28 July 2008


A friend from Midsayap, North Cotabato in Mindanao sent me a message through Friendster today, jokingly saying that it's like early New Year's celebration in his town these days because of staccato bursts and sporadic yet earth-shaking explosions.
Nobody uses firecrackers in North Cotabato. (I think.)
What actually happened was, hundreds of Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels launched sneak attacks on local electrical installations in the area as well as on detachments of the Philippine Army and of the local militia. Many have died already from said attacks, which, according to recent reports, still seem to be happening up to this day. 

This is sad news because Midsayap, together with the towns of Aleosan, Pigcawayan, Libungan, and Alamada--after many years of winnerless bloodshed against the rebels--have started to develop through concerted hard work of the local officials, the national government, and the various international development organizations.
I was able to visit these five municipalities in November of 2007 while doing documentation and advocacy work for a foreign-funded capacity-building project being implemented by a government agency under MalacaƱang.
Hiligaynon is widely spoken in these areas--particularly in Midsayap and Aleosan--and the disparity in accent and vocabulary from "Iloilo-style" Hiligaynon is very, very minimal. The people are very nice, friendly, and generous (and seem to exude an aura of peaceful fortitude--maybe as a result of their "regular" exposure to atrocities committed by the rebels, in my opinion).

I also remember the first (and hopefully not the last) time I experienced Midsayap's local delicacy called pastil, a ready-to-eat, banana leaf-wrapped treat of tasty, adobo-ish chicken flakes topped on rice that's popular among Christians in the area.
The interesting thing about it is--as I was told--this modern-day delicacy used to be a food ration during battles in the 1970s between Christian settlers and North Cotabato natives, who wanted to reclaim their ancestral homelands. 

Pastil was said to have an important role during those prolonged armed encounters.

To support their fighters on the field, Christian women and children in the community would work together and cook
pastil to be delivered in the trenches. The Christian militiamen thus didn't go hungry, while their Moro counterparts--who came down all the way from the mountains, where they left their families--fought with empty stomachs.
According to stories, Christian militiamen would almost always find copra (dried coconut meat) inside the pockets of dead Moro fighters. All they had was copra for sustenance, while the Christians munched on hot, freshly-cooked pastil.

I know that the reasons for this decades-old conflict are deep, but I just wish that the day will come when all the fighting would stop, and both Christians and Moros in North Cotabato would, among other things, just share and serve delicious


alessandro said...

thnx....people here were always on the run....for thier lives...be with us in our struggle for real peace

Anonymous said...

That's tragic. when will this ever end?

Anonymous said...

Malacanang should send more settlers into Mindanao, along with army/marines to protect them.

Estrada's "all-out-war" should be continued to eliminate all threat from the MILF kidnappers/terrorists.

ark said...

I always frequent the place since I'm from Cotabato City. Normal na lang talaga sa amin yang ganyan bro. Sanayan na lang.

Anonymous said...

my fellow humans...

please pray for our place,the municipality of midsayap and the rest...i'am begging you....

miao said...

wow...nice job...
we were all aware of the root of this....ancestral domain..what we can offer is our PRAYERS...that no more civilians specially the children will suffer...GOD BLESS MIDSAYAP...GOD BLESS MINDANAO...and GOD BLESS PHILIPPINES...(@_@)