quarta-feira, 2 de junho de 2010


(By Fr. Jose Cancio Costa Gomes)

PART V: Peak Experiences and Mysterious Survival (June – August 1978)

This episode consists of many stations I could not recall all of them, except some well known areas which caused a deep impact in my mind. I would like to identify this part as a peak experience and mysterious survival because there were many occasions of our painful adventures, which are really worst and no words can describe them. Only the divine intervention could deliver and rescue many of us during the two months intensive and challenging struggle. The battle was against either the enemies or the Nature. The survivors are considered as those who won that battle. It was really a matter of fighting for life every day and night during the whole two months and even extended to six months before we were caught by the ground troops of the enemies. God proved his presence among us in order to save some in such impossibility. Everything happened at those months as if it had been a dream. Such a reality had caused nightmares all times among the crowded refugees during those moments of going thru the valleys of tears and of blood, of curse and of death. Everybody had always been on the move days and nights restlessly during those months of doom.

After the attack to the Central Committee of Fretilin at the Waimory village the situation was deteriorating like a virus growing in the flesh. The enemies changed their strategy attacking us from various corners using warplanes, ground troops and marine troops as well. So we were under pressure at that time. The air and marine operations started to intensify in order to support their ground troops advancing toward and after us. Luckily the rainfall season was changed as if it had been intended by the Almighty in order to prevent the flight of the eight supersonic warplanes. I don´t know what was the name of that simultaneous operation of the alien troops. The pilots had no compassion toward the civilians during the air strikes. They mercilessly fired rockets and lanced bombs over the civilian refugees along the mountainous countryside of East Timor.

One beautiful day had turned as if into a doomsday; we were tremendously frightened by the issue of fifteen thousand (15,000) ground troops that would advance toward us from three directions. Thus, we were in a hurry evacuating to a deep valley crowded with refugees from various corners of the three districts (Baucau, Manatuto and Viqueque). Exactly in the following day, around lunch time, suddenly a bomb fell in a sloping mountain against the populated valley where we were. The valley was known as the river of petroleum, because until today there are signs of its well. Then two supersonic airplanes suddenly appeared flying above us the civilians. Fortunately, it was a steep valley so the pilots could not be able to fly lower than usual. They were just pouring down several bombs along the slope beside us and firing machine guns toward us. I don´t really recall whether there were victims or not. We moved closely toward the end of the upper course of the river exactly below the mountain of Kulujaka. In the afternoon of that day after the Sun set down, we moved to stay overnight at that place, alias the lower peak of Kulujaka Mountain. In order to arrive there we had to climb the steep mountain, even the horses or buffaloes could not pass. When we arrived at Kulujaka together with the crowd, everybody seemed getting tired already. It was really unbelievable for us children who became so resistant of caring heavy burden hiking the mountain in that invisible night. Kulujaka was not a safe place for us because it´s a vast meadow about 1000 meters above sea level, lack of big trees and caves. Its landscape was really beautiful; such a wonderful open air and gentle breeze touched my inner being as a Timorese boy. However, it´s also dangerous for us to be noticed by the pilots pouring down bombs and firing rockets over us or by the ground troops lancing mortars toward us. People were like ants moving back and forth in the open air of that tiny habitat area (knua). Thus I was overcome by wonder and fear at the same time.

For being unsafe place, therefore, we had to wake up early in the morning before the Sun shine broke up to the sky. When the airplanes started to operate we were already in a tiny jungle, at the lower part of the range of that mountain en route to the Buomheke valley. There we had to move carefully during the day because of the air attacks and shooting of mortars from the ground troops at the opposite ranges of mountains. We were passing through the peak of the green range of the mountain as if we had been walking on a roof where every movement was easily noticed by the enemies from every side. In the afternoon we moved toward a valley of Buomeke, a village belongs to the sub-district of Lacluta, district of Viqueque. The village is situated beside a river flowing to Manatuto district of coastal north, west of Vemasse. I was thinking we would stay there for long like in the previous stay at Waimori village. The people were continuously moving in uncertainty, so we had to foresee together with the crowd. Another range of mountains, higher than the former one of Kulujaka, was awaiting us.

