domingo, 18 de abril de 2010


(By Fr. Jose Cancio Costa Gomes)

PART IV: Sixth Station, Waimori Experience (October 1977 – May 1978)

After a very short stay at Olohu, we evacuated to the Waimory Village passing through and crossing the river, then going alongside the meadow of its wide and flat valley. Our passage through that beautiful terrain was so risky until we arrived in a farm, covered by the big rounded trees, including mangos and some banana plantations owned by the local natives. The jungle farm was, about 5 hectares, situated exactly in the middle of the meadow plain beside the river bank. While preparing something to eat for lunch under an old house suddenly came two war-planes (supersonics) flying overhead. They were bursting machine guns and bombing over us mercilessly. It was very risky experience for us after two years having stayed in the forest. We were screaming, Mommy with my five-months-old sister were lying behind a big tree, Daddy with others were in a nearby. I hid myself in a separated place at the back of a small rock. Sounds of screaming people and of hysteric crying children, mixed up with noise from the war-planes, were causing me deaf. With trembling I put my head closest to the rock. Bullets were flying here and there blindly and so smelly like something burning. Ouch, it was really a doom. I don´t remember how long it was.

When the war-planes left I remained lying down in my hiding place for a long moment. Then I got asleep with fear. Suddenly I heard Daddy called me, as if in a dream, and I woke up walking toward them. It happened exactly at midday. We were so cautious waiting if there would be second round of that brutal air strike with bombardment. Even we could not move out of the place because outside that thick forestall farm (kintal) everything was bare except green grasses within the wide meadow, nothing was secure. Thus, we had to wait until the Sun sat down.

As the setting Sun died away, we started to evacuate across the river to a narrower valley of a small dry river, in the village of Waimori, named Bortou. The place was populated with refugees from Baucau, Venilale, Vemasse, Laleia, and even from Ossu as its legal administration. Daddy set up a tent in between two stream roads for us to stay. We had stayed in Bortou just a few days then evacuating to another place near the Central Committee of FRETILIN (CCF) within Waimori itself, I don´t know the proper name of the place. Every day we had always prepared to hide from the sky-kings (eagles) as usual known among us referring to such supersonic airplanes. The threat from the enemy of ground troops was not a big deal, because the Timorese resistance fighters were guarding in the frontlines of possible battle zones. That was the reason for the Central Committee of FRETILIN (CCF) ordering all the refugees be concentrated in secure places nearby those narrow valleys and away from the frontlines; therefore it could be easier for the FALENTIL troop to control them.
Waimory is a beautiful village situated in a large valley surrounded by two mountain ranges, such as the Range of Waimee Mountain in the east and the Range of Kulujaka Mountain in the west. Alongside the river is a vast green meadow, thus it´s ideal for cattle. Its river had been used for irrigation to water rice-farms surrounding the place throughout the year. It is flowing toward Laleia sea coast.

It was at Waimori many things had happened unexpectedly. There we discovered the hideout of the family of Dad´s sister Regina in a place known after the cock as Manu-aman (it´s a revolutionary name) near the main river. Thus we were re-encountered though in two different places separated by a small range of mountain in the riverside. After sometimes, they also left the place evacuating to a narrow valley nearby a forestall mountain, right at the margin of the upper course of the river where we later on moved to shelter in its bank as well.

