July 19, 2011

Widow's Healing Center

By Desiree Caluza

Dom-an and her morning ritual at the the Kasiyana Peace and Healing Center in Sagada. (Photo by Mario Ignacio)

Sagada, Mt. Province —Morning has broken and the sun casts its rays on this northern highland village as a widow sings a song of peace for those whose hearts have been pained by turmoil and violence.

In Sitio Nadatngan in Barangay Madongo here, Florence "Dom-an" Macagne Manegdeg, who turns 39 today, greets the day facing the sun and accompanying its ascent in the horizon by playing her bamboo flute.

This has been a daily ritual: her first act of the day a prayer for peace and healing.

The mountains of Sagada have been a refuge for Manegdeg, whose husband was one of the hundreds of activists killed while Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was president. Jose "Pepe" Manegdeg, a father of two, was only 37 when unidentified men shot him by the roadside in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur on November 28, 2005. He was, at that time, the coordinator of the Rural Missionaries in the Philippines in the Cordillera and Ilocos. To this day, the case remains unsolved.

"I have gone through so much violence in my life, and I have already reached the tipping point and I cannot be the person who should go on life agonizing," Manegdeg said.

In 2010, Manegdeg turned her home in this farming village into a center for peace and healing, and called it "Kasiyana."

Kasiyana is a powerful word in the dialect of the Kankanaey, the one of the tribes that inhabit the Cordillera region, and to which Manegdeg belongs. It refers to the belief that in times of pain or uncertainty, a threefold process happens: a recognition of pain and difficulty followed by hope and finally by loving action.

Manegdeg's home is now known as the Kasiyana Peace and Healing Center, a respite for individuals who have experienced trauma and a center for those who are advocating and volunteering for peace and healing programs.

Manegdeg said the center is not a typical institution with rooms and facilities. The center is the house itself, which she and Pepe built for their family before he died.

The two-storey house is made of pinewood and is surrounded by vegetable and fruit gardens, set against the backdrop of the lush pine forest and rice terraces beyond.

"This place is a home where one can experience the serenity of nature. It is modeled after the concept of bahay kubo (nipa hut); it's all about finding happiness in simple living and appreciating the gifts of nature. Pepe envisioned this as a sanctuary," said Manegdeg.