In about two months, I have already spent a year assigned in Mindanao. I have not written much in that year but mind you, I have a lot of thoughts about my stay. I will try to share these thoughts now.
After graduating from the academy, the next important thing is the first assignment. Months before my graduation, I have made up my mind that I wanted to be assigned in Mindanao. As I go on with this narrative, I hope to be able to explain why I made that decision.
When we arrived, I was a bit confused with the new environment. I simply felt that Davao City was too overwhelming. A very big city yet different from those that I have been accustomed to in Luzon. But I was excited to the adventure that I am about to go through. More than being able to do what I was supposed to do, I wanted to find my purpose in this new place.
Being in Mindanao allows you to meet a variety of people. In Luzon, people usually think that its only Christian and Muslim. Coming here is totally different. For one, Mindanao is generally a “tri-people” place. Aside from the Christians and Muslims, there are the indigenous people who are native to her. I first met the Lumad people of Davao. They are a fascinating group of people who has embraced modern culture yet still very rooted to their culture. I enjoyed listening to them when they talk about their customs and traditions. It seemed that they never fail to surprise. The more they talk to me, the more I realize that I have not seen much of this beautiful place. On a sad note, I felt that some of their traditions are the very reason why they remain to be poor. Their elders view education more as an added value for the dowry (especially for the women) rather than a means to improve their lives. Parents would encourage their children to stay home rather than explore the world and discover their interests. Although many are becoming enlightened with the benefits of education, still I pity those who remain complacent and blame their miseries to the government who obviously can not provide everything they need. When I left them, much as I wanted to help them, I realized that no matter how hard we try we can only do so much for people. After which it will solely be their decision whether they want more of what life has to offer. Accepting that reality brought me to so much frustration that almost made me want to go home.
But then again, the whole experience was educational, as it taught me to adjust my standards to the realities of the complexity of human society. That is why coming to Sarangani became more pleasing. I saw people who remained committed to helping their localities and public servants who wanted the best for their community (and of course those that are not). I saw little places trying their best to improve their current state and above all very proud of their heritage which is truly very admirable. Coming here, renewed my commitment to ensure that the service that I do to them should be made towards helping them achieve their aspirations. On a personal note, I am reminded of thoughts that I had as a cadet of wanting to "be the change I want in this world." I am finding my purpose together with an amazing group of soldiers that continues to validate my decision not so long ago of joining the Philippine Army.
Today, I am faced with the tremendous task of organizing a gathering of young people and teach them how to take part in nation building. Somehow I realized that the religious facade of the Mindanao conflict is but an icing on the cake of bigger problems that are not so obvious. I have resolved that the Mindanao issue is not of religion or culture but of a struggling people wanting to go up and yet only a few wanting to push them up. I realized that the solution to ending the war in Mindanao is really just to lend a genuine helping hand to the people of Mindanao. I need all the help I can get and somehow it is overflowing. I know it will keep on coming. Please pray for me and above all pray for Mindanao.
I'll have more of posts like this in the coming days.