Walking days and nights, ups and downs, carrying baggage at the back or shoulders (for men) and at the top of heads (for women), without destination like crazy. That was one of the prizes we had to pay for our independence after 20 years later. At Buomheke I witnessed many people carrying their paralyzed sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and their elderly parents or grandparents, walking through the valley of tears while expecting uncertain promises of hope. It is really painful to describe them now. Poor people slept overnight under the trees or open air like homeless aliens traveling on the mountainous jungle and thru the river valleys looking for uncertain treasures.

After two days hiking that blessed mountain of Buomeke, finally we were running out of food. We had reserved a sock of corn and a handful of rice inside a small “kaut” (a small sock made of palm leaves) only for our tiny two years old sister whose health was aggravated in Mommy´s lap then. Talking about my tiny sister is really painful. She was skin covered bones, looking at her like a skeleton, which caused tears and pains. There were a lot of people having the same condition as my sister had, as if we had been walking along with numerous skeletons or like Egyptian mummy. Luckily we found wild and poisonous beans around the bush where we were passing by. My parents started to collect them in a sock in order to help us extending our lives. We always brought with us water reserved for drinking along the way. The meal was just once a day in the morning or in the night depended on the conditions and circumstances. Many people were getting starved along the way, sometimes we had to close our hearts looking at them otherwise we would not survive. No one cared for no one, except family members. My passion for the people and the nature was strongly nurtured from those peaks moments, where the beauty of the nature mingled up with suffering people along that mass movement. However, it was just beginning of the long journey.

After two days leaving Buomheke, finally we reached just one peak of the whole ranges of those mountains, more or less a bit nearer to 2000 meters above sea level. It was quite cold in the night, except during the day we didn´t feel because of the movements. As we arrived at that peak of mountain suddenly the two eagles came striking us with bombs and machine guns here and there caused many casualties. The enemies from the ground troops already detected us from the other peak of the mountain against us. I could not imagine why we got survived on that open air full of green grasses without caves or rocks for shelter. It is a meadow range of mountain, so wonderful and so risky then.

The Mother Nature also extended her arms to hide us from the sight of the enemies. In the following days the panorama became foggy, the sky was cloudy and the rain fell in that summer time, which was unusual. We were covered by the fogs everyday accompanied by drizzling rain in those mountains. The Mother Nature itself provided us booms during two moments preventing the alternate flights of the warplanes, such as four supersonics and four sky-hooks. It was really grace mixed curse, or boom mixed bane. Everything was wet and the path-roads were so muddy. Many people had to set up temporary tent of canvas or of palm leaves; Daddy also did the same made of canvas. He had canvas arranged once he was on duty at the border control during the Portuguese regime. However, the tent was meant to protect us in the night when we rested (slept) for some times. Immediately in the morning we had to unmade the tent in order to continue our ways toward uncertainty. Normally heavy rain fell in the afternoon and in the morning was foggy, or misty, giving us opportunity to walk. There were moments there had been heavy rain the whole day and night while the crowd continued moving without rest, because the enemies from the ground troops were advancing closely either behind us or against us. We, the populations (refugees), kept on our way wetly roaming toward southern coast of the Natabora sub-district. Trickling tears mixed up with streams of rain in the mountain slope of Lalenik-feto up to nearby Soibada (a sub-district of Manatuto). I saw some mothers with their recent born babies in their laps walking through heavy rain just supported by the umbrella made of palm-leaves or plastics. In my surprise they could survive in those impossible circumstances. People could put on the fire easily with wet wood and under drizzling rain and over the mud. We ate poisonous wild beans without well cooking process but nothing had happened to us. Many people were crippling along the muddy path-roads, some just walked with hands supported with un-straightened foot, half paralyzed men and women, adults and young children. Various kinds of humans, old and young as well, were along the way crippling ups and downs the mountains and hills.

Once we went up already in a vast and thick forest of the mountain of Lalenik-feto (female-mountain of Lalenik, as people usually associate the mountains), suddenly we heard gun fights fiercely in front of us at the opposite mountain of Lalenik-mane (male-mountain of Lalenik). People in front of us were coming back down of that forestall slope screaming hysterically in confusion. I was overcome by fear at the scene. Later I came to know that we were nearest to Lacluta (Sub-district of Viqueque) situated right at the foot of that mountain. Thus, we were exactly in the border of Manatuto and Viqueque districts. The range of mountains we were passing through was the roof mountain dividing the streams flowing to the north and to the south of both coasts of the Island. While we were still in confusion there came a message saying that we could keep on moving forward and the situation was under control now. Once we arrived at a locality of the natives, the refugees occupied their houses and farms; suddenly a big number of the Timorese fighters were marching ahead of us in order to confront the enemies advancing from the opposite side of the mountain of Lalenik-mane.

