NEWSFEATURE: Candles lit inside the horror bardown area for Diwalwal’s unknown deads

nov 3

Candles were lit and prayers were also made yesterday for the thousands of miners whose bones and skeletons remain to be buried and unearthed underground the gold-rich Mount Diwata.

Diwalwal barangay captain Franco Tito in an interview said that several miners who are still eking out a living in his barangay went yesterday’s All Souls Day and on Saturday’s All Saints Day inside bardown areas and lit candles for their dear departed who remained buried in caved-in rocks and soils.

“They pray for either their still missing friends or relatives,” Tito said.

A length down from the surface of the known Balite area in Diwalwal lie various bar down areas, some miners dubbed as “horror areas” where mostly still unnamed small scale miners were buried alive and crushed to death in various big bar downs and cave ins in the mining area.

The “horror areas” that became a big cemetery for Diwalwal desaparecidos are located within the 600 meter level up to the surface in the 729-hectare Mt. Diwalwal where small miners and their service contractors and providers are permitted operations following the government direct production regime started in 2002.

But Diwalwal for becoming a fuller community after it became a barangay in 1987 has now a cemetery of its own, while the Catholic Church and those of various faiths and denominations established their own chapels, churches and places of worships.

“Last Saturday, the military under the 66 IB, barangay tanods and barangay officials made a joint cleaning operations to prepare our cemetery,” Tito said.

The plentiful gold sands and nuggets from the crushed surface head of the Balite vein was first found for discovery on September 23, 1983 by a band of three Naboc residents led by Mansaka Datu Camilo “Kamini” Banad.

The group first panned for gold draining crushed earth from cliffs and mountainsides down to the Balite river to capture gold sands.

In a narrative made by this writer on Diwalwal’s evolution towards the mid 80s, there was yet no great human toll reported in those days before a stampeding population rushed up to Diwalwal and intense squabble over mineable areas took place, panning, skidding mountain ridges, digging shallow pits, holes and later tunnels anywhere in Diwalwal, and hard rock mining or underground tunneling inevitably came to its being.

At the earliest, towards the mid 80s, when some tunnels started producing gold, a group’s control over a particular productive group could be wrested by another group, especially following cave-ins and landslides that destroyed and covered tunnel portals.

By then, tunnels were also often ransacked by armed men holding up the operating group at bay. Devoid of formal rules and the presence of the government in the wilds, the rowdy situation had inevitably led many miners to arm themselves, giving Diwalwal some people’s monicker “Little Texas” or “Wild,Wild West”. Control over mineralized areas was largely a tough-guy engagement between and among groups.

It was in this epoch that human deaths occurring underground and aboveground Diwalwal have been reported time and again on various causes- bardowns, cave-ins, landslides, accidents, stabbings, shootings, explosion, toxic fumes, disease, sickness, brawls. Estimates varied though.

But it was the most disastrous bardown-cavein-landslide-fire on May 30, 1989 at the Balite, Diwalwal’s most bullish area in the mid to late 80s, that shook Diwalwal down to its knees, and changed it.

A day after that worst disaster, sources interviewed at that time placed varying conservative estimates from over 1,000 to over 3,000 who were buried or killed inside Balite’s bosom.

When Diwalwal rose like a Phoenix three years after the Balite disaster, competing mining players came with centralized operations and virtually did away with the conflict-prone “follow the vein principle” in tunneling that used to result to hangering among tunnels and adits (destinos), and conflicts including armed skirmishes inside tunnels and aboveground.

The underground area was then delineated vertically downward, “tonton system” which was based of agreed old claims and networks, replacing the free-for-all claim system based on “follow the vein” principle.
In the past,  “follow the vein” scheme often resulted to indiscriminate tunnelling, encroachment and hangering activities, as tunnels batted for speed in their operations without much regard to leaving natural and fortified timberings and to the status and directions of other operations. As a result, tunnelling conflicts often broke out and unsafe underground workings were formed that could easily cave in during continuous rains.

But deaths continued underground and on the surface of Diwalwal still in the ensuing years on the epoch characterized by new conflicts between the Southeast East Mining and the miners and big local mining firms which once started from small mining corpo entities.
A source, who is a long-time resident of the place, rawly reckoned though that the death statistics in Diwalwal could already hover about 20,000 through its over 20-year history, about 60 percent of which occurred underground.
There was a time towards the mid 80s that Nabunturan town saw a family burying three brothers killed in a Diwalwal bardown.
But since Diwalwal miners came from all over the country, the gravity of deaths in the mining area eluded probe.
But it appears that each of the towns, cities and provinces near to Diwalwal had their own share of son or sons devoured by the gold mountain even while nobody knows exactly how many died in and on the mining area that is now seen as a National Treasure, that is vied by foreign corporations, the controversial Chinese firm ZTE Corp. for one. (Cha Monforte/Rural Urban News)


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