The bakwits of Mindalano: finally, a roof over their heads

MINDALANO, Salvador, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews/22 December) – Two-year old Norhanif  was a picture of serenity as he slept in a hammock fashioned out of a malong (multipurpose tube-like clothing) which his twin sister, Norhanifa, was swaying gently.

The twins, children of Sinawida and Adap Cabasaran, are now sheltered in a newly-constructed all-concrete house, one of  10 built for  families who lost their homes at the height of  the armed confrontations between military forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Located 10 kilometers from the national highway, this village has also been the target of cattle rustlers.

“We are so happy because in the past years, we had no home of our own. I am happy that my children are finally in a house we can call our own,” said Sinawida, smiling.

Aside from the 10 houses, the partnership of Pakigdait, Inc., the local government and the United Nations-ACT (Action for Conflict Transofrmation) for Peace Programme-StRIDE, also turned over two rice and agricultural trading centers, a day care center and a health station.

The entire project cost P1.8 million.

James Ali Abdul, area manager of ACT for Peace-Western Mindanao office, said it was the first time he saw all-concrete core shelters for displaced villagers like the Cabasarans.

“In other areas, they were able to manage to construct partly concrete and half wooden houses.”

He attributed this to the ability of the local government, soldiers, and civil society’s partnership in pooling their resources.

He said ACT for Peace “engaged all conflict-affected residents in the transition of relief services, reintegration, restoration of livelihood, and in analyzing the root causes of conflicts as well as
how these can be addressed.

“We can’t allow perpetual displacement,” he said.

Abdul attributed the fast completion of the project to the municipal leadership that valued the relevance of “dialogue and partnership for social cohesion.”

Abdullah Dimaporo, former congressman of the second district of Lanao del Norte, thanked the Aquino administration for continuing the reconstruction and rehabilitation of conflict-affected communities despite their family’s ‘open support to the presidential candidacy of  President Aquino’s cousin, Gilberto Teodoro, in the May 2010 elections.

Dimaporo spoke to residents here on behalf of his daughter, Rep. Aliah, and governor-son,  Khalid who are both in Manila.

“The political winners are not our party mates but the people have spoken through their vote and we must follow the laws of our country to retain peace,” he said, adding President Aquino’s success is also for our good. His services to the people include Lanao del Norte, thus, we must become good lawful people of our nation and cooperative to the endeavors of our local government, soldiers and policemen to ensure peace and development will continually pour in our hinterland communities.”

Dimaporo said that “people’s lives in Mindalano will change with the construction of day care and health center because this means children can readily avail of health services and basic education.”

He asked the local government to provide a nurse and a midwife who would regularly function and take care of the community’s health.

“The success of the projects’ implementation depends on the proactive brothers in politics and residents involvement,” he said.

“All of you here Maranaos, are my relatives in politics and by blood, good or bad. If members of the MILF will disturb the town, there are also those who’d be willing to spend their lives to protect the community.”

Sultan Johny Tawantawan, municipal administrator of Salvador and father of the current mayor, said they were able to build all-concrete houses because there were counterparts from the baranay and the municipality.

“I hope people will take care of these projects because in turn you can depend on us to maintain the peace and security of the village,”  he said.

He also reminded barangays officials not to spend the 20% budget for barangay development because other institutions who will come to assist them will look for counterparts.

Col. Cresente Ferrer, commanding officer of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, commited to help more people’s projects by providing their services and security assistance.

“These constructed projects are evidences of good governance and leadership which inspired cooperation of all stakeholders. Without it, the project is doomed to fail,” he said.

“I ask residents to maintain these values. Let us be reminded that  without peace, you can’t farm; children can’t go to school without economic means to support them; and those wars transform all school facilities as evacuation centers.”

Musa Sanguila, executive director of Pakidait Inc., a non-government organization focusing on   interfaith dialogue for peacebuilding appreciates residents’ cooperation in rebuilding the community and credited the AFP’s services in hauling the construction materials.

Thirthy children enrolled in the day care center also received bags, school supplies, and coloring books. Women also got support in developing their communal garden.

The community is also a beneficiary of training and seminars on culture of peace, on United Nations General Principles on Internally Displaced Persons and on financial management. They also received a substantial amount as capital for agricultural trading.

The Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (Cafod) also supported in the social preparation conducted by Pakigdait Inc.

Iligan-based Anglican bishop Stephen Villaester also witnessed the turn-over ceremony. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)