REFLECTIONS: Magsukul, Yusoph Jikiri

(Susan Palad posted this on her Facebook page on September 24, 2020.  Ms Palad married Yusoph Jikiri after the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between government and the Moro National Liberation Front where Jikiri was then Chief of Staff of the Bangsa Moro Army. Palad was then in charge of the rebel rehabilitation program of the Southern Philippines Development Authority. She and Jikiri have two children, Kahlil Imran and Sana-a Elizabeth. She says she repeatedly explained to her children that “he does not belong to us but to his people.” Jikiri succumbed to bone cancer in Sulu at 11 p.m. on 17 October 2020. M salad granted MindaNews permission to re-publish this piece).

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 October) — Now I can afford to say…. Magsukul (thank you) to this man who gave me my two children.

I met him when he was the Chief of Staff of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and days prior to the signing of the Final Peace Agreement.

He was a kind man. Generous to a fault. Humble because of his poor beginnings. His house in Pasil, Indanan (in Sulu) during his MNLF days was a small one with no wooden floors. Just the hard earth.

Tausugs were telling me that when he was Governor of Sulu he slept on a piece of carton while taking a ride in the overloaded boat from Jolo to Zamboanga.

Yusoph Jikiri. Photo courtesy of Susan Palad

When he wants to have an audience with the Maas (Nur Misuari) while the latter was Governor of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), he will sit on one corner and wait for his turn in the long steady line of visitors until a staff would spot him and immediately bring him inside Misuari’s office. He will always stay “unahin mo ba yung mga tao na nangangailangan ng tulong”.

Deep in his heart, he is a warrior of the MNLF and what it stands for. He is more comfortable drinking coffee with them than with government officials or dignitaries, telling the same stories over and over again until they realized they still have to go somewhere…

His eyes can turn gentle and I have seen him a couple of times crying but his eyes could also suddenly smoulder with bridled anger and those were the times that you need to get out of his way. Fast.

He was an enigma to many. He was considered as a man from the mountains (taong Guimba) but he is one of those enigmatic Muslim leaders.

It was not an easy road he took. A road less travelled.

He was one of the fiercest warriors of the MNLF and when President Ramos came to Jolo he asked Misuari who Yusop Jikiri is and the venerable leader pointed out to this man clinging for dear life at the back of the jeep. That,Mr President is the Chief of Staff of the MNLF! Ramos reportedly has not seen a picture of this arch enemy of the state.

I would have liked to write a story of this elusive man, a former husband and father of my two children. He became a governor and congressman without much resources. Just the affection of the simple people of the troubled islands who had high hopes that perhaps this man who is one of them could make a difference. Our failed marriage created deep scars though and it must be difficult for him to sit in front of a woman who has shared his past.

When he met an accident lately in the mountains of Sulu while rescuing kidnap victims from the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group), my children got worried and wanted to travel to Sulu. He is after all their father. He is slowly recuperating though according to relatives.

I hope someday we can sit under an old tree like good friends drinking kahawa coffee and he can tell me the complete story of his life……

Till then may the Almighty Allah protect you always and keep you in the palm of His hands.

 

 

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