Friday, February 3, 2017

Preface to PEACE MINDANAO edited by JAIME AN LIM

Jaime An Lim presents the Preface to Peace Mindanao 
(UST Press, Philippines, 2013)

            Although this war is long and lonely
            It will be over very soon.
            Then I will make a long journey
To see again my many friends.
                        . . . . .
Yes, when this long war is over,
When going home is so easy,
When all our tired bodies, so heavy,
Are finally left behind.

                        --Elson T. Elizaga, “Poem for Many Friends”

I would like to address the issue of “The Writer and the Quest for Peace in Mindanao.” Why Mindanao? I was born in Cagayan de Oro, the City of Golden Friendship, and finished my elementary and secondary education in the public school system of that city. Then in 1964, for my college education, I went to Mindanao State University in Marawi City, about three hours away by car from CDO.  MSU later offered me my first job as an instructor teaching freshman English and literature subjects, a job which I held for the next thirty-five years.

One would assume that since I lived in a supposedly conflict-torn region, I must have witnessed the ravages of war at first hand.  Not quite true, or at least, not in the beginning.  Mention Mindanao or Marawi and the usual things that would probably come to mind, to an outsider, are images of a strange people who look like other Filipinos but are different in fundamental ways.  Different in their culture, language, religion.  Different in their traits as a people: proud and violent, a deadly combination.  Different in their obsession with guns, grenades, bombs, knives, chain-saws, and other killing tools.  These are the common misconceptions resulting from our own fears and ignorance.

In 1964, when I first went to study at the state university, I saw a different Marawi.  It was a peaceful place then.  From the putting green on campus, you could see Lake Lanao laid out at the foot of the city, a blue mirror reflecting the blue skies, always tranquil at any time of day, at dusk or dawn. You could explore, as we invariably explored, the market maze of palitan in search of native delicacies like dudul, colorful malongs or kopiahs, souvenir items from Saudi Arabia.  You could catch a last full show, a Fernando Poe blockbuster, at the city’s cinema and walk, without fear, the three kilometers back to campus on a dirt road with few street lights. You could make an unchaperoned field trip to the lakeside town of Tugaya where you watched the native artisans make brass jars and brass sari-manok for the tourist trade. We were not afraid to go around because we did not have any reason to be.  We felt safe.

All that changed when Martial Law was declared in 1972.  Some would even identify an earlier turning point: the Jabidah Massacre of 1968 and the subsequent establishment of the Moro National Liberation Front by Nur Misuari in 1969.

What is the connection between these developments and the emerging unrest in the region?  Perhaps the incidents politicized the Muslims, awakened them from the fiasco of peaceful assimilation which was the government’s strategy then of bringing the cultural minorities into the mainstream.  Perhaps they finally saw the Jabidah Massacre as a symbol of the age-long oppression and betrayal that they had suffered from a government that did not sincerely take their aspirations to heart.  So they exploded in anger at the betrayal. I don’t know.  What I know is that the atmosphere in Marawi City changed, perceptibly, after that.  And elsewhere in Mindanao as well.  The inconceivable started to happen: kidnappings, assassinations, robberies, beheadings, ambushes, fighting, bombings.

Stray bullets from military and rebel armalites left pockmarks on the concrete walls of our cottage on Faculty Row. A grenade was tossed into the audience during a school presentation in the gym and maimed or killed a half dozen innocent spectators, a neighbor’s child among them.  A jeep or bus was ambushed and some Christian passengers, university colleagues, out to do their weekend grocery shopping in Iligan were kidnapped for ransom. 

One morning while I was teaching an English class, a student looked out of the second-story windows and suddenly shouted for everyone to lock the door and hit the floor.  Curious, I looked outside: what I saw gave me the fright of my life. On the campus ground, a dozen men in fatigues carrying assault rifles were briskly crawling on their knees and elbows toward our building. I kept my composure with some effort.  There was no need to add to the general confusion and panic among my students who were squatting around me, as scared shitless as I was.  We’re dead, I thought since the flimsy door could hardly keep anybody out. Fortunately, they did not harm any of the students and teachers. They were just robbing, in broad daylight, the Philippine National Bank which was renting some of the classrooms on the first floor of the building for offices.

