Why I broke the Undas tradition this year

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I opted not to go the Manila North and South Cemeteries today where my departed loved ones were laid to rest. This is the first time that I broke the annual family tradition every first day of November.

Why break the tradition? It was just that I thought I had attended enough funerals in only three months.

Over the past quarter, President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war brought me to various cemeteries, ranging from traditional memorial parks up to the doorsteps of the Presidential Palace in Mendiola. These experiences made me realize that being poor in a society like ours makes us the easy and usual target of state violence. The state has a vice grip on the neck of the poor, in a country where the majority is poor.

To pay my respects and remembrance to my relatives who died of natural causes, I just lighted candles and offered simple prayers for them tonight. I also lighted an extra 13 more white candles for the more than 13,000 victims of extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs. That was the estimate in July. And since the numbers have been tweaked to reflect fewer body count in the drug war—only 3,000 while the rest are lumped in the category ‘death under investigation’ but dead still—the five-digit estimate has been derived from the approximation of 1,000 killed every month. Maybe, I was three candles short.

As I browsed my photo gallery earlier, I was a bit shocked to collate at least six common photos of grief, anger, and thirst for justice from mothers, fathers, children, kin, friends, and supporters of the slain victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and other state-sponsored attacks against our poor countrymen.

White coffins, white candles, portraits, banners and placards containing slogans calling for justice and clamor for an end to stop the killings are the common images on every photograph taken with my mobile camera in each and every funeral.

Six funerals and a common clamor

AUGUST 16, 2017

An image of a weeping Nanay Elvira Miranda, 69, spread all over social media and even on mainstream media. The photo was taken during a funeral march from Barangay 160 in Caloocan City to the Manila North Cemetery.

She happened to be the mother of Leover Miranda, 39, who was shot dead inside the Manila North Cemetery on August 3, 2017, along with his friend Aries Bacajal. Her mother claimed that Leover is suffering from depression and belied accusations of his son’s involvement in drug trading and substance abuse.

 

AUGUST 26, 2017

A historic funeral march happened in the country when 16-year old victim Kian Delos Santos was delivered to his final resting place by thousands of sympathizers and dissenters of the bloody drug war from their residence in Brgy. Sta. Quiteria to the La Loma Cemetery in Caloocan.

Thousands of supporters with Kian’s relatives attended a mass and funeral procession before he was interred at around 2:00 in the afternoon. For the first time in months, the drug war was exposed for what it is—brutal, unjust, murderous—and people clamored to stop it while its implementers rushed to defend and prettify it.

Kian was killed by suspected elements of the Caloocan City police on the same day when Leover Miranda was buried.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2017

Another funeral march was held going to Mendiola when Lumad students and teachers under the Save Our Schools Network symbolically paraded a mock coffin and portrait of the 19-year old, grade 6 Lumad student, Obello Bay-Ao.

Bay-Ao suffered multiple gunshot wounds from elements of the Alamara and Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) that caused his death on September 5 in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

During that time, Bay-Ao’s classmates and teachers from their alternative school in Mindanao were in Manila to evade the aerial bombing and militarization in their communities all the while the whole major island was placed under Martial Law.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2017

The Stop The Killings Network attended another funeral march in Castasus Cemetery in San Pedro City in the province of Laguna for the slain 18-year old EJK victim, Ephraim Escudero.

Escudero, a father of two kids, went missing on September 19 in San Pedro and was found dead two days after in Angeles City, Pampanga. His face and hands were covered in packaging tape, his wrists and ankles were tied behind his back with tape and his head dotted with bullets—an imagery and case that was all too familiar under Duterte’s drug war campaign.

Escudero was a cellphone technician in the cellphone repair shop of their family in San Pedro. The shop is the family’s main source of income. He was last seen on CCTV footage giving two men a ride on his motorcycle. One of the hitchhikers was found dead as well. The third man, Escudero’s motorcycle, and cellphones were still missing.

OCTOBER 6, 2017

A mass for another minor’s death was held in time for the various group’s “Black Friday Protest.” The mass was offered to Aldrin Raman Jore, the 16-year old EJK victim from Martan St., Brgy. Commonwealth in Quezon City. He was killed after being shot twice by a gunman accompanied by three riding-in-tandem on October 2. He had just gotten a haircut when he was killed. He was seemingly mistaken for another who goes by the same nickname as he did.

Jore is remembered to be a good and intelligent son by his parents and was an outstanding Grade 8 student and class president in Commonwealth National High School.

At a young age, Jore had just a simple dream of becoming a professional make-up artist someday.

OCTOBER 29, 2017

Days before All Saints Day, members of Balikwas Kadamay, group of demolished residents of Floodway East Bank Road in Brgy. Sta. Lucia in Pasig City, hold a symbolic burial of the government’s mass housing system right in Mendiola during their ongoing ‘Homeless Camp.’

The demolition of some 1,000 homes took place from October 18-20, 2017. This is considered the largest-ever demolition in Metro Manila under Duterte’s time.

As said by the homeless residents, the death of the Philippine mass housing system could be considered a ‘massacre’ to the lives of every poor Filipino family who are becoming homeless every time demolition happens in their community.

Breaking the tradition and changing the system

My decision of breaking the Undas tradition is my way of remembering and showing sympathy not just for my departed loved ones but also to the thousands of relatives of the victims of senseless killings, who are still mourning the death of their kin and for those who are in constant fear of not having a home that they can call their own.

My decision not to go the cemetery is also my simple form of protest and my way to add my single voice to the growing clamor to end the killings, social injustice and the culture of violence and impunity in the country.

This may be a different story for the families of EJK victims. Without a doubt, they are currently in cemeteries, lighting candles, offering flowers and cherishing and maybe are still crying for moments lost with their departed loved ones.

I must also admit that breaking the Undas tradition is nothing compared to a bigger challenge that rests on the shoulders of all those who are victimized by the present social order.

The bigger challenge is to break a larger tradition of apathy among our people and start joining the people’s movement. The biggest challenge is changing the present system that does not, has not, served the majority of our population, especially the poor.

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