In drought-stricken village, depression led farmer to take his own life

SOUTH UPI, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 07 February) — Depression led Teduray farmer Jimmy, a 36-year old father of three, to take his own life on Tuesday, February 2, in the first reported drought-related death here.

Jimmy used the nylon rope from his youngest child’s hammock to hang himself from a beam inside their house.

Ann-ann, Jimmy’s 28-year old wife, said her husband fell into depression following two crop failures last year due to rat infestation and the onset of the drought. She said he was repeatedly worried over where to find the next meal for them and their children Erwin, 5; Benjie, 3; and two-year old Phoebe Ann.

Wala na po kaming makain.. gutom” (we have nothing to eat… hungry), said Ann-ann, as she queued for relief goods late Friday afternoon.

Distribution of relief goods in Barangay Kigan, South Upi, Maguindanao on February 5, 2016. Drone photography by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA / MindaNews
Distribution of relief goods in Barangay Kigan, South Upi, Maguindanao on February 5, 2016. Drone photography by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA / MindaNews

Dr. Tahir Sulaik, Maguindanao’s Provincial Health Officer, confirmed to MindaNews Sunday night that depression caused by drought-related problems, led Jimmy Takilid to commit suicide. (Other reports identified him as Jimmy Sambiar but Sulaik’s record shows his family name as Takilid and his wife’s name as Ann Sambiar Takilid).

Ann-ann said Jimmy planted corn on his small plot after the rat attack but the absence of rain led to yet another crop failure. In this upland area, the cornfields are rain-fed.

Ann-ann, the widow of the farmer who took his own life last week and their youngest child arrive home after the distribution of relief goods. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA
Ann-ann, the widow of the farmer who took his own life last week and their youngest child arrive home after the distribution of relief goods. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

She said her husband also worked in their neighbor’s farm on a daily wage but there has been no work on the field these days because of the drought.

South Upi vice mayor Remy Sioson said this is the worst season for corn farmers in the village of Kigan, inhabited mostly by Teduray farmers, and for the rest of the town.

Sioson said 95 percent of South Upi’s population is into corn farming because it is situated upland. “We have no irrigation, so we rely on rain,” he said.

“If farming fails, about 95 percent of the population suffers as it is happening now due to drought,” he said.

Sioson cited the case of Jimmy, who committed suicide.

The Maguindanao provincial government sent a relief mission team to Barangay Kigan on Friday while the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART) was there on Saturday.

Some 700 corn and rice farmers waited from morning to afternoon to receive assistance from the provincial relief team that reached the village of Kigan late Friday afternoon.

On Friday, residents who reside far from the poblacion of Barangay Kigan loaded the relief goods they received on a horse, the lone mode of transport, the horse carrying foodstuff for two to three families.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu said cloud seeding operations will soon start, especially in upland communities. He said after the declaration of a state of calamity, they were able to find a contractor to conduct cloud seeding operations from Mactan Air Base.

Mangudadatu’s relief team also distributed fresh tilapia and bangus from the governor’s family-owned fishpond, as his personal contribution to the drought-stricken families.

Mangudadatu is running for a third term as governor of Maguindanao.

The ARMM-HEART has partnered with the Mindanao Humanitarian Team for data gathering, validation and rehabilitation and quick response efforts to the affected families.

Ramil Masukat, disaster management chief of ARMM-HEART said at least 130 million pesos worth of crops have been damaged in the five-province, two-city ARMM, due to the dry spell. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)