There were a lot of bamboo trees. Then as soon as we arrived the place Daddy cut them down in order to build our temporary tent like all other refugees were doing. It was really an exodus like the people of Israel in the biblical history. However, luckily there was no desert in East Timor otherwise no one could survive from the air strike. The local was a bit elevated (about 2000m above sea level), near to the top of the forestall mountain full of coffee plantations, but its lesser plain is like a bridge connecting the two mountains of Lalenik. Luckily, the forest covered the whole mountain unlike the other Lalenik Mountain was quite bald and dry. The twin-mountains were later on famous during the massacre in 1980s, where many civilians, including some pregnant ladies and children, were killed by the alien troops in its valley of blood. We had stayed there for several days under the bamboo-made barrack while waiting for the order from the command to move on. The place was crowded with refugees, like a city in the forest. We went to fetch water down the hill, quite far from our barrack. That was the moment to rest for all of us, including the crippled and the sick. We heard gun fires between both sides in the opposite twin mountain. The heavy rain fell in certain hours a day but the fogs and mists never let us enjoy the beauty of that nature around the mountain.

In the last day the order came informing us to move on but we had to divert toward upper river of Lacluta. So we started to move down passing the steep slope, which was very dangerous for women and children. It`s really an adventure with risky travelling ups and downs the mountains under rain, sleeping under tents of canvas, and eating little or very thrifty. In a certain moment we passed thru a big farm in a sharp slope full of cassavas and vegetable. Many refugees were attacking the farm getting food, so Daddy got some as well for our survival in the next coming days. We could not afford more because we were on the run. The rain kept on falling irregularly until we arrived at the Soibada neighborhood. The threat from air strike now was low because the Mother Nature did not allow. The only threat we had faced then was lances of mortars and of cannons from the posts nearby, including possible sudden encounter with the enemies at any time, because we were entering in the red zones for military confrontation, just in the vicinity of Lacluta, Soibada, and Natarbora. Those three sub-districts were controlled by the alien troops lancing artillery the whole night toward various directions.

We diverted around a mountain down toward the river right above the Lacluta and Barike border. Once we arrived to the riverside luckily there was no flood. Then we kept on crossing the river in order to go up another range of mountains. The rain stopped then, we had to move on cautiously because of the probable air strike at any time during the day. We passed through various rivers and mountain ranges. The rivers in East Timor normally have scarcity of water, except heavy rain in the mountains causing huge flood overflowing them. The rain at that moment was as if it had been meant to prevent the coward supersonic eagles to fly, as well as the enemies to keep on pursuing us. Thus, we had chances to pass through and across them without any obstacle. There were moments we walked through narrow valleys of the rivers hemmed in by ranges of mountains.

I remember once we passed through a deeper and narrow valley of a small river lying in between two big mountains. There among the population was an old priest, Portuguese missionary from Açores named Fr. Carlito (Carlino) alias Carlos. He was so frail and thin then but walking patiently and quietly among the sheep while keeping on holding a rosary and praying as usual for him. The courage of that Catholic priest inspired me most later on. He was one of those pastors who had suffered a lot with the Timorese during those painful moments.

Once we arrived in a place Daddy had shown us a mountain, known as Feukrin, and he said: “we are nearest to Soibada now”. So we had passed the main road connecting both sub-districts of Soibada and Natarbora. The order came informing us, the refugees, to stay alert of any possible confrontation between the Timorese resistance fighters and the enemies. Therefore, we were asked to keep on hiding in any safe places of deep forest, as well as bushes, nearby the road during the day. We could only cross the road, which they called “kordaun” (cordon), during the night with cautious because of the possible lancing artillery from the sea or nearby posts of the enemies from the ground troops around us. During the day we could not put on the fire for any cooking because the smokes might be seen by the enemies. We could only prepare food in the night in any hidden place, usually in a deep stream road of the valley inside the deep forest, or jungle, of thick wild bamboos in order not to be seen from afar.

