volunteers hear Mindanao lecture from the experts
P. Garcia /
Posted 21 September 2008
Rudy "Ompong" Rodil
Amid the growing tension
between government soldiers and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) in the province of Lanao del Norte and while all kinds of
forums regarding the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain
(MOA-AD) are being facilitated all over the country, 19 young
volunteers of the Global Xchange Programme chose to seek better
understanding of the Mindanao situation at the Balay Mindanaw Peace
Center last August 26.
The Global Xchange programme
is a six-month exchange programme which gives young people from
different countries a unique opportunity to work together, to
develop and share valuable skills and to make a practical
contribution where it is needed in local communities.
Ten of the volunteers come
from various places all over the Philippines while nine are British
nationals. These volunteers, aged 18-25, are under the batch name
GX7, and has strategically chosen Iligan as their host city. Since
June this year they had immersed themselves in the different rural
communities in Iligan. The group has sought temporary shelter in
Cagayan de Oro when the armed conflict heightened in Lanao starting
August 18. They were among the very first to fled Iligan.
Comfortably seated in the
carpeted floor of the peace center, the volunteers’ curious eyes
were attentively focused on Prof. Rudy “Ompong” B. Rodil as he
journeyed back through Mindanao’s history, some 33 years ago,
stressing on the ethno-history of Mindanao
Ompong, a respected and
well-known Mindanao historian from Iligan City, is a member of the
GRP panel in talks with the MILF. Because of the surprising move of
the Iligan City Council to declare him as persona non grata,
he has to leave Iligan and stay in Manila. On this day, Ompong flew
all the way from Manila to Davao, then managed to come to Cagayan de
Oro, to the Balay Mindanaw Peace Center who warmly welcomes him all
“For one to understand
better the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, one must
know and understand the history of Mindanao first,” stressed Prof.
The group’s hunger for
knowledge on the Mindanao situation was further satisfied with
Sylvia “Ibing” Okinlay-Paraguya’s sharing. Like Prof. Rodil,
Ibing is also a GRP panel member in talks with the MILF. A
courageous woman and a real Mindanawan, Ibing is a Higaonon herself.
She was born and raised in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon. She is also the
Executive Director of MASS SPEC and the Chair of the Mindanao Caucus
for Development NGOs.
In her presentation, Ibing
shared the impacts of the armed conflict in Mindanao. She also
presented salient points on the MOA-AD, time-lining the discussions
and exploratory talks on ancestral domain way back to 2004. Ibing
further explained that the MOA-AD is not the final peace agreement.
Yet this is just the start of a more deepened and thorough
discussion. “It should undergo legal framework,” she stressed
“It is not easy in the
panel (GRP), it is a difficult work, I just hope for the best,”
Balay Mindanaw also shared a
video documentary presentation titled “The ‘Other’Peace
Process,” Balay Mindanaw’s simple contribution of building
peace in Mindanao.
The lines of John Denver’s
song, “I wanna live, I wanna grow, I wanna share what I can
give …” echoed in the hall as everyone joined hands in the
closing. A teary eyed Prof. Saturnina “Bebot” Rodil of MSU-IIT
joined the group singing. For the past few days, Prof. Bebot, who
also happened to be the wife of Ompong, has seen the heartbreaking
situation in the evacuation centers in Iligan. She’s been going
around from one evacuation center to another, facilitating
mobilization and distribution of relief goods.
GX7 program is about to end
in two weeks. The group felt that the program is so affected with
what is happening in Lanao, they could have helped the communities,
but they just could not do it. They are not allowed to go back to
“We’ll just take this on
and move forward. This is a good culmination for the program. This
is what we wanted in the beginning. We could have learned the
theories first before we were exposed to the realities,” shared
Jay Ancheta, program officer of GX7.
The group, however, felt
fortunate to have visited Balay Mindanaw Peace Center and got a
face-to-face meeting with Ompong and Ibing. They were all the more
inspired as they proceeded to Xavier University later in the
afternoon to assist the Kristohanong Katilingban sa Pagpakabana
(KKP) in the campaign for the mobilization of relief for the
evacuation centers for Lanao del Norte.
Cagayan de Oro may not be
directly affected by what is happening in Lanao del Norte but there
are individuals and organizations who initiate activities that would
support and promote better understanding of the Lanao situation.
Balay Mindanaw is among these organizations. Clearly, the Memorandum
of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, shortly dubbed by some as MOA on
AD, has not been widely understood by many, especially the general