How do we communicate Mindanao?

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By Nef Luczon


Sunday, February 16, 2014

STUDENTS were standing in line for their turn to ask a question, as each of them was given the opportunity to ask their curiosities to the guests who were invited to speak before them.

The discussions became dense and passionate when a female student wearing a hijab was heard with her voice slowly faltering and apparently have shed some tears later as she shared her fears of graduating in college yet she will have difficulty landing a job just because she is a Muslim.

Another one asked the speakers why they are so dedicated in advocating peace in Mindanao and why issues relating to Mindanao conflict as well as how they reflect in the national consciousness of all Filipinos in the country are deemed necessary and critical.


And a lot more questions that needed to be answered by former journalist and regional assemblywoman of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, and Mindanao peace advocate Fr. Albert Alejo, who is now assigned in Ateneo de Zamboanga University as the assistant to the university president for social development.

Samira and Fr. Albert were invited to speak before the students who took communication-based degrees from different schools in Northern Mindanao and Caraga Regions who gathered for the first Mindanao Young Communicators Congress dubbed as the “Echo.”

The congress was organized by the Department of Development Communication of Ateneo de Cagayan – Xavier University and it was held inside a cinema of a shopping mall in Cagayan de Oro City.

Samira presented her slides in relation to her topic about “Bridging Manila and Mindanao: Social Media Examples,” which was originally presented in 2009, but because Samira sees that there wasn’t much of the difference from then and now, so she decided to talk this over again.

She implied that there wasn’t much of change back then on how these media platforms based in Metro Manila treated Mindanao stories less important to be a “national,” item especially how she noticed that most media give value to what happened to Vhong Navarro than how the peace agreement in Mindanao was successfully brokered by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Meanwhile, Fr. Albert re-echoed to the participants, including faculty members from different universities and colleges who also attended, his series of lectures and discussions about the real score of the peace and order situation of Mindanao, of which he has been sharing to the different sectors in Mindanao and even to the other parts of country and the world.

As what he has been saying all these years, that the conflict in Mindanao is very complex, and even in the very classrooms of elementary children, conflict can start simply because of how their textbooks, written and published mainly in Metro Manila, gave very inaccurate information about Mindanao and the Muslim populace. And thus the creation of a special module for teachers of “Righting History,” of which he said it is now pending for actual print and distribution.

Even now, it is still a sad reality that even majority of the people who were born and raised in Mindanao only know so little about the right history of the island way back the colonial periods of the Philippines. Only few really cared.

The lack of understanding of Mindanao’s rich history and culture is one of the usual causes of conflicts, and by and large these conflicts were not just done by detonating bombs and firing bullets, but it can also penetrate deeper into our society through prejudice and stereotyping of people with different ethnic groups and religious beliefs.

So how can we really communicate and give the right context to people about Mindanao and peace when in ourselves we have no idea where and how begin it? And this is the challenge to all young people taking communication-based degrees and studying in universities and colleges in Mindanao, other than aspiring to be TV celebrities in the future.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 17, 2014.


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