Gunfire, blasts, a dying breath

First posted 03:46am (Mla time) Oct 03, 2006
By DJ Yap
Inquirer

Editor’s Note: Published on page A1 of the October 3, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IF YOU THINK losing a loved one is heartbreaking, you should listen to Elsie Badbad’s story. Then you would know what anguish really means.

Elsie was not there when her husband Rodrigo, a military sergeant, was killed in an ambush by communist guerillas in Cagayan de Oro City last month. But its horror would likely stay with her for a long, long time.

She heard everything on her mobile phone — the gunfire, the explosions, her husband’s dying breath.

“I wish I had been there with him. I would probably have been able to help him. And even if I couldn’t, at least I would have been able to hold him,” said Elsie, a mother of two.

The 34-year-old was talking to Rodrigo on her cellular phone that morning when, all of a sudden, enemy forces began attacking her husband’s company.

“One moment I was conversing with my husband, then suddenly I was hearing guns and loud blasts in the background,” she said in Filipino.

“I started panicking and screaming at the phone, asking my husband to tell me what was going on,” Elsie said.

Longest day

Amid the loud noise, “I heard his voice on the line. He was moaning. After that, I heard more gunfire and explosions. It lasted 10 seconds.”

Then the line went dead.

It was the longest day in Elsie’s life.

“I kept calling him until it was already 3 p.m., but no one was answering anymore … The worst thing was not knowing. Was he dead or alive?” she said.

“At 7 p.m., someone went to our house and said he would accompany me to the morgue. Our youngest and I couldn’t stop crying … I never realized that my world would stop so suddenly.”

A widow in tears

Elsie was in tears when she told her story before a group of high school students during last week’s Peace Tech 3, a dialogue among youths on the impact of war and conflict on women.

The forum linked up students and teachers at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, with their counterparts at the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City.

The third in a series of teleconferences on issues that concern the youth, the forum was organized by the Assisi Development Foundation, Center for Peace Education of Miriam College, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, United Nations Children’s Fund, Australian Agency for International Development and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. provided the cable technology.

Another widow

During the forum, women who were caught in armed conflicts talked about their experiences before an audience of some 750 students from UP and more than 1,100 from Notre Dame.

Elsie said her husband’s death put in doubt the future of her children, an 8-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. Now she has to fend for them by herself.

“We’ll get by. But it’s going to be hard,” she said.

Another widow who spoke at the forum was Teresa. As in Elsie’s case, the story behind her husband’s death was a sad one.

Except that Teresa’s husband was fighting on the opposite side — he was a “commander” of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“I had just given birth to our first child when I heard that he might have been killed,” Teresa said.

A love story

“It took a month before someone confirmed his death to me,” she added. “By then, I was taking care of our child at my parents’ house where he left me.”

“I’ve since taken up a job as a helper in a store,” Teresa said.

She described her husband as a “kind and thoughtful man.”

Breaking the somber atmosphere in the hall, Teresa told the students a love story — how her husband courted her by writing her a love letter, which she answered favorably “after five days.”

Teresa spoke at Notre Dame, and Elsie at UP Diliman.

Futile wish

Although their husbands died fighting each other, the two widows harbored no ill will toward each other.

“That’s the way it is. You can’t blame them because they were just following orders,” Elsie said.

“When my husband was alive, I was always wishing that he would never meet any of the rebel groups. I wished they would just go their separate ways without knowing where the other was,” she said.

But she knew it was a wish in vain.

“Every time there’s an encounter, someone’s bound to die. Somebody will lose a husband or a son,” she said.
http://news.inq7.net/archive_article/index.php?ver=1&index=1&story_id=24422

Copyright 2006 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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