Cordillerans share for 14 fallen heroes

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BAGUIO CITY – For families left behind by 14 Special Action Force policemen from the region that died in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, nothing is more meaningful in this time of grief than have their fellow Cordillerans pool the funds for their future needs.

Regardless of the different tribal origins whether it is Kankanaey, Ibaloi, Kalinga, Ifugao, Bontoc and Ilokano, the cultural trait of Cordillerans called “Binnadang” or the bayanihan spirit was exemplified recently as their tribesmen here and abroad pooled more than P1.2 million to support their needs.

For lawyer and civic leader Alex Bangsoy, Binnadang is an age-old tradition of helping each other in times of crisis or of extreme need.

It all started with Alex and his wife Annabelle’s Facebook posts which called for Cordilleran unity in the time of national mourning for the fallen 44 SAF policemen. In ammater of days, the calls for Cordilleran unity posts went viral on Facebook and now have more than 10,000 Likes and have garnered more than 6,000 Shares after more than a month.

The joint savings account opened by Bangsoy together with local Church leaders Fr. Andres Cosalan of the Roman Catholic Church Diocese in Baguio-Benguet, Episcopalian Bishop Joel Pachao from Mountain Province and Evangelical Churches Bishop Peter Mayyam from Ifugao has now reached P1,279.501.21, one of the biggest contributed fund by a private initiative without any big corporate or individual donors.

According to Bangsoy this fund is a result of numerous donations of ordinary Cordillerans and symphatizers all over the Philippines and the world from as far as Australia, Canada, United States, Armenia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom among other countries. BIBAK (Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao, Kalinga) groups from the US and Canada also held fund raising drives and hosted dinners for a cause for the Cordilleran fallen heroes.

In a simple program held last Monday in Baguio city, the families of the 14 Cordilleran SAF heroes PO2 Peterson Carap of Kabayan, Benguet, PO1 Gringo Cayang-o of Sadanga, Mountain Province, PO1 Angel Kodiamat of Bontoc, Mountain Province, PO2 Jerry Kayob of La Trinidad, Benguet, PO2 Nobel Kiangan of Mankayan, Benguet, PO3 Noel Golocan of Mankayan, Benguet and Sagada, Mountain Province, PO2 Walner Danao of Irisan, Baguio City, PSI Gednat Tabdi of La Trinidad, Benguet, PSI Cyrus Anniban of Balbalan, Kalinga, PO3 Robert Allaga of Banaue, Ifugao, PO2 Franklin Danao of Tinoc, Ifugao, PO2 Nicky De Castro Nacino Jr. of Baguio City and Aurora Province, PO1 Russel Bilog of Tabuk City, Kalinga and Sagada, Mountain Province gathered to tell their story of coping with grief and expressing gratitude for the outpouring support from the government and most especially the private sector.

All of the 14 cordilleran SAF heroes were represented by their families except for PO3 Robert Allaga’s whose wife had to travel all the way from Antique. Each family received a total of P90,500 witnessed by the four joint account holders.

As in the Binnadang practice of the Cordilleras, Bangsoy says beneficiaries that include the wife and the parents share the assistance given them.

“We still left a remaining balance P12,500 because there is a strong clamor to extend the deadline of the deposit. So we decided to extend the time to accept deposits up to March 7 so those who still have not yet deposited you have until March 7 to do so,” he said.

Their BPI Joint Account No. 0573-3545-83 (International Swift Code is BOPIPHMM) in the name of four joint account holders Bangsoy, Cosalan, Pachao and Mayyam will close by  March 9 where the entire amount will be withdrawn and again divided among the 14 families of the SAF heroes.

“Those who would like to give after March 9, you can give it directly to the families as we will be publishing their individual phone numbers or bank accounts,” he added.

But more than the money given to the families Fr. Cosalan, said what is more important is healing the grieving hearts of loved ones left behind by the fallen heroes.

Cosalan said regardless of ethnic origins and intermarriages with other lowland tribes, Cordillerans have learned to control their anger and let go of their anger on what had happened to their loved ones.

The Roman Catholic priest, the current rector of the Baguio Cathedral, says together with other religious leaders from the Cordilleras will be reaching out through spiritual counseling sessions to the bereaved families.

Bishops Mayyam and Pachao, both Igorot spiritual leaders, said the continued spiritual guidance is important as emotions remain fresh on the minds of the loved ones left behind by the fallen heroes especially the wives of the policemen who now have to play both the role of their husbands at home.

Julie Cayang-o, wife of PO1 Gringo Cayang-o, while controlling her tears says this approach of priests, pastors and bishops for them is very helpful as they cope with the tragedy.

“Para sa akin fresh pa ang lahat eh,kaya nung naramdaman ko ang galit pagkatapos nun ay nagpa-prayer ako sa pastor namin,  ayaw ko maramdaman ito, gusto ko maialis sa akin, naintindihan ko rin na hindi dapat natin aksayahin ang time natin para dito pero dapat gawin natin na kalasag ito sa mga nangyari,” she said.

This as she said the only consolation now that she and her children is is ging to bring with them is that “the father of the family is a hero.”

Soft-spoken Joseph Dulnuan, the passing of his son Joseph is difficult but they have to eventually accept this fate of the fallen policemen.

This same view was expressed by grieving mother Nancy Danao, as she stressed this outpouring of support from her “kailians” in Baguio gives her the strength to assist the wife of his son Emeliza and her granddaughter Juliana to have a good future.

For many Cordillerans, this journey of grief is a long process as Bangsoy says rituals and prayers are scheduled on top of spending for the butchering of animals which is very expensive.

PO2 Danao’s wife, Emeliza Danao said this bond among the Igorot community is enviable.

Tracing her roots in Zamboanga where he met her husband Walner, she said the comforting nature of Cordillerans especially her husband’s family has helped her cope with the shock that has left her not knowing what to do after the incident.

She recalled her husband Walner telling her and their daughter Julianna that he would bring them to Mt. Santo Tomas’s famous La Presa, where a famous teleserye is currently being filmed. She plans to fulfill this dream of her husband soon imagining her husband is with them on top of the mountain overlooking Baguio showing them the city where he grew up.

For Emeliza, the Cordillera mountains have given them refuge. With tears, all she was able to utter to all the fellow Cordillerans of her husband is a very sincere and emotional “ Thank you, thank you sa lahat.”

PO2 Carap’s wife, Janet Carap said the outpouring of support from government and most importantly from private and anonymous donors has been comforting.

“Even if you are from outside the Cordillera but as long as you trace your roots from here you will feel the closeness with the community and for that we are very thankful,” Carap said.

Vicky Alipit of PhilCor (Philippine Cordillerans in New South Wales) said they made the initiative even memorable and to further preserve the memories of the Igorot heroes through a compilation of posts and messages from Cordillerans all over the world turned into a memoir.

“This way we can help them cope with grief and show them that all of us Cordillerans sympathize with them,” Alipit stressed.