domingo, 4 de abril de 2010


Tutan husi Parte III...

By Fr. Cancio Jose, Costa Gomes

Fourth Station: Transit in Ossoala, Tuluwatu-ana Subdivision (July – September 1976)

About two or three days of struggling with mountain breezes and night cold along that long range of the Waiknasa Mountain, finally we went down to the valley of another river, flowing toward northern coast or linking Venilale and Vemasse sub-districts. That was the valley of Ossaola village. Daddy was showing the huge rice field along the margin of the river under feet of the mountain of Ossaola village. Such a huge hectare of farm is owned by Daddy´s father, Paul Gomes, the king of the place. It is the patrimony of our paternal ancestors. Therefore, it belongs to us. With curiosity I raised a question to Daddy, “Why didn´t we stay here before?” He didn´t care about the question. Lately I understood that it was the problem of Daddy´s parents (our grandparents). The story came to my ears later on was that my grandfather had maltreated my grandmother; therefore, she left him carrying alone with her three children to stay with her older sister at Bucoli. Domestic violence in East Timor had been very common, reinforced by the colonialism, even up to the present day.

We went down crossing the river passing rice field toward Tuluwatu-ana subdivision (knua). There we were welcomed by a younger half brother of Daddy´s father (Paulo Gomes), named Agripino, to his house. We had stayed there with them for some days. Rice and meat were abundant for us every-day. Daddy´s uncle was so kindly to us. It was the first time I saw and visited the place where we supposed to have grown up. I didn´t recall how we could meet tio Jacob and tia Regina together with my playmate cousins again in Ossoala village. We visited the traditional shrine (uma lulik) of Daddy´s uncle in the slope of mountain. We kids were suppressed by the superstitions of the place forbidden to say certain words or any negative statement. I was told that we should eat meat from “Uma Lulik” (shrine) as a sign of welcome back home for Daddy and his sister Regina together with all of us children including tio Jacob and Mommy. I cannot remember anymore what else they had done at that moment. After some days, we were frightened by the issue of war-plane and the attack from Loilubo village and Venilale sub district, which was already controlled by the enemies after four months resistance fighting. Thus, we moved to stay in a narrow stream road made of the seasonal flowing stream from the slope of the mountain of Ossoala where we were hiding. We went to visit Foíné-wai, the administration center of Ossoala village and birthplace of Daddy with his siblings (Cancio, Antonio and Regina) at the first time and only once I never have returned there yet up to now. However, they are still recorded in the memory of my mind. At Foíné-wai I could not recall the face of a grandmother and other people who had stayed in the house guarding our plantations and patrimony. I noticed there were huge numbers of coconut and hardwood plantations (teak trees) on the ground. We stayed there overnight and returned to Tuluwatu-ana in the next morning. I saw everything in those huge farms with admiration.

The wonderful picture of Foíné-wai was just merely a dream for me. Once we arrived back to our shelter we had to pack up everything in a hurry in order to evacuate toward uncertainty. The issue of warplane was intensively frightening us. The three loving horses were prepared by Daddy loading baggage on the backs. I really pitied the animals, they didn´t protest of carrying heavy burden; however, they were lucky because of the abundance of grasses everywhere we passed. So, they were physically always stable and strong. We started evacuation thru the river of Ossoala transiting in a site known as Girilale, situated in the slope of a mountain closed to the Ossoala Mountain. There we met a lot of people from Baucau and surrounding villages, from Vemasse, Venilale, Ostico and Loilubo, crowded along the river-side. We stayed in an abandoned house, its owner already ran away. I really don´t recall exactly how many families of the refugees were staying together in that old house situated in the middle of a farm full of cassava and beans. There were more issues about warplane which would possibly bomb us with gas at any time. Thus, Daddy dug a hole inside the sloppy farm to anticipate any possible attack of the warplane. While preparing to move on for the next coming days, we took advantage of the corns (in the house) and cassavas and beans left behind in the farm. It was impossible to hide in that place because it´s an open air without any cave or big trees which could give us security. We had stayed there just about three days. Then we continued evacuating toward a place near to the Monte Perdido. I am not sure for how many days we had reached our next station. It was in Girilale that we moved separately from tio Jacob`s family.

