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Holding on to peace: Stories of struggle and hope in Tukanalipao

Tukanalipao is one of the 15 villages in the poor municipality of Mamasapano, in Southern Philippines. One year ago, an armed encounter in the small village of Tukanalipao killed more than 60 Filipinos,including an eight-year-old girl from the poor community.

Words and Pictures: Rhea Catada/Oxfam

Apo Kambal Salibo
“If it weren’t for the tragedy last year that changed our lives, people wouldn’t even know our small village existed.” One year after, the people in Tukanalipao continue to grieve. They grieve for the loved ones they lost, livelihood sources destroyed during the encounter, and hopes shattered.

Sarah Langayen, widowed at the very young age of 20, had to think of her two daughters after her civilian husband Badrudin was shot dead by government forces last year.
“I am at a loss as to how to take care of our family on my own,” a devastated Langayen told Oxfam aid workers last year during the international organization’s Tingog Mamasapano mission, which aimed to surface the voices of affected civilians. This year, Langayen’s mother Salama Masinggan said that her daughter had to leave behind her two kids just to try her luck as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in the Middle East.

Women in Tukanalipao rely on friendships to survive
“We give what we can to those who need it the most. Sometimes we give rice, sometimes we give sugar, sometimes we take care of the kids while the mothers are out to look for work.” said Babu Norma Camut and Babu Bidarya Adam.

Hope for peace
“I have eight grandkids. I pray that they will no longer experience what I experienced: living in fear, scampering away from home and fleeing to safety just to get away from an armed encounter,” said Babu Bidarya Adam from Brgy. Tukanalipao, Mamasapano.

Harvest destroyed by El Niño
The super-charged El Niño is threatening their source of income and food. “Last year we couldn’t harvest properly, because the crops were destroyed and we feared that there are dormant grenades in the cornfield. This year, rats and drought are set to destroy our crops, threatening to cut down our usual yield to half.”

The super-charged El Niño is threatening their source of income and food
Ultimately, the people of Tukanalipao pray for peace and for “kambayabaya.”

“Kambayabaya means freedom from poverty and hunger, and freedom from fear,” said 32-year-old Warda Dagadas. “Even if we had to work hard every day just to live, it’s all right as long as we can all live peacefully and be free from that constant fear of armed conflict.”