They put you in a cage four feet by one foot small, the height of an average man. There are hollow blocks to the side and iron grills in front. You sit with three other men, crouched in a line. There is no other way to fit.

Your brother is in the same cell. The door opens, more of them come in. More of them like you—beaten, bruised, helpless. They are put inside the next cell. This time there are two men and a married couple. The woman has burns all over her body. She was raped, they tell you. She was raped and beaten until she soiled herself. They say she has gone mad. They take her away.

This is where you shit, where you piss, where you wash if you still care. You do not feel the wind; you do not see the sun. Your food comes rarely, and what comes is rotten, leftover pig feed. Three men arrive, from Nueva Ecija. They are tortured. One of them has both arms broken. Bleeding.

Sometimes, when the soldiers are drinking, they take you out of your cage and play with you. The game varies, but it is usually the same. Two by fours, chains, an open gardening hose shoved down your nose. You crawl back to your cage, on your hands and knees. You wake up to screaming, to the sound of grown men begging, and you wonder which one it is this time. Sometimes, one of your cellmates will disappear. Sometimes, they don’t come back.

Then they take you away, and there is a doctor, pills, antibiotics, a bed. They tell you they are taking you home to see your parents. You meet the man they call The Butcher, and he tells you to tell your parents not to join the rallies, to stay away from human rights groups, that they would ruin your life and your brother’s. He tells you, this small man in shorts, that if you can only prove you’re on his side now, he would let you and your brother live. He gives you a box of vitamins, and tells you that they are expensive: P35 per pill.

They put a chain around your waist. The military surround your farm. Your mother opens the front door crying, and hugs you. You tell them what you were told to say. You hand them the money Palparan told you to give. Then you are told you must go.

Always, you keep thinking of escape. You make yourself useful, to make them trust you. You cook. You wash cars. You clean. You shop. No task is too menial. And one day, while you sweep the floor, you see a young woman, chained to the foot of a bed. Her name is Sherlyn Cadapan, she tells you, Sports Science, University of the Philippines Diliman, the same Sherlyn who disappeared from Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006. She says she has been raped.

Later, you meet Karen Empeño, also from UP, and Manuel Merino, the farmer who rushed to save the two girls when they were abducted. Karen and Sherlyn are in charge of washing the soldiers’ clothes, you and Manuel and your brother Reynaldo wash the car and carry water and cook.

The five of you are taken from camp to camp. You see the soldiers stealing from villagers. You see them bringing in blindfolded captives. You see them digging graves. You see them burning bodies, pouring gasoline as the fire rose. You see them shoot old men sitting on carabaos and see them push bodies into ravines. And in April 2007, you hear a woman begging, and when you are ordered to fix dinner, you see Sherlyn, lying naked on a chair that had fallen on the floor, both wrists and one tied leg propped up.

You see them hit her with wooden planks, see her electrocuted, beaten, half-drowned. You see them amuse themselves with her body, poke sticks into her vagina, shove a water hose into her nose and mouth. And you see the soldiers wives’ watch. You hear the soldiers forcing Sherlyn to admit who it was with plans to “write a letter.” You hear her admit, after intense torture, that it was Karen’s idea. And you see Karen, dragged out of her cell, tied at the wrists and ankles, stripped of her clothing, then beaten, water-tortured, and burned with cigarettes and raped with pieces of wood. And it is you who are ordered to wash their clothes the next day, and who finds blood in their panties.

And you are there, on the night they take away Manuel Merino, when you hear an old man moaning, a gunshot and the red light of a sudden fire.

Nov 23, 2008 under General | no comment

The two-year rape of Raymond Manalo

It was Valentine’s Day, and Raymond was meeting his girl. It was a special day. They had been together a full year and a month. Plans were made the night before. They would spend the day together, meet at noon and wander down San Ildefonso’s main road to a street corner stall to buy fifty-peso lunches of Sprites and liver on sticks.

He called her early in the morning, but her phone was off. When she called, it was to say that she would be late, and that she would see him at five in the afternoon. Raymond didn’t mind.
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Nov 16, 2008 under General | no comment

Dodging Bullets

PHILIPPINE National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa believes that the issue should be laid to rest. By issue, he means the P6.9 million in euros found in the hand carry luggage of PNP comptroller Eliseo de la Paz, who was in Moscow with an 8-man delegation for the 77th Intepol General Assembly. The piles of euro bills amounted to 105,000, and were enough to detain De la Paz and his wife at the Moscow airport just as they were leaving to fly to Warsaw on extended vacation.
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Nov 8, 2008 under General | no comment

Death day

It is midnight on the day of the dead, and there is a red moon hanging over Sagada.

There are nine of us out on the mountain, sprawled around a bonfire we cannot light on a patio paved with small slabs of cold rock. There are two bottles of gin, a liter of Coke, and no cups to speak of. Adonis, our gaffer who now sports a graying mohawk, cuts out the bottom of a bottle of mineral water. We pass around the makeshift plastic cup half-filled with gin, and chase it down with Coke from the one mug we filched off someone’s hotel room.
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Nov 1, 2008 under General | no comment