LAMITAN, Basilan (MindaNews/12 April) — It is Holy Week for Christendom and reflection time for me as a Muslim.
I am in Basilan, housed in a home with crosses and rosaries, sharing food and stories with a devout Christian.
I am an hour away from Isabela City, the capital, in the downtown proper in Lamitan City . I can feel the adrelanine of many of the Lamitan people, stalwarts of their offices spill and vibrate, as this city just an hour away from the capital Isabela , takes pride in hosting this year’s ARMM Athletic Meet held on April 7-12.
I lug with me copies of MindaNews’ OUR Mindanao’s issue on Sendong in the hope that superintendents will mainstream climate change in their schools. After all, ARMM is also vulnerable to environment issues such as flooding, damming, human waste on waters, solid waste mismanagement etc.
Just at the port of Lamitan where we arrived, the wide JICA-funded blue structure reminded me of Luneta’s port where we rode to Corregidor but three times better because of the newly-constructed building, several meters higher. The port manager, Samboy of the Fraternal Eagles, was spilling with stories of how the former recalcitrant squatters (which included a Sultan) were convinced to leave the government property so that the structure could be built. Erwin even gave me T-shirts promoting Lamitan wow! He pointed to the shirt saying he didn’t put ARMMAA 2012 so that the shirt could be worn beyond 2012. Talk of foresight hehe.
At the Lamitan Hostel where I stayed with the Dep-Ed ARMM, the lady Manager tells of the free accommodations they give for several of Lamitan’s hosted events. The hotel has restaurants below and a JICA-supported public market in front.
I experienced a Lamitan home as well. The quaint home of Ms Cely New, a foster “mother” of graduates of Philippine Military Academy graduates who get assigned here, was such a character. She had diabetes and had several operations (on her eyes and chest) but her limp would not limit her from being mobile and hosting newscasters and other visitors who had time to see Lamitan. Former Vice-Mayor and ABC president during her heyday as a public personality in the 1970s , Cely had many stories to share about local politics. Muslims and Christians had been living here in “harmony,” something I heard often repeated at the microphone at the City Hall Stadium, every report of the tourism officials ended with , report given to you at the Lamitan City, the City of Harmony.
Barangay officials promoting their own Bulingan falls tells of the stories of hosting the car match races. They hadn’t even priced the cost of swimming at the earthly springs. Kilometers away from the main roads, it looked beautiful and fresh out of a page from the Amazon hehe.
Athletes battle it out in several locations such as the Central School for the volleyball and football. At the City Hall’s track, officials were surprised I was a football player in college. I even rendered them a song, I Will Survive, at the last day of the three-day competitions as my way of thanking those who served the tournament under the heat of the sun. Some of the officials from the Divisions had arrived as early as April 3 to be ready for the April 7 events.
Can we not dream of having our kids top the Palarong Pambansa, I asked. Shall we always be content with being at the backburner? It may be a far off aspiration to even reach the Olympics but as I watched the girls from Tawi Tawi spike volleyball wins, or Meranao kids zoom to football goals, or Maguindanao teeners race for gold, I am inspired that these kids have the mettle to survive national games to be held in Lingayen on May 6.
I was alarmed at one Basilan Youth Consultation I attended that kidnapping was a major fear of the young people. Other issues included poverty, corruption and lack of education. I reiterated in a Youth Situationer the need to act as a collective and demand support for youth activities from our local governments. The youth from as far as Al-Barka town, Maluso and Sumisip were so enthusiastic and receptive that they had elected their officers right there and then. On May 16, Lamitan will convene the first ever Youth Camp. Slowly but surely like the rubber trees growing in Basilan, young people’s aspirations for opportunity amidst conflict may come to reality. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Samira Ali Gutoc describes herself as a multi-tasker. She is the lone woman in the Board of Directors of the Amanah Bank and is one of the founders of the Young Moro Professionals Network).