Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Beloved Mindanao

I talked to my mother this morning on the phone. And a disturbing news that she told me made me worry about the safety of my brother and made me write this post. My brother works for the government but he is also a correspondent of a national newspaper. He is a journalist and whenever he touches very sensitive issues, he gets death threats and other kinds of harassment, putting his life in danger. I always warned him to slow down, but being a strong willed and principled person that he is, he will not close his eyes won't keep his mouth shut and pretend that nothing is happening. In one of the interviews with him that I saw on Youtube, he said that nothing can stop him from doing his job. Not even death. This time, he is getting threats again in connection with the massacre of 57 people including 34 journalist last November 23, 2009 in Maguindanao. He escaped the gruesome massacre because he and his two other companions had to go back to their hotel to get some personal stuffs they forgot, read his story in this link:

Being born and raised in Mindanao and spent many summers in the once hot spot towns of Malapatan and Alabel in the 70's, we have seen the face of conflict and war. Every night, we would tremble in fear whenever we noticed NPA's (New People's Army, an armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines) walking in our yard. They never bother us but it was so scary. I still remember in 1971 while spending our summer vacation in my parents farm in Alabel, Sarangani Province when one night we woke up to see houses in Barrio Pag-asa burned by Bangsa Moro. We were all scared to death. I was just 8 year old then but the images are still very vivid to me till now. I saw the houses burning and it felt like I was looking at the hell on earth. I remember my whole body was shaking, I could not even talk or walk. We left our home as fast as we could, my parents taking nothing but 1 attache case of my father where all the important documents like birth certificates and bank books were kept.We slept in the middle of coconut plantation that night & and we were so scared the whole time, thinking that our home would be the next to be burned. We were all grateful to see the sun that next morning. We've learned that the Bangsa Moro left but they promised to be back anytime soon. We could not leave the farm and go back to Gensan because there had been ambush incidents in the only 2 roads of the town that leads to the city. So my father dug a hole in the middle of the bushes and every evening when it's  dark, we would go to that bunker and spend the night there. It was a 12x8 ft wide and 5 ft deep hole for a family of 9. Our ordeal ended after 3 days when the Phil. Army with the controversial "Ilaga" of commander Inday and Bukay came to secure the place. We right away went home to Gensan and we never went back to Alabel anymore until we were old enough and peace and order situation got much better and safe for us kids. That experience changed our lives forever.

Many years later, here is still my brother, fighting for his and his family's safety. Although many negotiations had been done between the government and the MILF and MNLF, I don't see an end yet to the conflict and chaos in the land of Promise for good. Lack of trust, hostilities, prejudices and other kinds of human drama prevented true peace and conflict free atmosphere to happen in the land of promise. On top of that is the presence of warlords and powerful political clans with private armies that sow fear and hostilities among people in some provinces.

Although big cities like Gensan, Davao and Cagayan De Oro have been peaceful for more than 30 years and developing tremendously in the last 10 years, there are still hot spots in Mindanao where people experience the horrors and abuses of the powerful. In the provinces of Sulu, Basilan, some parts of Zamboanga, Cotabato and Maguindanao peace and order situations are still unstable. I believe that peace as elusive as it may seem in these provinces, can only be achieved through collective efforts between the government and citizenry (both Christians and Muslims). And I believe it can be done. But both sides should really & genuinely work for it. The government should run after all these powerful political clans who most likely day in and day out are getting away with murders. They should not stop until the culprits are prosecuted. So much blood had been poured and so many lives had been sacrificed all in the name of freedom.

There are no victors in war, just victims. I hope that soon we will be able to see how far Mindanao as a whole can achieve if there is peace and security not only for the whole Mindanao, but for all who come and visit this beautiful island of Southern Philippines....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Filipina Non Grata

We Filipinos have an old saying that goes, "Ang taong hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan." A video that my friend shared in her facebook page made me write this post. It was about a certain woman who went to the bank's ATM to withdraw money. For whatever reason, she was not able to get cash so she called the bank's customer service. You would not believe what she said and how rude she was and how she bad mouthed the bank's employee who tried to explain and listened to her and her dirty mouth. It was so uncomfortable listening to her yelling at the top of her voice, coursing and swearing even after the manager talked to her and tried to help her. Her mouth is like a machine gun spitting bad words like f--k you and p-----g mo for about 9 minutes more or less...She implied that she is based abroad and she's in the Philippines for a vacation. 