But afterwards I could no longer look at Lake Lanao and see only its beauty and tranquility.  My life had finally been overrun by the course of history.  I miss the Marawi of my college years.  Perhaps, in an attempt to recapture that lost paradise, I got involved in peace advocacy whenever an opportunity came up, lending my time and talents to efforts that promoted inter-cultural understanding and conflict resolution. For a year, in 1997-1998, I was involved in disseminating information on various livelihood and capability-building programs initiated by the United Nations Development Programme for former MNLF combatants in the Special Zone of Peace and Development or SZOPAD as part of the provisions of the Peace Agreement forged by the MNLF and the Philippine Government in 1996.  I edited the SZOPAD Newsletter, a monthly publication of the Mobile Information Referral and Community Assistance (MIRCAS).  The work gave us an opportunity to talk with former rebels and visit rebels camps in the interiors of Mindanao and Palawan.  I also co-edited with Luis Q. Lacar the Proceedings of the Symposium on Peace and Development in Mindanao, published by Kalinaw Mindanao in 1997.

My outlook as an ordinary citizen changed just as my writing developed a degree of political consciousness.  I realized that “art for art’s sake” as an artistic creed or philosophical principle is profoundly problematic.  Today we live in a world of increasingly urgent economic, political, environmental, and ethical issues--concerns that demand our active engagement because they affect the quality of our lives and determine our very own survival.  Just think of the recent events in the country: super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas, earthquakes in Bohol and Cebu, war in Zamboanga, bombings in Cotabato and Cagayan de Oro, the Napoles-PDAF scams that have penetrated the inner sanctum of the Senate, Congress, and various government agencies and departments.  The depth and breadth of the greed and ethical indifference in our so-called leaders, the very ones we have voted into office to run our country, are such that you just want to weep in despair.

To persist in an ivory-tower attitude, whether as writers or ordinary citizens, as though we were insulated from the realities of our country and the world, is foolhardy and self-indulgent.  The logo of the Philippine PEN—an X consisting of a quill and a broken sword—expresses in visual terms the proposition that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”  A logo of the International PEN incorporates the slogan, “Write against impunity.”  Thus, these prominent organizations of the world’s poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists do recognize that writers have the responsibility to take a stand and speak out in the face of tyranny and oppression.  

Salvador P. Lopez says the same thing in his book Literature and Society:  “All writers worth the name are, whether they are conscious of it or not, workers in the building up of culture.  Since economic injustices and political oppression are the enemies of culture, it becomes the clear duty of the writer to lend his arm to the struggle against injustice and oppression in every form.”  Lopez wrote this in 1940, seventy-three years ago.

In other words, how do we as writers exactly contribute to the quest for peace in Mindanao or elsewhere in the world?  Simply by speaking for peace, truth, justice, and freedom whenever and wherever they are threatened.  In an ideal world, these are values whose significance is self-evident. But, sad to admit, ours is not an ideal world of compassionate human beings and there are many people who would espouse the opposite, without a second thought, if the very denial or betrayal of those values would serve their purposes and self-interests.

At the risk of sounding simplistic, I would like to suggest that the quest for peace in Mindanao could be approached on at least two levels. 

First, as individuals and ordinary citizens, we can contribute to the development of a culture of peace by making a conscious effort to be tolerant and accepting of each other.  Philippine society is essentially multicultural, composed of many ethnic groups or bangsa, about 35 tribes and sub-tribes among the Lumads and 13 ethno-linguistic groups among the Moros.  Not to mention the Christian settler groups in Mindanao—the Cebuanos, the Boholanos, the Ilonggos, the Tagalogs, the Ilokanos.  So invariably there would be cultural, religious, and linguistic differences.  But these differences should not invalidate our being one nation united under one flag.  Moreover, as peace advocates, we should abjure violence as a means of resolving conflicts and differences.  The way of peace starts with each of us, each individual, who has decided to see anew his or her fellow traveller of this world without the burden of old prejudices.  You don’t need a peace negotiation or a memorandum of agreement for that.  All you need is an open mind and a compassionate heart.

