WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Chicken sky-high. By Gail Ilagan

To hear it whispered, the Paradise-Embac Road is still littered with landmines that, according to the Task Force Davao spokesperson last Thursday, the bomb-sniffing dogs of the TFD have yet to sniff out. The bomb squad and/or the EOD boys would be mining for landmines in the next few weeks until they would have dug up the dozen or so that military intelligence reports say are still in the vicinity.

Hmm…mmm. Bet the Mayor knows about that. There’s nothing much that happens in the city that the Mayor does not know about.

In the last few months, landmine ambushes have escalated in Paquibato, Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley, all seemingly intended to render military casualties. Or, at least, we have yet to hear of landmines causing casualties among the armadong kusog sang whatever. Maybe the armadong kusog sang whoever suffers landmine casualties, too, but we never get to hear from it. I doubt it, though. The rest of us are really going to hear about it no end if that’s the case.

This changing warfare strategy is a cause for concern, but so far the only ones expressing the concern had been from the military and, of course, the Mayor who spoke so strongly against the use of landmines recently for the local front pages to pick up.

Last week, I was up in the hinterlands of Agusan del Sur near the border of Bukidnon. The 26th Infantry Battalion there was processing the validation of identity of 22 applicants wishing to avail of the benefits under the Social Integration Program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Now, each of these applicants brought with him a piece of war materiel for surrendering. This would be the third or fourth batch that the 26IB has processed since last year. Same story on the batches that came before: To a man, they all had guns and grenades to give up.

The 26IB is only one of the Army units in mainland Mindanao processing SIP applicants. I thought perhaps the OPAPP’s SIP might indeed be causing the attrition of the war arsenal of the armadong kusog ng whatever, thereby explaining the shift to landmines in the war against the government troops.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Five reputable sources have informed me that landmines are cheaper – as in seven-at-one-blow cheaper – than guns and live ammo. The materials, my sources say, are also a lot easier to acquire in mining areas as mining companies are allowed to purchase these. Mining companies in these areas have a reason to stay in the good graces of the armadong kusog sang whatever.  

Follow the trail. If it be landmines you want, look for mines. Not in Caraga though. Our troops took apart the enemy’s landmine factory there. So now the factory is operating somewhere else. Like, maybe near where they have recently been exploding. Oh, come on – that really doesn’t take birdbrain to work out, does it?

The most recent landmine attack early Sunday on the Army’s Special Forces Civil-Military Operations unit up in Paquibato was speculated to have been caused by pressure-released land mines, the kind that the late Princess Diana of England devoted the last year of her life to lobby against. According to Eastern Mindanao Command commander MGen. Ding Ferrer, post-blast investigation indicated t
hat no element of the armadong kusog sang whatever stayed around in the vicinity to detonate Monday’s landmines. Furthermore, he said there was no encounter after the KM450 truck had been hit and immobilized.

As a battle strategy, landmine ambush usually places the troops at a most vulnerable spot, ripe for sniper pickings. There was no sniping last Sunday. There were just a lot of locals who were not very helpful. Oh, okay, for whatever reason, the locals were reluctant to come to the soldiers’ aid even as a sergeant died and three others were wounded. If that wasn’t an indication of how unwelcome our soldiers are up there, I don’t know what is.

The dead soldier was a SSgt. Acosta. The EastMinCom spokesman never got back to me with his first name (Ronaldo – ed). SSgt. Acosta is survived by his two children, aged 18 and 16, now orphans. SSgt. Acosta gave up his life in the service of people who couldn’t be bothered to help him as he lay dead. 

What kind of people – pray tell – could not find it in their hearts to pay last respects to the dead?

So anyway, I’ve been up those roads and I’d like to think I know how important the chicken is to its owner up there. It’s important for the owner for his chicken to cross the road unmolested. But just right now, the owner can’t be sure if the chicken could get across the road to die. In the rain.

The area, according to military sources, still has to be demined. I hate to argue about whether Paquibato-Embac Road really needs to be demined or not. It’s hard to say, “Aren’t you just trying to scare the rest of us?” You can’t say that to the people who keep losing their troops through exploding landmines there. It’s a reality they live with.

Still, it’s hard to convince the skeptics among us, those who would rather believe that there are no landmines until our soldiers step on one. Oh, well. Those jaded would probably say that those mines were planted by the soldiers anyway. It would make perfect sense to them, too.

Now, if indeed the Paradise-Embac Road is littered with pressure-released anti-personnel landmines, Chicken Little gets to play road Russian roulette. If Chicken Little steps on it, Chicken Little gets to see chicken heaven soonest.

It only takes one pound to set off a pressure-released landmine. At least, that’s what I’ve been told by another reputable source. The others I asked deferred a definitive reply as they have yet to put that one pound to the test.

One pound.

Less than half a kilo.

Pretty little chicken that would be.

Gee.

See two-year-old Tommy running after Kuya down the road. See Ate Grace taking the mountain road on foot to get to school. See poor tired Mama coming home at dawn with a load of firewood she foraged to cook breakfast.

See little Tommy, Ate and Mama go the way of the chicken.

(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to n gail.ilagan@gmail.com. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)