No name for her pain
Luzviminda Siapo is mater dolorosa in the truest sense of the word; her ordeal is a Holy Week meditation. Hers is a mother’s story that gives a face and a voice to the so-called war on drugs. There is no name for her pain. No name.
Aie Balagtas See’s report last Sunday (“Drug war sends OFW rushing home for son who ‘couldn’t run’”) and Raffy Lerma’s three photos jolted me so early in the day. I learned later that I was not alone in mixing tears with morning coffee.
Here was an overseas Filipino worker learning about her son, shot and killed, that he could not even run for his life (he was clubfooted). She had to kiss the feet of her Kuwaiti employer three times just so she would be allowed to fly home. She had to show her employer the online news about her son. She was finally allowed to go but was made to leave her belongings behind, to make sure she would come back. She flew home with only her grief.
Read and contemplate that scene in Kuwait. Remember, too, that her name is Luz-Vi-Minda.
Lerma, the Inquirer’s award-winning photographer who has been documenting President Duterte’s so-called war on drugs (and mostly the poor!) and the vigilante and extrajudicial killings (EJKs) that happen day and night, was in on this story to capture with his camera the ethos and the pathos: from the moment Luzviminda arrives at the airport and slumps in the arms of her brother, to her first stop at the barangay hall to confront officials, to finally beholding her son lying cold and dead inside a white coffin. Her face, always her face, was the main focus of Lerma’s camera.
While writing this piece and whenever I cast a glance at the photos, I could only gasp, my God, my God, what pain, what pain. And my eyes would moisten. As we say in Filipino, ang sakit.
There are different names for the bereaved, they say. Children who lost their parents are called orphans; wives who lost their husbands are called widows; husbands who lost their wives are called widowers. But how does one call a parent—a single mother, in the case of Luzviminda—who lost an only child, and in so brutal a manner? And yet, they say, losing a child is the most painful of all.
I remember Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa, chief implementer of the war on drugs, discussing statistics with Pia Hontiveros of CNN Philippines. The word “killed” is so unpleasant to the ears, he said. So he suggested: Why not use the word “died” instead?
Another Dios ko moment there. Dude, pinatay is different from namatay.
In last Monday’s Inquirer, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio, who had read the story, was quoted as saying, “My heart was crushed when I read the news. I could not swallow the bread I was eating, so I decided to come here to tell you that we are here for you.”
He was talking to Luzviminda, the mother of Raymart Siapo, the teenager who was gunned down by unknown assailants (now an everyday occurrence hereabouts—so what’s new? you ask) after a neighbor tagged him as a marijuana peddler.
And so on March 29 the men, some 14 of them, came for Raymart. According to Raymart’s uncle and guardian, five entered the house of their target but they couldn’t find Raymart. They found him in a friend’s house, made him ride with them on a motorcycle till they reached a place called Bangkulasi.
Run, the men told him. Raymart could not run because his feet were deformed. So they made him sit down. The Navotas police report said Raymart was shot twice in the head. His mother discovered that his arms were broken.
A mother’s lament rises to the heavens: “All it took was a false accusation for these people to murder my son. They did not bother to investigate, they did not bother to verify. They just killed him.”
“Eli Eli lama sabachthani?”
Relish the solemnity of Holy Week, and hold on to the glimmer of hope that Easter brings.
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