Mindanao bloggers urged to promote peace and understanding

Speaking to at least 60 bloggers at the opening ceremonies of the 1st Mindanao Bloggers’ Summit, organizers and resource speakers took turns in urging bloggers to publish entries that contribute to understanding

Oliver Robillo, head of the organizers said blogging, if done collectively, could help influence society.

"As bloggers, we are in possession of a potentially influential medium, and it is that ability that we can harness in order to impress upon the world that Mindanao is in fact a beautiful place. We know that ourselves. We know that we are of diverse, and yet somehow harmonious, cultures. We have in our midst different but fascinating traditions," he said.

Robillo said bloggers could tell the rest of the world the real situation in Mindanao.

 "Our blogs can be the agents of change. Through our collective voices, we will be able to effect certain improvements. By letting our blogs' readers see our everyday lives, our work, our involvements, our passions – which we write about – they will be given a glimpse of the true images of Mindanao.

"By our blogging, the negative publicity surrounding the Philippine South might soon be overcome, Robillo said.

Hundreds of blogs run by Mindanawons and non-Mindanawons with Mindanao subjects have emerged in the last five years as online publishing gained hold in Mindanao's urban centers.

Around 120 bloggers earlier confirmed to attend the summit, a side event of the 6th MICT (Mindanao Information and Communications Technology) Congress here this week.   

The summit’s theme was "Spotlight Mindanao: Blogging for Culture, Identity and Understanding."

Jesuit priest Albert Alejo of the Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue said bloggers as communicators should assume a positive role of helping provide cohesion in society.

"At the heart of conflict is miscommunication, which brings misrepresentation," he said referring to the key issues in Mindanao on land, history and identity.

Alejo gave a presentation on connectivity of conflict, culture, and communication, urging bloggers to help communities put up their blogs to get their messages across.

"Communication means empowering people to articulate their experience, to use information and computer technology to build up a social movement," he added.

He said blogs should contain materials that help clarify history and bridge gaps in understanding among peoples in Mindanao and those from outside.

"Misrepresentation rendered them (the marginalized) invisible, and unable to articulate who they are, what they know, need and aspire for," Alejo said.

Davao City Councilor Peter Laviña, who was introduced as the first elected official to blog in the country, promoted his advocacy on responsible citizenship by using free blogging to encourage participatory governance.

Robillo said the summit is an opportunity to upscale the purpose of blogs and one's technical capacity to run blogs.

"By becoming better bloggers in a technical sense, it could follow that we also become better advocates of a brighter Mindanao," Robillo said.

In the afternoon, a draft Declaration of Commitment embodying the bloggers’ beliefs and aspirations for better understanding in Mindanao” was passed around for approval and signature

Robillo told MindaNews the Declaration was approved.

The bloggers committed to “use blogging as a means to appreciate the beauty of the people, culture, places, creativity, spirituality, development, and peace in Mindanao” and to reject “narrow-mindedness, religious/cultural/gender intolerance that curtail free expression and dampen our passion to connect with one another and to our land.” (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)