Zamboangueños: Crisis far from over

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 29 Sept) — The crisis in Zamboanga City is far from over. 

This is the common sentiment among local bankers and businessmen here, even as Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas declared on Saturday that “normalcy is returning to Zamboanga City.”

For banker Teresita Sebastian, “to me, it appeared that there was a movie in the making and Zamboanga City was the stage.”

“The military offensive was the easy way out. The magnitude of the repercussion is unquantifiable,” Sebastian lamented.

Days ago, businessman Remie Talaver was also expressing how the entire city was economically held hostage, saying that “businesses have been paralyzed” and that the day-to-day losses have mounted up.

Lucy, a small-scale businesswoman who operates a school canteen, said the suspension of classes has affected her daily income and as her family lost that supposed income for their daily living, so did their kitchen staff.

Shortly after Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said “Mission accomplished” in Saturday’s press conference here, fire broke out in Rio Hondo, one of the heavily-affected coastal villages in the three-week armed conflict between government troops and the Moro National Liberation Front forces under founding chair Nur Misuari.

Students who have been very busy volunteering at various evacuation centers during the conflict, are now facing a new dilemma:  their academic requirements.

“The graduating batch is pressured with studies,” said Aissha Zubair Kabeer, a nursing student of Ateneo De Zamboanga University whose family also packed up within the first three days of the conflict.

“The war may be over as declared.  Right now my aunt and I were supposed to go there to see if we can clean the house but apparently one of my cousins said we aren’t allowed yet because there’s trouble again there,” she said.

Many Zamboangueños have been expressing disappointment over the way the national government handled the conflict. On social media, the rants have been directed towards Secretaries Roxas and Gazmin.

“No hay sila pensa kay aqui na Zamboanga, puede lang lleba na cuento el problema (They did not think that here in Zamboanga, problems may be addressed through dialogue,” said Jay Cabayacruz, a Sunday technical-vocational student.

Melinda Miguel, a government employee, observed that discrimination against Muslims is starting to brew because leaders from up north in Manila went ahead with their decisions with a lack of understanding for local culture.

“It’s heartbreaking how some people generalized all Muslims as rebels and evil.  Na-feel ko po ngayon ‘yung discrimination,” shared Sitti Alliya Jubail, a young Muslim writer who just brought honor to Mindanao for having been the only Mindanawon to be among the board topnotchers in the 2013 National Midwifery Licensure Examinations.

Roxas made a dramatic pronouncement when he said, “siege in Zamboanga is over.  We honor the fallen, the brave and the soldiers and policemen who died for their countrymen.”  To many Zamboangueños however, it was only the war that ended.  The rebuilding of lives will take a long time. “Who will rebuild my home now, which stood in Sta. Barbara for 23 years?” asked Amelia Marquez.

“The ‘over’ here means ‘over one hump’ only.  The bigger hump is before us.  We must unite to rebuild on all fronts—the physical infrastructure is easy.  The wounds of division, the rebuilding of our image as a city, as a people, the core of our identity—these and more, are unquantifiable,” emphasized banker Sebastian.  (Frencie Carreon / MindaNews)