KABUNGSUAN YADAO MAKILALA
…fallen but not forgotten
By Apolinario Villalobos
After leaving Tacurong without even attending our college graduation due to the urgent call of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from Philippine Airlines, I also left behind my friends and family without entertaining the idea of when I would be with them again.
Many years later, every time I went home, I developed the habit of just staying for several hours in our town crammed with unannounced quick visits to relatives and friends. In the list, Bong and his elder sister, Talama (Kingan) who was my classmate and barkada were always included. I was happy to learn about his settling down and small business. And, I thought, that was it….that he would just be some sort of a businessman, but I was wrong.
We met again after more than ten years, but that time, it was at Ayala Avenue during a rush hour as it was a little past five in the afternoon. He excitedly told me about our friends and his forthcoming job. Much as I would like us to have a better place for our conversation, he insisted that we visit Ephraim Collado, his barkada, who was temporarily staying at a nearby place in Makati. After that visit, we exchanged contact numbers. And, when I called him up months later, I found the number to be that of DILG’s but surprised when told that he was in Bilibid. I got panicky because I thought he was detained, until the lady who answered the phone told me that he was “on duty”. The next time I called, I finally talked to him but he was in a hurry so he gave me his address in Muntinlupa. Our quickie phone conversation made me realize that he was with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) of the DILG. I failed to visit him due to my hectic schedule.
It was Talama who told me more about his job as a warden at Bilibid when I visited her at her office in the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Tacurong. The next time I learned about the job of Bong was when I read about the news on his exposition of a certain scandal in Bilibid. It was a one-of-a-kind revelation because Bilibid was never thought to be immersed in any scandal as it is a correctional institution, hence, “clean” and free from corruption.
I had an opportunity to talk to him through his cellphone while he was already staying in undisclosed places for security reason. What I could not forget was when he told me, “sayang, Pol (the Makilalas call me Pol)….damo pa tani ako sang isiling pero tagilid na ako….bahala na sila sa statements ko…” (…I am disappointed, Pol…I could have revealed more…but I am now in an awkward position….it is up to them on what to do with my statements…) I advised him to pack his things and leave his thankless job, and help his wife back home to develop their business. I also told him to call me anytime, as I was just around and ready to help, but he did not. I contented myself in monitoring the progress of the investigation until the heat of excitement cooled off.
One day I got a surprise call from him during which he told me that he was under a protective custody and was about to change his number, so I told him to call me soonest as he got a new one. I told him not to text me as I wanted to hear his voice, to be sure that he was still be alive…I was serious when I told him that. Several years later, I was told that he was back to our place, but I failed to check if he had with him any security escort.
When I visited again our hometown, I dropped by his home in New Isabela and glad that I did because I found out that their bedridden mother with whom I was close, was under his care. He had no “security”, so I asked what happened to the “protective custody”, to which he just gave me assurance that he was safe. We had a lengthy talk in their small gazebo over cups of coffee and before I left he showed me his collection of decorative and medicinal plants, so I kidded him to go into herbal medicine business instead of going back to BuCor. He and his wife urged me to always drop by every time I was in town, and they gave me as a foremost reason, their mother who was with them. That was several years ago before Duterte was elected as president.
Late afternoon of February 4 2017, Bogz Jamorabon texted me about Bong’s assassination as he got wind of it from a TV news broadcast. I was shocked…first, because I did not expect him to go back to BuCor, and second, because even if he did, I assumed he was safe, with president Duterte as the new president. That evening, I realized that those who wanted to finish him off must have known that he still got plenty of anomalous information about the Bilibid that could eventually pin down de Lima who was then, the Secretary of Justice. I could not sleep that evening as our last phone conversation before he went into protective custody kept creeping into my mind.
With the passing of Bong, I am resolved not to be overcome with hate, but rather, pity to those who want to silence him forever. I pity them because for a pittance, they allowed themselves to be used in hindering what could have been the flow of good intention from a guy who just wanted to help his fellowmen.
But, for Bong…he may have fallen, but his ideals will never be forgotten. I am proud of him and so are his friends and family, our school, Notre Dame, for having been part of his growing up with great values oozing out of his person. Unfortunately, his unwavering trust in the new administration pushed him off the cliff…