quinta-feira, 1 de abril de 2010


By Fr. Cancio Jose, Costa Gomes


The situation then was really alert because the aliens were invading the land with great force. I observed a dove flying into our house, as if it would come to bring us an important message. Now I am curious to interpret it as both signs of farewell and of hope. We had to say goodbye to our hometown, to our loving birthplace, and to our home. The dove came to invite us leaving the house and evacuating to the hideouts throughout the countryside. We were forced to move out toward places unknown places hiding in the forest-jungles, mountains, hills, and valleys, living side by side with wild beasts, as if we had been wild too. All the villagers had to abandon their homes departing toward Hahoso and Birak mountains. It was really a sign of saying goodbye forever to most of those who never returned home again until today, including my older sister. I recall my little sister Lucinda who was still one year old baby then lapped by Mommy. I also remember my eight years old sister Mary Immaculate (Imaculada), who had worked hard carrying heavy baggage up and down mountains & hills. There were many other children screaming along the forests and babies were crying on the laps of moms missing security for life. Men and women together with horses were overloaded with basic needs going forward and backward lining up the hill forest during the whole day long. We could not carry all things with us, then; many others were just left behind within the house, later on burnt away by the alien troops.

The revolt of the APUDETI party opened the door widely to the Indonesian invasion. The aliens had occupied the territory since then till 1999. The joy that we had shared previous months was merely a dream recorded in my mind. Let me move on to the following experiences during those three years of hiding in the forest and mountain-valleys.

First Station: Kaulale and Hahoso (7-9 December 1975)

The first station was at Kaulale Hill and Hahoso Mountain, we were thinking of staying there for a short moment while waiting for the withdrawal of the foreign troops. Luckily Daddy had a small radio carried with him. Listening to the radio the FRETILIN´s propaganda was full of promises and encouraging us to have hope and keep on fighting. Unfortunately, after sometimes those promises seemed far away and almost impossible to be realized and fulfilled. There was a hearsay condemning that we deserved to suffer due to an option for the inexistence of God promoted by the leftists who had ambition to implant the ideology of Marxism-communism. That was the inclination of some politicians then, turning away public opinion from the existence of God. Radical secularism was very plain then. The political leftist force with its ideology, influenced by the political revolution in Portugal, at that time had tried to uproot the conviction and belief of the People. They were really anti traditions; as I recall some of them denounced the existence of God publicly in front of me. Even today with the existence of power competition and money oriented throughout the world, peoples have tendency to create a global condition with the absence of God. Sentiment of anti colonialism had influenced the increase of the anti clericalism sentiment as well.

At the first night we rested under bushes in a place named as Kaulale, at the margin of rice field in a sloping road toward the upper side of the Wailacama River. It was really a nightmare for us, getting homesick the whole night. Mosquitoes and other insects were very happy then, we had donated a lot of blood to them. In the following day there was no sign of going back home, news came from the informants, secret service of the FRETILIN, saying that the Airport of Baucau was already occupied by the enemies/invaders (the Indonesian military troops) and they were continually reinforced. No other choice to remain in that place, we had to move on. Moms with young girls carried household needs on their heads and daddies with young boys carried them as well in their shoulders, as usual for the Timorese, and horses were loaded with sacks of rice and other things on their backs guided by their masters moving forward burdensome and backward without burden like colonies of ants. Our movement was in constant distance like the day before, just 3 to 4 km. Thus, we moved to the mountain of Hahoso about 6 km away from our house. There Daddy killed a big pig for our lunch at the edge of the mountain. In my surprise it was near Wailakama subdivision as if we had been moving toward the northern sea coast of Caravela, about 8 km away. After lunch I heard fierce fighting between the Timorese resistance forces and the invader troops nearby the airport, about 20 km away from us. Daddy decided that we should evacuate to overnight at the side of the mountain, which was quite safe for shelter. The place was really a wild bush full of mosquitoes, insects, and other wild beasts, including snakes, which I was afraid so much. As kids, we were frightened by various kinds of superstition saying that we should behave according to the will of “Lulik” (Sacred) otherwise we would get sick and die immediately or else getting crazy. I was dumb almost the whole night, afraid of the guns and superstitions. It was a scary moment even though the place was crowded with people evacuating from the Bucoli village. The children were very much suppressed by the adults, especially the parents.

The Second Station: Watudona (December 1975 – March 1976)

The situation became worst and seemed hopeless to return home immediately. Next morning we left that blessed place going toward Watudona, surrounded by thick forest. Moving to Watudona was a consolation for me, at least I felt free from scare. I started to look at nature with great admiration. Going ups and downs hills passing through buffalo`s roads in the midst of wild bamboo forest finally we arrived in a place full of coconut plantations and several trees of breadfruit, owned by a cousin of Daddy, Eugenia with her husband João (tia Eu and tio João). We sheltered in their house at that beautiful farm. However, after some days we had to move away from the house to shelter under a cave nearby, especially in between two very big hard rocks. Again the place was full of superstitions and dangerous snakes such as pitons and poisonous snakes. I remember once somebody told us that dens of big snakes were all over the place. It was proven to me when I saw Uncle Antonio Jacob (tio Jacob) killed a piton hanging its skin in a tree at the entrance. Daddy also got frightened by such skin for he was also afraid of snakes.

