Adriano Natad discusses his journey from Cebu to Mindanao in search of better opportunities in agriculture, and later fleeing the wars between Muslims and Christians, as well as between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
Born in 1942 into a farming family, Adriano Natad discusses how his life constantly followed a pattern of movement and resettlement across various regions in the Philippines. As early as 1948, his family moved from Cebu to Mindanao, in hopes of tapping on the latter’s rich environmental endowments to gain greater agricultural yield. He recalls that while inter-religious tensions persisted, and Muslims were still not accepted as fellow Filipinos by the Christian community, he was able to forge genuine friendships with his Muslim classmates. However, he was never able to pursue education past elementary school.
During his time in Mindanao, he observed conflicts between the Christian extremist group, ILAGA, and Muslim civilians. The family moved across the provinces of Iligan to Bukidnon to evade this conflict, but came to be embroiled in the larger conflict between the New People’s Army and the national military. Natad shares how NPA fighters would extort food or money from civilians. In response, freedom of movement was restricted at night under Martial Law, and soldiers guarded the civilians in the communal hall. Yet, this did not entirely shield civilians from the NPA.
Despite being caught in between conflicts, Natad continued his farming enterprise, planting coffee beans and corn in Bukidnon. The higher demand for coffee allowed him to provide for his family. However, he recalls an unfortunate incident when the people of Bukidnon were misled by incorrect professional advice into planting rubber trees, which rendered the lands unsuitable for other crops. A decade later, he moved to Cagayan de Oro, where he resumed corn and rice agriculture. Natad looks back on his lifelong career as a farmer with pride, as it constantly supported his family despite the conflicts he endured in the Cold War Philippines.
Interviewee: Adriano Ubas Natad, born 1942
Interviewer and writer: Kisho Tsuchiya interpreter & transcriber: Dominique J. Lucagbo
Date: August 10 ,2019
Location: Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City
My name is Adriano Ubas Natad, 77 years old. I was born on March 5, 1942 in Sibago Pinamungajan, Cebu. My parents, like most of the people living in Cebu at the time, made their living as farmers. They were farming for many years in Cebu but when I turned 6 [in 1948], our family moved to Mindanao. Mindanao was known as the ‘’ Land of Promise’’ because of its rich biodiversity and natural resources which gave us hope of good fortune in farming. My whole family moved to Iligan and was able to continue farming with crops such as corn and rice on a 2 hectare land. Moving to Mindanao was not easy. We had to experience wars and chaos. It takes a strong mind and heart to be able to survive all of it.
Iligan is a place within the province of Lanao del Norte in Northern Mindanao. While living there, there was an on-going conflict between Muslims and Christians. Muslims at that time were not considered “Filipinos.” Despite this, I was still able to make friends with Muslims in my class. Our class were mixed with all other religions yet we treated each other equally and my Muslim friends even celebrated with me when I earned the 2nd honourable mention in my class. For me this was a concrete evidence of our genuine friendship. I was only able to finish primary school. My siblings also dropped out from the school due to the fact that our parents couldn’t make enough money and support for education. The only thing that I did to help my family is farm because no one can really get a job when you only have an elementary diploma.
The war between Christians and Muslims did not just start spontaneously. There was a group called ILAGA (meaning “rat,” and stands for “the Ilongo Land Grabbers) which was involved in numbers of crime and massacres of Muslim civilians. ILAGA was a Christian extremist paramilitary group. The group was predominantly composed of Visayans, mostly Ilonggo, that utilizes amulets and violence. I believe that the chaos started when a Muslim person cut off a part of the breast of the sister of ILAGA’s leader. This caused a huge uproar from the ILAGA. They went on killing Muslim civilians. This caused a commotion. The Muslims feared this group and some even went back to their province to avoid them.
We stayed in Iligan for 10 years or so doing the same routine; work, eat and sleep at ease because we were a few distance away from the on-going conflict. Working and helping my parents in the farm was hard enough. But it allowed us to eat 3 times a day. So I had to endure it.
We finally move to Bukidnon because the war did not end soon, and we didn’t want to get involved with it. I was about 14 years old [in 1956?] when we left Iligan and started our lives in Bukidnon as farmers. We succeeded in buying a lot and the farm there was productive. We planted corn and coffee beans. We chose coffee beans because it had a higher price demand in the market and it gave us more income. And what I mean by ‘’more’’ is just enough to provide all of our basic needs.
By 1960, I was married. It made my life a lot easier because I had someone to be with, especially in times of hardships and she also helped me with farming. Yes, farming was hard. But, by this time, I was used to it since I did it for many years already. It was the only thing I could do to provide for my family.
Wars were still going on in Mindanao, and Bukidnon was no exception. NPA [New People’s Army] was in conflict with the Government of the Philippines during the time of Marcos. Martial Law was on-going at the time and it only made the situation worse. The Government sent soldiers to Bukidnon, hoping to stop whatever the NPA’s agenda was in Bukidnon. During the day, we were free to go on with our lives on our farms. But sometimes, once or twice a week we had an encounter with NPA who asked food or money from us. In fear of being remembered for not giving what they want, we are often demanded contributions from farmers. In short, we were extorted. At night, because of the implementation of Martial Law, there was a protocol for us to stay during the night in the barangay hall guarded by soldiers for safety purposes. This is for us not to have unfortunate encounters with NPA. We sometimes call ourselves ‘’bibingka’’ (a type of rice cake typically cooked in clay pots) because there was always fire above us and fire below us. It means that we’re caught in between. In between wars we cannot fight for, merely onlookers and possible victims of something we don’t have the control of. This went on for a month, and every night was an opportunity to meet new people inside the barangay hall and that was enough reason to be happy despite all the things happening outside.
In 1978, after 10 years of living in Bukidnon, we moved again to Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City. The people in Bukidnon overtime, got tired of planting crops such as corn and rice plants and started planting rubber trees because a Filipino technician gave us a seminar about how and why should we plant rubber trees and this proved to be a fatal mistake. Rubber trees at that time had higher demands because it required less man power as the rubber is made from the trees’ sap and the sap is sold in the market. Our lot in Bukidnon then was filled with rubber trees which made it useless for planting other plants.
Cagayan de Oro then was another place for me to farm. We planted corn and rice. One time, we needed to walk a long distance from 5pm to 7pm to get home. That’s about 2 hours of walking in a rocky and narrow road with a long trek ahead of us. We still have to carry the things we needed in the farms like gallons and baskets. And I was already 58 years old that time with an aching back and weak knees. It was hard, really hard but despite this I thought of my parents living such life for us, and gave me enough motivation to go on with this way. Remembering my younger years, I do not regret farming almost whole my life. It was the only thing I knew. It was enough to provide for myself and my family. And I can be proud of that.
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya
Interviewee: Adriano Ubas Natad
Barangay is the smallest administrative unit of local governance in the Philippines. It is also the native Spanish/Tagalog term for village.
In light of Natad’s reflections, how should the Philippines’ Cold War be best understood: as one conflict or multiple?
How does Natad’s testimony reveal greater complexities in the divisions that shaped the Philippines’ Cold War conflict?
Consider the issue of forced migration and constant resettlement in shaping the lived experiences of the Cold War in the Philippines, and Asia more broadly.