“Niadtong giyera sa mga Hapon, nanglakaw ra mi pa-adto diri (During the Japanese War – in reference to World War II, and the influx of Japanese soldiers in the Philippines – we had to travel and head here),” said Basintao Calimpang, who is from the Tagbawa Manobo ethic group of people. Originally from Bansalan, they traveled on foot to Meohao at the foot of Mt. App, where “nituo mi nga di mi mahilabtan (where we thought we’d be safer/we won’t be touched).”
There are 33.7 kilometers between Bansalan and Kidapawan City; and an additional 13.4 kilometers from Kidapawan City to Meohao.
After the war, and when her father passed away, Basintao chose to stay in Meohao, where she also met her husband and the father of her five kids.
Life wasn’t always easy, she admitted, and “adlaw-adlaw, mamroblema ka’g ngita ug pagkaon ba (everyday you worry where to find food to eat/feed your family),” she said.
And then her husband passed away when she was still “bata pa (young)”, though only laughed when asked how young was young then. “Ako ra jud nabiyaan mubuhi nila (I was left alone to fend for the kids).”
Two things helped them survive.
On the one hand, there’s the strength of her community’s support.
“Sa amo-a, tabangay man (For the people of the Tagbawa Manobo ethic group, we help each other),” she said. The sense of community was particularly helpful (even a relief) when Basintao had to “mulakaw aron mangita ug kaunon (leave home to look for a living).”
Basintao farmed/tilled land, had livestocks, worked for people in Kidapawan City, “ug unsa pa (and so on),” she said. “Tanan aron mabuhi (I did everything to survive).”
And this resilience, this “survival instinct” – on the other hand – kept her going.
“Pirmi nako sultian akong mga bata, lihok (I always tell my children, move/work/do something),” she said. “Mabuhi ang mulihok (Those who do, survive).”
Now 81, and one of the elders in her community, people love talking about Basintao’s feistiness. When non-locals talk to her, they’re almost always told to “ask her to tell you the story about her live-in partner”.
Basintao would laugh; demur. And then she’d tell her story.
A few years after her husband died, she had a live-in partner, himself a widower with four kids. And so – because she had five kids – Basintao suddenly became a mom of nine.
Her live-in partner wanted for Basintao to be a stay-in Mom, which Basintao said was fine by her. “Siyam sila (There were nine kids),” she said, “di siya binuang (and looking after them wasn’t a joke).”
But her live-in partner would disappear for days, and then when he returned home, had no money to give to Basintao, having spent it on “ambot asa (no one knows where).” Basintao always assumed that “nagpalipay siya, ako mubuhi sa tanan (he was having the time of his life and I had to support everyone).”
So just after a few months of being together, since “dili jud muhatag ug kuwarta (he never gave me money),” Basintao had enough. He arrived “nga kapuy daw siya, ambot ngano (claiming to be tired, though I honestly don’t know why he was tired),” Basintao said, “pero gikan ko sa sulod, nikuha kog atsa (but I welcomed him with an ax).”
Shocked, the man asked him what she was doing. “Sulti ko: Layas diri kay kung dili, tigbason taka (I said to him: Leave now or I’ll hack you).”
The man left in a huff with his four kids.
“Di unta mu-gago ug tawo ba (People shouldn’t fool others),” Basintao said. “Kahurot ug pasensiya (The abused won’t always put up with it).”
Basintao now lives with one of her children, spending her days enjoying “ang kinabuhi (life).”
“Ana ang kinabuhi (Such is life),” she said, “nga ang giatiman nimo, muatiman pud nimo. Mas sayun; mas hayahay (where the people you took care of, also take care of you. It’s easier; it’s more comfortable this way).” – WITH MARK ANGELO C. TAN