It used to be lonely dirt road, narrow and winding, stretching several kilometers to the place of the carnage, the last leg of the Ampatuan 58’s ascent to hell.
Days before the massacre, a digging equipment that has now become a symbol of the killing was seen making its way through the trail that had once served as solitary road for carabaos and other four-legged creatures.
And days before the bloodbath, two-legged beasts, monsters thirsty for blood, could have surveyed the place, choosing it for its near-seclusion.
They could have lain in wait for days, weeks and only this trail, once wet by blood, now sanctified by tears and prayers, had seen them.
But weeks before the commemoration, it was paved, widened to almost thrice its size to give way to the lumbering Humvees and Fortuners of the new rulers of Maguindanao and their friends who were to climb the hill where Reginald Dalmacio’s sister, Leah, and 57 others were killed.
“I could not forget the stench when I got there,” he said in a matter of fact way, recalling the first time he went to the massacre site November 24 last year to identify Leah.
“I had a few bottles that night and while I was heading home, I passed by the neighbourhood toughies at the basketball court and they were looking at me in a strange way, they looked sad,” he said.
“When I got home, my mother was hunched over, she was crying; patay na si Ate mo (your sister is dead),” he recalled but the thought “did not sink in at first.”
It used to be a lonely dirt road, leading to the hilltop where a tree used to grow, a mute witness to the unspeakable horror that took place.
But even that tree is gone now. It was cut when the trail was widened so the lumbering Humvees, Fortuners and motorbikes could park on the gravesites where the victims were dug up.