Amid fear, ‘lumad’ recall an Angel’s visit
Former students of a school for indigenous people in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, want their angel’s help. Actress Angel Locsin, that is.
The actress visited the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) in 2009. She spent two days in the hinterland school in Sitio Han-ayan in the village of Diatagon.
On Sept. 1, members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani killed Alcadev’s executive director, Emerito Samarca, and two others—“lumad” leader Dionel Campos and his cousin datu Aurelio Sinzo.
“Angel even slept in the room where Samarca was found dead,” Maricris Pagaran, who was appointed officer in charge of Alcadev, told the Inquirer.
Angel assumed the name of “Ate Jean” during her visit, stressing that she did not want her celebrity status known to the students. What she did not know, however, is that they knew she was Angel the actress.
“We just pretended we did not know she was Angel Locsin,” said Rico Pareja, who was then a third year high school student of Alcadev.
“What she did was an immersion of sorts. She listened to our stories,” said Pareja, who recently finished BS Education at the Surigao del Sur State College and now teaches at Alcadev.
Amalyn Ugking, who was 13 years old when Angel visited Alcadev, said the actress acted like she was just “an ordinary person.”
“She even washed her own dishes. She did not want to be treated like a visitor,” said Ugking, then an elementary student of the tribal community school run by the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS).
“And we respected her request for her not to be treated as Angel the actress,” Ugking said, adding that “deep inside we wanted to show her that we were her fans.”
Michelle Campos, now 17 and was a fifth grader when Angel went to their school, said she was among those who knew it was Angel the actress.
“But no one tried to get her autograph. No one tried to have their photos taken with her,” Campos said.
“But when we (students) were on our own, we were giggling,” she added.
Campos is a daughter of Dionel Campos, leader of tribal group Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod, who was killed on Sept 1.
Michelle, now a freshman at Surigao del Sur State College in Tandag City, was at school when she learned of her father’s death.
“President Aquino should seriously answer to these atrocities. The military should stop implementing this ‘Oplan Bayanihan.’ There will surely be peace and development after they’ve wiped out all the lumad and allow the entry of the mining firms,” Campos said in an interview at the wake of her father at the social hall of the provincial government compound here.
Not far from the social hall is the provincial sports center, where more than 3,000 evacuees from hinterland communities in the province’s five towns are staying. Although some of the evacuees are not from Lianga town, they also had to leave their homes, fearing that the paramilitary group would reach their villages.
“Government should disarm and disband the paramilitary groups,” Campos added.
Among the evacuees are students of the Alcadev and tribal community schools run by the TRIFPSS. Alcadev caters to high school students, while TRIFPSS operates more than 20 elementary schools all over the province. TRIFPSS won the Department of Education’s National Literacy Award in 2001 and 2005. Alcadev was a finalist in the same contest last year.
Angel was not the only “celebrity” who set foot on Alcadev’s school compound. Also in 2009, then Commission on Human Rights head and now Justice Secretary Leila de Lima visited the school while investigating the mass evacuation due to military operations that year. In 2011, Belgian Ambassador to the Philippines Christian Meerschman was also a visitor.
In 2009, Angel donated 300 plastic desks for Alcadev and TRIFPSS. This time, present and former students of Alcadev and TRIFPSS are again asking for her help.
“Please help us. You can come here (evacuation center) to see our situation. If not, you can call on the people to help us,” Pareja said.
“Also help us in our quest for justice for Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo,” Pareja added.
For the now-fatherless Michelle, Angel can do a lot. “She can help spread the news about what happened to us,” she said.
“She can attest that accusations of the school being a training ground for the communist New People’s Army are not true. She was there, she knows what kind of school we have, what kind of people we are,” Michelle added.
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