This city was the converging point for the Bike-for-Peace, a distinction that the city has openly shown its gratitude and pride, despite the occasions of bombings that hit it and the gun battles from nearby provinces.
From several points Region 12 – General Santos City, Koronadal City, Kidapawan City, Cotabato City and even in Tacurong City – about 500 men and women reached this southwestern Mindanao city at noon Friday to a throng of proud Tacurong residents who gathered at the gymnasium of the Notre Dame of Tacurong College.
All sorts of bikes were rested at the gym and their array became some sort of festival display, with one of the bikes catching the attention and awe of the onlookers, for its vaunted price reaching more than P200,000.
From Cotabato City was a group of soldiers on bike and biker's suits, led by Maj. General Raymundo Ferrer, commanding general of the 6th Infantry Division
It was the military general's first time to join a "Bike for Peace" affair although he told the short program held shortly, that he had joined other bicycle races in his previous military assignment.
"That was a long drive but we joined because we are observing the primacy of the peace process with the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front]," he told fellow bikers.
It was an challenging route especially for those coming from the cities of Cotabato in the northwest and General Santos in the southeast of this interior city. Each city was about 100 kilometers from Tacurong City.
The bikers started as early as 5:00 am. The General Santos City group arrived first in this city at 10:30 am, two hours ahead of the Cotabato City group.
Bikers from Midsayap in North Cotabato, Tupi and Surallah in South Cotabato and Lambayong and Ezperanza in Sultan Kudarat joined the road trip. The farthest delegation came from Malaybalay in Bukidnon.
Tacurong bikers went to Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao province to meet both the Cotabato City and Kidapawan groups.
Auxilliary Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo of the Archdiocese of Cotabato, who also joined the "Bike for Peace" activity, said he was "pleased at the response of the bike enthusiasts in the area".
"In sports there is always unity and brotherhood among us. We've seen that as we celebrate this part of the peace week," Bagaforo said in his speech. "We have shown to the world that in this part of Mindanao, there is unity and peace is not impossible."
Bagaforo lauded those who participated in the "Bike for Peace", who he said were Muslims and Christians and Lumads of various tribes. "They joined the event to show their longing for peace in Mindanao," he said.
According to him, the Mindanao Week of Peace celebration "has become known not just in the country but also in other parts of Mindanao."
He also praised the military and the police for joining the peace celebration, saying "they, along with firemen and jail guards, are the focus of this year's theme".
The "Bike for Peace" has become a yearly activity of the week-long celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace that began on November 28 through December 5. The theme of this year celebration was "Building Bridges of Peace With our Peace Officers."
In his speech, Gen. Ferrer assured that the military under his command, which has jurisdiction over the Moro rebels' bailiwick in Mindanao such as Maguindanao, "will continue to observe the ceasefire".
"The road to peace is long and hard. But we need to keep on pedaling to move forward to reach our destination, which is lasting and enduring peace," he said.
Dave Salazar, vice president of the Peace Advocates of Sultan Kudarat, who also spoke in the program, also lauded the bikers. "Some have no concern on peace while others have died for peace but here you are, biking for peace," he said.
He said he hoped that Mindanao "would soon become a land of fulfillment and not just the Land of Promise.” (MindaNews)