Leaving Estosan Hotel at around 7:30 PM, we went to our office in Cotabato City for a briefing of the activities of the day ahead. Seeing the situation in Cotabato City and Maguindanao during the daylight made the situation clear: it was not a surprise to see checkpoints and armed soldiers in every kilometer of the road. It was no good pretending that it did not make me feel uneasy. And as we were going to Maguindanao, it made me more worried. It was no secret that the mere mention of “Maguindanao” in mainstream media invokes images of the infamous Maguindanao Massacre. But as we have seen, Maguindanao is more than just a place that should be associated with such a heinous incident.
On our way to the barangay in a mountainous area in Datu Saudi Amapatuan, one of our vehicles was unfortunate to get stuck in the mud. It took us about 30 mins to get out of this and we were already running late in our itinerary. The travel following this bump on the road was promising. In spite of the rocky and head-splitting ride, I was able to see the most breathtaking scene I have seen in my entire life! It was like out of a story book, and the rolling hills and mountains under the bluest blue sky was enough to make me feel teary-eyed.
We met the most congenial group of people, who welcomed all of us into the view that the Teduray people of Maguindanao see everyday (not including the apparition of ‘Lady White Bum’ from Mariane Guidotti LOL). If you could just stand atop for a minute and take in the view, you would be happy to see that such a landscape exists in the Philippines. Seeing it made me love my country so much, and at the same time, be more sensitive of the needs of the marginalized people of the Philippines.
We conducted an interview with one of the beneficiary parents, with her youngest kid attending the Basic Education Project. Prior to the establishment of the project, most of the younger kids were not able to avail of a preparatory education that could prepare them for the demands of the regular DepEd schools.
After leaving Barangay Kabingi, we had lunch somewhere (I could not remember the place LOL) but it had a ‘ridiculously photogenic parrot’ in the backyard! Then for about two hours, we drove to Barangay Tinungkaan, North Upi in Maguindanao, to visit another group of Tedurays. The whole community was already organized and has been patiently waiting for us. We wish that we could have stayed longer just to commensurate the amount of time they have waited. Anyway, we interviewed the brightly-dressed and wonderfully amazing Aling Clarita, who was dubbed as the ‘start’ of the community. It was unfortunate, though, that my point-and-shoot camera’s battery had to ‘die’, thus leaving me with few video clips of the place.
One thing that must be noted about their environment: it was like Teletubby land in corn-overload! It was really beautiful and I can just imagine running from one end to the other, turning with my arms outstretched!
Travelling back to Cotabato City, we passed a part of the highway overlooking “something”. I clearly could not remember what we were exactly looking at, but it was enough to push me to get a death-defying shot by standing on top of the ‘ledge’ (or whatever you call this black and white thing). I wanted to have jumpshot but at least was scared enough not to do so, unless a gust of wind would blow me off course and I would just be rolling until I reached lower ground.
So looking at the places we have visited since Day 1, we have been visited eastern Mindanao and found ourselves in central Mindanao in just four days! =) Bonamine was clearly my friend because I have never traveled this much and long on land
I am no longer part of CFSI and, of course, any thing I have written here does not reflect the organization’s views (i.e. all of these are my own opinion). However, I highly encourage you to take part in their activities and help them accomplish the work that they do. They really are the most wonderful and genuine people, I can vouch for that! Feel free to browse the “Mindanao Mission” series to look at some of the organization’s activities and some of the places they work in.
For more information, click the link below to help CFSI rebuild lives! 🙂