Last man standing of Magkahunao

November 2, 2015

After the soldiers arrived, Datu Ikoy saw the evacuation of his fellow villagers. He remained in the village, hiding in the forest whenever soldiers pass by.

PW-datu-ikoy-pher

Datu Ikoy, a Lumad leader, refused to leave his land. Pher Pasion

The military came and forced everyone to leave.

Everyone, that is, but Francisco Enrique, 70. Datu (tribal chief) Ikoy, as he is commonly known by the Lumad in Sitio Magkahunao, Brgy. Buhisan in San Agustin town of Surigao del Sur, remains unmoved despite the threats and terror government forces are sowing in their communities today.

When the killings in nearby town of Lianga happened, members of Datu Ikoy’s village also evacuated to the Surigao del Sur Sports Center in Tandag City, especially after government troops also began arriving in their village.

Two houses were burned after residents evacuated to the evacuation center. There were no witness to the incident. Nevertheless, Datu Ikoy said only the military were present in the area when the incident happened.

About 25 families or 124 individuals were displaced, while the village’s sole indigenous school was forced to close down.

On September 6, more than 50 armed men came to his house. They were military, he was sure. Three armed men pointed their guns at him and asked him to leave. But the threat of death could not drive him away from his land. The next time the soldiers came, Datu Ikoy hid in the forests.

“I thought then that these were the men who killed (my fellow Lumad leaders) in Han-ayan. In the lowlands, soldiers appear to be kind. But here, they are more like bandits,” said Datu Ikoy. He said the soldiers took belongings from the house they entered–from sugar bags to groceries–and loaded these in a helicopter.

Although he supported the organized evacuation of his villagers as part of the resistance against militarization, he did not want leave his crops and animals.

Soldiers burned Nick Roleda's house in Magkahunao, San Agustin, Surigao Del Sur. <strong>Pher Pasion</strong>

Soldiers burned Nick Roleda’s house in Magkahunao, San Agustin, Surigao Del Sur. Pher Pasion

Datu Ikoy said, before the military came in to their village everything was in order. The village was alive and productive. Everyone lived a simple life. But every time soldiers come, the Datu said, they bring with them terror.

“Here (ancestral land) is where our life depends. Even if they’ll give us money (I won’t accept). Money is nothing to us. Without our land, we are nothing,” says Datu Ikoy.

When participants of an international fact-finding and solidarity mission–which Pinoy Weekly took part in–visited the place after almost two months of forced evacuation, they saw that the village had become a ghost town.

No one can tell when the forced evacuation of the Lumad in Magkahunao, and other communities, will end.

Pher Pasion

Pher Pasion

Pher Pasion finished his bachelor's degree in journalism at Manuel L. Quezon University. He is also a former national secretary-general of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.