Just last week, I was a 22-year old Filipina who’d never been to Mindanao. A week and a travel assignment later, I realized that, that was very sad. I’d been missing out.
Honestly, a year ago, I wouldn’t have given a damn if I’d been to Mindanao or not, cause I didn’t know anything substantial about it. Ignorance and laziness. Though, after doing a thesis and a film where we to change how Filipinos saw Muslims and how they framed them, and getting to meet all these amazing young Muslims… well it’s definitely given me a personal investment in the place.
And it was so, so gratifying. Visiting Lanao del Norte just affirmed everything we talked and wrote about, everything we tried to do, everything we’d hoped for.
So yeah 🙂 Everyday turned out to be a pretty interesting day for visuals, which was great for us. The trip was eventful and there’s definitely much more to see there.
But what I really remember now though, what stuck with me, were the people. They are so far away from the stereotype that seems to be staying strong in so many people. They were the exact opposite, actually.
Here are good, kind, intelligent people who are trying to actually work for peace. In Lanao del Norte, Muslims and Christians, they’re treated equally. No one’s above, no one’s below and, okay this is a simplification but, everyone’s friends with each other. They’re constantly trying to improve themselves and improve the province, cause they’re tired of people being scared of them all the time and they’re tired of how that makes them feel. Yes, there’s still a threat but, they don’t see it as insurmountable. They’re trying to break it down, whittle it down to the root, and some day end it. They’re communicating with each other, talking to each other. And that translates in their economic lives, how they make a living. They want change. They eat, sleep, and dream change.
On our last day there, we visited the Kalinao Kalilintad Integrated Peace School in Kapatagan. The students there are the children of the MILF and the children of Filipino soldiers, all victims of armed conflict, all in one classroom. It’s rare that someone enrolls them, most of these kids, when they hear about it, they go there out of their own effort and beg to be taken in. There’s math, there’s science, and then there’s non-violent communication, a review on children’s rights, peace healing subjects. All the kids smile at you and wave and suddenly, you’re happy to be there too. I just… I can’t even fully describe it. Going there, being in the presence of these kids, of these hard-working teachers, it’s like you’re being surrounded with positive energy, hugged by it from all sides.
These are the kids of the future, and so we have hope. See, think about that next time you think about Mindanao 🙂