[People] May she rest in peace by Judy Pasimio

May she rest in peace

By Judy A. Pasimio / LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)

Judy Pasimio photo from lilakToday, Sheryll Ananayo-Puguon was laid to rest. At least that’s what we say when we bury our dead. But I wonder if Sheryll is indeed at rest today. If my lola (grandmother) is to be believed, one’s spirit or soul, hovers around for days after one’s death, especially if the death was unexpected, and sudden. The spirit will be moving around, still not knowing that it has left its body, and then spend some more time, coming to terms with the truth that it already has. If so, then Sheryll could not be at rest today. As a mother, I imagine, Sheryll would be wondering how come her John Ezekiel is no longer breastfeeding on her. Then she would be seeing Samantha, her 4-year old daughter, pestering her grandmother, asking when her mother would wake up. Then Sheryll would see her own mother, crying, her eyes puffed and tired.

Then it might all come back to her – it was a bright afternoon, on the 7th of December, they were on their way home to Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. She was sitting in front, with 3-month old John Ezekiel in her arms. Her cousin-in-law Randy Domingo was driving. Samantha, with her 4-year old cousin, sitting at the back of the van, were probably chatting away. And as they made a turn, there at Sitio Waterfalls, Sheryll saw, or heard first, it would all be a blur now – two men in a motorbike blocking their way, and shots were fired. Instinctively, she would have held John Ezekiel closer to her body, probably bending over to cover him, felt the pang of pain in her body, heard the shouts of Samantha, and the silence that came after. She was probably willing herself not to give in to the pain of the several gunshot wounds on her body to protect John and Samantha. She probably knew right away that Randy has been killed. She was probably praying to her Ifugao gods and goddesses, as she felt hands helping her out of the van, to please make her alright and survive this, thinking of her tiny John. And as she felt herself fading away, she was probably asking – why? What has happened? Why it has happened?

Today, Sheryll was laid to rest. But rest will not be with Sheryll, not when there is still no answer as to why she was brutally taken away from her children, and in their presence too. It was not a robbery, as the gunmen did not take any material thing from the van. No motive could be identified by the police. Sheryll was leading a relatively quiet life, different from that of her mother – Carmen Ananayo, or Manang Carmen to us. Manang Carmen is one of the active, vocal and committed leaders of DESAMA (Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association), who have maintained her opposition against the gold mining operations in Didipio. It is Manang Carmen who has been receiving threats against her life. It is by the house of Manang Carmen where vehicles would be seen parked at odd times, especially during meetings with those who continue to oppose the mining operations.

Randy, on the other hand, was a small-scale mining operator in Didipio, who was believed to be having disputes with the large scale mining company.

As Sheryll is laid to rest, I wonder, will her spirit ever be at rest, knowing how Samantha has witnessed her violent death? And wondering what she has done to deserve this? I know for sure that Manang Carmen won’t be, until the real motive for killing has been known, the perpetrators have been identified and justice has been served.

The killing of Sheryll Ananayo-Puguon and Randy Domingo is now added to the growing list of atrocities and acts of violence in areas where there are mining operations. Their killings are added to the growing long list of cases of impunity under the Aquino administration.

If my lola is to be believed about the spirits of the dead who could not come to terms with the truth of their deaths, then the spirits of Sheryll, Randy as well as Juvy, Jordan, John, and younger Jordan, and other indigenous peoples who are victims of unsolved killings, are still hovering amidst us.

Rest there will not be, until justice is served to them.

Rest there will not be, until the killings are stopped. Not for the spirits, not for us.

judy.lilak@gmail.com / 63-9175268341

LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)


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