When Johanna Bajenting learned from a colleague that the military was already engaging suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Inabanga, Bohol, she boarded the next outbound fast ferry with nothing but a notebook, a recorder and the clothes she had on.
“We arrived at around 3 p.m. of April 11. This was nine hours after the clash,” she said, referring to Alex Badayos, SunStar Cebu photo chief, and two other Cebu-based journalists—Alan Tangcawan and Romeo Marantal.
Their destination was Barangay Ilaya, a community of 414 people according to the 2016 census, which sprawls along the Inabanga River.
Scattered along the banks of a distributary stream were soldiers and policemen concealed behind bushes and trees. On the other side and similarly situated, Abu Sayyaf men.
“We had barangay tanods carrying water to the frontline bring us there. I sat on the ground, behind coconut trees and kept low when there was shooting. When it got quiet, I glanced up from where we were hiding and began interviewing civilians who were also there and who hid with me,” she said.
She estimated her position to be about less than 20 meters from where bullets were landing.