First time I was forced to eat a kind of beans called “lehe”, we got from the farm, as well as wild beans, which needed six times process before being eaten. The situation was really challenging us to try to eat whatever we found along the way, even some poisonous beans and roots as well. I could not imagine what a life was then! In every movement we had always tried to get near to water spring or even any river. Therefore, the rivers had their especial role for us. They had double roles of providing water for us and also granting security during any probable attack of artilleries and bombs. Big stones and trees along the rivers served as shelters in the moments of urgency. After a long time walking ups and downs ranges of mountain costly, at the end we arrived to a place along another river flowing to Laleia sub-district. There we found a strategic site that provided for us basic needs. Forgetting about any possible attack of warplane, Daddy decided that we should stay there together with many people from Baucau, Venilale, Vemasse, Laleia, Manatuto, and even from the district of Viqueque. It´s situated right at the border of Viqueque, Baucau, and Manatuto districts.

Fifth Station: Buto-ó/Fitun-mutin (September 1976 – June 1977)

Once we arrived in the place called Buto-o alias Fitun-mutin (revolutionary name), first we moved to stay under a tree, known as “aidak”, nearest to the river in order to have easy access to the water and shelter under the big rocks, caves or big trees and bamboo roots around. Fortunately, around the site were several hectares of an abandoned rice-field. After observing the situation was quite peaceful and knowing that there were more people coming to shelter around us, we moved to stay in a hillside against “Monte Perdido”, part of Ossu (district of Viqueque). Daddy built a house together with one family from Bucoli as well, especially from Lekiloiwatu subdivision. There were people from Baucau, the village of Bahu, Weu-ho´o knua/subdivision, Caibada and Bucoli villages, and from other places. We had stayed at that amazing site about six months for it was very peaceful. We made use of the field for farm, planting corns and beans during that short summer as well as in the rainy season. The river provided abundant water for farm. Many people from Baucau were sheltering within the huge bamboo trees in the valley of the stare-like hills lining up toward Monte Perdido (the Lost Mountain) against the hills where we stayed. The peaceful circumstance caused us feel at home. We also had a socio of the rice farm with the native through the family of a relative from Bucoli at another valley of the ranges of thick jungle mountain about 20 km away.

One day as I was passing the mountainous forest to the farm, suddenly I heard a big crash of monkeys around me as if I had been attacked by them in the middle of that huge forest of the mountain. Luckily, there were 2 dogs running after me. They dispersed the monkeys from the scene by barking and hunting them. I don´t know the name of the place but yet I remember the incident, where I got involved in hunting monkeys. It was bad luck for me; a small monkey fell down from the branch of a tallest tree. As I was approaching to look for it, I saw the animal lying down powerlessly, so, getting a big stone in my little hand I threw right above it, however, poor and lucky animal fled away.

Thus, our presence also became a threat for the wild beasts. Thousands of wild beasts were everywhere, such as deer and wild pigs. Sometimes while running in confusion they entered populated areas mingling with people. We didn´t need to learn how to hunt them, as if they just had offered us their meat. During our stay in the forest every activity should be guaranteed with security from any strike by the warplane or artilleries from the ground troops (enemies).

As a little boy my everyday job then was just to take in-charge of our three horses. While letting them free in the green meadows around, the little pastor, as I was then, always accompanied them every day, bringing them to the water and back to the green meadows again in those lonely beautiful hillsides. They were so kind and obedient horses always eating grass together. What I used to do was just sitting down under trees singing and enjoying the beauty of the countryside. Sometimes I had to move far away in order to get green grasses, because the other refugees also had their own cattle. There were moments I got asleep fondled by Mother Nature under the shadow of trees. I really enjoyed that experience of being with my lovely animals and admiring the Nature. Countless times I had fallen in love with the beauty of Mother Nature, the infinite horizon of such a mysterious virgin or untouched Nature. If something had happened to both horses, they used to run to meet me in the place where I was sleeping or burning “kumbili” (wild sweet potato) for lunch, looking for me.