During the night after supper, whatever offered to us, we started to cross the road (cordão) together with the crowded refugees. The road was on a mountain range. So we passed through it overnight. However, during the day people already lanced spies to observe the probable way out for us in that blind night so that we might not get lost. Unfortunately, while we were climbing up the mountain toward the road connecting Soibada and Natarbora, just right in the mid way of that thick forestall bamboos, the enemy lanced mortars overhead toward us. People were screaming all around begging help and praying loudly asking for the divine intervention in that darkest night. We stopped behind the root of bamboos seeing nothing. Our little tiny sister was crying voicelessly and tearlessly in Mom´s lap. She was very sick then, almost lost her voice. After about an hour they stopped lancing mortars toward us, then, we started to move on scarily crossing the cordon (the road). We crossed the cordon at around midnight. We were at the back of a lower mountain, and Soibada was in another side separated by a mountain.

After almost 30 years later when I was on my way back from Soibada as a pilgrim driving a pick-up car full of pilgrims, we passed exactly the cordon. Painful memories of the past flooded to my mind. While praying over dead in those valleys of tears and of blood I tried hard to stop my emotion. After that long period I could not bear to see the place and to recall the moments of our exodus passing through those mountains and valleys.

Going back to the story, I continue to describe whatever I recall now regarding the tearful and bloody episode. After passing through the cordon, we went down to a river. Heavy rain caused deep mud along the path-road down there. Many cripples were moving desperately all around. A lady with five children approached to other people (refugees) begging for food. Everybody was running out of food, therefore, no one could give them. She was speaking Galole (language of Manatuto), I didn´t understand and yet I gazed at them with compassion; it was really touching me deeply as she and her children approached their fellow humans in such painful condition. We could do nothing at all, because everybody was on the run striving to survive. Thus there were moments we had to be indifferent with our conscience.

Mom was also getting sick at that moment. We had no more rice enough for her and the sick baby. So we just ate leaves, two pieces of cassava were reserved for both of them. Luckily, Mommy could still manage to walk slowly down toward the river. Our tiny sister was carried by Daddy. Many people, mostly the elders and children, died at that moment. That was really a valley of tears and of death for many Timorese refugees. Once I saw a young boy hit by a fragment of mortar lying down on the muddy road but still alive though powerless, everybody was running in confusion thus no one cared of him. Daddy carried our little sister and pushing us together with Mommy lying down at the back of a big rock. Again people were screaming and calling on Our Lady´s protection (Nossa Senhora). After some moments the merciless soldiers stopped lancing mortars. Then we were in a hurry to start moving up mountain tirelessly. The stomach was filled with some spoonful of cooking leaves. More or less we arrived on the top of the mountain range together with other refugees already late afternoon. Mommy was very sick of high fever almost left us. We had to stop near a house of a native. Daddy went to see the owners if they had something for us. Luckily the house was abandoned by the owners. The other refugees also went there to look for something to satisfy their stomach. They decided to enter the house full of corn and various kinds of food left behind. Then we also got some, including a half sock of rice. That night we cooked corn and ate it, while Mommy and our tiny sister were eating rice soup. It was really miracle for us; otherwise we might get starved, died by hunger or by fragments of artillery lanced by the enemies. Some elderly and crippled ones, and lames, were left behind by their loved ones. Some of them died and some others were caught by the enemies, especially the ground troops who had pursued us then. It depended on the kind of persons among those alien soldiers; some were good guys having compassion toward the abandoned elderly refugees while some others were coward without any feeling of compassion. Therefore, some of them died because of the abandonment, lack of food and water, while some others died by guns or indifference of the pursuers. Some of those who had survived later on told their own story how they could still be alive then.

The places where we had passed were beautiful and full of coffee plantations under big trees. We stayed overnight there. During the night we heard cannon lanced by the war-ship from southern coast toward the mountain far away. In the following day after filling up the stomach with some pieces of cassava we continued to move on passing under the forest just on top of the mountain range for a long walking distance before going down to another river. At the beginning of hiking the mountain range of Kuluzaka it was very hard for us children but now we got used already of doing so regularly every day and even night. We had been passing on that mountain range about two days, then, we descended toward another river flowing to meet the great Sahe river”, a big river with strong current flowing to the southern sea or Timor Sea. I got lost on the way down to that blessed river. The refugees were divided toward the end of that mountain range, some groups moved forward while another group diverted toward the river thinking of the possible air attack because the rain started to stop. I was cheated by the movement of those who kept on going forward, while my parents together with my brothers turned down toward the river. After a long walking I didn´t find them, thus I decided to go back from where I came. Luckily I met a group of people familiar to me inquiring them about my parents and siblings. They showed me the way to go where other group passed through. After a long time walking down the mountain range together with other remaining refugees, finally I joined them in a slope facing the river. They were very anxious and worry about me.

