Diaz is 1st Agong awardee

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 November) —  The Mindanao Media Forum gave its 1st Agong Award to veteran journalist Patricio P. Diaz for his “well-researched and incisive commentaries on events affecting Mindanao and sharing the fundamental rights and problems of the indigenous peoples and the Bangsamoro; how the settles transformed the landscape of Mindanao; and how to balance the interests of these peoples who are living in Mindanao.”

The award was handed to him during the special awards night Saturday in the event of the 6th Mindanao Media Summit here. This is the first time the MMF is giving an award. It is named after the “agong” which is a common instrument for the Lumads and Moro of  Mindanao:  to warn the community of impending danger, to announce important events or information.”

In his acceptance speech, Diaz challenged the participants of the summit to “all the time focus on Mindanao” especially with a lot of misconceptions about Mindanao from the eyes of Manila-based media.

Diaz cited the Mindanao or Bangsamoro Problem is one example.

“Most Manila media, even some leading opinion columnists, project the “What is Not” of the Problem. The real issues are either ignored or if ever discussed only half-truthfully, laced with historical bias,” he said.

He said “contentious issues are not reconciled but wedged wider and wider apart by fanning the fears of the Christians and the anger of the Moros. That was manifested, he added, in the MOA-AD controversy.”

“Can Mindanao media make the difference by doing their utmost to help close the gap?  That is our challenge,” he added.

Diaz also invoked the media’s responsibility in society.

“The men and women of media must keep Media — as a pillar of democracy in the Philippines — straight, upright, clean. The task is easier said than done but it must be done or democracy will collapse,” he said.

Friends paid tribute to Diaz, who has been a journalist since 1952, in messages read by Mindanawon journalists under 30 years old.

“His thoughts on the peace process … all these I regard as excellent historical records of a crucial period in Mindanao history.  I am what I am now, an expert on Mindanao history and current events because he was my Guro,”retired Mindanao State University professor Rody Buhay Rodil, who served as former member of the government peace panel, said in a message read by Ferdinandh Cabrera of GMA-7 Cotabato City.

“How can anyone in the Philippines match Patricio P. Diaz’s pioneering independent reporting and coverage of events in Mindanao? Passing on to his many students the gift of objective analytical insights is itself a great tribute to him.  Just read his book witness writing on “Understanding Mindanao” that was published by Mindanews, you’ll appreciate what I mean,” according to Michael Mastura, a member of the present peace panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in his message read by Noralyn Bilual of DXUP in Upi, Maguindanao.

In his message read by Kristianne Fusilero of the Mindanao Times in Davao City, Redemptorist brother Karl Gaspar described Diaz as a “mighty prophet” on behalf of  Mindanawons who “need to raise their voices for peace, justice, equality, harmony and solidarity among all the peoples of Mindanao!”

In his message read by Darwin Wee of Business World in Zambaoanga City, Dr. Steven Rood of The Asia Foundation said Diaz “uses his many years of experience to enlighten the rest of us, who makes sure that we do not forget what has gone before, but who insists on looking forward to a better tomorrow for Mindanao.”

The 84-year old columnist started his journalism in 1952. He wrote for The Mindanao Cross as columnist and reporter, editorial writer-on-call from 1952 to 1967 and was its editor from 1968 to 1989. He edited and published Mindanao Kris from 1989 to 1996 and at present writes “Comment,” his column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews.

For his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate,” Mr. Diaz was honored by the Titus Brandsma Media Awards in 2002 with a “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

His family arrived in General Santos City from Cabatuan, Iloilo in 1940 when he was still 13 years old. The Diaz family belonged to the third batch of NLSA (National Land Settlement Authority) settlers.

He lived in Cotabato City for 44 years – from 1952 to 1996 – as a student, teacher, and journalist.  He returned to General Santos City  on May 28, 1996, with his wife Lucila Sabuero Caayaman of Talisayan, Misamis Oriental, and their nine children.

Diaz has written articles in 20 yearly volumes in The Mindanao Cross; six yearly volumes in Mindanao Kris; and opinion pieces in Mindanao Trend (Cotabato City), 1996-2001; SunStar General Santos, 2000 – 2001; and MindaNews since 2001.

He authored the books To Tripoli and Back (Cotabato City, August 1995); What Ails Muslim Autonomy (General Santos City, 1998); Understanding Mindanao Conflict (MindaNews Publications, 2003) and The 2010 GRP-MILF Peace Drafts: With Comments and Analysis (MindaNews Publications, 2010).

He is currently finishing his book, The Troubled Odyssey, which is a follow-through an analytical and comprehensive view of what has happened to the Bangsamoro peace processes and where we go from here. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)