We first saw the sparkling brilliance of young Sitti Nurhanina Bahasuan on December 2010 when we went to Zamboanga to hold a Christmas party for our 101 Christian and Muslim Kris scholars who were given school supplies and food; as well as turn over second hand, donated computers and books to a public school and the local health center there.
During the turn-over ceremony, bright Kris scholars where given the chance to speak and to thank the sponsors in Metro Manila, one of whom included actor Diether “Diet” Ocampo of the Kabataan Inyong Dapat Suportahan (KIDS) Foundation.
While other scholars – five of them graduating valedictorians/salutatorians in their respective elementary and high schools spoke shyly – Sitti surprised everyone by speaking in a confident and passionate tone.
I was so impressed that I gave her more time to speak. I also spotted her father Abdulajid Bahasuan, a respected kagawad (councilman) in our mix-Christian-Muslim barangay Manicahan, his eyes beaming with pride as he saw us all marvelling at the eloquence of young Sitti. Later when we took more video of her, we again saw her dad helping advise her on how to say things – all the time smiling and full of pride for his daughter’s impressive talents.
Returning to Manila, I posted a video of her in my Facebook wall with these words:
"Before they say there is no glory without sacrifice, now they say there is no glory without money," thus said fifth-grader Sitti Nurhanina Bahasuan, a scholar of the Kristiano-Islam Peace Library. Sitti, who tops her class at the Manicahan-Poblacion Elementary School, stole the thunder and surprised everyone with her eloquence and self-confidence during the Kris gift-giving and computer-donation program last Dec. 26.”
“Please find time to view this video to see the potentials of the kids we are helping in Mindanao. We are so happy to be able to help talented children like Sitti. Of course, some of you guys may not agree with her view of `glory without money,’ but that is the view of an 11-year-old kid who comes from a background of poverty and kidnapping in Mindanao. She is certainly a diamond in the rough.”
Sitti then was studying at the all-Muslim Manicahan-Poblacion Elementary School. Later, looking for more academic challenge, we learned she transferred to a bigger school made up mostly of Christians – the Manicahan Central Elementary School where she pitted herself against other Kris scholars then also vying for the top post. By September last year, we learned she was excelling so much that there was no question that although a transferee from a smaller school, she was all set to graduate the school’s valedictorian.
Then in October, tragedy struck! This was how the media reported it:
Zambo village leader gunned down
by Jewel Reyes, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga
Posted at 10/31/2011 10:16 PM | Updated as of 10/31/2011 10:16 PM
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - A village councilor in Zamboanga City was gunned down while his wife was seriously injured after they were shot by unidentified assailants Sunday evening along Maria Clara Lobregat National Highway in Barangay Victoria.
Manicahan kagawad Abdulajid Bahasuan, 50, and wife Myrna, 49, came from a market in Barangay Sangali when were chased by the gunmen on board a motorcycle, police said.
One of the suspects shot them thrice and the victims, who were also riding a motorcycle, crashed.
Residents said they did not see the assailants because it was dark.
Bahasuan was killed on the spot, while his wife was rushed to a hospital.
The woman remains in critical condition, authorities said.
Village chief Errol Natividad urged police to immediately capture the perpetrators.
Police believe that the killing is either connected with the victim's work or because of a personal grudge
Until now, the killing of the elder Bahasuan -- who had a flourishing business buying-and-selling crabs, squid and bananas -- remains unsolved.
The cold-blooded murder affected Sitti and her family. They went into hiding and Sitti failed to return to school, crushing any chance to graduate valedictorian. Our Kris volunteers in Zamboanga tried to help her get back to school, but the effort was futile. Danger was still present and there was a threat to kill the entire family.
Finally, Sitti did return to school a few months later and luckily, she bounced back to graduate Top 8 in her batch!
Still, the scar of the tragedy has not left their family which decided to move to the town proper. Sitti is gone from our troubled place 24 kilometers away from the city proper. But city’s dream to redeem herself and her family through her studies remain.
We too will not leave her. We remain committed to finance her college schooling now that she is an orphan. Please help us fulfil Sitti’s dream – and all kids like her in Mindanao where killing is a daily occurrence – by going to our website http://www.krislibrary.com/give.html by donating online. If you find donating online too complicated, you may also contact my daughter and Kris Administrator Arizza Ann Nocum at 0999 560 9435 or Tel. Nos. 7030040/571 8997 or email email@example.com or me at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can donate through the local banks or through Western Union.
No bullet can kill Sitti’s dream; nor can it kill our dream to send poor Muslim and Christian kids to school precisely so they will change the violence-fixated culture and mindset in Mindanao. We will overcome!