I was in Grade 5 when my parents decided to transfer to Mindanao, permanently. That was, give and take, 25 years ago. While we had limited opinions as we were yet kids, we were apprehensive of finding our place in Mindanao because of the things we heard back then about the place.
That there are killings in Mindanao, that the Muslims are known to be abusive people, that we are foreigners to their land, and that it is hard to live there because of the conflicts between Christians and Muslims are just some of the reasons why I and my sisters wouldn't want to welcome the thought that we were leaving peaceful Antique to a land unbeknownst to us.
But it happened. My family moved to Mindanao. Passing through Zamboanga City, we arrived in Koronadal, South Cotabato and it is where I took my 6th Grade and more. It is the land which opened my eyes that what they say about Mindanao is not true. That there is no truth to some lies they say about the land. That Mindanao is beautiful.
And then I and my family continued to survive, lived through many conflicts in General Santos City and in Koronadal where my parents lived. Until I graduated from college, had a family in General Santos and traveled to Mindanao places where they say could be dangerous but only found the beauty that is Mindanao.
I have heard so many conflicts arising in my land. And I even experienced the fear of some of these instances. It was in 2005 when a series of bombings happened in the city where I live. I was in Law school when texts about bombs planted all over the city spread. One among those bombs exploded, some dismantled. I remembered how fearful I was to go out the streets of the city. But Mindanao has not been truly affected by all these things, as it continues to bear fruit lessons, tighter friendships, vigilance and wider perspectives to its people. The Maguindanao Massacre, the series of clashes between the government troops and insurgents, and many more, they were experiences that were felt by Mindanaoans, and yet we continue facing life.
Mindanao is beautiful, very beautiful. Davao, Kidapawan, General Santos City, Zamboanga City, Cagayan de Oro City, Cotabato City, Surigao, Butuan, and many others. These cities including its rural areas are beautiful. Its clean rivers, lakes, falls, and many other tourist attractions are just some of the things that make up a beautiful Mindanao. But I am not saying this just because of tourism in Mindanao. I say this because of its people who are equally beautiful. There may be differences between our beliefs and culture, but we remain friends when we see each other outside. We respect each others' beliefs, and we make sure that we respect each other as a brother.
I salute the men who fell to protect our country. They died in the line of duty, making themselves sacrificial lambs in the hope to attain peace. But they were slain, fallen. But there could be a reason here, I believe. While some say an all-out-war is needed to pulverize the enemy in order to bring peace, would there be peace, really if that happens? Would it eventually stop the killings, the brutal abuse of the rebels against our men. And I still salute those who, even in this trying times, would still want to continue the pledge that s/he has pronounced in commitment of his duty.
You who say an all-out war is needed do not understand what it is, how it will greatly affect the people of Mindanao, the people of this country in general. You who call out for a war do not understand that there will be children, students, parents, grandmothers, lives who will be at stake. You do not understand that we here in Mindanao will be greatly affected by what you say could turn peace around. You do not understand that Mindanao is wide, very wide, and that when you say there is war in Mindanao, you only refer to a small part of the huge island that is Mindanao.
We are good here, we are fine. We are indivisible. You might want to qualify what you say about raging Mindanao. Because we here remain a beautiful place. And we do not want war, instead urgent peace. We pray for peace to reign, again in our beautiful land.