Medical mission is my life. I have been to almost all remote areas in Sarangani Province and Gen. Santos City. In the 90’s frequent medical missions were conducted in Barangay Upper Suyan, in the municipality of Malapatan, Sarangani Province. Patients kept mentioning of Sitio Dlumay in the same barangay where their relatives reside who need medical attention. It is five hours walk from Upper Suyan proper. I asked the permission of the barangay leaders to allow me to go to sitio Dlumay. I also requested the church and tribal leaders to accompany me to sitio Dlumay. All of them denied my request for the same reason: rebel groups stay in Sitio Dlumay.
I have been to sitios in neighboring barangays much farther than Dlumay like sitio Banlas in barangay Kihan, sitios Kikong, Kiahe, Kitulag in barangay Kinam, sitio Mlangay in barangay Libi, sitio Tamlang Lefu in barangay Sapu, etc. Every time I go to these very remote areas I am always reminded of Dlumay.
The desire to go to sitio Dlumay is eased up by going to far areas in other municipalities of Sarangani Province and Sultan Kudarat. I have been to sitio Biao, five hours walk from barangay Milbuk in Palembang, Sultan Kudarat; barangay Tudok in T’boli where we walk 18 hours from Kiamba, Sarangani Province; barangay Quitumbod, Davao del sur where we walk five hours from Glan, Sarangani Province and other remote areas to conduct medical mission.
More medical missions were conducted until I forget about Dlumay.
On May 10, 2011, about fifteen years later, I received a text message from a certain Maricel Salem of the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services, Inc. (CLANS) who said that she got my cellphone number from a common friend. She requested me to conduct medical mission in sitio Dlumay, barangay Upper Suyan, Malapatan. The desire came back and it became an obsession. I told Maricel Salem that I am available on May 22-26 and I am very much willing to join them. She sent me an invitation to attend a press conference at Brokenshire College telling me that the schedule of the medical mission will be decided after the press conference. Together with the letter is a photocopy of their complaint and case filed with the Commission on Human Rights against the 73rd Infantry Battalion particularly Sgt. Cabaobao, Lt. Roldan and Col. Espuelas and their demand for the pull out of the military in Dlumay.
The complaint of CLANS centered on the alleged child abuse by the 73rd infantry battalion. CLANS claimed that a B’laan boy by the name of Cookey was put inside a sack and hanged for three hours on a tree that the boy defecated on his pants out of fear.
The 73rd IB has been my partner for more than 3 years for the many medical missions in Sarangani Province. I know them very well that I was very surprised to read of the complaints. I called up Col. Espuelas, the battalion commander, and told him about the letter. He strongly denied the accusations.
To find out the truth myself, I decided to go to Dlumay, Upper Suyan to conduct medical mission and at the same time interview the people especially the concerned individuals mentioned in the complaints.
I learned that Maricel Salem and the CLANS established community projects in Dlumay.
Military personnel from Alpha Company of the 73rd Infantry Battalion also camped in the area. With this information, I believe that the sitio is safer now than before. So I decided to start my mission on May 23. The barangay captain of Upper Suyan offered horses to bring my medical and personal supplies from Daan Suyan, the end point of vehicles, to Upper Suyan and advised the people in Dlumay to bring horses to get the supplies from Upper Suyan.
It really was a difficult five-hour walk. Crossing rivers about 30 times. Passing through mud and slippery terrains. Climbing hills and mountains of about 60 degrees. Suffering the scorching heat of the sun and then suddenly it rained.
After four hours walk, I reached Sitio Datalnay where I met Cookey and his mother (see photo below). Cookey was the child who was allegedly put inside the sack and hanged in the tree for three hours. In B’laan dialect I asked the mother about the accusation. She denied it. She said she was with Cookey all the time and nothing of the sort happened.
The following day during the medical mission in Dlumay, the mother of Cookey came for treatment of another child. She was interviewed again by a volunteer and the same response was given.
Cynical as I am, it came to my mind that maybe the military ordered the mother as to what to respond in case of an interview.
However, looking at Cookey hugging and doing “high-fives” with the military confirmed it all. The child showed no fear of the military which is very unlikely if he indeed experienced being put inside a sack and hanged by the military.
In the evening after the medical mission, I happened to talked with a certain Kasun, a community leader in Dlumay. I asked him what transpired when Maricel Salem was in the area for the project of CLANS. At the start of the project, he said, there was a good relationship between Maricel Salem and the military. Until Jimmy Balbino and a certain Luntay were hired by Maricel Salem to work for the project. Jimmy and Luntay, Kasun added, are members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
This blog is all about Dlumay. A dream come true fifteen years later.
Every photo has a story to tell.
The making of Ambulansyang de kabayo
Patient on board the ambulansyang de kabayo
Patient ready for transport to the hospital
Soldier applying lotion to extract head lice from a child in Dlumay
Bayanihan construction of temporary health center in Dlumay
Child feeding in Dlumay by the 73rd IB
Giving of candies and goodies to children in Dlumay by the 73rd IB