Mother-nature had provided us much food during those moments of our painful adventure. Even a little boy, who didn´t have any skill to work, could survive because of the fruits and the roots around, just to pick them up and eat. They are wild food, no one planted and cared for them unlike corn and rice or various kinds of potato which needed to be planted by farmers in those ownerless fields. They just grew up by themselves in the forest and hillsides or mountain slopes. Like all other tropical regions East Timor has various kinds of wild fruits, like guava, mango, etc. I really miss that experience, living together with Virgin Nature, no one touched yet, and every plant grew up naturally without any human intervention. Even birds, monkeys and various wild beasts could not able to consume them all. My great passion for the Nature was born from that first experience with it. People were consoled by the loving Mother-nature, which had provided shelter for security in the caves and valleys and food for survival.

One day I was challenged by the lost of my cute horses. As usual I prepared my own lunch digging “kumbili” from the hillside roasting them with fire brought with me from home or found in somewhere else along the way. After lunch I used to rest, letting the horses free. I trusted them because if something happened to them, especially challenged by other horses or else any person, they normally ran toward me giving signal that they were under attack/threat. However, at that day I was sleeping under a hidden tree, which they didn´t notice me. Once I woke up it was already time to get home. I looked for them around, calling them by names, there was no answer. The Sun was setting down but I didn´t find the horses yet. I had to walk up and down the hills far away from vicinity of houses entering into deep forest, the unknown places at that blindest night. I was afraid of ghost, so I decided to go back. However, remembering that Daddy might be really angry with me if I got back home without the horses. If that was the case then he would beat me. I was very afraid of him; therefore, I kept on looking for the horses. It was really a miracle that a boy under age of ten, about eight years old, could walk alone at that blind night without any harm. I walked through the valley of darkness entering in a thick forest, which I used to pass through various times. Suddenly I could not bear to keep on going through the place unknown to me. Walking alone in the middle of big trees during the night even no moonshine, my adrenalin was so struggling with threats from the nocturnal powers of the nature. I was frightened so much by whatever sound came around. Countless imaginations came to my mind, thinking about ghost and big snakes (pythons).

While recalling various superstitions regarding the place, I walked as if out of my mind searching the horses in the deep forest of mountainsides. I lost my senses as if I had been a walking cadaver. Luckily one of the horses was white, so it´s easy for me to identify its color. Once I had reached the top of a mountain range looking down the valley I saw something white in a meadow far away. I went down there in order to check. Once I got near I saw five animals, one of them was white, but again my adrenalin came back trembling. So I was afraid to approach them nor showing myself to them. Again I was frightened by the hearsay about white and black ghosts. I remembered then what people used to say that white ghost is good and kind toward humans even sometimes saves us. However, the black ghost is very cruel and wild toward humans. They said that if someone was attacked by black ghost it´s good that the white ghost was around to save him. Those imaginations made me trembling and perspiring at that cold night. While hiding at the back of a tree inhaling deeply, I made up my mind how to approach the horses. I was thinking that I might be wrong to identify horse with ghost, because people said that both are the same or somehow very similar. Feeling hungry already at that lonely night, it was about 8 to 9 pm, I pursued with my decision to go nearer passing a bush closest to them. I could manage in such a way that they didn´t notice me. Once I got closest to them about 20 meters away, I was able to identify the white horse with other four enjoying eating grasses. Carrying along the rope of a horse with trembling I moved slowly toward the white one and about ten meters I called it by name. The horse heard my voice raising it head looking at me. I felt my skin senseless anymore and my adrenalin disappeared like a dead man. The animal came to me and I prayed saying “if ever it´s ghost, Lord please send it away from me”. I was swallowed up by fear. With feeling less I embraced the horse. Suddenly I got back to myself with tears running down my cheeks at that lonely night. Then I tied it up and the two others ran after me. It was about 9 o´clock pm, no moonshine then except the countless shining stars above me.

