Zamboanga Children: Victims of War

A traumatic experience in the life of children

Her name was May Ann Tigoy. She was six years old. She and her mother, along with hundreds of families, were evacuees in a school two kilometers away from Brgy. Catalina, the hotspot of the waging war.

September 16, at around 6PM, she and her mother were preparing dinner when she was shot in the forehead. A day later, she became brain dead, and the day thereafter, around 9:00, she was declared deceased.

“Yung mga bata po, kawawa sila. Wala namang kasalanan ‘yung anak ko sa kanila,” (The kids, they are pitiful. My daughter did not do anything wrong to them.) said Janet Tigoy, May Ann’s mother, between sobs and tears in an interview.

The local government promised to pay for her daughter’s funeral, along with psychological debriefing and financial assistance.


He was two and a half years old, and he had  curly hair. He and his mother were prisoners of war, so to speak;  held captive by the MNLF in Zamboanga in a standoff between the Philippine government and the rebels. His name is Jomie Eithan Ando, and he’s dead.

On the first day of  being held captive, his mother said they were treated nicely. The rebels were speaking to them, giving them meals on time, and not hurting them. But when the shootings started, they were used as “human shields”  to ward off attack attempts  from the military while they were waving a white flag.

September 13, Friday afternoon, during the shoot-out, the cute boy and his mother had no choice, but to hide in an almost neck-deep canal on  a nearby street. In his mother’s attempt to keep him from drowning, she kept his head slightly above the waters of the canal;  however, she failed to shield him from stray bullets. Later, he was shot in the head.

September 14 at dawn, he was still singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Zamboanga Hermosa (the anthem of the said place) despite his wounds. No, he did not cry. According to his mother, she thought he was okay because he wasn’t crying.   Perhaps she  thought  it was just a shallow wound.

It was September 14 before noon when Eithan, the little boy, started feeling weak. He and his mother, along with two men, begged Malik for freedom. Their request was approved. However, it was too late; Eithan had a seizure. Later that night, he succumb to his injuries and his last words were, “I love you, Mommy. I love you, Daddy ko.”


Another child was reportedly left on a street, cold and lifeless, by own mother in an effort to at least save herself when she realized her child was dead. Not without conscience and utterly terrified, the mother grievously narrates her anguish on the nightmarish incident which took the life of her child.

Another girl about three years of age was so traumatized that she repeatedly utters or yells “Ceasefire! Ceasefire!”   which made even the DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman cry in an interview.

“Itong batang ito, hindi dapat nalagay sa gitna at nagsisisigaw ng ceasefire. Dapat nandoon siya sa playground. Dapat nandoon siya sa kanyang bahay. I mean, hindi dapat nangyayari ‘yun,” (This kid, she shouldn’t have been put in the middle while screaming ceasefire. She should have been in the playground. She should have been in her house. I mean, those things shouldn’t be happening) the secretary said.

The kids were given play therapy; via story telling and day care sessions wherein they play, listen, and draw accordingly.

Many kids displayed traumatized behaviors.  As per reports, when they were asked to draw houses, many of them drew houses with guns, gunfires, and burning houses. Obviously, the ongoing war has its effect on them.

“Early childhood experiences (sic) is very, very important because this is going to affect the way they look at things, the way they relay to people, the way they make decisions,” said Clarissa Miranda, team leader of the Debriefing Team.

According to reports, there are around 80,000 evacuees in Baliwagan Grandstand last September 18, and more or less 20,000 are children.    It is no wonder if the majority of them would be diagnosed as traumatized.

The question now is, what really prompted those rebel forces to cross the line?  What crime did those children commit for them to receive such an uncalled for cruelty and/or early demise? And what assistance or compensation could the government provide to make up for their parent’s grief?  

As of this writing, some others are still there in the middle of the battlefield; perhaps another innocent child is fighting for his life, or striving to hang on to sanity just to survive. The children (and perhaps the adults, too) do not understand what those men with guns are fighting for, or what they hope to achieve in the first place.

The only thing that is clear to them is F-E-A-R  of  great magnitude.

The killing fields” is not just a movie anymore.


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