For days, I contemplated writing about the death of Wendell Gumban, a student leader I met when I was still in UP. A friend suggested that I connect it to the peace talks. After interviewing his parents and listening to the speeches of his friends, I knew that I just had to write about his life.
By Kristine Angeli Sabillo
When everyone was asleep, Wendell walked to the waterfall. He lay down his weapon, shed all his clothes, and took a dip in the rock pool.
He would later tell a friend a secret—that sometimes he would swim naked at night, float on his back and stare at the dark sky, “mesmerized by the light of the moon.”
Could he have imagined, while he was still living in Manila as a university graduate, that he would end up living deep in the rainforests of southern Mindanao? Living—and dying? On July 23, 2016, Wendell Gumban died in a firefight with the military; he was 30.
Communing with nature was only one part of Wendell’s life in the countryside. Most of his time was spent hiking to far-flung barrios of lumad, the indigenous people of Mindanao, and teaching them how to plant rice and vegetables, how to read and write.
The middle child of a middle-class couple, the University of the Philippines graduate and Philippine Collegian managing editor was invariably described by friends and acquaintances as intelligent, hardworking, brilliant.
To his parents, he was Weng, simple and “kind but (inconceivably) brave.”
To his friends, he was Wanda or Shala, the student leader who defied stereotypes.
To the lumad, he was Ka Waquin, who left the comforts of the city to live with them. Bespectacled, lanky, and fair-skinned, he was not your typical tibak (activist).
He was Weng, Wanda, Waquin. UP graduate. Gay. New People’s Army rebel. Continue reading