Fifteen Years

Yes this blog is about my journey as a surf enthusiast/photographer/ traveler, but this blog is also about advocating for peace in Mindanao. I keep getting these questions, so I’ll answer here:

“As the founder of the Kids for Peace Foundation, what can you say about the Mamasapano Massacre”

– I think it was uncalled for. I won’t answer this pretending that I know the truth about what happened because I don’t. The people who know the truth died that day, and those who managed to survive probably surrendered their souls to the devil. I can’t imagine how one can lie about something as big as the Mamasapano Massacre. There are a lot of theories going on about what really happened but that’s what they are- theories. It will never change the fact that innocent people died that day. A father, a brother, a son, a man fighting for his country. I think it’s not fair to look at them as just SAF or MILF. Let’s look at the other roles that they play. Let’s look at the hole that they left in their families lives when a bullet took their lives that day.

“People are calling for an all-out war, what do you have to say about this?”

– The people who are calling for an all-out war never experienced it. Emotions are high and everyone is seeking justice which is understandable. Who would not be angered by what happened? If people from Luzon and Visayas have this reaction, multiply that by a hundred for those who are living in Mindanao. The only difference is, we are looking for a solution. We’re not pushing for another all-out war because frankly, we’ve already established that that will not solve anything. An all-out war transforms farms into battle fields and schools into evacuation centers. It takes away lives of thousands of people who have nothing to do with the war, or the political goals of the people behind it. A bomb will not stop to think if the person it’s about to kill is guilty or innocent; it just kills. I think the keyboard warriors should do more research on what they are advocating for. War? How does killing innocent people solve anything? What if the Mamasapano Massacre happened in Manila? Will they still push for an all-out war? If they want it so bad, I dare them to enlist and participate. It’s so easy to be brave when you know you’re protected by anonymity.

I’ll share with you some stories from war survivors that Kids for Peace compiled:

“On our third day, during the night, a bomb fell right at the very door of our house. I thought it was the end. The explosion was so loud, the door was opened. I felt the ground shake. Commotion followed, cries and screams mixed with the smoke. Everyone wanted to get out. It was very dark and raining. All the children cried.

Ama found us. We had to move fast, We walked, and sometimes ran, in total darkness. The rain kept on pouring, and so did the bombs. We made it to the next village. We went to the local mosque. There were already many people there, and they are very good to us. We were all tired, hungry, wet, cold and afraid. I could not even imagine how we got there . For about 10 days, we stayed there. Soon enough, the bombs came again. We rushed to the evacuation center. There, Ina gave birth to our fourth brother. Ina had a hard time and our brother nearly died. But Allah is good; he allowed our brother to live,

It has been three year since but it seems that war will again break up. The door of our house has already been repaired, readied for another war.” – story of an 8-year old of the all-out war in 2000.

“We ran, sometimes we walked. I got so tired. Ama is carrying my younger sister. I brought our kettle, with cooked rice in it. Ina says that if I’m hungry, I just scoop rice from the kettle and eat. I did, several times. Running from bombs can make one hungry. Suddenly, as we were walking, a bomb fell very near; I thought it was all over for us. It was huge bomb; the explosion so strong that for a moment, I could hear nothing, except the ringing in my ears. I could not even see anything- the smoke was so black. Without realizing it, tears flowed down my eyes. I cried. I screamed. When the smoke cleared, we regrouped. Luckily, no one was hurt. But I’ll tell you, you do not need to be hit by a bomb to be hurt. ” – a 9-year old’s story of his family’s evacuation during the all-out war in 2000.

“It was the third of May; the news reached us that Ama was hit. I did not believe it. I refused to believe. He’s coming back, Ama said. I prayed that it is not true, and that Ama is safe and well. But when Ina told me that it is true, I could do nothing. Ama is gone. I cried and cried.

We were not able to go back home. It is not safe anymore. Our neighbors and relatives buried Ama. We stayed at the evacuation center for a year. I miss Ama. A year passed before I was able to go to the place where he was buried.

I pray for peace in my land. Ama always reminded me about that – to pray always. And I pray that war would not happen anymore. I prayed that no more Amas would be killed. I prayed that no sons would cry anymore.” – another 9-year old’s story of the all-out war in 2000

If you think hearing these stories are heartbreaking, imagine hearing these directly from the kids. It becomes more real when you add a face to the story. It becomes more real when you see them break down in front of you. What’s more haunting, is how these kids remain positive despite the loss. I was 12 when I first experienced the all-out war declared by former President Joseph Estrada. I am now 27. I don’t know if these kids are still alive. Since the year 2000 they had to move from one area to another to survive. The evening news does not tell you everything. It only shows you bits and pieces of stories that were approved for airing.

“Do you still think that peace in Mindanao is possible?”

– Yes. It is a big word, it seems unattainable, but it is possible. For as long as there are people who want to work for peace in Mindanao, it is possible. The journey will never end. In the process I also think that we should learn to be more loving, understanding, patient, and forgiving. I believe these steps will lead us towards a more peaceful Mindanao.

In the midst of all the negative juju going around, I still believe that better things are going to happen. If good things must come to an end, then bad things must come to an end too.

One thought on “Fifteen Years

  1. Thanks for saying this, Iya… I’m thankful for this bit of positivity and peace advocacy in the midst of all the misinformed and hateful comments all over social media pushing for war.

    Here’s to better things to come. 🙂

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