From Bortou we evacuated to shelter near a stream road, 3 or 4 kilometers away. The new hideout was hemmed in between two small dry rivers, except some amount of water coming out of the rocks. We could get some water coming out from them during summer. Normally those small rivers are waterless in the summer except some well spring flowing out of the mountain rocks. However, at rainy season many times those rivers are overflowing with flood. Alongside such a small narrow valley was wild forest, thus there were many monkeys, deer, wild pigs, snakes, various kinds of birds and of other beasts. During the night we could notice them roaming around the vicinity calling one another as usual for the night beasts. Many times we could see them nearby or even encounter them in the bush and in the forest at daytime. I recall one night two squirrels, male and female, were crying so noisy. While enjoying dreams suddenly we were awoken by such a noise at the deep night. There were about three families of our relative refugees living side by side in the neighborhood. Hearing sounds of the beasts all adult men, including Daddy, came out of the houses. Several barracks were built up under the trees where those crying beasts were. Their cry was so frightening for the children and yet sounding very beautiful. It was communication between the male and female. The male was calling the female with a special sound inviting her to make love, as people interpreted then. At the same time the response of the female was with a unique sound differently. I also came out joining the adults in the courtyard. Everybody was so quiet waiting for both beasts to come out of the branches with thick leaves, as usual for palm trees. Suddenly there appeared on the tree, from near distance, two squirrels jumping from one branch to another. Once they were approaching each other to do their business the men on the ground started hunting them. Stones were flying over the branches of palm trees. The two beasts were running in confusion, I guess the poor animals didn’t proceed to express their desires. Both of them failed to fulfill their needs.
Looking at the experience with such a wild habitat, I could imagine life then as if we had been invading the territory of other creatures. So many monkeys were roaming around in the vicinity mingling with humans; but they made their shelters above big and tall trees. This situation caused a war between them and humans during harvest time. They attacked people´s farms stealing corns and other things they had found, and then running away to the top trees of about 50 meters above. I had observed so many people making snares for monkeys, hunting and killing some of them around the populated areas in that forestall mountain slope and valley. Both creatures had the right to live and to survive, and yet there just applied the law of wilderness “the stronger conquers the weaker”. I remember several times people had killed wild pigs and deer, which were running in confusion amidst the crowd. Once they killed any wild beast, the adults used to cut it into pieces divided for all those running after the animal, including children who did so. Even dogs, especially those hunter dogs who found the beast, also had their own parts if not then their owners would protest. The people knew the dogs who found the deer or wild pigs. I myself got my part for several times. The refugees invaded their habitats making their movements were very limited. Imagine, the enemies invaded our hometowns causing a flood of refugees to occupy wild habitats.

As we were settling down at Waimori, came rainy season beginning with thunder lights. Thus we had to work hard cleaning up the field in our neighborhood in order to plant corns, cassavas, beans, and other vegetable. We had lived near cashew plantations in a tiny flat terrain between a stream road and a small river. There are many stream roads along the valleys coming from the mountain slopes. The rain was our savior then, because it had provided us food as well as freed us from the attack of the war-planes. Such supersonic airplanes did not fly in a foggy and cloudy circumstance with mountainous terrain or under heavy rain. Remembering that east Timor is mountainous, the pilots might be afraid of being shot, or got any other mortal disaster, because the vision was reduced. Thus, people were organized into zones (zonas), “aldeias” (villages), areas, with respective leaders, in order to be easily located and controlled; though such administrative organizations had existed not so long lasting.

At the beginning of the rainy season it was very difficult for the people to find food. Everything was still growing, we needed at least one or two months in order to pick up the fruits or what else vegetable from the farms as well as from the free nature around. It was also very risky for the health; many children became victims at those moments. Heavy rains caused flood everywhere filling up stream roads and small rivers joining the big one flowing to the Sea of Laleia coast. More than thrice, many times, we had observed the rivers were overflowing and sometimes caused casualties. People were challenged to be creative of finding food for their survival. Many people, especially children, were getting sick of various diseases even mortal ones, which caused numerous dead. Most of them were diarrhea, cholera, flue, influenza and fever, including malaria. There was no medical assistance even no remedies, except traditional treatment with its natural remedies, but not all had assessed to it. Exactly at Christmas day, on 25th of December, in the year 1977, there came sad news about the death of a cousin, named Camilo, the son of Dad´s only sister Regina. He died at the age of three. The following day we all accompanied his funeral with great sorrow to a Catholic cemetery at Bortou, where we had hidden before. That was really a big test for the whole family. My sister, second to the last (Lucinda), was also very sick then but later on recuperated. Lucinda also passed away 14 years later at Bucoli, at the age of 18. Our remaining two lovely horses also died at that moment. Thus we got lost both humans and animals.

