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Dexter Condez: A voice of courage for Ati folk

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ATI TRIBE spokesperson Dexter Condez is photographed working at the land in Barangay Manoc-Manoc on Boracay Island, days after the Ati occupied the property in April 2012. Less than a year later, Condez was gunned down. SONNY ESTOLLOSO/CONTRIBUTOR

BORACAY ISLAND—Dexter Condez had learned to fight for his rights at a young age.

When he was in Grade 4, he stopped going to school because he was teased and bullied by his classmates for being an Ati. Articulate and passionate, he believed that a person’s worth is not measured by the color of the skin.

On Feb. 22, a lone gunman claimed the life of the young man who had been on the front line in the Ati people’s fight to occupy and own a 2.1-hectare property in Barangay Manoc-Manoc on Boracay Island, which they believe is part of their ancestral domain.

Condez, 26, was shot eight times—one bullet pierced his heart—while he was on his way to the Ati community in Manoc-Manoc.

 

Hotel guard

Police tagged a security guard of a hotel chain in Boracay as suspect. A murder complaint was eventually filed against the guard, Daniel Celestino, of Crown Regency Boracay Resorts in the Aklan provincial prosecutor’s office in the capital town of Kalibo.

Teddy Jimenez, resident manager of the Crown Regency Resort and Convention Center, confirmed that Celestino was assigned to the hotel but that the company had nothing to do with the crime.

The Crown Regency Resort and Convention Center is one of three hotels being operated by Cebu-based J. King and Sons Co. Inc., which is among at least three property claimants opposing the Ati occupation of the Manoc-Manoc lot since last year.

Before his death, Condez was spokesperson of Boracay Ati Tribal Organization    and worked closely with the Holy Rosary Parish Ati Mission (HRPAM), which was put up by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in 2000 to help the Ati people acquire a permanent residential land in Boracay.

Meeting with nuns

Condez had just attended a meeting of tribe leaders and nuns shortly before he was killed. They discussed activities and projects and updates on pending cases related to the certificate of ancestral domain title granted by the government in Manoc-Manoc.

Benjamin Abadiano, president of  Assisi Development Foundation Inc., said Condez was in charge of the group’s social entrepreneurship program and was helping draft a curriculum for an education program for the community.

“His death is such a loss,” he said.

The second of four siblings, Condez was born in Barangay Cubay in Malay town in Aklan. His mother, Madeline, was an Ati.

His parents separated and his mother remarried. When he was 6 years old, he  was adopted by his aunt, Evelyn Supetran.

In Grade 4, Condez dropped out of Balabag Elementary School in Boracay because his classmates teased and bullied him for being an Ati. He was, however, accelerated to Grade 6 after taking a qualifying examination but transferred to Dueñas town in Iloilo, the hometown of his father, Edgar, because he didn’t get along with his grandfather.

He finished his elementary and part of his high school education in Dueñas. He graduated from high school at Colegio de San Jose in Iloilo City.

Back to Boracay

Condez enrolled in the same college for a year in a secondary education course, but he again dropped out due to a personal problem and went back to Boracay where he worked in a mini grocery.

He volunteered for  the Ati mission in 2010 and became the tribe’s spokesperson shortly after.

“Dexter wanted to be a lawyer because he saw the need for our tribe to be represented in legal issues and cases,” said Luna, a close friend of Condez, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

She said Condez helped her with her personal problems and community work and other tasks delegated by the nuns. Condez remained down-to-earth and simple despite his position in the tribe.

Luna said her friend always prodded tribe members to remain firm amid difficulties and uncertainties. “Don’t lose hope,” he would always tell them.

Sr. Hermie Sutares, HRPAM program coordinator, said Condez also wanted to take up journalism or anthropology to help the tribe. He excelled in the arts even if he had dropped out of school, she said.

Program coordinator

“He was naturally intelligent and could easily grasp and explain things and concepts,” Sutares said.

Condez also mastered declamation. He directed the community plays and the Ati choir, which sings during Sunday Mass at the Boracay parish church.

“We were developing him to take over as program coordinator because we will not be here forever. I was confident in delegating tasks and responsibilities to him,” Sutares said.

Those who had worked with or were close to Condez described him as “cheerful and lively.”

“He enlivens our training workshops because of his creative ideas,” Abadiano said.

“He also served as a link between the elder tribe members and the younger generation which may be the reason they made sure he was dead,” he said.

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  • koolkid_inthehouse

    This is greediness in part of the resorts.  Foreign tourists must be aware what’s going on in Boracay. 
    Boracay must be on the list of ban destinations for foreigners and local tourist. Human rights commission should look at the crime. 

    • kulittwit

       Ban yourself, wag kang mandamay.

  • http://twitter.com/wadjitzain coty

    here’s a tribute to the fallen hero leader. my apologies to the author of this manifesto as i took upon myself the liberty to share it.

    “May you rest in peace, Dexter Condez. It pains me to lose a friend with a pure heart who has dedicated his life fighting for his right and standing up for his tribe.. I hope people will know that behind the beautiful white sand beaches of Boracay, the loud parties and fun filled activities, THERE EXISTS A SITUATION LIKE THIS. I salute you Dex, for being a great leader and inspiration not only to your tribe, but to everyone else who knows your story. :'(((
    JUSTICE FOR THIS MAN!! The police and the local government should do everything to solve this case!

    Dexter Condez, an Ati youth leader and spokesperson of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization was shot a few hours ago. The Boracay Atis (with Dexter as their voice) assert their right to a 2.1 hectare of the world’s most popular island. The government, civil society, tourists, media and even ordinary citizens should do something about this.
    JUSTICE FOR DEXTER! JUSTICE FOR THE BORACAY ATIS!
    JUSTICE FOR DEXTER CONDEZ

  • http://twitter.com/wadjitzain coty

    “Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others.
    His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity.”! _ _ Sitting Bull

    wow, i am not sure if any one of our honourable leaders has this in them?! 

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