facilitating a local peace consultation at Barangay Dungguan
in Aleosan. Dungguan is a Moro dominated village whose
barangay captain is a friend of Popot.
Photo: Myraflor Otero
Before I came to meet the
people of Aleosan, I was all along thinking that all the misfortune
in the world have been dumped on me. My values and principles in life
have been challenged – me as a woman, a mother, a gender advocate,
a Sustainable Integrated Area Development Organizer (SIADO).
I’m feeling so unlucky
because I was brokenhearted twice in my life; feeling so unfortunate
because I can’t buy all the things that I really love, or asking
myself “why wasn’t I born rich?” Out there working in the
field, I have lots of complaints – the food is not good, it’s so
damn hot in the area, no water, too much mosquitos, getting dark and
blemished skin, the transport allowance is not enough, among other
Though mine is a
self-inflicted pain, those of the people of Aleosan are caused by
external forces. (Although we know fairly well, they are part of a
Aleosan in the province of
North Cotabato is a conflict
affected area where people experienced war brought about by the
government’s and the majority mainstream Filipinos’
misunderstanding of the Bangsamoro people’s struggle for their
right to self-determination.
In August of 2008, war broke
out between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the
military in four barangays of Aleosan. Many people were displaced
from their own communities and economic activities stopped, causing
poverty and hunger. Because of the war, they have been feeling more
disheartened and discouraged. But in spite of all these, people
still find something to hold on to. And so, life goes on for the
people of Aleosan.
When we conducted the first
Local Peace Consultation in Barangay Dunguan of Aleosan, I had the
chance to talk with the people. Here are these people, all Moro
brothers and sisters who felt so much pain, experiencing the worst
things in life. But when you ask them, “How are you now?” They
would readily answer: “Oh, we’re ok! We have the 3H – we’rehappy,
helpful and hopeful.”
Hearing those words, I felt
so ashamed of myself. I was actually dumbstruck and tongue-tied. For
a moment I was not able to speak. At that moment, I thought I must
have been the most selfish and pathetic person in the world. Now I
realized that, compared to these people’s plight,I don’t have
the right to complain at all.
It was definitely a wake-up
call for me! It also made me realize that for awhile, I forgot that
personal is political – relating my problems to a much bigger
context, mine are just sooo petty when you view them from the
perspective of the people’s continuing struggle, our struggle….
Now I know I’m very lucky.
The people of Aleosan helped me get back on the right track. They
made me realize that I am relevant, that my role as an organizer is
I just have to share this
internal transformation happening in my life. I know it’s very
petty, yet relevant to my moving onwards as a woman, and as a SIADO
of Balay Mindanaw– that for once, here I am once more with fire in
the belly, inspired to be with the communities again as they go on
with their struggle for dignity, respect and love, and most
importantly, claiming for equity, justice and peace.