Canuday's "Bakwit" book wins National Book Award

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 November) – “Bakwit:  The Power of the Displaced,” written by MindaNews’ Jose Jowel Canuday won the National Book Award in the Social Science category of the 29th National Book Awards held Saturday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

This was confirmed to MindaNews by Maricor Baytion, director of the Ateneo de Manila University Press, which published the book.

The annual National Book Awards is a project of the National Book Development Board (NBDB) and the Manila Critics Circle.

The other finalist in the Social Science category was “Kalusugang Pampubliko sa Kolonyal na Maynila, 1898-1918: Heographiya, Medisina, Kasaysayan” by Ronaldo B. Mactal, published by the University of the Philippines Press.

Canuday is a member of the Board of Directors of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center (MNICC) which runs the daily news service, MindaNews and,  where he was a reporter while taking up masters in Anthropology at the Xavier University.

He  is a grantee of the International Fellowships Program of the Ford Foundation and has just completed his fieldwork for his doctoral degree on social anthropology at Oxford University.

“Bakwit,” referring to internally displaced persons (IDPs),  is a seminal scholarly analysis on the conditions of people repeatedly displaced by armed conflict in Mindanao and was based on Canuday’s thesis for his MA Anthropology.

In an e-mail from Oxford, Canuday said he hopes the recognition “sheds greater light and attention to the plight, struggle, and most importantly the historical capacity of the evacuees in the long tradition of peace and community building in Mindanao and the country.”

“That is a tradition because for every war and displacement, people in war-ravaged villages work without ceasing to rebuild their homes and lives though in less perfect and limited ways. But the capacity is there demanding public recognition that they do not sit helplessly at the receiving end of aid, rehabilitation, human rights advocacy, and peace building. They are meaningful and able actors in this quest,” he wrote.

In his study, Canuday tracked four decades of recurring displacements in the Maguindanao-North Cotabato area and concluded that it was not poverty that drove these areas into conflict but the policy of continuing armed campaigns.

He noted the case of Barangay Buliok in Pagalungan town in Maguindanao, a former base of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the center of  massive military offensives in February 2003, as a prime example of how recurring armed conflicts rendered the area impoverished through the decades.  Before the war in the 1970s, Pagalungan was a flourishing and important trading center for the people in the Ligawasan Marsh, he said.

“Had it not been for the recurring armed conflicts, Buliok, Pagalungan would not have been as impoverished and ravaged as it is today,” Canuday said as he called for a serious review of government’s assumption of the conflict as solely rooted on poverty.

A total of  24 finalists were named for nine categories: Literary Division for fiction; Literary Criticism/Literary History: Non-Fiction Prose; Graphic Literature; Poetry; Non-literary for Professions; For Social Sciences; For Art and For Design. (MindaNews)