The Bud Dajo Massacre a hundred years later: will America apologize? (1)

1st of two parts

 BUD DAJO, Patikul, Sulu (MindaNews/15 October) – History books refer to it as the “Battle of Bud Dajo” although it was more appropriately referred to by critics as a massacre of 600 men, women and children (other reports say 900) between March 5 and 7, 1906.

The New Orleans Times-Democrat called it “a frightful atrocity.” Reacting to the newspaper headline, “Women slain in Moro slaughter,” Mark Twain wrote, “’Slaughter’ is a good word. Certainly there is not a better one in the Unabridged Dictionary for this occasion.”

The Boston Post screamed, “if this is imperial expansion, heaven save us from any more!”

The early morning drizzle on September 22, 2005 did not develop into a downpour as many had feared. In fact, residents in Barangay Danag said the group – the Mindanao Peaceweavers – made history as the first to climb Bud Dajo with no untoward incidents and yes, no rain.

America, however, continued to make its presence felt 99 years and six months after the massacre. On the day of the climb (1st Sakat), an on-site visit as well as a permission-seeking-from-the-spirits-of-Bud-Dajo pilgrimage in preparation for the commemoration of the centennial in March next year, the drone of what Sulu-based civil society representatives said was a US Orion spy plane was audible from within the forest canopy. From a clearing, they point to a flying object repeatedly circling the area, its faint outline visible.

Late in the evening that same day, over dinner in Jolo, Sulu, the drone of the plane continued. Apparently, it hasn’t stopped.

Fatmawati Salapuddin, secretary-general of the Bangsamoro Women’s Solidarity Forum, complained to MindaNews at 10 p.m. last October 13 that she heard a plane circling repeatedly over Jolo. “It’s Ramadhan time,” she said. Most Muslims sleep early in the evening during Ramadhan so they can wake up before dawn.

There were 57 members of the team who went up to Bud Dajo — Moro, settler and Lumad, including 15 police escorts. Professor Octavio Dinampo of the Mindanao State University and chief leader of the climb, said only five didn’t make it to the top.

For a team with mostly first-time mountain climbers, negotiating the treacherous trail up and down was such a major feat, given that there was no rope or other climbing paraphernalia (the local guides had assured the professor there was no need for it because the climb was “kayang-kaya” or manageable).

Ingenuity saved everyone. In lieu of a rope, the event streamer was used and much later, a very long rattan vine, particularly in descending the nearly 90-degree slopes of the 2,247 feet high mountain.

Bud Dajo (Mt. Dajo), was named after the da-o tree which can hardly be found now (the forester from the Department of Environment said he saw only one tree belonging to that species).

Nerissa of the Mindanao Young People’s Summit, was candid in admitting that before the climb, she had never heard of Bud Dajo. Young Mindanawons, she said, should learn more about Mindanao’s history.

Harries Agorcio, a Manobo youth leader from the Natabuk Foundation in Bukidnon, said the first time he heard of Bud Dajo, he asked, “anong organization ito?” (what organization is this?)

“Akala ko sa mga Lumad lang nangyayari ang massacre,” (I thought massacres happen only to the Lumads [indigenous peoples]),” said Harries, himself a Lumad.

Eng, 24, the youngest among the Mindanao Peaceweavers and a resident of Jolo, said she had always dreamt of climbing Bud Dajo. As a Tausug, she said, she was lucky to have gone around most of the towns in Sulu for Tabang Mindanaw’s water project. “I want to do something for my province. I want to help as a peace advocate. I want to help in looking back because we learn lessons from history.”

Rexall Kaalim, a Kalagan Moro from the Island Garden City of Samal and staff member of the Initiatives for International Dialogue in Davao City, returned home with a souvenir: his “tungkod” (trekking cane) even as he used it mostly to help others.

Rexall said he was happy he reached the peak of the place he had only read about, and especially because he did so on Nispu Sa’ban, which is similar to the Christians’ ritual of
honoring of the dead. What better way to commemorate than to pray for the victims of the massacre?

“We should continue with our work for peace,” Rexall said.

Farida, team leader of Group 2, was not able to reach the top but made sure her team members were taken care of.

Prof. Dinampo said the group was “blessed.”

He explained that among the unreported in the March 1906 massacre was that there was a wedding in the area when the first bombs exploded and that the women and children ran to the langgal (place of prayer; equivalent to the Catholics’ chapel), for refuge. They were killed there, the professor said.

But there is no marker on the spot where the langgal used to be. The local guides, however, said this particular area, a corner of which is shaded by a mangosteen tree, is where the langgal was. Here, the imam recited the prayers.

In the middle of the 45-minute prayer, a strong gust of wind blew over the area, rendering it chilly, although briefly.

“The spirits are still there, alive and kicking. We were communicating with the spirits… telling them we are coming to honor your martyrdom,” the professor said, over dinner in Jolo hours after the climb. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Part 2: The Bud Dajo Massacre a hundred years later: Will America apologize?