Once we arrived at the river, surprisingly there were few people mostly from Baucau district. It´s really a deep valley hemmed in by two high ranges of mountain and a tall mountain at the side. Mommy was getting better at that time, except our skin-cover-bones sister seemed hopeless to survive. We stayed overnight somewhere in the river valley, there was no flood and the stream of water was so clean and fresh, right away from its source (well) in the nearby upper end of the river. We went down through the river; the day was beautiful and sunny. We became afraid of the possible air strike. That was the reason we diverted toward the river valley. Those who knew the way then passed through a short way beside Natarbora. They were fully aware of the strong current of the great Sahe River and it was very risky of marine artillery strike, for the sites were just several kilometers away from the Timor Sea, facing Australian continent. At the same time there were a lot of crocodiles.

After a whole day journey forward and backward, suddenly we arrived in front a big river full of water with strong current. It was the great Sahe River. Several families of the refugees gathered right at the meeting point of both rivers. We had to cross the river several times. The water was about one meter deep in a wider crossing place, and in the narrow part it was deeper beyond two meters. I enjoyed swimming then, a moment to recall my experience at Watudona. We already went beyond Natarbora, where the enemies were camping. Thus we heard the waves of the sea strongly crashing along the coast. Another threat was the war-ships lancing artilleries and other machine guns toward the coastal regions and mountains. We heard the crashes of cannons and mortars from the sea far away from us. They were lancing artillery to the mountains of Matebian and some to Monte Perdido, just about 50s kilometers away from us. So, we had walked around Natarbora, making a circle, passing swamps under climbing trees named “kiar”. Another danger in the swampy areas was crocodiles. It´s closest to Natarbora, therefore, we had to move rapidly day and night in order to be possibly far away from the place. One whole day and night we kept on moving, sleepless, until we joined other refugees in a flat and swampy terrain just several kilometers away from Natarbora.

a) The Natarbora Experience

We stayed at the margin of Natarbora together with the whole populations settling down there temporarily around one week. Daddy and one of our cousins named Peter (Pedro) were cutting down palm trees for our meals. Palm tree was main resource for making bread (babilak) then like at Kailala-lale, even today people of Vemasse and Manatuto still making palm bread. In order to eat its bread we had to pass through a long process. Except if we would like to cook certain parts of its inside layers; and eat them without any farther process. The normal process was removing its hard skin layers, taking out its inside layers (softer), drying them by fire (or by Sunshine) and made it into flour, then, processing its flour twice into the final process ready to be made bread. As usual it needed a long and complicated process, however, only in urgent circumstance they made it faster just for two days. It was really divine intervention that we had opportunity for more or less seven days to prepare our food for the next uncertain moments and days ahead of us. The place was swampy and a wide plain spread toward the Timor Sea or southern coast. The Sea was so noisy at that time although we didn´t see, still several kilometers away from us.

The southern coast is famous with strong waves, connecting to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The strong and big currents of the Sea usually occur during the months of June, July, August, September and October. That is the reason for the Timorese calling it “Tasi Mane” (Male Sea). The northern Sea is known as “Tasi Feto” (Female Sea) because its waves are not so strong and not so big like of the south. We only saw the Sea when we were still on the mountains, even once I could view the Australian mountains lining up very far away. It was so lucky, for the sky was so clear then. Once we got down to the plain the sea disappeared from the sight, as in those valleys we had passed before. I was so curious to see the Sea in order to observe its waves. Our adventure brought us from the north eastern (Baucau) to the south western (Manatuto and Viqueque) of the Island. The time was passing rapidly from moment to moment. The passion for the nature was very strong in me. It created a strong sentiment of patriotism and nationalism. Even I heard some people expressed their feelings of love toward the beauty of the Nature of East Timor. Thus I could find reason to defend the East Timor. The land seemed very fertile and forever green. Every day we fetched water in a pool-alike swamp. Abundant vegetable around could not afford thousands of crowded refugees in the place.

