The computer science major who sought to troubleshoot a different system
Chad Booc, then a Computer Science major at the University of the Philippines Diliman, despite his hectic schedule and heavy workload, found himself joining the local chapter of Anakbayan in his college. It was through Anakbayan that Chad would have his political awakening and knowledge on the issues that plague the most oppressed sectors in Philippine society.
In 2015, Chad would find himself in one of the most transformative moments of his life. This year was an especially grim period for the Lumad people in Mindanao, the intensified militarization of Lumad communities and the then Aquino-government’s violent counter-insurgency campaign would lead to the Lianga massacre. A month after the bloody incident in Lianga, Lumad communities would traverse across sea and land as part of the historic Manilakbayan ng Mindanao. It was through Manilakbayan that Chad would learn about the plight of Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao, an experience that proved to be cathartic for the Computer Science major.
Through the dreadful accounts of violence, death, and state fascism as told by Lumads, Chad gained a greater understanding of what it means to be an activist, especially during troubled, tumultuous times. As Chad recalled through various instances, the Manilakbayan experience changed him in a way that gave his life a sense of direction.
A year after Chad first came face to face with the Lumad he would join them, the Lakbayanis, in going back to Mindanao. From that point on, Chad decided to turn his back on a life that offered him a fruitful career and financial stability.
In a town approximately 1,268 kilometers away from the College of Human Kinetics, where he first met the Lumad, Chad taught Mathematics and Science to his students. He has decided to fully embrace the life of serving the direst communities in Mindanao. Chad found himself living among struggling communities, living away from his family but nonetheless living a fulfilled life.
Kat Dalon, one of Chad’s students and dear friend, says “We looked up to him, he was very intelligent but he insisted that we were all just the same. He reminded us that while he was our teacher, he was also a student of the Lumad.” Chad was indeed a student of the world he has decided to embrace and vowed to change. The Computer Science major now had to learn how to plow the land, and live without both cellular signal and electricity, Chad was a full-time teacher and a 24/7 student.
As his students note Chad was humble, he never used the “teacher card” to portray himself as someone with greater power or authority over his students whom he saw as equals. This was a trait that he passed on to his students through constant reminders, as Kat shares “He taught us the value of humility, and the need to shoo away all hints of arrogance. He taught us the importance of keeping our feet on the ground, and the need to always be with masses.”
Chad faced the malicious vilification of his character, intimidation from state forces, and the worsening human rights situation under the Duterte government. Chad had to sleep behind bars more than once in his life, one after holding a lightning protest in the House of Representatives to oppose the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao, and another incident after a violent raid in one of the Bakwit schools in Cebu. Despite the very violent response of the government to Chad’s advocacy, he stayed true to his principles, holding those principles firmly amidst the uneasiest of times, and the most tumultuous of days.
When Chad said that his experience with the Lumad gave him a sense of direction, it led him South of the Philippines, serving the people.
Chad Booc was an Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defender, and a volunteer teacher for ALCADEV. In February of 2022, Chad along with 4 others was brutally murdered by the military.