DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 August) – Sixteen year-old Julie Kristie A. De Guzman had hoped she would make it to the 5th place so she could have that blue shirt that says “I wrote a letter to P-Noy and got this shirt.”
“I think it’s cool,” she said of the shirt.
But Julie didn’t just land the 5th place, she topped the “Dear P-Noy” letter-writing contest and will receive not just the “cool” blue shirt but also a phone, a watch, gift packs and an audience with the President himself in Zamboanga City.
In her three-paragraph letter to President Aquino, written in Pilipino, Julie wrote about her dreams for Mindanao. “Hindi ka man si Superman o Batman, sana’y magkaisa tayong suportahan ang pagbabago alang-alang sa bayan. Hindi man biglaan ang pagbabago, sana’y makapagsimula tayo.” (You may not be Superman or Batman, but I hope we will be one in supporting change for our country. Change may not be immediate but we hope we can start).
The 16-year old freshman student of BA English, major in Creative Writing, at the University of the Philippines in Mindanao, wrote about how the mere mention of Mindanao evokes fear in the listener and how she hopes there will be understanding among Lumad, Bangsamoro and Christians.
“Pangarap kong mapagmasdan ang bawat bata sa Mindanao na nakabihis-uniporme sa eskwela na bitbit ang lapis at libro. Walang mga tambay sa lansangan. Lahat nasa paaralan at may mga disenteng trabaho ang mga tao kahit hindi nakapag-aral sa kolehiyo” (I wish I’d see every child in Mindanao in school uniform, carrying pencil and books. I wish there would be no street children. I hope everyone is in school and that people have decent jobs even if they weren’t able to go to school).
“While writing it, my focus was on the message and how it will reach thousand of youths through it. I thought of it as God-given opportunity to be able to write it. I sent my entry just before the deadline,” Julie wrote MindaNews.
“As I clicked the `Send’ button, I whispered a silent prayer. I never did really expect of winning the 1st place. Just the thought of it makes me nervous. I must admit that I was quite interested about having the blue shirt that says: “I wrote a letter to P-Noy and got this shirt.” I think it’s cool. Haha. So I prayed that if it is in His will, being in the 5th place would be great but if I won’t get it, I set up my mind that maybe it is not meant for me. I felt really blessed when my Papa called me and told me I got the 1st place! That was amazing!!”
Julie said she learned about the contest from a friend, Suellen Ogena, “who shared about her published essay in Voice of Mindanao when she wrote it in junior high. She shared that she received an e-mail stating that her essay was published in a book and she will soon be receiving gift packs from VoM. I thought of her as an instrument by God to inform me about the letter writing contest. She stated the mechanics and all. I was interested about the fact that as a student, though my voice may be too little to be heard, I attempted to join in order to voice out the reality.”
The letter-writing contest was initiated by Voice of Mindanao (VoM) and People Power Volunteers Center-Zamboanga.
As per contest rules, the main theme for the message must be “the letter-writer’s message for President Noy, or P-Noy, of his/her dreams for Mindanao. The message, coming from his/her heart, may contain his/her vision in line with P-Noy’s statement during his inaugural address as Philippine President of his action plan for Mindanao.”
The contest was open to residents of Mindanao, aged 11 to 18 years old, whether in-school or out-of-school youth.
The members of the Board of Judges were Christian Olasiman, head, Youth for NoyNoy Movement and Member of the People Power Volunteer Center-Zamboanga City; Frencie Carreon, Program Head, Voice of Mindanao and Editor-in-Chief of The PhilSouth Angle; Ryan Rosauro, Secretary-General, Peace and Conflict Journalism Network and correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer-Mindanao Bureau; Carolyn O. Arguillas of MindaNews and Victoria Aquino-Dee of the People Power Volunteer Center-Philippines, as chair of the Board of Judges.
The winners were declared August 20 during the 3rd anniversary of VoM in Zamboanga City.
The first prize winner will receive a SMART phone and gift pack, a PNoy watch, gift packs from People Power Volunteer Center and a youth pack from Voice of Mindanao plus the “cool” blue shirt.
Winners and their winning letters will also be featured in the 2011 VoM Calendar. “Monetary rewards are not given as this contest aims to draw the young writers’ thoughts and aspirations for (Mindanao) while evoking anew an interest among the youth in communicating peace.”
On August 21, 2010, the 27th death anniversary of Sen. Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Sr., the top five letters were presented to President Aquino. (MindaNews)
Julie Kristine A. De Guzman’s letter to President Aquino:
Sa pagkakaluklok mo sa pinakamataas na posisyon sa bansa, nasa ’yo ang aking tiwala. Hindi man ganoon kalakas ang tinig ko bilang ordinaryong estudyante, hayaan mong maisalaysay sa pamamagitan ng liham na ito ang mga pangarap ko bilang taga-Mindanao. Hindi ka man si Superman o Batman, sana’y magkaisa tayong suportahan ang pagbabago alang-alang sa bayan. Hindi man biglaan ang pagbabago, sana’y makapagsimula tayo.
‘Pag sinabing ‘Mindanao’, takot pa rin ang namamayani sa mga nakakarinig nito. Unti-unting natatabunan ang kagandahan nito dahil sa mga pangyayaring hanggang ngayon ay wala pa ring hustisya. Sana’y maging matiwasay ang pagsasaayos ng hindi pagkakaunawaan – mapa-Lumad man, Bangsamoro o Kristiyano. Tulungan mong maiangat ang pangalang Mindanao mula sa kanyang pagkalugmok. Tutukan din sana ng iyong gobyerno ang pagsasaayos ng mga imprastruktura para sa transportasyon, turismo at pangangalakal dito sa Mindanao sapagkat lubusan na kaming naiiwan sa pag-unlad. Pangarap kong mapagmasdan ang bawat bata sa Mindanao na nakabihis-uniporme sa eskwela na bitbit ang lapis at libro. Walang mga tambay sa lansangan. Lahat nasa paaralan at may mga disenteng trabaho ang mga tao kahit hindi nakapag-aral sa kolehiyo. Mabigyan sana ng atensyon ang mga kababayan nating walang ligtas at maayos na komunidad na tirahan. Magkaroon sana sila ng pagkakataon upang may maituring na tahanan. Pangarap kong magkaroon ng kaayusan sa daloy kalsada. Walang naghahari-harian. Lahat pantay-pantay sa karapatan. Maging ganap na malinis sana ang bawat sulok ng kalsada. Sana’y maituring na lugar para sa kalinisan ang mga lugar sa Mindanao. Mapayabong pa sana ang mga produktong likas sa Mindanao upang magsilbing pang-akit sa mga turista maging sa mga negosyante na magsisilbing daan upang mapayabong ang ekonomiya ng bansa. Sana’y magkaroon ng ngiti sa bawat labi ng taga-Mindanao ngayon at bukas.
Magsilbi sanang tulay ang liham na ito upang marinig mo ang pangarap naming mga taga-Mindanao.
Julie Kristine De Guzman
University of the Philippines-Mindanao