DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 August) — It’s not pork, so it is not being insensitive to Muslims but chicken from bird flu-affected Luzon that Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol wants the social welfare department to buy for distribution to Marawi evacuees has been criticized as an affront to the Maranaos’ maratabat.
“I asked President Duterte if the Department of Social Welfare and Development can buy some of the chicken… baka puwedeng ipamigay sa evacuees sa Marawi para mapakinabangan,” Piñol said in a press conference last week in the national capital.
Pinol’s proposal came amid confirmation that the bird flu strain found in Pampanga tested positive for H5N6, a virus that can be transmitted to humans although the “rate of mortality and transmission is very, very low,” ABS-CBN News quoted Dr. Arlene Vytiaco, Bureau of Animal Industry veterinarian, as saying.
The same report quoted Pinol as saying the bird flu issue triggered a drop in the prices of chicken from P80 to P10 per head and that 80 million kilograms of chicken are available in cold storage, that it is safe for consumption and that he would schedule a “boodlefight” where the President will eat chicken dishes to prove the point.
Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee told MindaNews on Sunday that the proposal to give chicken from Central Luzon may be well-intentioned but “masyadong insulting” (it is so insulting).
“Kung concerned sila sa pagkain namin, dapat matagal na nilang ginawa yun, hindi kung kailan nagka-issue ng bird flu at wala nang bumibili sa stocks nila. Hindi nila alam ang maratabat ng Meranaw” (If they were concerned with our food, they should have done that a long time ago, not just because of bird flu and no one is buying their stocks,” Adiong said.
There is no direct translation of maratabat although many refer to it as “pride and honor.”
Dr. Nainobai Disomangcop, a retired professor at the Mindanao State University, had earlier written that maratabat is associated with shame, honor and dignity, rank, self-esteem or ‘amor propio,” reputation and ‘face.’
“But maratabatat is more than any of these,” she said. Disomangcop noted there is no single word or phrase that can clearly define maratabat “for the Maranaos have surrounded it with many socio-psychological concepts of their own.”
On social media, the proposal was also received with disdain. “Has the world gone mad? Is this the best thing they can think of? Chicken from bird flu area to be given to Marawi evacuees?” a Moro government official asked.
“Even if certified safe by the Department of Health, what do they think of us, third class citizens? They’ve always treated us like trash so they send their trash to us. Enough is enough,” a retired Moro government official said.
The Marawi Crisis entered Day 97 on Sunday. Most of the city’s 210,000 population are out of Marawi, having fled to different areas in the countr since the the clashes between government and the Mature Group and its allies began on May 23.
Most of the displaced Maranaws, however, are home-based, and maratabat is a major factor why they prefer to stay with relatives in neighboring towns and even as far away as Luzon, rather than in evacuation centers.
This is also why humanitarian agencies and psycho-social service providers have been exerting efforts to ensure the delivery of relief goods and psycho-social assistance must consider not only the basic principles of Islam (the evacuees are mostly Muslims), but also the maratabat of the Maranaos.
In a press statement, Adiong said that while they appreciate the gesture “as this signifies national concern over the welfare of our IDPs (internally displaced persons),” it is also on the same manner of concern that we take great caution to receive poultry products from areas suspected of having been affected with bird flu virus.”
Adiong said the national alarm due to the bird flu “also seeped into the consciousness not only of consumers but evacuees staying temporarily at various evacuation sites.”
He said the mass displacement caused by the still ongoing war “is replete with sensitivities that ought to be considered in extending humanitarian assistance.”
Chicken would have been a welcome meal for displaced residents particularly because most of the relief items are canned goods and noodles.
Bud Adiong said they are “partly apprehensive that such would be misinterpreted as belittling the health concern of our evacuees and might even lead to further alienation.”
Adiong called on concerned agencies that in their efforts to salvage the poultry industry in Luzon, “we must also put primacy to the health security of the affected civilians cramped in evacuation centers.”
Samira Ali Gutoc of the Ranao Rescue Team told MindaNews “we assert IDP rights in combating disease and vulnerability to virus.”
Drieza Liningding, Secretary-General of the Bangsamoro National Movement for Peace and Development and co-founder of the militant youth organization, Free The Bangsamoro Movement, said the sending of chicken to Meranaw IDPs is “ridiculous and extremely irresponsible and insensitive to begin with.”
He said what angers him is the statement that the chicken will be distributed to Marawi evacuees or these will be rendered useless. He said officials are “not only adding insult to our miseries but rubbing salt to our injuries as if our lives and health do not matter. Our leaders and people should refuse this chicken. If they are really for the welfare of the IDPs they could instead give carabao meat to us or goat as we also celebrate ‘Eidul Adha,” the feast of the holy sacrifice on September 1. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)