Reynafe Momay-Castillo: in search of her father’s remains

ISULAN, Sultan Kudarat (MindaNews/30 October) –  “Saan kami pupunta? Sinong tutulong sa amin?” (Where will we go? Who will help us?)

Reynafe Momay-Castillo has been asking these questions since November 29, 2009 when government workers ended their search for victims of the Ampatuan Massacre six days earlier.

Although she has accepted that her father, Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay, 60, photographer of Midland Review in Tacurong City, is among the 58 victims (she cries when she hears officials talk only about “57 killed”), Reynafe  wonders if there will ever be an agency that will help her look for her father’s remains.

GRIEF. Relatives of Reynafe Momay-Castillo comfort her at the site of the massacre in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town in Maguindanao on Jan. 23, 2010. Mindanews file photo by Froilan Gallardo

“The government has stopped looking for my father,” the 39-year old mother of two, said.

Only her father’s dentures had been found but even that they could not retrieve because it is in the custody of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO).

After November 29, there was one digging in a neighboring town which Reynafe and her family attended, sometime first week of January 2010.  The stench of decayed flesh filled the air but no body was found.

That was the last government effort to find her father.

A soldier from the 46th Infantry Battalion watches as candles burn at the nassacre site during a visit on October 27. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

Reynafe considers herself the most unfortunate among the relatives of the victims. “At least they recovered the remains of their loved ones. They were able to bury them properly. They have filed their cases against the suspects, but we cannot because we have not recovered my father’s remains.”

It is the first All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day without her father and Reynafe is at a loss. “Saan  kami pupunta? Sino ang tutulong sa amin?” (Where will we go? Who will help us?)

Her 22-year old stepbrother and her two sons also want to know where to go on November 1 and 2.

“We have no graveyard to visit but the massacre site” in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

But the massacre site is not as accessible as memorial parks. And out of the three gravesites in Masalay, “I don’t even know on which site I should light the candle,” she says.

Reynafe received a call a few weeks ago from one of the relatives of the victims, who told her that in a dream, the caller’s relative said Momay’s remains were deep down the area where the relative’s remains were retrieved.

The caller’s relative, in the dream, was describing Graveyard 2 – where 24 of the victims were dug on November 25, 2009, along with the vehicles flattened by the backhoe.

“But who will dig deeper to check if, indeed, my father’s remains are there?”  Reynafe wants to know.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)