One day we got shock by an airplane which was flying quite far above the sky pouring down letters of invitation for all us to return home, come down to our villages. It was reinforced by a guy who spoke in loud-speaker from inside the plane inviting us to return home. He said “brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, no more war, let us be together to build a new East Timor”. That was what I remembered then saying in Tetum. The invitation was in the names of the Timorese pro-integrationists or the leaders of the APUDETI party. I heard also the name of Tio Januario Reis inviting us, especially his family tia Maria and the daughters (primas), to come back home. He mentioned many names familiar to me then inviting explicitly Vicente Reis and other leaders of the FRETILIN party to return home with the refugees. Mass evacuation created troubles in life; however the Nature had shown its sympathy toward us.

b) The Onward Experience

After the invitation through the air craft flying in the sky, we had to move again passing through a vast plain of death. The mass moved toward a terrain passing through a river full of water (a swampy river), like European river. We met another Catholic Priest mingling with the crowd, named Leoneto. He was walking patiently side by side with the people. Unlike the other priest we met before this one was a Timorese and physically was strong. There were three Catholic Priests remaining with us during trouble in the forest, the ranges of mountain and the valleys. Another one who baptized our sick and jungle born sister at Buto´o was father Luis, although later on I heard that he was dispensed by the Vatican according to his own request yet he was counted then as a courageous pastor. I don´t have any news about father Leoneto until now. Father Carlos died in Dili around 1990s, he was known as a saint (holy man) though still alive then.

We were always together with the family of primo Pedro. He was one of those relatives kept on closely with us at least until some moments in his life. However, behind his kindness was hiding an unexpected destiny causing a deep sorrow among us in the coming days. The whole mass arrived in a wide river surrounded by the deep forest with huge trees still in the same plain of Natarbora. We tended to stay for rest in the margin of the river but Daddy insisted that we should keep on moving to other side of the river exactly deep into the forest. He was right because there were many refugees, so very risky around the river. An unknown person among the crowd burnt grass nearby the river causing trouble for the populated riverside. The invitation to return home two days ago was merely a political propaganda.

As we were moving deeply to the thick forest, about one kilometer away from the river, suddenly two supersonics warplanes arrived pouring down bullets with bombs like rains falling upon the mass. Many people were screaming hysterically and praying loudly in order to be saved from the air strike. I saw the coward eagles flying down over the trees where we were hiding. As usual when they descended pouring down hundreds to thousands of bullets then we had to pull ourselves to shelter on the side of rounded big tree against the position of the plane. When they ascended normally they poured down bombs, thus, we had to see where the bomb would fall down in order to avoid from it. Mommy was praying loudly by calling on the protection of Jesus Christ and his Mother, Our Lady (Nossa Senhora). Our sick sister was so frightened and crying voicelessly as usual because her condition did not change, skin covered bones, sleeping all the times as if we had been carrying along with us a dead sister. The rests of my siblings were so scary around our parents. We all followed Daddy´s instruction where and how to move simultaneously around that rounded tree. As I looked up on top of the tree I saw a big bomb falling down above us. Daddy was shouting in a loud voice that we had to run away from the tree. Suddenly the bomb diverted to other place crowded with people hiding under the trees. Luckily we did not move away from the tree that became our savior. Several people got shot, some died immediately at the spot, some others still alive crying for help, among them was primo Pedro (Peter). The duration of that bombardment was quite short as usually happened. Normally they had descended and ascended three to five times then left. When they stopped bombing we were at once in a hurry to move as soon as possible far away from that jungle swamp of blood. It happened around noonday and was a sunny day as well.

The mass spread in uncertainty. The dead were buried there immediately at that moment. We did not notice yet about the fate of primo Pedro who got shot then. Late in the afternoon we were already moving far away deeply into the swampy forest, an informant brought news to us about primo Pedro who got shot gravely wounded at both legs. We were all stopping to wait for him in a barrack meant for clinic in that unknown forest. Suddenly four guys carried primo Pedro lying on a bamboo made bed (hadak) who was still alive then in order to be treated. We looked at him tearfully and he himself showed us his wounded legs saying to Mommy, “Mom, I will leave all of you very soon now”. He was really a respectful person and highly considered us his brothers, calling my parents Dad and Mom. That is the type of Waima´a people. His last word that I recalled then was “I am thirsty, please give me water”. Years later in the seminary I remembered the word of the dying Jesus on the cross exactly the last word of primo Pedro I ever heard. The death of innocent people brought us a deep reflection about the death of the Messiah. I didn´t recall whether they gave him water or not. Then he died at the late evening and was buried in that site together with other victims, including some of relatives from Bucoli. Primo Pedro left his wife with about five children at that horrible place. For us he was a brother and a friend who worked silently and patiently with Dad though in a shortest moment.

