“What would you do if you are about to say ‘yes’ to the man courting you and you found out that he backed out and is courting another woman?”
This was the vague answer of an MILF officer to me and my friend’s question regarding what the MILF would do when the MOA-AD won’t be signed. We were writing a news story about the GRP-MILF deal that time.
That was August 4, 2008, the day before the scheduled signing of the Memorandum of Agreement of Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that seeks to create an expanded Moro territory in Mindanao. That was 3 in the afternoon, hours before the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to halt its signing, thereby proving our question as prophetic.
Fourteen days after that, a faction from the MILF forces attacked towns of Kolambugan and Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte. That was 6 in the morning when hundreds of people, referred to as mere “collateral damage” during wartime, were displaced because of the armed clashes.
That was August 18, 2008.
A month after the squabbles, a group of volunteers from my school went to visit some schools which served as evacuation centers for the displaced families. One evacuation center is the Riverside Elementary School in Kolambugan.
We took charge of talking to the kids while some would be interviewing their parents. We tried to remind them that they are still children (even if it’s obvious that most of them have grown old overnight).
After exhausting ourselves with all sorts of games (patintero in the sand, catch, etc) we decided to talk to the kids, to share some stories about God or Allah and that He would help and they could still dream for a bright future (I have told myself these in stormy times).
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”, Amour, a fellow volunteer, asked.
One child whose father and brother got killed by an MILF soldier right in front of him, said:
“I want to be a soldier. I will kill them all.”
This is the face of innocence tainted with war. The cycle of vengeance will continue unless the deeply ingrained hatred will be uprooted, the pain healed, the age-old biases corrected and the ancestral domain will be shared between the Moro, the Lumads, and the migrant-settlers with a peaceful co-existence.
Today is August 18, 2010– 2 years after a bloodshed over an old struggle. The government promised a resumption of peace talks (on a clean slate) with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) after Ramadhan.
I could only hope that we won’t make the same mistakes– of misinforming our people, of opening almost healed wounds, of closing doors to dialogues.
I hope that there will no longer be rebels complaining of failed courtships with our government; so that when another child dreams, it would be for goodness sake and not revenge.