Second, we can participate in the quest for peace as writers.  Again, how do we do this? As I said earlier, by standing on the side of peace, truth, justice, and freedom whenever or wherever they are threatened.  By using the word as our instrument of change and persuasion. By bearing witness to the suffering of our people caught in the throes of war, the grave abuses of human rights, the destruction of the environment, the hunger and fear and the senseless deaths of civilians that invariably follow in the wake of armed conflicts.  By speaking for the voiceless and standing for the defenseless—the aged, the young, and the women who are the most vulnerable segments of the population in any war.  By documenting the plight of war victims so that it is etched deeply in the national consciousness and the government is moved to action.  By writing honestly and well so that people will never forget what has been sacrificed and lost in the floods and crossfires of war.

Let me give a more concrete illustration.  For some months I, along with my assistants Christine Godinez-Ortega and Macario Tiu, worked on an anthology entitled, Peace Mindanao.  An outreach project of the Philippine PEN under the Beacon Centre Programme, with funding assistance from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency or Sida and the International PEN in London, the anthology gathers together literary pieces (fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and drama) that address various facets of the current peace and order situation in Mindanao.  The contributors come mostly from Davao, Bukidnon, Zamboanga, Iligan, Marawi, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, General Santos—with a few coming from Manila, Cebu, and Baguio.

There were two things that we took pains to observe: first, that an ideal mix of the aspiring and the established authors, the old guards and the new bright hope is approximated; and second, that the tri-people composition of Mindanao is also reflected in the book.  So the Christians, the Muslims, and the Lumads are represented in the anthology. The book is published by UST Press and will be launched sometime during the Congress.

Allow me to discuss some of the works included in the anthology.  How do these writers bear witness to the quest for peace in Mindanao?  
In “Writing from Within: Lumads’ Struggle for Self-Representation,” Albert E. Alejo, SJ, underscores the Lumad’s demand for the right to define themselves to the world:

I guess we are witnessing today the emergence of a new breed of indigenous peoples who want to have control over their representation. Former informants want to become their own researchers.  Local historians record and revise their own maps and memories. . . They want to be heard the way they want to be heard.

From that impetus came a multilingual anthology, the first of its kind, entitled Sikani’n Lumad: Bagong Panitikan ng Katutubong Mindanao (2005), published by the Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue, the result of a series of creative, research and arts workshop designed to train young Lumads “to become creative, critical and articulate writers.” 

Self-representation, of course, is a crucial instrument in defining and affirming one’s identity.  The same is true with writing one’s history.  If you do not do it, other people will do it for you.  And there is no guarantee that they will see it from your perspective. 

In a sense, the same underlying rationale is seen in Gutierrez Mangansakan II’s groundbreaking anthology of essays by young Moro writers, Children of the Ever-Changing Moon (2007).  And for that matter, the same can be said of the anthologies, Mindanao Harvest 1 (1995) and Mindanao Harvest 2 (1996), which Christine Godinez-Ortega and I edited, decades earlier, in an attempt to give writers born or based in Mindanao a distinct identity and voice, an opportunity at self-representation, in reaction to the Manila-centric bias of the literary establishment in the country.

But war seems preeminently the theme of choice for many writers in this anthology.  This is understandable since it is a reality they live with, day after day, if not in their own backyard, then in the neighboring town, one mountain away. Most days everything is normal, business as usual: the mothers off to the grocery stores and public markets, the children to schools, the workers to the offices or farms or factories.  Then the unexpected happens, a sudden bombing in a crowd or a public place.  Or a fierce encounter between the military and this or that renegade group.  And then the peace is shattered. The fear comes back. We realize how illusory and fragile our sense of security is.

In Don Pagusara’s one-act play “Uyayi sa Digmaan,” set in the resources-rich Liguasan Marsh, the Maguindanao couple Hassan and Amira and their nine-month-old daughter Hanamir become unwitting victims of the on-going war waged by the military against the so-called Moro rebels in the area.  In the opening scene, Amira sings an uyayi or lullaby to comfort the frightened child:

Ang bangka ng ating buhay
Ng alon dinuduyan-duyan
Ng unos inuugoy-ugoy
Ng dilim tinukso-tukso…
Subalit pagsapit
Ng bukangliwayway
Ng liwanag ginigiliw-giliw…

The promised dawn, however, does not come for them.  A bloody fight finally erupts between the military and the rebel faction in the end. Amira and Hassan are caught in the crossfire. The baby survives, now an orphan. It seems that war’s special propensity is breeding orphans wherever it occurs in the world.