The children with runny nose were suppressed not to express themselves. We always had evacuated together with Daddy´s only sister Regina and her family. My cousins were still younger than me, about one year to five years old, while I was at age of seven. We also had enjoyed life together though living in a critical moment of war. I recall those beautiful days where every day we, children of about six to nine years old, used to go to swim in the small river of Watudona. The site was really safe; however, I was so scared with snakes.

The place was so amazing, ever green beside a small river. Later I came to know that the place was near to Ostico, a village situated at the end of the long range plateau of Baucau, extension of the Airport Plateau. There was the last chance I met my cousin Rakulaku (Ajoão), who was wounded in his cheeks by bullet in a fierce fighting at the nearby Ostico. Many wounded Timorese resistance soldiers, one of them was tio Agostinho (mom´s brother), were brought there to be hospitalized. The tiny and lonely residence was transformed into a town, where crowded people were hiding. At the same time it became a shelter for the COMANDO of LOBITO with the health department in order to attend the wounded soldiers.

Third Station: Kailala-lale (March – June 1976)

After several months we heard that Watudona would become center of the “Comando Lobito”. Then Daddy decided that we should evacuate down to a place called “Kailala-lale”, facing the mountain of Birak, living in between two big river flowing to Manlede coastal bridge (situated between Vemasse and Caravela coast), and tio Jacob decided to remain with the family in Watudona. I really missed my cousins, the playmates, because of such separation.

Moving to that ownerless place was another exciting experience. It was rainy season when we arrived there. At that valley we started to organize another way of life in order to survive. Daddy was still a Timorese fighter (FALENTIL) then, he led a platoon under his nephew Marito Reis of “Posto Mar at the top of Hahoso Mountain”. Most of the times, they had gone to fight the enemies at a subdivision within the Bucoli village, known as Waihé (where the Indonesian troops had encamped). The word “wai” means “water”. So there in Waihé is abundance of water surrounded by two big water springs used to farm rice fields. Therefore, Daddy had entrusted all of us to the care of his cousin Daniel, of Harkai-oli clan, with his family (tia Amélia, and the children, such as Barbara, Avelino, Ricardina and Rui). We were from the same clan. Life had to go on. While planting corn they cut palm trees for our daily meals. Eating bread made of palm tree was our first experience then. It´s really very hard for me to swallow, however, I had to force myself to do so; I saw some kids were eating with tears running down their cheeks. Though life was so difficult for us children to adjust ourselves in order to survive, there was always hope.

We met an old friendly woman with her sons and daughters living nearby the place, named Avo Rosa of Vemasse. She was so kindly toward us, as if we had already known one another before. She had a house and owned about 4 hectares of rice field. The rice was turning to become golden. She needed kids to guard over rice from the attack of birds. I was so lucky, every day I went there to do so. Forgot about palm bread, I enjoyed eating rice with tasty vegetables, sometime eating meat with tua-mutin (white wine made of palm tree), offered by Avó Rosa. She had a high esteem toward me as if I had been her own grandchild. However, I never thought that Mom´s father was liurai (king) of Vemasse. Lately, I was asking myself, why was the old lady so kind toward us? Maybe she knew that my grandfather was their relative! I was just puzzling then. After five years later I met again her daughter Rosa somewhere in Vemasse and Baucau joining a group of Savio´s Friends organized by Father João de Deus Pires, a faithful Portuguese Missionary, a Salesian priest.

During a ceremony of reaping the rice I got drunk, lack of self-control after drinking Timorese white wine made of palm tree. It was my first experience of drinking wine and getting drunk. After the harvest, came the rain. One day there was really a heavy rain during the whole day. The two rivers were melted together because of the flood. The rainy season in East Timor at those times usually started immediately with temporal. I was so curious because first time I saw flood overflowing big rivers. Recalling the story of the Bible told by Mommy about the flood at the time of Noah, I thought it would be soon the end of the world. Then came a nightmare suppressed my mind but I kept quiet swallowing my fear.

Daddy once a week came back home to visit us. On his way back normally he left guns in the military post known as Posto Mar at the mountaintop of Hahoso. Usually he brought with him some fruits or whatever food he found and put inside the sack carrying along with him. Unfortunately, one day he met a platoon of Indonesian troops around the Hahoso Mountain. Luckily, he didn´t wear neither any military-attire nor even bringing any gun with him. He just carried a sack full of fruits as usual. Once he saw them with uniform from a long distance he guessed they had been his fellow Timorese fighters from the Hahoso post patrolling around. When in the approaching distance he smiled at them. However, in a crossing moment he could notice that they were aliens or invader troops. He could not manage to escape anymore giving up of himself as if he had been a civilian knowing nothing at all. Luckily, there was no Timorese integrationist walking with them otherwise for sure they would do something harmful to him. The smile of Daddy together with a phrase in Indonesian language saved him from the suspicion and hatred of the enemies. They were checking his baggage and his whole body, if he had gun or any bayonet; however, they found nothing to prove that Daddy was a Timorese resistant fighter. They just inquired him about where the hideouts of Timorese fighters and what he was doing then. His answer was just saying “makan-makan tidak ada, tuan”, a literal translation from Tetum to Indonesian language, which he meant “no food, sir” (quoted from Daddy). It´s really very lucky, a smile and an incorrect sentence could save a life. Daddy understood some words in Indonesian language because he was an officer of the Portuguese second line military rank (segunda linha) posted in the border with Indonesia at the small villages of Maliana, named Tunubibi and Memu. Then they let him free going his own way. Since that incident Daddy asked for resignation from military duty and gave in the gun with bullets to the commandant, who was my cousin Marito Reis at the Hahoso Post.

