According to witnesses, Datu Victor was being forced to surrender to the military, to which he responded, “Why should I surrender? I’m not guilty of anything.”
In a far-flung town in South Cotabato lies Sitio Datal Bonlangon, a village that has witnessed a history of resistance amid plunder and exploitation. This is the same village that is witness to Datu Victor Danyan’s history as a leader, martyr, and Lumad hero.
31 years ago the people of Sitio Datal Bonlangon fled from their community to another village due to the violence and harassment being lashed out by the company goons of Dawang Coffee Plantation. It will take the people 8 hours to walk from Datal Bonlangon to their new refuge in Sitio Blugsanay. 2 children and an old man died along the way due to extreme cold and hunger. It was only 7 years after this incident that they returned to reclaim their village and rebuild their community in Datal Bonlangon. Datu Victor Danyan was witness to all of this.
For the longest time Datu Victor and the Lumads have been in a tussle against the Dawang Coffee Plantation operated by Silvicultural Industries Inc. Nestled between the provinces of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, the plantation has been operating without Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. Since the dawn of the struggle versus the coffee plantation, Datu Victor and the people of Sitio Datal Bonlangon have been active in resisting the coffee giant.
One earnest story involved Datu Bonlangon and his children. When his kids were in grade school they had to walk 2 hours across muddy terrains for them to make it to class, although there was another school only half an hour away, but Datu Victor insisted that they enroll in another school. The reason for this is that he couldn’t bear to see his children walk along the trails that cut along the coffee plantation that infringed their right to their ancestral lands.
Given the Lumad’s valiant resistance against the expansion of the plantation, big capitalists and state forces are quick to react with violence, intimidation and harassment even in the slightest presence of a brewing resistance. This was life for the people of Datal Bonlangon, but they persisted in their struggle and stood their ground. In 2017 the military would strike its biggest blow against the people of Datal Bonalangon.
In the morning of December 3, 2017, the local Village Chief paid Datu Victor a visit saying that army battalion commanders had good news for Datu Victor. According to witnesses Datu Victor was being forced to surrender to the military, to which he responded “Why should I surrender? I’m not guilty of anything.” The village chief eventually left when they failed to convince Datu Victor.
At noon, Datu Victor asked his sons to go up the hill to see any suspicious activities. Gunshots rang off. The sons of Datu Victor never returned home. Upon learning about his sons’ fate, Datu, following his paternal instincts, immediately went out only to realize that their community has now been surrounded by a phalanx of soldiers from the 27th and 33rd Infantry Battalion. Datu fell to the ground after being met with shots in the head and the chest. 5 others were killed including his son-in-law.
Decades since the plantation set foot in their community, the Lumad struggle against plunder, violence, and exploitation carries on. This struggle to defend their ancestral domain would take too many lives along the way, but the people of Datal Bonlangon persists.