MANILA — Lumad school teacher Chad Booc, who was killed in what the military said was an encounter in Davao de Oro last Feb. 24, was "planted" at his final resting place in Cebu City on Wednesday.
The burial of Booc, whose death drew condemnation from his family, colleagues and entities of the University of the Philippines where he graduated in 2016, was live-streamed by the Save Our Schools Network via social media.
The SOS Network said Booc was "planted" at his final resting place, apparently in keeping with his wish.
"Mabuhay ka, Chad. Hustisya kang Chad! " said an uncle of Booc at the 27-year-old activist's burial rites where the latter's coffin bore the messages, "Serve the People" and "Justice for Chad!".
(Long live, Chad! Justice for Chad!)
"Nakita nako ang kinabuhi ni Chad sa usa ka aktibista. Purely aktibista. Usahay, ang mga tawo, lahi ang panan-awon: Aktibista ka, connected ka sa mga dili maayo nga gitawag nato'g NPA," the relative said.
(I saw the activist's life that Chad lived. He was purely an activist. Sometimes, people see this differently: activists for them have connections with the New People's Army.)
"Dili ni nato sila kontra. Dili ni nato sila kalaban. Dili sad ni sila rebelde sa gobyerno. Kung dili, duna sila'y pakighugpong nga mureklamo sa administrasyon nga nagdala sa gobyerno," he added, referring to activists who frequent the streets to air their grievances against the government.
(But activists are not our enemies. And they are not government rebels. Rather, they are just engaged in bringing out any complaints against the administration.)
Booc's colleagues are also demanding justice for the four other people who were killed together with him. One of them, Jurain Ngujo, also a Lumad school volunteer teacher, was already laid to rest last March 7 in his hometown in North Cotabato, according to the SOS Network.
The military had said that the five were alleged NPA members who figured in a series of encounters with government troops in Davao de Oro's New Bataan town.
An M653 rifle, a caliber .45 pistol, a hand grenade, an anti-personnel mine, assorted food supplies and personal belongings were supposedly found at the encounter site after an alleged 15-minute firefight.
The Communist Party of the Philippines denied its local fighters in the area had an armed encounter with government forces that day.
The SOS Network said the "New Bataan 5", who were community volunteers and civilians, were on their way home from a community visit as part of their research work when they were killed.
Booc is a volunteer teacher and civilian non-combatant at the time he was killed and tagged as a terrorist by the military, the University of the Philippines Office of the Chancellor Executive Staff also said last Monday.
"The UP Diliman (UPD) Office of the Chancellor Executive Staff stands in solidarity and collective grief with the Save Our Schools Network and condemn to the highest degree the killing of Chad Booc, cum laude graduate of the UPD College of Engineering, along with his fellow volunteer teacher Gelejurain Ngujo II, at the hands of the Philippine military in New Bataan on 24 February 2022," it said in a statement.
Helping the people, especially the oppressed, was Booc's advocacy, according to his father during a tribute for the "New Bataan 5" last March 3.
"Ang iyang tabang sa mga katawhan, kanunay niya gimanggad. Dili siya gusto nga duna’y tawo gidaog-daog. Mga tawo nga kulang sa edukasyon, gusto niya tabangan," Booc's father said.
(It was very important for him to help the people. He doesn't want to see people being oppressed. And he wants to help those who lack education.)
He was able to contribute a lot to Lumad schools, his father added.
"Sa uban tao, dautan kuno siya, terorista. Pero sa tan-aw nako, dili. Daghan kaayo siya og mga plano sa mga tawo nga gidaog-daog," his father said.
(For others, he was bad, he was a terrorist. He is not to me. He had so many plans for people being oppressed.)
The UPD Office of the Chancellor Executive Staff said Booc and Kevin Castro, a former chair of the UPD College of Education Student Council and a volunteer community teacher who was killed in Quezon province last Feb. 21, lived "the life of Iskolar para sa Bayan: to pursue, not career or prestige, but the noblest vision of a better nation through the education and empowerment of underprivileged communities."
'AYAW KO ILIBING, GUSTO KO ITANIM'
In a 2019 post on Facebook, Booc said that when he dies, he wants to be "planted" in keeping with the tradition of the Lumads, which is consistent with how they connect with their ancestral lands even up to their death.
"Tungkol ito sa kanilang pagiging katutubo, sa kanilang ugnayan sa lupang ninuno, sa kanilang pakikibaka," he wrote.
(Being 'planted' and not 'buried' is about their being indigenous peoples, their connection with their ancestral lands, and their struggles.)
"Pag itinanim ka, ibabalik ka sa lupang iyong pinanggalingan. Ikaw ay parang butil na tinatanim ng mga magsasaka, inaasahang magbubunga pa."
(When you are planted, you are being returned to the land where you came from. You are like a grain planted by farmers, expected to bear more fruit.)
"Pag itinanim ka, ibig sabihin, sisibol kang muli. Tutubo, yayabong, mamamayagpag, mamumunga at magbubunsod pa ng mas marami."
(When you are planted, it means you will sprout again. You grow, flourish, bear fruit and multiply.)
"Pag itinanim ka, hindi ito iyong katapusan mo. Ito lamang ang simula mo. Kaya pag namatay ako, ayaw ko ilibing. Gusto ko itanim."
(When you are planted, it is not your end. This is just your beginning. So when I die, I don't want to be buried. I want to be planted.)