The short story “A Harvest of Sorrows” by Gutierrez Mangansakan II takes place in an evacuation center where a hundred evacuees seek refuge from the on-going skirmishes between the military and the Muslim rebels. Some of the indelible images: “the forlorn faces of mothers trying to hush their crying infants, livestock tied to a tree with a leash so short they might die of strangulation, a heap of belongings here and there, smokes billowing from makeshift stoves. . .” One of the refugees has given birth at the crack of dawn.  Premature and stillborn.  “Fleeing their village three days on foot was too much for her.” The baby, a girl, is dead:

Her father does not know yet.  He guards the rice fields now heavy with fruit from birds and looters.  Under a mango tree, he thinks of his wife and, in his mind, a child yet to be born. . . He consoles himself with a thought: ‘My child will grow strong and study hard and become a professional and live in the city far from all this.’ 

From a distance, a military chopper drones.

The realities of war are also foregrounded in Raul G. Moldez’s poems.  In “Playing with Guns,” he writes of children who are forced into becoming soldiers, agents of death, for a cause they barely understand.  In “POW’s Note to His Wife,” a prisoner of war from the mountains is allowed finally, after a very long time, to reunite with his family.  Is he a political prisoner? A prisoner of a renegade faction?  The poem does not say, suggesting that Mindanao’s wars are many and are played out on many fronts by actors with varying agenda with different names. 

Sometimes, war comes suddenly, in small packages and in unexpectedly places: an airport waiting shed, a bench in Magsaysay park, on the way to the hotel from the pier.  Ricardo M. de Ungria’s “Before the Stillness of Flowers” presents a common enough sight of young lovers:

            except that now he lies on the while-tiled floor
            of the hospital morgue wrapped in white cloth
            mottled with dried blood like the others
            beside him in the row, just brought in from Sasa wharf,

            except that his has been pushed back
            to show his naked chest and young face still full of arrival
            at sunset into Davao skies from open seas

            & far Kuwait, as though, stunned
            & unsteadily walking straight into air from the brief earth
            he forgot everything he wanted to tell her,

            and she just stooped down to plant a kiss
            on his right cheek near his still open eye,
            the hair she has tied to a girlish pony tail

            running up her steeply arched back
            to allow  her to touch him just with her lips
            & all the words taken away from her just now.

A bomb or a grenade can come from an unidentified source, but its damage is no less devastating as seen in “My Eid’l Fitr” by 20-year-old Mohammad Nassefh R. Macla:   
Where I stood, I saw an object falling from somewhere I didn’t know.
            An object that suddenly exploded the moment it landed on the ground.
            It hurt my ears.  It made my heart beat faster. It terrified me.
People ran. Horrified. Some were crying.

Ironic that the narrator’s ina and ama died from the bombing
during the Eid’l Fitr, a day of religious celebration and gratefulness, the “day of chanting the greatness of Allah.”  

Or senseless death could result from a family feud or inter-clan revenge, a rido, because of a perceived insult to the family maratabat or honor and pride.  In Macla’s “Rido in a Sudden Flash,” the long-standing feud between the families of Kareem Salilin and Ali Jabar Macantantao finally finds its deadly apostasy. “The flying bullets were left hanging in the air,/ Like stars in the black sky/ Like dust flying during windy nights in a Basilan forest.”

Karl M Gaspar is exasperated with the endless discussions and peace negotiations that are going nowhere in Mindanao:

            Wala pa gani mahapuhap ang mga gipas-ang  kahigwaos
            Ania na sab ning mga bag-ong hitabo nga makalumos
            Sa gihuptang paglaom; kay duna na say mga ningbuto
            Nga bomba gikan sa Cagayan de Oro ngadto sa Cotabato.