After the resignation of Daddy, there arrived many relatives of Mommy from Caibada Waima´a joining us the families of Bucoli, including Mana Maria and her husband João with children. They came from their evacuation center in a place called “Tuo Ho´o-oli Tuo Ho´o-ana” at the coastal zone of Caibada village, about several 20 kilometers away from the runway of the Baucau Airport. They left that place walking during the whole night and arrived in Kailala-lale at about 10 o´clock in the morning. Thus, there were crowded with the arrival of the relatives from Caibada building barracks and tents in the valley nearby the meeting point of two rivers. That wild place, no occupants and full of deer with other wild animals, suddenly became populated and invaded by humans.

I still recall once we had a grand celebration, gathering many people in other margin of the riverside. People were killing buffaloes, hunting down some deer and wild pigs in order to feed the crowd. They cooked meat, like sup ala European, eating with palm bread (babilak). We had a lot of funs during the whole day and night. People were dancing and singing with great joy. They had clapped their hands and whistled while hearing to the orations of various personalities from the Central Committee of FRETILIN (CCF), especially my dear Vicente Reis as the main orator. The theme was about the political propaganda for the independence of East Timor. Mr. Vicente Reis, the main orator, really evoked the sensation of nationalism and inflamed the courage of the people to fight in order to realize the dream for the independence. At that moment warplane didn´t operate yet and the Indonesian troops still unfamiliar with the Timorese terrain. After the celebration we were frightened by the informants saying that the enemies were attacking us from two sides. They said that crowded aliens were marching up the river from Manulede coast and others were marching from the Hahoso Mountain in order to siege us. In my surprise, the place where we sheltered is near to the bridge of Manulede (about 6 km away), the main road linking Dili with Baucau and other two eastern districts.

Immediately we left the small house (barrack) where we had lived, evacuating toward the mountain of Birak. It was quite hard for us kids to hike sharp edge of the mountain range. After half day walking suddenly we reached a plain taking a deep sigh for a while before moving on. There they showed me the town of Vemasse far away near the sea coast. It was the first time I saw from far distance the hometown of my maternal grandfather (the king of Vemasse), Feliciano Freitas. From that long distance above the mountain plain looking down Vemasse, I could imagine the beautiful blue color of the sea with impressive. We could see several buildings and trees of the town. Almost the whole day walking through a small village named Caicoa (the old one); finally we arrived in a safe place situated at the side of a mountain. The name of the place is Waithia. I cannot recall anymore how long we had stayed there. Daddy could manage to build a house for our temporary shelter while hoping in an uncertainty. After some days we returned to Kailala-lale; however, just several days of our stay again the situation was going worse, so we had to get back to Waithia. There I got very sick, trembling because of high fever. I felt really strange because as far as I knew it was the first time I got sick terribly. As I recalled then it was almost the end for me to see the beautiful world with my eyes, or as if my eyes had been closed forever and my senses would never enjoy the beauty of Mother-nature anymore. I didn´t know whether both parents were fully aware of my condition or not. At the end it was a miracle suddenly I got healed. Then we moved on passing thru the mountain range of Wai-knasa paralleled with the plateau of Ostico & Loilubo separated by the deep valley of Watudona and surroundings. It means that after we had walked in direction from east to west suddenly at the moment we were diverting toward south. At least we still had overnight twice under the temporary tent made of raincoat, even sometime just had slept under trees. It was so cold during the night. Our three loving horses had always been ready to help us carrying household needs and other things for our survival. They were really overloaded. The altitude/height of the mountain range of Waiknasa is variable about 800 to 1000 meters above sea level.

Along the road everything was exciting. Sometimes Mommy and my elder sister were not necessary to cook for us, except for my dearest little sister Lucinda who was still a baby in Mommy´s lap. There along the way we had found abundance of fruits provided by the Mother Nature. Guava´s fruits were everywhere ready to be eaten. It was right in the beginning of summer 1976 in East Timor or spring in Europe. Wonderful experience with nature was a consolation for our suffering. The reason we had to move toward south was the desire of Daddy to stay in his father´s homeland of Ossoala village. However, later on we noticed that the place, especially Fo´i-Né-Wai, was unsafe. It´s so near to Loilubo village and Venilale sub-district, we thought both places were still under control of Timorese fighters.

Post Scriptum: Parte III ne'e sei iha tutan...!!!

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