In my understanding, Carol invited me due to my writings I shared at Kusog Mindanao e-group particularly my “Nostalgia in Jolo” and my initial writing “The Last Testament,” which was my unpublished (and I planned to develop) paper about the late Bishop Benjamin de Jesus. The latter was based on my cassette tape interview which I conducted at Fr. Ben’s Carmelite Residence in Jolo a few months before he was assassinated. I’d promised Carol to share these writings soon in commemoration of Fr. Ben’s death anniversary in February. The other part of the difficulty was the concern whether I could maintain yet another column. I also write for another website like the Singapore-based Opinionasia.Org. I contribute, too, some of my writings to other websites elsewhere. I felt my additional responsibility at MindaNews would already be taxing enough. This is not to mention that I also need to write my ongoing researches, papers and lectures.
Also, I was concerned with the topics to write: they should carry, I thought, some varieties and must reach the right audience. But, I realized, this concern is already outmoded. The age of specialization is over. Barriers of information, news and opinions are now torn down by the internet. In many cases, even if one’s writings are already posted in a website, other people could simply smuggle and re-post it in other sites without even informing the author or host where that article was originally taken. So why should I worry with my additional writing load and the site that hosts it? Writing and researching have never been as easy these days; they’re fun too. What matters most is not what news or opinions an individual writes and where s/he posts it but how informative, enlightening and sharp his or her perspectives are.
I remember to have been invited by a media center few months ago requesting me to be part of so-called “experts” on Mindanao while requesting my past and present writings to be listed and possibly archived in their site to facilitate the works of journalist and media particularly on the need to understand the context of Mindanao conflict. While I appreciated the invitation, I turned it down though. I believe the globalization of information has broken the monopoly of media including the thoughts of experts making them in some sense passé. I believe journalists don’t need to be told about the contexts of what they write; it’s their role to be informed and to struggle to learn them. They also don’t need to be told who the “experts” are. Good journalists know by knowledge or by instinct, the sources of information they think are helpful for them. What I strongly object is the "power" and "interest" behind major media today including their unbridled commercialization that impinge on the choice and objectivity of many journalists and media practitioners. It's the people who exercise power and advance their interest in media, if at all, who need to be educated.
To maintain a column at MindaNews provides me the “cyberspace” to articulate my perspectives on a wide range of issues particularly about Mindanao to a broader reach of cyber audience. It also poses pressure on me to regularly put my thought into writing than to simply express them verbally with my students, colleagues, friends and other people. While exchanging views in e-group like Kusog Mindanao are interesting, only its members have the chance to read them, unlike at MindaNews and other websites. When I inquired from Carol regarding editorial concern or other condition, she did not respond. I assumed that she relied on columnist’s sense of responsibility and professionalism for any thought s/he wanted to share at MindaNews.
The only concern Carol raised was the title of my column. After consulting few friends and listing few words – English and indigenous – I decided to use the word “crucible.” Originally, I listed the words "perspective," "vantage point," "critic" and others. I also tried Tausug words like Lupah Sug (Sulu), Batah Sug (Son of Sulu), Mahardikah (Independence) Kasabunnalan (Truth), Kalimayahan (Freedom), Kaadilan (Justice), Salam (Peace) and Sajahitrah (Prosperity) as possible title. I tried to choose from this menu of Tausug words because I noticed many columnists at MindaNews carried mostly Bisayan and Lumad terms for their columns. But since MindaNews is based in Davao with predominantly Bisayan and Lumad speakers and readers, I’d rather respect them by not following the same bandwagon or intruding into their domain and style. Perhaps, if most readers of MindaNews are Tausug-speaking, then I’d probably use one of the words above. I don’t want to be interpreted as peddli
ng my puerile banana in areas known with their own banana.
According to Encarta Dictionary, crucible means “a severe trial or ordeal.” It is also “a place of set of circumstances where people or things are subjected to forces that test and often make them change.” In a sense, “crucible” describes Mindanao and other areas in the world that experience “trial or ordeal” most of them without respite. While many people look at the “trial” of Mindanao as negative, in another sense, for people to be subjected to an “ordeal” could mean they are given the opportunity to face the challenge so that they are better able to reveal the best of themselves, something that should not break their will but should embolden their national spirit as a people. Viewed in social plane thus, crucible is a dynamic concept of challenge that describes no less than life itself: to toil and to struggle so that one realizes his or her full potential as a way to appreciate life's higher meaning.
Finally, this column endeavors to enliven the analysis of both symbolic and social meaning the “crucible” facing Mindanao and other issues of national and international significance. While there can possibly be times that the thought, language, and style herein may probably appear unconventional, critical, and at times, intimidating, they are not intended to destroy but to build; not to hurt but to inspire; not to live idly or to suffer in contempt but to advance a perspective that subjects us and our assumptions into a crucible so that our best is revealed from the good and the better. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Dr. Julkipli Wadi is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman).