The sound of the dog barking outside used to terrify Prudencia (not her real name) at night. Tears would fall down her cheeks and she would embrace herself while fear envelopes her and keeps her from falling asleep.
Prudencia, 55, is on her third term as a barangay councilor in Barangay Hilomot, San Jose de Buan, Samar. Her husband tilled their six-hectare land planted with coconuts, bananas, and rice. For added income, Prudencia maintained a small grocery store. These enabled her and her spouse to send their children to school and made them the subject of envy for other people in their community, who were suffering from poverty and had little opportunities to them.
Unfortunately, things changed in 2005, when she was suspected as supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA). She was arrested by soldiers, forcibly taken from her home, and brought to a military camp, where she was interrogated and beaten.
What made things worse was that she was not arrested once, but three times, forcing her to admit things she never did. The more she insisted that she was not an NPA supporter, the more that the soldiers beat her. Eventually, a soldier’s niece told her to leave their barangay because the soldiers would kill her the next time they pick her up.
Afraid of what would happen to her, she fled to Catbalogan, Samar. There she stayed, where she worked as a stone engraver, a living that gave her piddling income. She suffered from homesickness, being away from her loved ones for the first time. Worse still, she could not keep in contact with them because of safety concerns.
“It was very difficult for me to leave my family, especially my four children who were still studying that time. My eldest was taking up midwifery. My second child, who was only 17 year old, fled to Manila because of what happened to me. My youngest kids were still in elementary then. But I had no choice and I was scared,” Prudencia recalled, with tear-filled eyes.
After two months of staying alone in Catbalogan, Prudencia heard from one of her children that the situation had pacified already, which meant she could go back to San Jose de Buan.
She went back to her town, but she still carried in her mind and heart the nightmares brought by her experience with the military months ago. In spite of this, she resumed doing the tasks she had before the incident. This time, she became even more active with community work. One of her commitments was serving as the Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee (BSPMC) Chairman for the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA project.
It was through PAMANA that she finally managed to speak of her pain and suffering, through a trauma healing session.
“Nakabulig an trauma healing session ha akon kaynahukas an akon mga maglain nga binabati ngan nag-gaan an sulod han ak dughan. Nawara an ak ginhuhuna-huna nga mga pagdumot ngan pag-uba ha mga militar [The trauma healing session helped me because I was relieved of the negative emotions I had and I feel enlightened. The thoughts of resentment and loathing that I felt for the military are now gone].”
The healing session is one of the peace-building activities for trauma victims of conflict-affected areas under Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA.
Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA or Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Resilient Communities) is the Philippine Government’s peace and development framework that aims to strengthen peace-building, reconstruction, and development in conflict-affected areas. It is in line with the government’s goal of putting a permanent and just closure to internal armed-conflicts in the country.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development through Kalahi-CIDSS is implementing Pillar 2 of PAMANA, which promotes the convergent delivery of social services and goods to households and communities using the systems, processes and mechanisms of Kalahi-CIDSS’ community-driven development (CDD) strategy, which has been proven to be effective in reducing poverty.