We started to try to eat “kaleik”, the fruit of a poisonous climbing plant (trepadeira), and wild poisonous bean as well. Before eating them we had to pass several processes to dissolve their poisons, which is very bitter and can cause death. We should be thankful to God, no one died yet because of eating poisonous food. After two to three months, we could inhale a bit for it was time for eating new corns. Every day we enjoyed eating young corns and various kinds of vegetable from the farm. Food was abundant then unlike two months before. Pumpkins, cassavas and beans were everywhere in the farm. We also went to pick up fruits from the farm of Olohu, where we were able to cultivate and plant. Therefore, the fruits of the harvest were so great even not enough rooms for them to be stored in the house. As usual at the harvest time it was the moment of grace for us.

However, I also recall a mysterious encounter with a coward man on my way alone to Olohu. It was really part of an episode in life of a young boy at the age below ten, under-age child. The man caught me surprisingly in a lonely place, exactly in a rocky river, no one was around. Then he pulled me to himself while showing me his vital organ. I struggled to pull back my hand in order to escape from him. Luckily, I won the game then running away into the bush and he ran after me but useless to find me. The coward man was about 20s or 30s, a strong man, however, he lost the game because he was laying to a rock in a position of ecstasy ready to abuse me. I saw his snake crawling with its head stood up ready to consume whoever might be passing by. That was a rare incident that ever happened to me once.

Times had come and gone like a breeze. Every day we had various menus, however, we missed only one thing, that was rice. In order to fulfill such a need, one day we organized a group to go to Lieruko Village, a mountainous village of Ossu sub-district situated right at the back of Monte Perdido, in order to barter antique plates and spoons or forks, or whatever we had then, with rice. A sock of rice was changed with a spoon or a fork, and about four or five socks of rice for a plate (an antique Chinese made plate). First trip we were about 6 to 8 persons. In the second trip we were only four. In those first and second trips nothing had happened along the way. We climbed up mountains and hills before reaching Lieruko. The people at Lieruko speak Midiki (a native tongue) like the people of Waimori, however, those of Lieruko speak very soft unlike those of Waimori are a bit harsh. The Midiki/Kairui has very close affinities with Waima´a, our mother tongue, therefore it´s easier for us to understand. The road to Lieruko was quite challenging, we had to walk ups and downs. Going there was easy, because carrying nothing; however, coming back home was so heavy for the socks of rice at head´s tops and shoulders. Usually, we had overnight at Lieruko and going back from Lieruko to Waimari was just a whole day walking distance, because less hiking. Nothing occurred then.

In the last trip was really a disaster for us. We were only four, Mommy with me and tia Ana Maria with a cousin of mine named Natercia. Both of us were still 9 years old. Therefore, there were two adults and two children. We used to go there twice so we knew the way. However, on our way back to Waimory we were tempted by a mango tree dense with its ripe fruits. We met a group of people picking up mangos and they also invited us to get some. While getting some fruits we inquired them about the way out to Waimori. In my surprise they showed us a wrong way. So we got lost in a steep mountain, which was no way out there. So we had to return down the slope toward river flowing toward south coast through the Bibileo village. I was so scared because it was an isolated mountain, no one was around. However, it was a consolation for me on the top of that steep mountain; I was so hypnotized by the beautiful landscape. At that time there were rumors about the famous superstition known as “koki”, a kind of cannibal around that zone. Once we reached the river there was a small road. We passed through the road, I was very sure that it´s the way to Waimori. We walked up the hill about certain distance we found a house. I didn´t recall who was the one asking the information from an old woman inside the house. She answered with harsh tone “Loki rou naha miki di”, which means “just go straight down there”. That big voice was just sounding merely in the throat; it frightened me thinking about “koki”, though lately I understood that it was their manner of saying. I am not sure whether it was Kairui or Midiki, because both are very similar. Then, we moved on our way according to her indication without any suspicion. Once we arrived at the top of a mountain known as Kulujaka (about 1000 m above sea level) looking down toward Waimori, there was so smoky. It was about three o´clock pm, just based on the position of the Sun right in the middle between the midday position and sunset horizon. We went down to Waimari meeting people lining up on their way up to Kulujaka Mountain with heavy things at their backs and top-heads like ants. They informed us that Waimori was already burnt out by the attackers of ground troops of the enemies. The “Central Committee of Fretilin (CCF), situated in our vicinity at the riverside, was under siege, and some people were killed.