After the sad incident we kept on running diverted from Natarbora back toward Waimori, where we started. From Natarbora we changed our route making a complete 360 degrees. We passed through a lonely way back to Waimori, unlike before now there was almost no one found along the way. On the way back to Waimori we saw everything was changed, it´s so lonely just hearing the singing birds around. Unlike before, it was a populated refugee settlement along the valleys of the surrounding the Waimori village. We had stayed there just in a short of days in order to prepare some food from the farms we left behind. With some relatives of Bucoli we moved back together to hide around the mountain of Birak about 20 km away from Bucoli, our hometown. Of course, during our adventure toward Natarbora and backward we were already incomplete, unlike in the beginning when we left Bucoli until Waimori. We had to be very careful for any possible attack because there were no longer defenders of the Timorese resistance fighters.

Everything was changed, the populated village of Waimori turned into a dead valley. Immediately after we left the bloody and horrible deep jungles and thick swampy forest of Natarbora, the feeling of loneliness and missing other compatriots became very strong. Along the way and during the whole days we only heard singing birds around us and during nights nothing was heard except the sounds of some night beasts and toward morning sounds of crickets and frogs nearby swamps or riverside. On our way back we didn´t need tent anymore because there had been no more rain. We had slept overnights merely under trees or some caves found. Our adventure was full of scars either in the memories (minds) or in the bodies because of the wounds.

Mother Nature was so friendly and provided abundant food along the way. Unlike before we simply relied on cassavas and wild beans or whatever leaves and roots served as food for our survival, now then we found various kinds of food left behind in the farms. The “kumbili” roots (something similar to cassava), or wild potatoes, were abundantly provided by the Mother Nature. As a tropical Island Timor has an advantage for many things. Once we were walking to hide along the huge wild bamboo trees at a riverside suddenly we saw an area full of “kumbili”, climbing plants, as if they never had been touched by anyone else. Daddy dag them up easily and got them in abundance. We had stayed there for several days in order to prepare such a food. The place was securely hidden from any passerby the river because of the thick forest of wild bamboos. On our way back we found a lot of deer and wild pigs, including several wild cows or buffaloes roaming around without owners. Unfortunately, we could do nothing in order to get their meat. Therefore, though we had a lot of food we missed out of eating meat.

Life was really an adventure full of challenges and difficulties. Sometimes we have no words to explain some experiences. I am not sure how many days we had moved from Waimori back toward Birak, our former settlement at the beginning. There were very few families returning together with a slow and careful movement. Normally some adult men went ahead of us to reconnoiter the place where we should pass and shelter. They acted as spies in order to secure our steps. It seemed we had to move one step forward and half step backward. As I recall there were just three families moving separately though the distance was not really very far from each other. Those are merely a tactic during the war. The children were suppressed not to cry even not to speak in a low voice; there were moments we were just whispering like birds and making signs in our communication. That is why many young Timorese in my age find hard to express themselves better until today. There were moments of absolute silence because the aliens were moving closely in our hideout vicinity. Luckily no one got cough or flue then, at least among us, otherwise we might be at risk of being discovered. The fire for cooking or roasting “kumbili” was done under deeply hidden place or underground in order to avoid light in the evening and smoke during the day. Smoke in the evening was low risky except in the day, and flame in the evening was high risky, except in the day but always cautious with big flame. After a long adventure from Waimori to Natarbora, coming back we had found life was quite calm because there was no longer mass movement, which was so risky to be noticed (seen) by the enemies who kept on pursuing us. Now then we faced another difficulty of loneliness in the jungle and mountainsides or caves, like a lonely birds on the trees looking for friends.