It really aggravates me whenever I hear kababayan who becomes so arrogant, prejudiced, and ill mannered just because they've achieved something in life or they've been to other countries making them feel like they have the right to look down on others back home. I always believe that these people have such a low self esteem that looking down on others will make them feel good. They need the feeling of being superior to others to boost their self esteem. I feel sorry for them. Isn't it that having a good life, an education and having travelled to other countries suppose to make us even more refined, tempered and well mannered?  To experience and live a different way of life and interact with different cultures expand our perspective, thus making us more broad minded and more flexible. Good Manners and Right Conduct is one of the subjects taught in our schools as early as grade school. The values of respect for elders and being polite to all we come across regardless of their status in life are important Filipino values that our parents taught us in our growing up years. Lessons we learned while growing up stays with us, become part of who we are, no matter where we are in this world.  Obviously in this case, all the mediums that helped/formed us to become a good person didn't work in this woman. I am working in the customer service, and I feel for that bank staff. I admired him for not losing his poise and continued to be polite in spite of the uncivilized attitude of that woman. If he was one of my staffs, I would give him thumbs up, a pat on his shoulder and tell him to go take his break and get some fresh air after being suffocated by that nasty situation...But I will bet my last penny that she would not have done that here in the US. With the rants, discriminating and prejudiced words she said, she would be slapped with lawsuit left and right.

I just hope that there are not many of them in this world. They are not only a bad example to our young generation, but they are also making the life of other people even more challenging than what it already is ...

As a conclusion, I thought of another Filipino expression, something like a case of a fly who landed on the back of the carabao thinking that she is now bigger than the carabao... Hay Naku!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Beautiful SOCKSARGEN

I have always been inspired to write about the city of my birth General Santos City, Philippines. But this morning while I was looking at my brother's unique photo that caught attentions and created a discussion and interactions among us in his friend's lists and even those that just happened to see the picture, I became inspired to write about the whole SOCKSARGEN.

As a background, SOCKSARGEN is the acronym for the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City that comprises the whole region 12 in southern Mindanao. General Santos City or Gensan is highly urbanized and the economic, industrial and commercial center of the region. But Koronadal City which is the capital of South Cotabato is the center of regional government. It is where you can find almost all the regional offices.

I am not going to lecture about the geography and political aspects of the region or else I won't be able to write it in one blog. I am just going to show the rich culture, bountiful natural resources and tourist destinations that this place has to offer--from it's majestic Mountains, fertile valleys, rich marine life, crystal blue ocean waters, refreshing streams and rivers, friendly, unassuming and hospitable people.

crystal blue water of Sarangani Bay

Mt. Matutum in the early morning behind Dole Pineapple Plantation

part of the 30,000++sq/km Dole Pineapple Plantation in Polomolok, South Cotabato
This photo was taken from the green of hole #3 of Dole Kalsangi Golf Course, the most scenic and beautiful golf course in Mindanao
Sarangani Capitol in Alabel

Hotel Rooms of Isla Parilla, a tourist destination found in Alabel, Sarangani Province

Tarsier, the smallest primate in the world is not only found in Bohol. They are also in Maitum, Sarangani Province

Streams like this abounds in Maitum, Sarangani and Polomolok, Tupi and Tampakan in South Cotabato

the white beaches in Gumasa- Glan, Sarangani Province

sunset in Gumasa

Very serene morning in Lake Sebu, the summer capital of Mindanao

The Seven Falls, Lake Sebu-Surallah, South Cotabato

zipping adventure in Lake Sebu, now the summer capital of Mindanao

yes, that's the World Boxing Champ Manny Pacquiao enjoying water tubing in Maitum, Sarangani Province

Sarangani Bay especially Tinoto in Maasim, Sarangani Province has rich coral and other marine life that divers like me will surely enjoy.

Kalilangan & Tuna Festival of Gensan, Tinalak of Koronadal, Pinyahan of Polomolok are among the many Festivals in SOCKSARGEN

Gensan is known as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines

Yes, SOCKSARGEN has everything to offer to anyone who is looking for pleasurable but not expensive ways to commune with nature or just to kick back and relax and enjoy the food, diversity and hospitality of this region. It also offers cultural aspects not only of Mindanao but of the Philippines as a country that many people simply do not get to see or experience. There is a wealth of festivals and local cultures that's becoming a come on to tourist every year.

It is also one place in the whole country where you can find Filipinos of different ethnic origin aside from its own indigenous people like the B'laans and the T'bolis. There is also big population of Tagalog, Kapampangan, Ilongo, Cebuano, Aklanon, Waray, Ilocano, etc. name it and you'll find them there.  It is so diverse, beautiful, refreshing and have such colorful cultures that it's easy to say this region is unique on it's own.