Last day in Mindanao and I was most anxious to go back in Manila! Don’t get me wrong, I was having a blast in Mindanao, but since yesterday, I already felt that urge to go back home. Anyway, we still had to do one last interview of a beneficiary in Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte, and from what I’ve heard, the community would also be having a meeting so we’d have the chance to meet all of them.
The original plan, however, was to visit Kauswagan. But as there was a tensed atmosphere in the area since yesterday, we had to have a last minute change of plans and headed to Kolambugan. From Iligan, the drive was just around an hour and a half, and we had been having glimpses of Iligan Bay from the road. Before we knew it, we were already turning left to a dirt road going to the community.
I had a great time taking photos of the area, because of the green surrounding, the horses, the insects and the kids. But with a heavy heart, I had to take photos and videos of this classroom in San Roque Elementary School and it was heartbreaking to see dilapidated chairs and ceilings, and the absence of a decent window or door for the kids. And speaking of the kids, out of the places we have visited, the kids in this community were the most playful and active. The boy above was busy the entire time chasing after dragonflies that he got so frustrated at one point and wielded a stick at them out of frustration.
It still frustrates me, though, that I don’t have a better equipment before going to Mindanao because I was hoping to get excellent video quality of the places we have visited. I regret not having a decent sound recorder as well because there were lots of interesting ambient sounds that I can use while editing the videos.
About two hours after, people arrived one by one as it was already the time of the meeting. It was a Sunday but everybody looked set to discuss important matters concerning their community. I still had to thank Mon for the tripod he gave me before leaving last Monday , because I won’t be having decent pictures of myself in it.
We had to return to our Sub-Office in Iligan for the debriefing and had a discussion about the whole trip. Honestly, and I had to say it out loud to the group in the spirit of being frank, it was an extremely eye-opening experience with me as it debunked a lot of stereotype and misconception of what Mindanao is.
Growing up for most of my life in Metro Manila, we were thought of history from a very Luzon-centric perspective. I had a very limited knowledge of what Bangsamoro is, and I did not learn about these struggles of our Muslim brothers and sisters, had I not entered UP in the early 2000s. And still, it was different to see the place in person and observe what really happens in that region. A lot of things are going on in my head but let me try to properly verbalize them. First, Mindanao is not chaotic as the media portrays it to be. Sure, there was a security issue in most of the places we have visited, and I was really scared during the briefing in the vehicle once we have entered Cotabato City. But the night following our arrival, I got to walk around the city with my colleagues and see that the place was not that bad after all. Second, even if I knew that there are well-developed places in Mindanao (especially the cities), I did not realize the extent of underdevelopment of some areas, especially in Maguindanao and Davao Oriental. Again, I might have mentioned it in my previous posts but Davao Oriental had my mind racing with ‘what-ifs’ and my morbid mind kicked in. Ahhh, the paradox of plenty. The last thing has something to do with history. Aside from the askewed history promulgated by the education system, I did not even know about the rampant landgrabbing experienced by the indigenous groups in Mindanao. But all in all, I was really pleased to have met the Teduray people from Barangay Kabingi and Tinungkaan.
So after a disastrous last lunch in Iligan city (which merits its own post), we drove to the newly-opened Laguindingang International Airport in Misamis Oriental to wait for our flight home. I should be in Manila by 7:00 PM because I would be meeting my family in Glorietta for a family dinner. July 8 will be Brie’s 3rd birthday, but as it was on a weekday, we just decided to have an early celebration.
Our flight got delayed for about 30 minutes, and arriving in NAIA Terminal 3, I had to endure a gruelling experience with a scrupulous taxi driver. This “UVZ 2-4” taxi on queue outside the departure area tried to charge me Php 70/kilometer. according to him, the distance going to Glorietta would be about 4km, so I had to pay Php 280 to him. When we were about to exit the airport premises, he was asking me to hand out Php 20 for the parking fee, to which I declined. I already told him moments earlier to drop me off where I would pay just the Php 70 pesos, but when he stopped by Mantrade, the kilometer counter was at 3.8km! He demanded that I pay him Php 210 and I naturally refused and paid him only Php 70. These cabs are giving our country a very bad image. I naturally have a soft spot for cab drivers because my grandfather used to be one, but I just hate it to be at the receiving end of such untoward behavior.
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! 🙂