Last of two parts
BUD DAJO, Patikul, Sulu (MindaNews/17 October) — February 2004. At the opening of the Philippine Center for Photojournalism’s “Tanaw Mindanaw” photo exhibit at SM City in Davao, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte stands then sits and stares in silence, his brows creased, at the huge photographs in front of him of the women and children victims of the massacre in March 1906 on Bud Dajo, Sulu.
“Sh…t! Put….na!” Duterte cursed.
Duterte later had his research team look for similar photographs to reproduce and distribute whenever he gives lectures to American visitors.
A yellowed photograph shows some of the victims of the massacre, among them the women and children, as they fell. Another shows US soldiers posing beside a huge log (likely a felled dao as the mountain is named after that huge tree) where skulls are displayed and below it, the note, “six weeks after the battle of Dajo.”
At least 600 Moro men, women and children were killed between March 5 and 7, 1906 by US troops numbering at least 790 — 272 from the 6th Infantry, 211 from the 4th Calvary, 68 from the 28th Artillery Battery, 51 from the Sulu Constabulary, 110 men from the 19th Infantry and six sailors from the gunboat Pampanga. Eighteen US soldiers were killed while 52 were wounded.
One version of the historical account says the men, women and children ”were quite disenchanted with their Sultan and prominent datus. They hated the Americans and their man-made laws. When the US military patrols come to collect tax, they ran for cover” at Bud Dajo, a lava cone of an extinct volcano.”
The crater in the summit was a “natural fortress; hence, a favorite shelter or hide-away for Moro ‘tax evaders,’ who were mostly poor people.”
By March 1906, it said, “more than a thousand Moros — men, women and children, made their way to the crater. Gen. (Leonard) Wood would not have any of their nonsense” and issued the order to “kill or capture those savages.”
According to an account in Vic Hurley’s “Swish of the Kris,” many of the dead had “as many as fifty gunshots” and “only six men survived the two-day massacre.”
To this day it is not clear exactly how many Moro villagers were killed in that massacre in 1906: 600? 900?
Professor Octavio Dinampo says his ongoing research on Bud Dajo has already yielded several hundreds of names of the victims of the 1906 massacre.
Dinampo said he was initially worried that the two Catholic priests in the group might find the climb last September 22, difficult. As it turned out, Father Romeo Villanueva, OMI (Oblates of the Mary Immaculate) and Father Angel Calvo of the Claretians, were among the first to reach the peak.
Villanueva, who heads the Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation in Sulu, was the most senior among the climbers, at 67. Calvo is 61.
Dinampo said the plan for Bud Dajo’s centennial “has just started.”
The markers, he said, should have been put up in time for the commemoration, and climb, in March next year.
Rads, a resident of Sulu, said he knows the history of Bud Dajo but it was the first time for him to climb the mountain. He said he was asking himself, “bakit ako ang inimbita? Dapat ako ang nag-imbita” (Why was I invited? I should have been the one who did the inviting), he said.
Rads was leader of Group 4, the team that included Tobias Schuldt, a German anthropologist whom many locals repeatedly called “Milikan” or “Tao Puti” (for American).
Father Calvo thanked Dinampo and the other Sulu-based organizers for the successful climb. “Civil society is more alive here than we thought,” he said.
A Spanish priest who has spent over two decades in Basilan and Zamboanga, Father Calvo remembers having come to Sulu shortly after the February 7, 1974 burning of Jolo, to bring relief goods.
“I have been seeing Jolo from the outside. Jolo is not that known to most Filipinos,” he said, adding that what is transmitted outside Sulu is sometimes myth.
He said the fact alone that Sulu was also celebrating its 615th year of governance that week showed just how rich its history is.
Bud Dajo, he said, is “the symbol of Jolo for me now.”
Habbas Camendan of the Mindanao People’s Peace Movement (MPPM), a member-organization of the Mindanao Peaceweavers, said, “I didn’t realize I could see Bud Dajo.”
Now in his 40s, Habbas narrated how, at 11 years old, he survived a massacre in Sultan Sa Barongis, Maguindanao where all the men aged 15 up were killed.
Tobias Schuldt, the German anthropologist, thanked the organizers “for the risk to take a foreigner here.”
He said he was repeatedly asked by friends, “is there really a need to go there?”
He replied in the affirmative. “I believe in peace.”
He asked about justice for the victims of the massacre. “What can the people demand from the United States?”
Lyndee Prieto of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, head of the Mindanao Peaceweavers secretariat said, “the challenge for us is to help provide space for Joloanos themselves to retell the story by themselves.”
Lawyer Raissa Jajurie of Saligan (Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panlegal), who spent her early years in Sulu, wondered if the US would apologize for the massacre a century earlier.
Asked the same question a week later in Davao City, Eugene Martin, executive director of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) said he would take it up with US State Department officials. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)