Jonel Abellanosa in “Mindanao” portrays a false sense of peace based on violence--salvage operations and summary executions:

Peace reigned like a strongman,
Bodies of murderers, drug peddlers, petty thieves,
Swindlers and conmen dumped in swamps
The stuff of lively rumors wetting tongues for
Early morning rice cakes and mangoes
In the marketplace. 

By implication, Abellanosa seems to say that the bigger issue of peace in Mindanao cannot be achieved in the same way. 

The enmity between brothers who cannot see eye to eye is the tragedy of the tri-people of Mindanao. In his epic poem, “Womb of Water, Breasts of Earth,” Francis C. Macansantos presents Agyu’s monologue addressed to “Master Aliguyon of the mountain stairs,” leader of his people, just as the speaker is prince of his own. “I am Agyu, lost prince of a lost people./ I am Manuvu, my pain is unending legend.”  Agyu warns of the arrival of the intruder, the Christian settler—despoiler of mountains, wreaker of citadels, trampler of plains, poisoner of streams.  “Now he has arrived to fell the trees./ He is well within sight of the sacred springs.”   

            My gods became refugees in their own domain.
            Such is the story of my brothers who now are strangers
            To me and to each other.
            One holds a sword he calls a cross,
            The other mistakes his scimitar for a quarter moon.

In his essay, “Bayok, Dawot, and Oyog-Oyog: The Vanishing Mandaya Literature,” Danny Castillones Sillada, a descendant of three Mandaya lineages, bemoans the precarious fate of their culture and way of life. As the only literary writer in modern Mandaya/Kamayo language, he offers samples of his own poetry with English translations.  A sense of abandonment and loss permeates his work.  “The Door of an Abandoned Old House,” a bayok, ends thus:

How sad and tragic—
            the once effervescent door
            was permanently shuttered
            by those who used to live here:
            they left and never came back.

The ancient ties that bind the Higaonon to his land is a recurrent theme in the poetry of Telesforo Sungkit, Jr.  The land--and everything in it, including rocks, trees, springs--is not just a source of livelihood.  It is home, sanctuary, and cathedral. The wily ways of the “langyaw” or Christian settler know no bounds in separating the Lumad from his land.  “Ug kanila nga gahi gyod kaayo mobuhi og yuta,/ Giagig minaro sa papel, giagig ilad ug huga.” If business negotiations fail, for the stubborn there is always treachery on paper, swindle, or threat of violence.

            “Asa na man diay tong ang atong mga yuta pa?”
            Usa ka bata kadtong nakat-on sa pagpangutana.

            Sa halayo naglantaw nga mitubag ang amahan,
            “Gibayloan man tog tinapa sa imong mga apuhan.”

(The child asks his father where their land is.  He father, gazing at the distance, answers that his grandparents had exchanged their land with sardines.)

The bitterness and anger of a dispossessed and betrayed people are palpable, especially in Sungkit’s poem, “I Higaonon”:

            I angry you get my lands,
            I angry you get my golds,
            I angry you burn my wood books,
            But you say I should love enemy.
            You say love enemy
            But you killed grandpa baylan,
            You killed grandma bae,
            You killed uncle bagani,
You killed even dog talamuod.

Shem Salait Linohon, a 22-year-old poet from Bukidnon, also laments the loss of the ancentral domain of the Higaonon .  In “Pangampo sa Batang Higaunon,” the child-speaker prays for peace and for the return of their land:

            Iuli na Don Takaw
            Amo yuta
            Aron mga amay, inay
            Dili na lakaw
            Dili na adto Maynila
            Aron kami libre na
            Sulod-sulod ug dula-dula
            Uban sa akong anghura
            Didto sa gikoral nila
            Nga amo yuta.

