HATAGUE, Victoria

VICTORIA HATAGUE : THE CATECHIST AS A HEROINE OR A SAINT

Mario L. Cuezon
February 16, 2013
Jimenez, Misamis Occidental, Mindanao

Victoria Hatague was my classmate from first year to fourth year in high school in the College of Saint John, the Baptist in Jimenez, Misamis Occidental. In my first three years I was usually made to sit in front of the clas,s being one of the smallest,while she sat at the back.

So I remembered her more during our fourth year in the college building. Because were were almost seated at the same row, on both ends of the room. I was seated near the northern window while she was seated at the last row near the southern window which looks out on the corridor. So from day one to day nth, I always saw her, when I looked sideways or as part of my peripheral vision.

She was seated near one of my high school best friends and cousin. Her hair was up to her shoulders, black and shiny. She was of dark-brown skin, one which I associate with an Ilocano’s skin but she had a set of white white teeth. Her demeanor is that of a shy girl and this is all the more accented by her slight stoop. She conducted herself without the slightest trace of trying to catch the attention of others. But she was among the brightest in our class, among the top ten.

After graduation, I did not remember having seen her after the first few semesters in college. I surmised she did not attend college due to poverty. I must have been in third year when I saw her at the convent. She was wearing jeans and t-shirt and she looked so fresh. I had heard that she had been active in the Catholic missions, as a catechist. The Mission was the time when progressive priests and seminarians were awakening to the progressive role of the church in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. I also heard that the fanatical group, Sagrado Corazon Senor or Tadtad, who had joined the paramilitary CHDF or Civilian Home Defense Force were hot at those active in the church for being rebels or pro-rebels. Their appetite for blood was whetted by an anti-rebel mayor, Alfredo J. Apao, who publicly vowed that he will answer the killings of rebels by “putol liog”.

She told me she was going to join the Religious Sisters of Mercy as a novitiate. And she will attend college.

I read of her in a progressive tabloid while in a café along EDSA with a fellow UP Government scholar who would later make rounds in the United Nations agencies in Europe. She was killed with her brother in their house by armed men and in her honor, the progressives in our town held an indignation rally.

Over snacks, I felt an indignation and frustration. I cried rereading and rereading the article.

Years years later, I came home and one time decided to write her story. I walked to their barangay which was at the edge of the poblacion barrios. She lived beyond the hanging bridge, Taganas (the river bank) and into a road which had not tasted any graveling or cementing. It is called Sitio Macopa where the people are mere tenants and are poor.

I was ushered to a small house which had undergone some revision. I talked to her mother who was a small woman and her sister.

They called her VicVic. She was active as a catechist in the Catholic missions and was thus accused by the paramilitary as supporting the rebels. Someone had tipped them off that the CAFGU or CHDF were hot on her trail.

So one night, the paramilitary came. Men who covered their faces. Men with arms. They called on VicVic to come out of the house. The family answered to come back tomorrow because it was already dark. They live in a small house which is about a meter high from the ground. They have no pensa or fence below the house. The flooring was of wood.

Since she won’t come out, the men went below their house. And sprayed them with bullets. Her brother, Andres, fell. VicVic, her father, mother and other siblings hid in the corners of their house where the men below cannot see them.

In the stillness, she asked her mother, “Nay itugyan na ba ko ninyo?”

VicVic knew that the armed men were only after her. That if she does not act fast, all of them will be killed. But she hesitated.

Her mother’s frail voice cracked, “Dili Vic, mag-unong ta sa katapusan.”

And suddenly VicVic sprang up from where she was sitting and walked on the floor enough for the armed me to see her. Bullets were heard and she fell.

As she related this story, tears flowed freely and strongly down her mother’s cheeks. It infected me and I could not clearly see what I was writing.I was crying too and I had a hard time asking the questions. But there was no need to ask the questions at this point in time when the supreme self-sacrifice is offered for the faith and for the family.

The armed men left. They had killed Andres and Victoria Hatague. And the rest of her family was saved.

Victoria “VicVic” Hatague and Andres Hatague lived life as catechists and died a hero/heroine or as saints of the Catholic Church. They are also heroes in the struggle for a more egalitarian society, two of our unsung hero and heroine. The first in our class.