Sita Galorport discusses how her life trajectory was disrupted after her parents left them, having to raise her own children and her siblings; as well as her experiences watching the killings by ILAGA in Mindanao.
Born in 1947 in Valencia, Bohol, Sita Galoport recounts how her parents were unable to provide for all their children with their meagre income from farming, having to give up one of their children to her grandmother. She graduated primary school while helping her parents farm, but could not study further as her father wanted her to find employment.
At 21, she got married, but her husband died two years into the marriage, leaving her to raise their son. Her mother also passed away, and her father abandoned the family, remarrying in Malaybalay. Sita then had to raise not only her own son but also her younger siblings. She later met another man from and had a second son, but refused to move with him to Luzon, ending the relationship. With two sons and her siblings to support, Sita sold cows to educate her family. All her siblings graduated and found jobs in companies, while her children chose to work after their secondary education.
Sita then recounts how the ILAGA militia group indiscriminately carried out attacks on civilians in her area of Talakag in Bukidnon from 1966, and remembers hearing gunshots and seeing many corpses disfigured beyond identification. The mayor then called for a mandatory evacuation, and Sita kept relocating to evade the conflict. She then moved in with her siblings in Tagoloan for safety. In retrospect, she reflects that the hardships in her early life had robbed her of her adolescence, but that she carried on through her faith.
Interviewee: Sita Galorport, born 1947
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya Interpreter: Marjorie Tsuchiya Transcriber: Dominique Jonietz O. Lucagbo
Date: August 11, 2019
I’m Sita Galorport, 77 years old. I was born on April 17, 1947 in Valencia, Bohol. Life was hard enough having 6 siblings and parents merely as farmers. Providing the family’s basic needs became the sole purpose and farming was not putting enough money for us, so my parents decided to let our grandmother raise my one other sibling. I was able to graduate primary school while also helping my parents in farming but stopped because our father won’t let us go to school and wanted me to be a helper in Talakag, Bukidnon. I really wanted to go to school that time but my father would not let us and would even go to the extent of hurting us to stop our delusions. I was young but I was already marked with hardships of life and longing for a life where we don’t have to worry of what we’re going to eat and how are we going to earn money.
My father was injured that left him unable to work in the farm. And I was already a married woman at 21 years of age with my late husband Lorencio Tagotongan. He died after 2 years of my marriage with him due to an illness. I was devastated by him leaving me with our son. At 23 years old, I was a widow and a single mom. It was sad for my part and for my son to grow up without a father on his side. What’s worse than this is that my mother died not long after and my father decided to remarry in Malaybalay leaving me with no choice but to raise my son and 5 other siblings alone.
Along the way, I met a man who’s from Manila and is staying in Talakag, Bukidnon for business purposes. I got pregnant again not even a year being with him. He wanted me to go with him in Luzon but my siblings were against this because I didn’t know him that much and if something would happen to me, I wouldn’t be able to ask help from anyone. And so I stayed with my siblings, with now two sons at my side.
I didn’t want to be seen as an irresponsible mother and sister, and so I strived hard by raising and selling cows in the farm to let my siblings and my children to go to school.
I was very proud then seeing my siblings graduate and most of them were able to work in a company. My children also graduated but just up until secondary level because they wanted to work instead of going to college. My first son married at the age of 20 and my other son worked as a driver. I was alone most of the time because they were working and my other siblings are also already married.
And it was not just me who was fighting a battle of my own. By 1966, Talakag had an on-going war between a group named “ILAGA” and the soldiers. They are men who bring sharp weapons and would sometimes be seen lurking in the forests. I didn’t know the root cause of the war but all I know is that “ILAGA’’ was on rampant killing spree that time. They don’t choose who to kill, may it a child, pregnant or even old people. The mayor announced then a forced evacuation for safety purposes. The reason was people might get caught in between the war and would cost hundreds of lives. It was like hide and seek, except there was no fun in it at all. We would hear gunshots and would start to panic and run in the forest and different places to hide. We would go to Opol, Misamis Oriental to hide there and would go back again hoping that the war already subsided. There was this one time while we were on our way back in Talakag, Bukidnon, we encountered a truck full of dead bodies. They were massacred by “ILAGA” group; the bodies were mutilated and their faces were unrecognizable already. I even wondered if there would still be someone to claim the bodies and give proper burial but I guess the government chose the easiest way possible such as digging in a massive lot and just dump all the bodies in there.
It was terrifying and exhausting having to worry for your life every day and hiding from one place to another. I was not getting young anymore and my body was getting weak and fragile. Upon hearing this, my siblings, who’s been living in Tagoloan, convinced me to live with them.
Reminiscing all of this now made me realize that I really didn’t enjoy my adolescence. I was so focused on raising my siblings and children that finding happiness for me was in the least priority. I learned how it was to be independent and be a mother and father figure at the same time. Now, I am just happy taking care of my grandchildren and seeing that they are somehow successful In their lives. It made me proud. My life was unfortunate but still God gave me strength and continued giving blessings in my life despite hardships.
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya
Interviewee: Sita Galorport
The interviewee incorrectly suggests that ILAGA was clashing with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Instead, they were attacking Muslims, and complemented the Philippine Constabulary as a militia force.
Consider the impact of constant relocation and forced migration in shaping the Cold War experience for individuals like Sita Galorport.
What does Galorport’s incorrect recollection about the ILAGA suggest about the nature of Cold War conflict in Mindanao, Philippines?