Land, obviously, is a principal source of conflict in Mindanao. In his one-act play, “”Hindi Ipinagbibili!,” Arthur P. Casanova dramatizes the struggle of the people—Maguindanao, B’laan, Ilonggo—to hold on to their land in the face of pressures to sell to a mining corporation that plans to destroy the forests and mine the rich gold and copper deposits found underneath.  But the development plan of the foreign capitalists is a direct affront to the natives’ way of life and spiritual beliefs. “Isang kalapastangan and kanilang pagtibag sa bundok at pagkalbo ng ating gubat.” “Ang kanilang pagyurak sa ating tradisyon at paniniwala ay pambubusabos sa mga B’laan.”
The people are divided. Some decide to sell out of fear or greed.  Others, like Ma Deg and Ye Sisayle, the parents of the 12-year-old B’laan boy Kutot, are adamant in protecting their patrimony.  So they predictably become the target of threats, intimidations, harassments, and violence by the paramilitary hired by the mining company to make sure the sale pushes through. One day Kutot returns home from school to find his parents have been massacred.  Essentially didactic, the play ends with an affirmation of its central message with Kutot promising,

Ito ang aking minanang lupa.  Hindi ko lilisanin and lupang ito.  Ito ang aking lupang sinilangan at hindi ko ito iiwanan kailanman. 

Hangga’t umiiral ang karahasan, maligalig ang pamayanan.  Hangga’t walang katarungan, walang kaayusan.  At hangga’t walang kaayusan, walang kapayapaan!

The roads to peace are many, though long and narrow.  Rufa Cagoco-Guiam, in her essay “Coming to Terms: Dialogue as a Day-to-Day Reality,” offers one of them, an effective one from her own experience.  She says:

For peace advocates, dialogue is one of the key approaches to promoting and building peace.  In their vocabulary, dialogue connotes openness, acceptance, active listening and mutual understanding and respect between and among diverse peoples.  It is through dialogue that people of diverse religious orientations and ways of life are able to “come to terms” with each other; to accept each other’s way of life and to be open to an active exchange of ideas and ways of doing things.  Dialogue makes people realize that there is wealth in diversity—differences in ways of life make sharing a meaningful experience.  It allows for the building of bridges rather than walls in social relationships.  This leads to mutual respect, which in turn leads to sustainable peace.

In the bleak conflict-torn landscape of Mindanao, Cagoco-Guiam’s account  of her peace advocacy is a rare testament of hope and light.

An even more dramatic Muslim-Christian relationship is demonstrated in Rebekah Marohombsar Alawi’s  “The Road to Aras-asan” which can be read as an allegory of the difficult road to peace in Mindanao. The destination is far, the road is bumpy, but it is the company that makes the journey bearable and even pleasant.  A mother, the narrator, accompanies her son on a roadtrip to Aras-asan in Surigao del Sur for a pamanhikan, the first time, and for the wedding, the second. No problem there, except that the young man is Muslim and the girl is Christian, and their union is potentially a minefield. Fortunately, the mother has her friends for moral support. “Those valiant three—Flor, my best friend of about thirty-five years, and two colleagues, Ferdinand and Elma—were willing to go to that hellhole and back with me, and do what I could not ask of my kinsmen, that is, join me in a tabooed ritual—a church wedding.”  Marohombsar Alawi says in conclusion:

After that trip, I learned to appreciate more the true office of a friend: to be there at the right time and at the right place. . . Friends, as somebody put it, play you back to yourself, they ratify your better instincts and endorse your unique worth.  Friends validate you.

Macario D. Tiu, in his essay “Tabok sa Karsada,” believes that the marginalization of the Muslims and Lumads is at the roots of the conflicts in Mindanao:
Nasayod ta nga ang pag-ulbo sa kagubot resulta sa dugayng panahon diin ang mga Moros nagpuyo sa tabok sa karsada.  Lahi, langyaw.  Unta, lakip sa mga Lumad, sila man ang tumindok diris Mindanaw, ang unang tag-iya.  Apan napadaplin na hinuon sila ug wala mahiapil sa katikiran sa nasod.  Samtang and kadaghanan, sama nako, igo lang motabok sa karsada ug magpahimulos sa kalami sa dagat.

Rudy B. Rodil, in his enlightening paper “Achieving Peace and Justice in Mindanao thru the Tri-People Approach: A Huge Challenge,” Mindanao Horizons, Volume 1, No. 2012-01, pp. 25-46, defines the tri-people nature of the population of contemporary Mindanao which is composed of the Lumads, the Moros, and the Christian settlers. The Lumads inhabited the pre-historic Philippines. Sometime in the 14th century A.D. some of the Lumads converted to Islam. Thus, the Moros as another distinct entity came into being. Because Mindanao was never fully colonized by the Spaniards, its population remained predominantly Lumads and Moros for the longest time.

