Mindanao into the 21st Century: A photographic Journey

The habalhabal is a motorcycle with wooden extension behind its body to serve as extra seats, with or without a roof to protect the passengers from sun and rain. Along with its big brother the “Skylab,” which has extensions protruding sideways that make it appear like its namesake, the habalbal is ubiquitous here in Mindanao and can navigate through narrow streets and even overtake four-wheel drive vehicles along rough roads.

It is very much like Mindanao, which has navigated through extremely difficult pathways and terrains in its journey across a troubled century and against all odds, and which has moved forward into the new millennium determined to correct historical injustices and find solutions to end the conflict.

In the eyes of many, Mindanao is “backward,” a place to be avoided, an island of danger, war, terrorists, bombings, mass evacuations, a constant no-no in travel advisories of embassies.

These images of Mindanao, the country’s resource-richest island, have been carried over from the last century into the next – images of war, environmental degradation, exploitation, injustice, neglect.

The violence and wars notwithstanding, Mindanawons have moved on.

Indeed, as Mindanawons we find ways to work around our limitations, improve our situation with what little we have and go on with life. We stumble, we fall in our journey many times, but we get up and move on. We move on even with our meager resources, even with the most primitive of tools – like the habalhabal on our cover.

Like Mindanao, MindaNews has, despite its limited resources, continued to move on and this year, we celebrate 10 years of documenting our island’s issues, dreams, woes and hopes.
These images we have collected in the first 10 years of the new millennium, we would like to share with you.

The photographs in this book offer a ringside view of Mindanao through the lens of MindaNews photographers. We share our awe at finding majestic waterfalls in areas where Mindanao still has lush forests. Grieve with us at the sight of her once stately mountains now ravaged by mining. Stand with us as we accompany Mindanawons not only in fleeing the war or burying the dead, but also in celebrating a Lumad wedding and triumphantly conquering the surging waves.

We divided the book into two major parts – the major news events of the first decade of the 21st century, and life in Mindanao by geographic location. We attempted to present the news events in chronological order but abandoned the idea because some events cut across timelines. In classifying the pictures by location, we grouped these into provinces arranged alphabetically; the cities are placed in the provinces where they are geographically located, or where they are closest.

Join us in our journey of reliving the major events in Mindanao in the first decade of the new millennium, a decade that sadly, began with an “all-out war” but which also strengthened the many peacebuilding initiatives that have built up hopes for peace in the next decade beginning 2011.

Allow us through these photographs, to guide you to the other places of Mindanao and discover its other faces and facets.


(Introduction to Mindanao into the 21st Century: A photographic journey, by editor Bobby Timonera)