JR Lopez Gonzales 10:44 PM 0
Author's Note: This article appeared in Rappler website. You may read it, here.
I was born and raised in the Mindanao Island. My paternal grandparents are originally from Iloilo while my maternal grandfather is from La Union. I came from the lineage of the so-called “migrant-settlers” during the migration of the people from Luzon and Visayas in the early 1900s.
Mindanao had been my cradle for more than two decades. I grew up in a predominantly Christian town of Tupi, in South Cotabato, where I rubbed elbows with Muslims and Lumads. I was lucky to be born in a place where cultures co-exist despite diversity.
But as I grew older, I came to realize that this part of the archipelago has a lot of issues. I realized that in some part of island, political and religious tensions are rife. When I stepped into college at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, it was then that I came to know more about the so-called “conflict” in the South on a deeper level.
You see, my Mindanao is one of the richest in terms of natural resources. Aside from securing almost the country's iron reserve, it also produces over half of the country's total pineapple, corn, coffee, copra, cocoa and abaca products. In fact, my home province of South Cotabato is home to a various fruit plantations and mining ventures. But despite these godsends, some parts of Mindanao remain poor. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is where the highest poverty rates are, the lowest literacy rates, and the least access to health and education.
The reason for the “Mindanao conflict” in the South is deeply intertwined with various factors such as the colonial legacies and a scrawny central government. After the colonization by the foreign powers, much of our Muslim brethren were displaced and dirt poor. Add to that the proclivity of some ‘Christian’ Filipinos to discriminate Muslims (and Lumads) which gave them the idea that they’re being left out. This fueled the separatist movements, led by radical leader Nur Misuari, which started in the 1960s.
The Filipino media’s attention on the island was not of help, either. For the longest time, Mindanao has landed in the news for all the negative reasons: kidnappings, terrorist bombings, and violence.
That is why I always cry foul when the Manila-centric media does not care to specify the town affected - and lazily labels the scoop as “Mindanao”. This irresponsible style of reporting gives the impression that the whole island, in all of its 26 provinces and 6 administrative regions, is erupting in violence.
Author's Note: Please click here for the second installment of this article.