Delia Bisquera-Biel received the posthumous award for her husband, Mayor Luis R. Biel II of Isabela City who was gunned down in March last year, while Subanon Timuay Noval Lambo received the award on behalf of the Gukom Sog Pito Kodulungan (Council of Seven Rivers) on December 2 at the Garden Orchid Hotel here.
Biel was mayor when Basilan’s capital town became a city in 1998. The Peace Advocates Zamboanga’ awards committee conferred on him the award, though posthumously, in recognition of his “boundless compassion, noble vision and just peace for the people Basilan.”
“In the eight years since his first election in 1998, Mayor Biel built a city hospital, government complex, public markets, two bus terminals, schools, day care and feeding centers for children, multi-purpose and barangay halls, roads for farmers, cultural centers for his Muslim constituents as well as Christians, health units, and many more,” the citation read.
“He created livelihood assistance programs for the poor, farmers, fishermen, rebel returnees and women for them to enjoy economic security and human dignity. He initiated and encouraged inter-cultural dialogue and interfaith programs amongst his Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters,” it added.
The committee also noted how Biel “proudly promoted the new city as a tourism destination mainly for its people’s rich and unique cultural diversity.”
Biel’s family managed a transportation business in Basilan with hundreds units of buses and passenger jitneys plying different routes reaching even far-flung areas. Before becoming the city’s chief executive, Biel also held different elective posts in the island.
The entire city mourned his death as “it meant a loss of a father and loss of a builder of Isabela,” Biel’s wife, Delia, said in accepting the award.
“He was a simple man but with big heart for Isabela City and for Isabeleños. He gave the contentment and peace to the heart (of Basilan people),” she said as she accepted the recognition before the award’s committee from Peace Advocates Zamboanga and the local interfaith group called Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace.
“His death, though, is not in vain, for men and women of goodwill continue to remember, honor and love him. Truly, the blood of this martyr will water our meadows of hope for a long, long time,” the citation read.
The Gukom Sog Pito Kodulungan (Gukom), Subanon council of seven rivers in the Zamboanga Peninsula is composed of some 30 timuays (chieftains) of various tribal communities, whose total present population is approximately 300,000, mostly living in the highlands of the southern part of the peninsula.
The awards committee cited the Gukom’s mission of reviving and consolidating the traditional form of leadership and governance in their efforts to federate their widely dispersed (Subanon) villages.
The committee also honored Gukom’s role as facilitator, mediator or arbiter in communal conflicts among its tribesmen.
“As such, it is an authentic modern-day peacemaker who utilizes time-honored, traditional ethnic norms of conflict management and resolution. Its continuing successes are reinforcing the Subanons’ sense of indigenous identity and pride, thereby empowering them to achieve their many hopes and dreams,” the citation stated.
Gukom, through the support of other civil society groups, also served as its people’s vanguard in their quest for better social and economic well-being.
“Indeed, this awarding occasion is considered as the most memorable event in the history of our Subanon people,” said Gukom chieftain Timuay Noval Lambo in his acceptance address.
Aside from it being the first award they received, the Timuay said, it also recognized Subanon people despite “our being the most marginalized tribe in our present society.”
He assured that Subanon had been and will remain peace-loving citizen in this region.
“Peace-building has been observed faithfully and religiously by our Subanon people up to the present time. Where there is peace, the Subanons are there,” he stated in response to the common goal of the award.
Fr. Angel Calvo, PAZ president and chair of the awards committee said the recognition is given annually to individuals or groups who demonstrated consistent effort and works in promoting peace and development in different areas and fields and their communities.
Previous awardees include fomer Zamboanga Archbishop Carmelo Morelos, the late Muslim leader Professor Amilussin Jumaani, community worker James Alih Abdul and Miriam Suacito, Tausug women rights advocate Piang Albar, former Basilan Bishops Romulo dela Cruz and Jose Ma. Querexeta and Fr. Rhoel Gallardo.
The Peace Weaver Award is also part of the annual activity calendared for the weeklong celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace. This year’s celebration started on November 29 and ends on December 05. (Nung Aljani/MindaNews)