Then something happened after 1899, during the American rule, which changed the demographics of the land.  Rodil says:

As a result of the resettlement program initiated by the American colonial administration, later sustained by the government of the Philippines, settlers from the northern islands poured in droves into the region and within less than sixty years displaced the indigenous inhabitants and became the majority population.

According to the 2000 census, the Christian settlers now constitute about 72.5 percent of the entire population of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, the Moros about 18.9 percent, and the Lumad about 8.5 percent.

The marginalization of the Lumads and Moros and their displacement from their own ancestral domain are at the heart of the conflicts in Mindanao today. This is the historical context of the Mindanao issue.  Rodil says, “Today, we must consciously reshape the relationships of the present inhabitants of the region, if we are to live a life of peace and development.”   

Jose V. Abueva, in his essay “Bangsamoro’s Aspiration for Autonomy in a Peaceful and Democratic Republic of the Philippines,” recognizes the complexity of the Mindanao issue and proposes a solution which involves no less than the total reform of the political status quo towards a Federal Philippines.  Basically, Abueva believes that Filipino democracy is weak and ineffective because of its faulty structure and functioning. He calls it “’top-down governance’ by the political oligarchy who impose their political and economic power over our largely marginalized and disempowered people. The political system practices ‘trickle down’ governance and development.  This he calls Demokrasyang Pinatulo. So Abueva proposes its opposite:

Demokrasyang Pinatubo is based on the core principle of subsidiarity which says that the State is subsidiary to the sovereign people as in a true democracy.  It means “bottom-up democracy” as opposed to “top-down democracy”; “people’s sovereignty” vs. “the rule of the political oligarchy”; “development from below” vs. “trickle-down development.” It means the sustained exercise and application of “people power” for the common good, the public interest, and in the national interest.

On October, 15, 2012, the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front finally signed the Framework of Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which would pave the way for the establishment of the new autonomous political entity, the Bangsamoro. “By self-ascription, non-Muslim lumad or indigenous peoples in contiguous areas in ARMM will also form part of Bangsamoro and are to be guaranteed their ancestral land and their rights as indigenous peoples.”

Abueva considers this a historic achievement of those involved in the four decades of exhausting peace negotiations.

Bangsamoro is to be a truly inclusive community with an autonomous regional government with a ministerial form under our Republic of the Philippines and our 1987 Constitution. The final establishment of Bangsamoro before 2016, the end of the term of President Aquino III, will signal the end of the subordination of, and discrimination against, our Muslim brothers and sisters under Spanish and American colonial rule.

Abueva also sees this development as a possible transition to a Federal Republic of the Philippines. “The main idea in the devolution of powers, authority and resources from the National Government to autonomous regions is to empower the regional and local leaders and also the people in order to accelerate political, economic and social development country-wide.”

The writers in the anthology Peace Mindanao deal with the various aspects of peace, or lack thereof: its personal or general representation, its ongoing discourse, its historical context, its underlying causes, its political implications, its possible solutions.  For the quest for peace is foremost a quest for a better understanding of its what and why and how.  Writers contribute to the quest for peace through an active exploration of ideas and options and points of view to bring us closer to a better understanding of ourselves and our world. Writers write to advocate, document, clarify, persuade, argue, resist, provoke, dramatize, enlighten, and even entertain.  That is the responsibility of the writer: to harness the power of the word to stand for what is true and just and fair and compassionate, and in the process make of this world a peaceable kingdom.


Jaime An Lim, born in Cagayan de Oro, finished his AB English from Mindanao State University and his MA English and Creative Writing from Silliman University. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature, an MS in Instructional Systems Technology, an EdS in Education, and a PhD in Comparative Literature, all from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. He has won awards for his fiction, poetry, and essays from Asian Student, Academy of American Poets, Focus, Panorama, Homelife, Free Press, and the Palanca. In recognition of his achievement, the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas bestowed on him the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas in 2000. As president of the Mindanao Creative Writers Group, he helped organize the annual Iligan National Writers Workshop which has been going on since 1994 with the support of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

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