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....

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