While on my way back home with them, suddenly a strong wind shook a tree in a smallest and narrowest valley where we were passing through. The three animals almost ran over me, my stature at that moment was very small than today. Walking along the thick wild bamboo forest about 20 minutes we arrived in the river near several houses. People in vicinity of the river already dreamed in the bed, except somebody were still awaking the dead relative in their house. Once I arrived in the nearby to our house, my older brother, who was very much afraid of ghost even refused to walk alone at night, was coming to meet me. He stayed in hiding nearby the house most probably because he was afraid of ghost and at the same time afraid of Daddy. My brother was then 12 years old. I have to admit that Daddy was quite strict; many times I had felt not at home with him. In my surprise I saw Daddy was laughing at me, they all were kidding me. Mommy already slept because she was just recently giving birth to our youngest sister, died in the forest two years later. I had also other younger brothers and sisters who were at the ages of three, of four and half, and of six then. My older sister, who was still ten years old, gave me food and I ate quietly without any words coming out from my mouth. I didn´t care their joke anymore. After taking my dinner immediately I went to sleep, while waiting for the next morning.

There were many things I want to leave in these written memories. My younger sister, named Emilia, was born at that place on October 8, 1976 at 4 AM, according Daddy´s record. After three months old she was baptized on January 28, 1977 by a Catholic priest named Luis, who later on left the priesthood living somewhere in Portugal. We remained at Buto´o until summer 1977 (September), thus it was almost one year staying there peacefully. In order to eat rice Daddy and my older sister (Immaculate) used to go buying it in Lieruko (Liaruca), a village situated behind Monte Perdido, part of the Ossu sub-district of Viqueque. They used barter system in order to get rice, because there was absence of currency, even the Escudo was still validly accepted and yet money was running very short.

After a long living peacefully in that place, suddenly in a beautiful morning we were tremendously shaken by the attack of two warplanes (skyhook or sky-hawk?). It was the first time the invaders used warplanes to attack us, all were civilians. Though there were no “supersonics warplanes” yet; the aliens only used two skyhook warplanes, which we named them chair-alike warplane (kadeira), because its wings are like hook as well as chair. At the moment I was still under recuperation from an infection, wounded by hot water, along my thigh toward my under knee left side, which caused me very hard to walk straightly. It was about 9 to 10 in the morning, suddenly both eagles appeared. Everybody was running in confusion toward the river and drainage nearby looking for shelter. Our house was erected in a slope of the hill, which was unsafe because it was a semi-meadow and barren terrain of the abandoned field, or farm, except the beans and cassava plantations. Running toward the river was very risky because we had to pass through the bare field about 200 meters long. With the wounded left leg I crawled down under a small tree. Daddy and Mommy with other siblings could manage themselves toward river with all the screaming people in our neighborhood. Luckily, the two eagles flew over us as if they didn´t notice anyone below them. Both objects were flying to shoot and pour down bombs over the thick wild bamboo trees in the riverside along the hills crowded with people. Just two or three minutes they left. As far as I knew there were no victims at that moment.

After that incident the situation began unstable. We had to evacuate away from that place down through the river toward Waimori. Again everything was prepared in order to start evacuating to another new place. It was pity that we already missed a horse, which was killed several months ago. We had only two horses helping us carrying baggage. They were loaded with heavy burden, then, we evacuated ourselves to stay in a site near the river named Olohu. It was October 1977, spring time in tropical region where every tree was beginning to have leaves. Once we got stayed in Olohu, Daddy was building simple hut made of bamboo in a safe place, at the same time cleaning up surrounding yard about 2 hectares in the hillside for farm because rainy season was coming soon. Unlike today, normally November was rainy season in East Timor. Thinking that we would stay there for long like in Buto´o, then, everything was arranged according to the expectation, waiting for rain in order to plant corn, beans and other vegetable. It was at Oloho I fell down from a tree about three meters high in a late afternoon, I found hard to breathe for a moment at the presence of my older sister Maculada (diseased). After the farm was cleaned up suddenly came an order that we (populations) must evacuate to Waimori. Then, we started to move to the next station….

(To be continued)

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