PIKIT, North Cotabato (MindaNews/13 May) – Some residents of this town who were displaced during the wars in 2000, 2001 and 2003 between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front went home for today’s polls.
The residents returned to Barangays Bago Inged, Buliok, Rajamuda and Talitay but went back to the town proper after casting their votes.
Salabanan Amin, a fish vendor at the public market, arrived in Talitay around 7a.m. along with her husband Magkasing.
Amin said she has been living in the town proper since 1995. “We were displaced when skirmishes erupted here. Though we returned home here for a few months we were always on the run due to the war,” she recalled.
Magkasing added that in previous elections they also came back to Talitay.
“Many of us here who were displaced during the wars in the past would just come back to vote. We don’t have a house here anymore, it was burned during the war,” he recounted.
Like the Amins, many other voters arrived on board the tricycles and motorcycles coming from the town proper.
Wafa Mabang said she just came to Talitay to cast her vote. “We have a house in the town proper but we only come here to work in our farm.”
Mabang said they were displaced during the wars in the past. “We came here to vote, we voted for those who believe in and support the peace process,” she pointed out.
Outside the schools, dozens of motorcycles parked as the river became alive with motorized pumpboats ferrying passengers.
Bago Inged, Buliok, Rajamuda and Talitay sit along the Pulangi River, which borders the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.
Another voter in Buliok who refused to give her name told Mindanews that they have been living in the town proper after they were displaced in 2003.
“We came here today to vote but we will return to the town proper afterwards,” the woman in her mid-40s said as she pointed to three of her relatives who also queued under the heat of the sun at Buliok Elementary school.
Hundreds of thousands were displaced during the wars between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and government forces.
Some returned to their homes months after the war, but some opted to stay with their relatives in the town proper, only returning to their villages to work on their farm as well as to vote during elections.
The war in 2003 left the villages along the riverbank in darkness as electric lines were destroyed making voting hard for the elderly.
But Mabang used the built-in flashlight of her mobile phone when he cast her vote in a dimly-lit room.
“I could barely see the numbers so I used my mobile phone’s flashlight to make sure that I have shaded the right candidate,” she explained.
It took her 25 minutes to cast her vote.
One of the teachers who served as member of the board of election inspectors in Talitay was hoping that the battery could last up to 12 hours.
“I’m hoping that after this election, the provincial government will install electric power lines down to the last barangay along the riverbank,” she said. (Keith Bacongco/ Mindanews)