my vision impact statement
There is a silence that sits in and through my heart.
It is all together heavy, consistent, angry and existential – something I have learned to carry and mend whenever time and fear permits.
It is this silence, that holds the death of a child that would never live.
At 11, she would never again know the freedom of an unchartered world.
She would forget the safety of innocence, the escape of freedom, the beauty of the unknown.
Instead of a carefree journey to independence, she would be forced to put away the dreams of fairytales in forests and trade them for constant nightmares of the men in camouflage. She trades rainbows and butterflies for guns and bolo knives, her value for the literal cost of her own life.
Now, she will obsessively lock house doors and windows well into her adulthood,
Trade memories of laughter with her father for the memory of his trembling voice pleading for her life – the steadiness in his voice when he asked her to kill herself if they killed him first.
She will hold dearly to her mother who she once watched stumble away into darkness – her heroes separated by force, violated by someone else’s dream, lost in blind determination.
This silence is with me every waking moment. It mourns with me the life I could have had as I walk forward forever captive to fear. We stay silently alone, picking up the pieces of my life that one incident has continually shattered, thrown, and left all over the world to heal. We hold these pieces today, closely, to assemble some type, any type, of new understanding, forgiveness, and peace.
Violent crimes are only the beginning of a lifetime of healing. What seemed to be a mere 5 days of terrorism, greed, and oppression has become my lifetime’s work to undo. It is something I will live with forever. I will forever have to make steps to understand this trauma and the man who caused it.
I have feared and dreamed, prayed, even written about this day for 15 years. Almost exactly 15 years ago to this date, you had me write about the kidnapping. I wonder if you picked up on the subtext of my hope for freedom and the secret messages I wrote to my father in my story. I was 11 then and afraid for my family, but today I am not, so I will tell you exactly how I feel and make sure my message is clear.
First, from victim to oppressor. daughter to father. It was an ironic picture. Our fear and your excitement. These details, the faces of your men as they threatened the children’s lives, the feeling of shame as I was forced to pee on myself because you would not let us stop walking after 6 hours, my feet that were so cut up and bleeding that I could not even walk the day after our capture, I still remember vividly. We were sleeping in the rainforest for your Christmas present, dreaming of why ours was stolen. You had no right to hurt innocent people. You had no right to force me to grow up.
I had to be strong. For myself, my mother, and especially my father. I hugged him tightly as we slept and would often, frantically awake without him there. The fear of losing him at every moment, the game you played with him, the strength and hope I had to muster to help him stay afloat – all too much for any young girl to have to endure.
When I came home nothing was the same, I could not only not trust men but especially sadly, Filipino men. I would never be safe again. I remember a few months after the incident, I went on a class camping trip and we needed to take a solo night hike. Within 5 minutes into it, I stood frozen, alone in the dark, paralyzed with fear yelling for someone to save me. Every dark corner now reciprocated fear; every day had new possibilities to be weary of. Ironically, to fight for your freedom you took mine.
From activist to activist. You waged war because you thought you knew what peace was. I get it. As a fighter for justice, I understand the weight of oppression and the pain that is causes. I understand the sadness of starving families, the lack of the privilege to education. I get it. What I do not get, and forever will not understand are the means of terror you used to get theses desires for your people.
We sat endlessly, listening to you talk about your people, your cause, the reasons we were held captive. While your passion spoke volumes, your actions resonated more loudly. You not only separated my family and I from the land that you so loved. But more importantly, you, as a leader, taught the ASG that violence was the only way to achieve success. I am sorry, but your ends do not justify your means.
From activist to activist I understand the fire that burns for inequality. But from leader to leader, I advocate for the understanding of the responsibility you have to fight for justice in a way that does not hurt more people. As a leader you imbed ideas of more pain, more violence, more oppression to heal the pain, violence, and oppression you experienced. Instead of ending it and seeking justice, you are the catalyst of a group that will continue to terrorize, harm, and ruin people’s lives forever.
You started a revolution that will eventually end itself. It starts today, by forever silencing your ideas. As the founder you have created something that FOREVER will steal more young girls futures, that will FOREVER continue to bring disunity to the Philippines, and that FOREVER will leave a legacy of blood, sweat, and tears. That is not activism, that is terrorism.
Finally, from one survivor to one who is forgiven. It took many years, but by the grace of God, I have forgiven you. But forgiveness doesn’t erase the cycle of healing I will forever have to tirelessly work through. As I contemplated on how long you should suffer for the crime you have committed I came to one final conclusion. If I have to live with this the rest for the rest of my life, you should too.