Beng’s Whisper: A Translation to English of Mick Basa’s “Hunghong ni Beng”

(On April 5, 2002, Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez was murdered in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato, with three others. She was an Ateneo de Davao student, one of the last AB Literature students of the University, and was in Arakan conducting research on the human rights situation of the area. Investigations and hearings point to a company of CAFGU members led by M/Sgt. Antonio Torilla as responsible for the killings. The point of contention, which to this day is still unresolved, is whether the killings were justified (then North Cotabato Governor Manny Piñol insisted that Hernandez’ companions were armed and that they were killed in an encounter). In August 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Commission released a resolution holding the Philippine government into account for Hernandez’ death. But the Regional Trial Court in Kidapawan, where Torilla and others were detained, not only granted bail to the accused (which is not allowed for cases of murder or homicide), but acquitted them shortly after the UNHRC released its resolution. To this day the deaths remain without justice.

Beng was Vice President for Mindanao of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and a campus journalist and poet. She was invariably part of that part of the AdDU community which showed the Ateneo’s deep involvement in social issues, a part which has nevertheless paradoxically been seen as a removed group by a more moderate-minded community. Today her legacy suffers the Ateneo community’s short collective memory, and as a new generation of Atenistas come every year, her name becomes less and less remembered.

I was never able to meet Beng (she was killed before I entered AdDU). I may also be part of that more moderate majority, and my opinions with regard to Society’s marginalized sectors may have clashed sharply with hers. But I deplore the unnecessary loss of life and condemn the continued injustice of her case. Had I known in my time as president of the Ateneo’s Literature Club (SALEM) that she was a Literature Major, I would have organized a tribute for her.

To honor her memory I will try to find some of her literary works and share it here. But for the meantime, here is a translation of a poem by Mick Basa, published in Dagmay in 2008. Mick Basa, an Ateneo de Davao graduate, is a freelance journalist.)

https://i1.wp.com/photos1.blogger.com/blogger/1700/3375/320/Beng%20Hernandez@.75.jpg

Beng Hernandez, about a month before her death

Hunghong ni Beng
ni Mick Jethro Basa

Samtang ang kalibutan nag banha-banha
Uban sa nagkalipay karong orasa,
Ako nagasulat, nagamugna, ug naghunahuna.
Samtang ang adlaw nipahulay sa pag-atubang sa pikas tungas iyang dagway,
Ani-a siya sa akong tapad.
Di’ makita apan siya mabati
Ug siya mihunghong,
“Ayaw kabalaka, hasta ra nang sayuna”.
Iyang pulong usa ka huyuhoy sa pinakamahayahay.
Milingi ko kun diin naggikan ang tingog –
Nga misugakod kuyog ang bugnaw nga paghuyop
Nga hangin gikan sa electric fan.
“Kinsa diay ka? Kaila ba tika?”
Mitubag ako human mabati nga siya niistorya.
“Dili kana importante. Basta, sayon ra na”.
Balos niya sa sulod sa akong panghuna-huna.
“Murag nakaila na ko nimo.”
Apan siya wala na nitubag.
“Kaila gayud ko nimo.”
“Kaila sad ko nimo.”
Nabati usab nako ang usa ka tingog
Nga wala pa nako nabatian –
Apan ako nang nakaila.
Samtang nilabay na ang panganod
Ug milutaw na ang hayag nga bulawanong bulan,
Nahuman na sab kining akong tulubagon.
Kini, samtang ako nagasulat,
Nahinumduman tika ug ang imong ngalan.
“Dili ba ikaw si Beng?
Salamat kay ani-a ikaw.”
Ug siya mitando. “Sa makausab, sayon ra na”.

Paghinumdom alang kay Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez

Beng’s Whisper

While the world outside is loud and vibrant
With the laughter of those amusing themselves at this hour
I am here writing, imagining, thinking.
And while the sun has taken its rest from displaying half of its face to the world
She is here beside me
Unseen, but felt
And she whispers,
“Do not worry, it will be very easy.”
Her words caress like a breeze, like a carefree breath.
I look back to see where the voice had come from-
And I face only the cold blowing of the electric fan.
“Who are you? Do I know you?”
I answer back when I hear her whisper.
“It does not matter. Basta, that will be easy.”
She replies in my mind.
“I think I know you.”
But she does not answer after that.
“I think I really do know you.”
“And I know you.”
And I hear a voice
I have never heard before-
But a voice I have long known.
And when the clouds have passed
To reveal the golden moon,
I come to know what to answer.
This, while I write,
I recall you and your name.
“Aren’t you Beng?
Thank you, thank you, for being here.”
And she replies. “Again, it will be easy.”

In Memory of Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez

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