Peace through badminton attracts big crowd

It seems to have gotten the attention of many a badminton enthusiast as the tournament attracted a total of 558 players (or 279 pairs) from all over the country, cutting across various sectors, including religious (both Muslims and Christians), soldiers, students, government officials, and many more. Organizers over a hundred more in the waiting list could not be accommodated anymore.

The crowd at the Sports Zone has swelled even in the sweltering heat since the three-day tournament's start last Friday, all the way till evening.

Maybe the prize money has something to do with it as the organizers — Philippine Agrarian Reform Fund for National Development (PARFUND) and the Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI), non-governmental organizations based in Manila and Cagayan de Oro, respectively — bankrolled a total of P1 million for the winners.

"The prize sure is attractive," said enthusiast Iking Batara, a professor from nearby Iligan City.

The champions for the Class A and Open categories will each be getting P60,000; P40,000 for  each of the winners in Class B, C and D; and P10,000 each for the best players in Class E and F. Not to mention the runner ups.

The lowest prizes are for the tailend winners for the lowest categories, at P5,000 each, which Cagayan de Oro player Joel Mahinay said is usually the top prize for many tournaments.

For Fr. Joel Lusat, parish priest of the St. Rita's Parish in Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental, "peace isn't all serious work."

"We can also attain it through relaxation and friendship. Even if it's just a game, we build friendships this way," he said.

2Lt. Nanie Sibayan, of the Army's 602nd Infantry Brigade based in Carmen, North Cotabato, seconded the priest, saying that the "badminton court can also serve as a venue for peace."

"People get to know more people from various sectors," she said. "Like the civilians, we're also tired of the war," Sibayan revealed.

Sibayan even pointed out that back in their area of responsibility, they are even engaged in sports activities with some elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), thanks to his boss, Maj. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the 6th Infantry Division, who is pioneering the military's peace-building efforts.

For Cheska Olano, a second year high school student at St. Mary's School here, joining the tournament is not just about winning medals and trophies, or meeting new friends. "More importantly, today is a historic event  for us because for the first time in history, players from different parts of Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon come together in the spirit of friendship to lay for peace in Mindanao," she stressed.

"The war our elders chose to fight is not our war. We did not choose to fight. We do not choose war. We choose peace. And this tournament is our way of making our voices heard," said the young student, daughter of PARFUND's Butch Olano.

Ariel Hernandez, BMFI executive director, said the tournament is his group's attempt at spreading out the issue of peace to as many people.

BMFI has been involved in peace building activities on various fronts, including settling disputes among the Higaonon clans in the hinterlands of Misamis Oriental, acting as independent secretariat in the ongoing peace process between the government and the communist breakaway group Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Mindanao (RPM-M), and holding peace building seminars among soldiers in Mindanao. (Bobby Timonera / MindaNews)