holds his punches
By Marc Eliemel Tagub
Posted 21 Julyl 2010
[This is among the
articles that will be part of a book Balay Mindanaw is launching
soon. “Lawig Kalinaw” will contain peacebuilding stories from
Quidet in his farm. Photo: Bobby
He is short even by Filipino
standards, standing just a little over five feet. He’s got a small
body frame, too. But you can see the strength in his muscles, made
tense over years of farming.
But there’s something else
behind those muscles that many of Leonardo Quidet’s constituents
may not have known -- that in his early years, the present barangay
chairman of Panampawan in Claveria, Misamis Oriental was a warrior,
one of the stable of boxers at the Almirante Gym in Cagayan de Oro
City. In his short stint as an amateur boxer, he fought five bouts,
and lost only one.
He may have the strength of a
boxer, but Leonardo has had little use for his fists, other than
using his hands for farming -- in growing tomato, cabbage, pepper
and other crops in his farm not far from his home. Unless of course
someone picks up a fight with him.
Well, some folks did, late in
the evening of October 17, 2009. Quidet was surprised by the loud
voices of drunks passing by the community basketball court and the
sound of stones hitting the roof of a building owned by the
barangay. So he went out to check the commotion, and saw the Abatayo
brothers, which he believed were responsible for the noise and the
stones. He thus advised them to stop, so as not to wake up the
sleeping neighbors and to avoid damaging the building the barangay
built with meager resources.
The Abatayo brothers
apparently thought the barangay chairman, who admitted to having had
a little drink at a friend’s house while entertaining some
visitors, was hurling insults at them as they denied causing the
noise and throwing the stones. Before long, a commotion had started.
Whoever threw the first punch is now for the courts to settle, but
when cooler heads came to untangle the mess, the back of Quidet’s
head was bleeding profusely after it was smashed with a big rock,
the elder brother Hesus was grimacing in pain after his face was hit
with a solid blow, and the smaller brother Alberto was on the ground
wanting to break free as Quidet, on top of him, was throwing punch
after punch to his face and body.
Quidet was eventually rushed
to the hospital in neighboring Jasaan town, where his wound was
The warrior that he was, he
was itching for a fight the morning after, challenging the Abatayo
brothers for one-on-one bouts, right there at the basketball court
in the middle of the village for everyone to see. “I may have
stitches at the back of my head, but I was sure they couldn’t hit
it, and I really wanted to find out who’s man enough,” recalled
Quidet. But the Abatayo brothers, already sensing their earlier
mistake of engaging their village leader in a fight of two against
one, did not show up for the fight.
Quidet (right) with the Abatayo brothers. Photo:
Reason prevailed, and the
barangay chairman overcame the urge to settle things with his fists.
Upon suggestions from his family and some friends, he instead filed
a court case against the Abatayo brothers. “I was torn between
teaching them a lesson and forgiving them for assaulting me, knowing
that should they go to jail, their families would lose their sole
breadwinners and starve.”
The Abatayo brothers have
since apologized for their behavior and asked forgiveness. People
around Quidet advised him to pursue his court case to set an
example. He also wanted the incident to be documented in the court.
Quidet eventually accepted the apology and forgave his attackers,
even withdrawing the case from court. He, however, demanded that the
Abatayos refund him for the cost of hospitalization.
The Abatayos live farther
down the road from the Quidet household, and so it is unavoidable
that they pass by the barangay chairman’s house every morning when
they go to work, and every afternoon on their way back home. Thus
they get to meet almost every day, and have been civil toward each
El Capitan did good by
holding his punches. But he didn't just hold his punches. He did
more -- accepted apology, forgave his attackers, even withdraw the
case -- and continue to do good to mend the relationship, accepting
them as part of the community. The Abatayo brothers, meanwhile, were
repentful and promised not to do it again. All these sum up what
many communities have found to be a better way at settling disputes
and keeping the peace -- restorative justice.
A healing balm for their
relationship came in the form of a mass wedding which Quidet had
coordinated for his village. Alberto who had been living in with his
partner without the church’s blessings, approached Quidet.
“I asked the barangay
chairman for help, and I’m glad that he was too willing to assist
me prepare the documents and other requirements,” Alberto said.