The NGO personnel came here to join the residents in celebrating kanduri sa barangay (thanksgiving), seven months after they were displaced by military operations against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). But they could not help noticing the bad state of the road, which they viewed to have hindered local development.
Rodrigo Gamit, a consultant of Ecoweb Inc, said the road condition means lack of access to development opportunities and medical services, among others. He said it would explain why civilians could be easily influenced by rebels.
“This place looks like a God-forsaken country,” he added.
Gamit said farmers could enjoy assistance if the road was better.
He cited the presence of coconut trees, which he said are unsuited to the area’s elevation. Coffee would have thrived better, he said.
Kriz Cruzado, of Peacebuilder Inc. based in Davao City, could not help but yell each time the vehicle swayed like a boat on rough seas.
“I wish I could have just walked,” she said.
“Indeed, the road to hell is better than this road,” Sultan sa Poonapiagapo Abdul Jabbar Rinibatan said.
He said the government should give them a better road so that they can easily transport their farm produce to the market and bring their patients and expectant mothers to hospitals in the city.
Music from gongs, gandang and kulintang played by residents offered relief to the group as they reached Barangay Pantaon.
A number of children and adults gathered together under a rainbow-colored tent that shielded them from the scorching heat of the sun.
On a stage made of wood and bamboo built by Maranao youth, traditional leaders sat.
The youth, who vowed to preserve their culture, gracefully performed the kapamalong-malong (a dance that illustrates the use of malong) and kasingkil (a fan dance). Male youth sang Maranao songs and an elder her bayuk, a traditional song that tells a portion of the Darangan epic and their lives.
“Since the barangay came into being, this is the first time ever that we have a festive kanduri with five other barangays here,” said Linang Aguam, a barangay official of Pantaon.
Barangays Cablangan, Nunungun, Tangcalo, Poblacion and Pantaon co-celebrated this occasion.
She said the celebration was meant to thank for the assistance extended by Ecoweb Inc., Caritas Australia and Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD).
She said the community was happy over the water system and vegetable production project and that these inspired them to work more and transcend their traumatic experiences.
“We are so thankful to Allah,” she added.
Like Aguam, the Maranao youth in the community were also inspired to do farming with the assistance given to them.
Rasmia Macarandas, a community organizer, said they need to inspire their elders too.
He showed guests the newly established botika sa barangay (pharmacy in the barangay) and the health centers they have established after undertaking health related trainings.
The pharmacy, however, still had few supplies of medicines.
Manman Disomangcop, a volunteer who works with Reconciliatory Initiative for Development Opportunities (RIDO), showed a video on their experiences as farmers.
Before dusk, the visitors went to the corn fields of some farmers to see how natural farming was faring against commercial fertilizers.
Regina Antequisa, executive director of Ecoweb Inc., said that the water system and other assistance were part of a program to mitigate conflict in Pantoa-ragat.
“It is hoped to put an end to rebellion, if poverty and lack of access to social services are the causes of rebellion,” Antequisa said.
She emphasized that apart from the local government units and partners the sultanate plays a vital role in realizing this ‘dream’.
“It should be remembered that all of these started when we strengthened the sultanate structure and capacitate the family to lead in development. We dreamed of water, health support and agricultural development. The dream is now a reality. Therefore, the family should work to preserve, protect and sustain these developments,” said Sultan Rinibatan. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)