2nd of four parts: From Simunul to Corregidor
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 March) – When they left Simunul, Sulu for Corregidor evening of December 30, 1967, Jibin Arula says there were “around 150” of them who were “Bangsa Muslim.”
Not everyone who was in Simunul (now part of Tawi-tawi province) went with them to Corregidor. Some had to be “redeemed” by their parents because they had spent several days there and money had been spent for their food.
Arula said the parents of the trainees who wanted out, had to “tubos” (redeem) their children by paying for the amount spent on them in Simunul.
“What if the parents had no money,” MindaNews asked. Arula replied, “gagawa talaga ng paraan ang mga magulang. Mura lang naman noon” (the parents would really find a way. It wasn’t expensive then).
Arula recalls they boarded “Naval Boat number 68” evening of December 30, 1967 and arrived on Corregidor island at around 10 p.m. of January 3, 1968.
When they reached Corregidor, they were tasked to clean up what would be their quarters – what used to be a hospital. They made their own beds from scrap wood but the military officials had plywood. The trainees didn’t have that luxury, he says, smiling.
They spent a week cleaning up and setting up their quarters before settling down for the training.
In Simunul, they had actually started jogging as part of their training. But it was only when they reached Corregidor when they were taught combat training as part of the “Jabidah Forces.”
Arula says Jabidah is not a Moro word. He says the name came from Col. Eduardo Martelino.
More excerpts from the interview:
Q: When did you start training in Corregidor? What was your schedule like?
A: We would wake up at 5 in the morning, jog, rest for 30 minutes, bathe, have breakfast then go on drills until 9 a.m. Then we would rest. By 1 p.m. we would have our “schooling.” There would be a sketch of (Sabah) Malaysia, where to go there for instance. What are these places. They said we would take a plane going there. Others were taught how to use parachute. Even our equipment would be brought to Sabah by plane. We were told we would be given passports so we can freely move around and campaign among Filipinos.
Q: What was the campaign?
A: If they would join us in case of war, we will bring them to our hideout and give them guns.
Q: All of you were Moro?
A: No. There were Ilocanos. In Simunul, there were already Ilocanos.
Q: How many were you altogether. If there were around 150 Moro who left Simunul, how many were non-Moro?
A: About a hundred non-Moro. But when we reached Corregidor, there would be teams of ten that would come. The others were ex-convicts. We knew they were ex-convicts because they had tattoo.
Q: What was promised to you as trainees?
A: The promise was we would be given an allowance of 50 pesos every month and when we took our oath office, they would give us regular salary
Q: Fifty pesos? Only fifty?
A: That was a big amount then. Something like 500 now.
Q: So we’re now in Corregidor. Did they fulfill the promise?
A: By February, we received nothing, not even five centavos. Also, since we arrived in Corregidor, we would only be given two pieces of pan de sal for breakfast. Our coffee was not real coffee but boiled burnt rice. Lunch would be dried fish and rice. Dinner would be the same. We were rarely fed fresh fish (they were used to fresh fish back in Sulu). When March came, on March 2, we decided to make a petition.
Q: Who was your leader?
A: Dugasan Jul Kanain. He was our leader because he finished a course on teaching.
Q: He was a teacher?
A: I think he taught. Maybe he was a casual (contractual) teacher. He told us, let’s write a petition and send this to Malacanang. But all of us have to sign. He said we need a typewriter. I said I would produce. I knew a soldier named Felix Lawson who was from Jolo but he was Christian. His father was a soldier. He was a duty sergeant. But in the Jabidah Forces, he was a captain.
Q: You borrowed a typewriter?
A: No. I just got it. One of my tasks was to clean the room. I didn’t ask permission because he might not allow. So I got this big typewrite and brought it up to the floor of what used to be the second floor. We held our meeting there without the knowledge of officials. Jul Kanain typed there. Then he said, sign up. Eighty-seven signed up, the Tausugs. Those from Tawi-tawi were Badjao and they were afraid. They said making a petition is not allowed. I said it is not allowed but we are suffering.
Q: What was in the petition to Malacanang?
A: I don’t know. I don’t know how to read but it was what the majority agreed upon.
Q: What was agreed upon?
A: Food, the non-payment of allowance. The soldiers bringing women into camp, very young women, some of them aged 17 or 18. These were written. Then we signed. I had to find a way to have the letter sent to Malacanang. I went to the pier in Corregidor, without the knowledge of officials. I saw the guard, he was from our place, near our village. His name was Abhoud Tay. He was from the Philippine Navy. I gave him the letter and told him to mail the letter at the post office when he reaches Manila. At that time, mailing by stamp cost only ten centavos. I gave him five pesos. I told him that was more than enough, and that he could even take a cab if he wanted to. I told him he could keep the change. He said thanks. The next day, March 3, at around 3 p.m., we were summoned, seven of us. Four of us hid. The three showed up. They were brave. I was worried. It was only yesterday when we sent the letter. They even mentioned Col. (Eduardo) Martelino.
Q: Martelino was not often there?
A: He would spend two days in Corregidor and five days in Manila. Lt. (Eduardo) Batalla was always there. And Capt. (Teodoro) Facelo.
Q: Who summoned the seven?
A: Lt. Batalla. He said Martelino was in the airport. But only three went with him. The three would reportedly be brought to Manila for a tour. At around 6 p.m., Col. Martelino came. He seemed kind to us. He told us he sent the three to Manila “para maghapi-hapi doon” (to go on rest and recreation). He said he didn’t like what the trainees were doing and that to divert the trainees’ mind on things he did not like them to do, he made them go on R and R. He said we would be the next. The airplane could accommodate 12 passengers, he said.
Q: Did you go?
A: Since then, our food had become better. They fed us beef. We were served real (instant) coffee. There were also nights we would have amateur (singing contest). There were nights they would bring in children of the soldiers in the detachment – around four of them – for us to dance with, by rotation. Many were happy. But those who understood were scared. And then March 18 came. (To be continued)