A chance for peace

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Back in my college days, I sat beside a young Muslim woman who kept quiet most of the time during classes, looking like she wasn't capable of making quick friends although she was friendly in her quiet smile and she was there to take up journalism. She was like a stranger in a land that
wasn’t hers, like someone lost out in the huge forest without another human being in sight. This kept me from talking to her.

At the time I'm writing this column, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have signed a peace agreement to bring in Muslims into a Filipino life of democracy and peace. It was a signing of the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro to bring people like my classmate into a sense of home in a country which is both hers and mine.

Caught by a camera in the hall in Malacañang during the peace signing were some Muslim women brushing off tears of joy. It was a heart-warming shoot.


I went to Mindanao only in a few times. But the trips, especially the first trip, remain memorable so that I actually planned after graduation from college to look for work there.

It was a friend from Manila who brought the idea of trips to Mindanao. She was supposed to spend a few days in Cebu but we couldn’t wait to go to Mindanao. While she and I were having breakfast on her first day in the Visayas, we ended up rushing out to the pier to get boat tickets to Cagayan de Oro.

Then we found ourselves on a boat some hours after, this time with another friend as we moved in as a giddy threesome one summer in our senior year in college.

We were set to go to Camiguin island from Cagayan de Oro also in a ferry. Part of my memory of Camiguin are the hitches that came with the trip. They were part of the summer splash in a year. The ferry boat captain was still trying to hitch on to the Cagayan de Oro pier as we arrived when we saw the boat for Camiguin pulling out and away without us. We were able to move on to Camiguin past noon but only to find out as we anchored in our destination that the car assigned to pick us up for the ride to Bahay Bakasyunan in Mambajao had just left without us!

After the hitches, we felt wrapped up in the sweet silence of life there, unharried and full of softness in nature during summer. The natural wealth of Mindanao is one attraction enhanced by its Muslim people.

Of natural possession, take Camiguin. The province is a submarine volcano that became land in an esoteric growth years ago. It has seven volcanic peaks. The first eruption in the area researhers kept track of was that of Vulcan Gaan which happened in 1871. Hibok-Hibok volcano is one of Mt. Tres Marias. The rest of the peaks are Mt. Mambajao, Mr. Timpoong and Mt. Guinsiliban.

We went to a spring which is the result of a Hibok-Hibok eruption. This is a warm river called Ardent Hot Spring located at the foot of the Hibok-Hibok volcano.

The story goes that there was a cold spring in the spot long ago until water deposits pushed underground during an eruption and stayed for hundreds of years there, as though to simmer. A large larva deposit must have fallen into the old cool spring, turning it hot. For tourists, there are now water temperatures ranging from normal body temperature to hot but certainly not hot enough for cooking.

And this is only one small part of Mindanao, to begin with. But the sad part is that right in the middle of the huge land happened the Mindanao war.

In one of our long bus rides during the Mindanao trips, the bus stopped in a Muslim village to pick up passengers. When they came up the vehicle, they chose the back seats. The Christian woman beside me whispered that they didn’t trust anyone at their back, there was war.

In a different time today on the sealing of the peace pact, Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said that the historic signing of the peace pact “is the time for the people of
Mindanao—both Christian and Muslims—to come and march together to prosperity.” (ecuizon@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 30, 2014.


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