PEACETALK: Do not hold the future of the Bangsamoro in captivity

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 Feb) — I speak for my generation. I speak for a generation that is quick to pass on judgment. I speak for a generation of multiple truths. A consequence of instantaneous feedback and social media, my generation forgets to take a standstill. We forget to listen. We forget to look back to understand where we are today.

My family is among the settlers in Mindanao. My father’s roots come from Southern Tagalog while my mother’s come from Central Visayas. I was born and raised in Davao, a mile more comfortable than Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sulu or Basilan. I had the opportunity to attend school. I hardly missed a day. It was only when I got sick that I had to miss my classes. Every day, I would go home to a family that is complete with enough food on the table. I felt safe and without a care about what awaits tomorrow.

Antara, the child in the Bangsamoro would have a different story. Unlike my childhood, this child learned to have marathoner skills at age 5. Why wouldn’t he? Every time skirmishes came about, he had to walk or run kilometers to find a safe place. In place of the alarm clock, he would awake at the sound of gunfire and the screams of anger of soldiers and rebels. He hardly had time to go to school – evacuating from one place to another was all he learned all his life.

His father, a farmer, was a product of the Martial Law. His mother who had him at 15 tries to make ends meet by selling some locally made goodies near the highway. Also children of conflict, his parents have not had any chance at a better life. In Antara’s family, only one can read and write – the luckiest to have stepped in fourth grade. His sisters would eventually get married at an early age to ease the burden from their family. And so the cycle goes. Unlike me, Antara sleeps every night, with real fear of what tomorrow might bring.

Every time I open my social media accounts, I cringe at the lack of humanity among the privileged kind. Many would say that an all-out war is the solution, most of whom are comfortably living in Imperial Manila or in Visayas. There are Mindanawons who are ignorant enough to shun the Moro and Lumad narrative as if living in today’s so-called democratic state is enough for us to be equals. The damage of war takes decades to restore. Those who have been affected by it continue to bleed from the pain and brokenness.

The state in which we are in today is the saddest place possible. Today, in our hands lie that opportunity to create a new narrative – to take the path to peace because no one wins war after all. In our hands, we can revive the lost glory of our Bangsamoro communities -a place that remains culturally our own in a country that has almost, if not, fully assimilated Western traits. But it is these same hands that can just throw it all away.

People who say “No to BBL” are courageous enough because its signing will not make any difference to them. They say “no to BBL” because they are afraid to lose their power, the upper hand in this ongoing struggle. This is the same fear the Moros and Lumads felt when Marcos opened Mindanao to Filipinos from Luzon and Visayas. Mindanao is my home and I will forever be grateful for the space it has given us. The land of promise, as they say. But I would also be happy to see the Moros and Lumads reintegrated back to society; to lead their own people and to reach their own aspirations.

Saying No to BBL is a great show of greed. Demand justice for the fallen 68 of the Mamasapano Tragedy but do not hold the BBL hostage to it. Do not hold the future of the Bangsamoro in captivity. The BBL is not for our generation but for the children of today. If we fail once again, we only breed another generation of rebels; another generation of lost opportunities; lost lives, lost trust and respect.

Let us tell the Bangsamoro people that it is time to stop running. The soles of their feet are all wounded, swollen and bruised. It has been 40 long years of conflict. It is our chance to show them the way back home, where together we can embrace diversity, share the opportunities and live in harmony with each other.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Malaya is a 31-year old development practitioner who has worked in both local and international organisations on programme management, communications and partnerships. Born and raised in Davao City, Mindanao, she holds a Master’s in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management. Malaya requested that her full name be withheld).