There was also counter-attack from the Timorese resistance fighters at a place known “Waugó-ana”, our cousin Lamberto (de Sá) was killed including a former Portuguese teacher at Bucoli named John (mestre João). Thus Waimori was like a hell. People were fleeing in confusion. When we arrived at home no one was around, the Sun was about to set down. After inquiring about Daddy with the rest of my brothers and sisters, finally we found them hiding in a very narrow valley of another riverside (about 400m away), which was quite secure. The attack caused victims just at the Waugó-ana Mountain, from the side of enemies, were about the whole battalion dead, even those who escaped then were caught, and from the side of Timorese resistance fighters were just two dead. There was one mortal victim at the local of the Central Committee. I just quote the hearsay at the moment. I recall Mr. Francisco Xavier, the President of the FRETILIN, was jailed in an underground by the Central Committee of FRETILIN (CCF) at that moment. For sure he was accused by the members of the commission within the CCF at Waimory as betrayal. Lately, he was captured by the alien troops.

Waiting for the solution of our suffering was very hard then. It´s as if we had hoped for something impossible, this empty hope caused impatience among the people, including Daddy. Sometimes Daddy was very furious toward us children, especially my older brother and me. Several times I had been beaten because of my own fault, even once he tied me up in a wooden column of the house. My brother was almost hit by a lance, I didn´t remember what was the reason. Well, it was not the intention of Daddy to treat us in that way, nor even his habitual attitude to do so. However, he was under pressure because of the uncertain situation and the unreal promise of freedom. It´s understandable for the drastic change of Daddy´s attitude; he had been working very hard in order to maintain food and shelter for us, including houses/barracks made of palm leaves several times in different distant places just in two years, started from Watudona, Kailala-lale, Waithia, Buto´o, Olohu, and thrice in Waimori. He became under control of himself only after the death of my older sister, Mary Immaculate.

It was in that new hideout my older sister Mary Immaculate (alias Maculada), who was a twin sister, died at the age of 12 on the 21st of March 1978. Our spirit really got down by the lost of our sister, who had worked hard every day even though she was still a very young girl. She died because of a common influenza at the moment, attacked by a high fever just about three days died immediately. I have no idea how to describe the deepest mourning of my parents at that moment of lost. It was first time I assisted the agony and death of a human person in my life. Her funeral was at the cemetery of Bortou, where Camilo was buried. Together with both of them buried in that place were some other relatives from Bucoli like Ko´okai, Aquelina, Kradai (a cousin, the daughter of tio Janu), and another Mary (Maria da Costa), including some friends from Bercoli also died at Waimori. There was no medical assistance at all as usual today. I have no idea about the number of the dead in Waimori at that time.

After the death of our sister, came superstition saying that the place where we had stayed was “lulik” (sacred), therefore, we had to move out from the site. So we transferred to an elevated place near the family of Dad´s sister. It was still rainy season at that moment. I remember heavy rain fell several times. We were neighboring with many refugees along that small river with its narrow valley full of big trees as usual in the forest. They were mostly our relatives from Bucoli, like tia Linda and others. Thus we had lived there, as if we had been at the Bucoli village, neighboring with familiar people. The farms were full of various kinds of bean and cassava, as usual for the tropical regions. A lot of things happened in Waimori at those moments, almost one year period of time.

(To be continued)

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