58 trees planted in honor of Ampatuan Massacre victims

KIDAPAWAN CITY  (MindaNews/24 August) —  Fifty-eight seedlings of the hardwood Lawaan species were planted on Monday  at the foot of Mount Apo, the country’s highest peak, particularly at the watershed of the Kansal falls in Sitio Lapaan, Barangay Perez as a unique way of remembering the 58 persons, 32 of them media workers, who were massacred in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23.

Members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in Kidapawan City, together with other media organizations, and civil society groups in North Cotabato, hiked at least two hours just to reach the site.

On the site was a tarpaulin with names of the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre.

The media and the CSOs promised to nurture and nourish the trees, just as they continue their quest for justice for the massacre victims.

The theme for this month’s commemoration is “Trees for Life. Trees for Justice.”

Sister Lallyn Macahilo of the Oblates of Notre Dame, also convenor of the Pagbabago!  Peoples’ Movement for Change, said the trees symbolize ‘life’.

“In other traditions, people plant trees in memory of their loved ones. We are doing this here. To plant trees in memory of those who were massacred,” said Ruby Padilla-Sison, chair of Gabriela-North Cotabato.

For Jojo Gonzales of NUJP, the mountains have different forces or energies. “Nature spirits abode in the forests. Healing must take place, especially among the relatives of the massacre victims because there is so much hatred and pain in their hearts,” he said.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael ‘Toto’ Mangudadatu was pleased that the media, not only in North Cotabato but also in other parts of the country, have not stopped commemorating the massacre every 23rd of the month.

“It makes me strong, even if sometimes I feel weak.  It’s pleasing to know that there are groups, like media, who are with us in our quest for justice,” said Mangudadatu.

Mangudadatu’s wife, Genalyn was among the first to be killed by armed men believed led by then Datu Unsay mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr.

Genalyn and Mangudadatu’s relatives, and the media workers, were on their way to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in Shariff Aguak, capital of Maguindanao, to file the certificate of candidacy for governor of then Buluan town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)