Days had come and gone leaving behind lasting memories. After struggling days and nights along the way back, finally we arrived on the mountain range of Waiknasa facing Ostico and Loilubo high plain. Looking down to Watudona in the deep valley, I was so anxious to have a swim like before and at the same time to catch-up beautiful memories of the past. Once we passed through those places we had been together before, recalling to minds our past experience, I felt as if in a dream. Memories of the past adventures at the beginning appeared to my mind. The places recalled to my mind good memories about my sister died in Waimory and other personages we had been together at that place. Such strong sentiment came since we got back to Waimori visiting the tombs of my sister together her tiny cousin Camilo and other relatives. Everything was just left in the mind; those places challenged me to open up those files saved in it. I really missed everyone we had lost, especially our loved ones. They just left names and deeds, which had been eternally recorded in the files of my memory.

From somewhere around Watudona we went to stay in a rocky stream road deep inside wild bamboo forest. No other family was around us, we were simply living isolated in that place. Daddy with both I and my older brother went to search for “kumbili” around the locality carefully, and Mommy with the little ones stayed behind. In one afternoon we lost our dear sister Emelita at that wild place. She left us without any sign of farewell like the older sister. I saw Mommy was crying screamingly without any sound, while approaching her I noticed my sister was dying calmly. At the first hour of her death we observed in her a crying face, after sometime we noticed her face suddenly changed into a smiling face. The situation at that moment did not allow Daddy to cut tree for her coffin. Therefore, in the following day Daddy dag a hole under a small tree, named “aidak”, and arranged two or three wide stones in order to protect her tiny body from the soil. He had a technique, as usual for the skillful people, as best as he could for the burial of our lovely sister. Mommy swaddled her little baby, at the age of around three years old, with a white sock, which we used to put valuable food (rice) for her, laying her down in the tomb at that wild site. It´s so painful, both parents were crying bitterly, though soundless, for the lost. I felt very hard to accept such a reality; I could not accept such an uncivilized burial. What a life without dignity, ended up with a pain which she should not deserve. A tiny human body was buried unworthily as if she had been a criminal. Well, after a long time struggling with us during her lifetime from birth up to her death she had known nothing about joy and happiness. She was an innocent baby and yet suffered painfully. During those moments of keeping on the run from Waimory to Natarbora she had been sick already, sleeping all the times. She found herself always in the laps either Mommy or Daddy. She was a tiny baby lack of nutrition, like all other babies. Until this day I have kept on opening the file about her in my memory wherever I saw kids lack of nutrition.

After almost 30 years (in the year 2004), I first drove a motorcycle back to Waimory during a community excursion. While driving along the way I was struggling to recall the face of my older sister and Camilo in the album of memory. While waiting for a pick-up land cruiser carrying the other community members, I was really excited to visit the tomb of my sister as if I had wanted to meet her in the eternity. When they arrived I left them at once and went straight toward Bortou looking for the cemetery where my sister´s tomb was. I found hard to get there because everything was changed, while the tombs were covered up by bushes. Suddenly I met two young ladies fetching water nearby the Bortou River exactly near a farm at the riverside and I inquired them in Kairui dialect about the cemetery. They showed me the way; however, once I got there I could not identify the tombs of Mary and Camilo. Even it´s very difficult for me to access to their grassy and bushy tombs abandoned for more than two decades. As a Catholic Priest already, I blessed all the tombs with tear flowing down my both cheeks. While pausing under the tree amidst the huge bushes, I found myself thoughtless for several minutes. I was there just to be with them thinking of every moment we had been together sharing meals and joys, sufferings and pains, telling stories and jokes. Once again before leaving the site tearfully I prayed over them all asking forgiveness and pardon from the Almighty to every one of them. Sentiment of lost made me hard to leave them at the place.

One year later I got back there driving a four wheel-drive car with Mom and other relatives, though in a hurry to get back to Laga, I had the last opportunity to visit their tombs by the guidance of Mom and other two relatives. I left them there in order to dig up and bring back home the remains of both of them together with other cousins and relatives from Bucoli. After a week they brought back their remains to Bucoli. And I came there and had a chance to pray over their remains. However, in my surprise I saw only a thinner and perishable scull without any meaningful representative of my sister who died at the age of 12 over than 20 years ago then. While looking to the remains of Camilo was almost none, I saw only several smallest pieces together with a handful of organic soil on the table. The same with my little sister died at the wild place facing Birak, I saw her remains were no other than a handful of organic soil, nor even one piece of bones left. They were eaten up by moths or transformed into an organic element covered-up by the soil. As a priest, I blessed their remains and had a deep thinking for sometimes about every movement when we had been together sharing joys and sadness.

To be continued...

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