WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Fearless women

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 October) — The weather was threatening to turn wild, but my plane managed to leave Iloilo on time last Wednesday. Ralph was waiting for me at the arrival area to whisk me off to Gensan. I was cutting it too close, but I hoped my luck would hold and we would get to East Asia Royal in time for the No More Guns research forum featuring four fearless ladies – all alumni of the Asian Public Intellectual fellowship.

I would have gotten to Gensan earlier had it not been for scheduling snags. My Iloilo sojourn had originally been intended for the 30th when my daughter would turn 17. A biology freshman at the UP in the Visayas, Sage has readily soaked up the Iskolar ng Bayan mentality, with its scornful derision of decadent sentimentality. It, she said, was just another exam day and parental visits are better reserved for the weekend. So I ended up transferring my booking, chuckling at how my daughter can be charming even when she’s being forceful.

I am putty in her pretty little hands.

I whisper to hubby my chagrin at suddenly finding myself on the other side of the line our daughter has drawn. Seven weeks away and she’s used to being without me. He pats my hand and whispers back how he can make me feel better to make up for the perceived rejection. Thank God for hubby who makes it his life’s work to keep his fearless women at peace.

I made it to the API forum with minutes to spare. This was a big day for my good friends Rufa Guiam of Mindanao State U in Gensan and Rosalie Hall of UP Visayas. They hatched this plan together as an outreach endeavor to balance their instructional excellence and research credentials.

Yep, that’s how we are rated in the academe. We get points for instruction, research, and community extension. You have to have something to show for each area. I think it’s a lot easier for psychologists because we can draw on our practice of profession and claim it for extension work.

Rufa and Rosie are formidable. I remember doing my fly on the wall bit and listening in to the two of them pitching this project for Steve Rood of The Asia Foundation to fund. This was during the launching of Willy Torres’ expanded Rido book which I had the privilege to host at the Ateneo de Davao last summer. Watching the ladies lay down their case had me thinking walang kawala ang kawawang Steve. He pushed his plate of mini sandwiches my way and gave them his full attention.

To buy time, Steve points his finger to Rose, then to Rufa, then to me: “There’s you and you, and what is Gail doing here?”

The tasty morsel midway to my mouth, I replied, “Hey, I am just listening in.” And enjoying myself watching you try to wriggle out of this one, Steve.

Of course, Steve said yes. And, as it turned out, I wasn’t about to be left listening in. The ladies emailed some weeks back asking me to be a reactor/discussant at the forum.

Rufa and Rose were joined by two wonderful ladies – Thai journalist Prangtip Daorueng and Indonesian law school dean Rina Shahrullah. Prangtip, a member of API Batch 1, examined emerging interethnic efforts at managing communal conflict in Pattani. Rina, on the other hand, discussed the socio-legal implications of the peace pact forged through a 7-year mediation process between the Malay and Madurese peoples of the Sambas Regency in West Kalimantan.

Rosalie presented an inventory of the hybrid local conflict resolution initiatives among the Iranun in the area of Buldon, Barira, Parang, and Matanog. She gave a very incisive analysis of how these hybridities intersected with institutional and legal mechanisms and proposed the limits to their effectiveness.

Rufa, for her part, talked about grassroots peacebuilding initiatives in some Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat villages. A very interesting speaker on the topic of relevant research, she drew a lot of self-deprecating laughs with her dismissal of “safe” research topics as unworthy of academic inquiry.

I have to agree. There are so many social phenomena that we need to understand better in order to help make things better for others. I salute these fearless women for going out of their comfort zones and giving the rest of us the empirical data on which to base our opinion of how things are in those places where bullets are more likely to fly to whom it may concern.

What these ladies turned up all fly in the face of textbook and legal information on conflict resolution, and we are all the richer for hearing them talk about it. I say if it works and if this is how the people choose to live with each other, the only thing the rest of us can do is to dignify the choice people make to buy peace.

My daughters would someday grow to be dauntless women like Rose and Rufa, Prangtip and Rina. And yes, like me. Most definitely. They’ll defy the textbook and come out holding up some precious bit of the truth to our world as it is, I pray they’ll come away then with both feet still firmly grounded.

I’m not worried. After all, hubby will be there to keep the peace. (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to [email protected] “Send at the risk of a reply,” she says.)

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