigil there. Along the road was their service vehicle, parked with holes all over, an indication that it was peppered with bullets thus, killing instantly four soldiers. The ambush occurred while on the servicemen were on their way home after a negotiation with the rebels in Veruela, one of the riverside towns in Agusan del Sur.

What caught my curiosity was the declaration of the woman, a sister of one of the dead, that the incident happened right after the negotiation. Who else who could have done it if not the party, engaging in double-cross?

There were many similar images playing on mind down the memory lane from this incident. Veruela, of course, was my first assignment as municipal agrarian reform officer. There I wrote, too, and compose my song “Magsasaka,” which won 3rd price in the national CARP songwriting contest (which prompted me to add twelve others and packaged them into Himig Mindanao, a CD now on sale in market.)

That’s the more personal and the lighter side of it. Incident-wise, the experience was buried deep in my consciousness. First, Salome a registered nurse and first cousin in Mindoro became one of the casualties in an ambush of a military jeep carrying military officers on their way home to Roxas, Oriental Mindoro. The rebels asked forgiveness later and even offered financial help to atone for their miscalculation. Brutally killing my cousin in broad daylight, who was and never a party of the military. Her hitching them for a ride turned out very costly.

What could be done when now that she became an added statistics to continuing struggle, for which we don’t know how many more innocent lives would be considered as “excesses”? What is there to remedy when damage was already done? Too many questions to ask, only met with equally elusive answers.

Then there’s Renerio Cagang, my bossom friend back then in Xavier University in early eighties, whom I have not seen since we parted our ways in 1981. He actually went to the hills and became top commander in Bukidnon with P500,000.00 reward for his capture. The last time I heard of him was straight from his men in San Luis, Agusan del Sur. I learned that he too became victim of double-cross. The other party killed him and his companions in the negotiating table. What a waste of life.

I know there were many other unfortunate incidents like this. Consider the very promising, beautiful, talented and na? MSU-IIT student whose body was found among the dead in one encounter in Bukidnon. When could we truly go to the negotiating table and push true peace? While there is still time, for sure, or we ourselves become part of the statistics.

***

I didn’t stay long as it was already past 1 clock in the morning in Greenhills. Besides, I couldn’t stand seeing the damage wrought by humanity on its face. But what another turn of incident when a motorcycle mishap happened on the road just right along the cemetery of IFI across Greenhills as I was on my way back-treating me to another weird spectacle, what with the lady companion of a motorcycle-riding man lying on the road dead, her head severely damaged blood and still profusely spilling over the concrete pavement. I was told that he girl was a nurse at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center, separated and had three children. The motorcycle driver of Orion in Terryhills, confided that they were negotiating blind curve when an approaching vehicle with highlight blinded his eyesight, forcing him to turn sideways, not knowing the stockpile of sand ahead. That*s the last he remembered as his back rider, who was without helmet, was thrown out, somersaulting on the concrete pavement, killing her instantly.

I’m writing this piece to exorcize the devil that might have caused the misfortunes of innocent people that awful week. May she and others featured in this piece rest in peace. (rfmaulion@yahoo.com)