GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 06 Sept) – Journalist Patricio Ponce Diaz will be laid to rest on Saturday, September 7 at the Forest Lake Memorial Park here after the 10:30 a.m. mass officiated by his friend, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, the Archbishop Emeritus of Cotabato.
The 93-year old Diaz, described by Quevedo as “editor and writer extraordinaire,” passed away on August 29 at the St. Elizabeth Hospital in General Santos City. His remains were brought to the Presidential Chapel of the Cosmopolitan Memorial Chapels.
The funeral mass for the chronicler of Mindanao history since 1952 will be held at the Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Church in Lagao, Diaz’ own parish and where the final viewing is scheduled at 9:30 to 10:25 a.m, according to daughter Dolly Lo.
Diaz was rushed to the hospital as he was preparing to leave for mass to celebrate his 93rd birthday on August 25.
Quevedo, presider of that birthday mass, said Diaz was “the most important secondary historian of the MILF Bangsa Moro rebellion,” and an “illustrious English and World Literature teacher of hundreds of NDU (Notre Dame University) students, many of whom became celebrities like (Cotabato) Archbishop Angelito Lampon.”
Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) peace implementing panel and Minister for Education in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said he will miss “one of the few Christian writers in Mindanao who wrote objectively about the conflict in this region.”
“For biased readers, he was viewed as pro-Moro … (but) he was simply writing what truthfully is to be narrated.”
“My utmost and sincerest condolence to his family and relatives,” said Iqbal.
Datu Michael Mastura, former Congressman and senior member of the MILF panel that negotiated the peace agreement, said he feels sad about Diaz’ death.
“I feel sad. Pat, a close family friend, has passed away. God, what an insightful mind,” he told MindaNews.
“I am dying… I feel better”
At 93, Diaz was still as sharp as ever, mentally. He swould often say he would live to a hundred, that he still had commentaries to write and books to finish “before I sign off.”
Physically, however, his hospital admissions had become frequent, like a cycle of every two months this year, said daughter Maggie, also known as Girlie.
Maria Lourdes Johanson, the eldest of Diaz’ nine children, recalls that when his doctor asked his father early evening of August 29 how he was feeling after his first and last dialysis, he declared, matter of factly and emphatically: “I am dying!”
Diaz then turned towards Malou and, in a voice so calm, uttered his last words: “I feel better.”
Malou was at his bedside when he breathed his last at 6:20 p.m.
“A journalist to the core,” says daughter Ma. Teresa, a nun from the Oblates of Notre Dame. “A declaration of a fact as he used to realistic journalistic facts, the first public announcement from himself, no other, of his passing,” she wrote on her FB page.
“What beautiful words a father would leave his family, friends, colleagues and all those he touched,” the nun said, adding, “He truly is one who doesn’t want to bother anybody.”
“The man who helped us understand it”
Lawyer Zainudin Malang, former Executive Director of the now defunct Mindanao Human Rights Action Center, described Diaz as “the original chronicler of the peace process.”
“The man who helped us understand it, has left us. Rest in peace, Manong Pat,” Malang said.
Patricia Sarenas of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO, wrote: “Salute to one of our Mindanao heroes! We will miss you and your thought-provoking but always truthful articles about Mindanao, Sir Pat. For the CSOs in Mindanao who had the privilege of reading your articles or of listening to you, a part of you shall live forever in our hearts! Daghan salamat for your selfless and courageous sharing of your wisdom! Godspeed, Sir Pat!”
“He is/was Mindanao’s treasure. My salute, Sir Pat,” artist and writer Ramon Jorge Sarabosing of Butuan City wrote.
As a journalist from 1952 until his death, Diaz had the longest institutional memory of the peace processes in Mindanao, particularly in the Bangsamoro.
As reporter, columnist and editor, Diaz followed the Bangsamoro struggle, chronicled the stirrings of the revolution, the communal violence in the Ilaga-Barracuda era, the Jabidah Massacre, the founding of the Mindanao Independence Movement and later the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the peace processes that led to the signing of peace agreements, the implementation or failed implementation, and on his last year, the birth of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
On the day of his interment on September 7, the first 30% of the MILF’s combatants and weapons will be decommissioned in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.
While teaching English and Literature at the Notre Dame University, Diaz wrote for The Mindanao Cross as columnist and reporter, editorial writer-on-call from 1952 to 1967 and was its editor in chief for 21 years — from 1968 to 1989. He also edited and published Mindanao Kris from 1989 to 1996, wrote columns for Mindanao Trend in Cotabato City from 1996 to 2000 and SunStar General Santos from 2000 to 2001, and wrote “Comment” for MindaNews since its birth in 2001. He wrote short pieces under ‘Mind Da News.”
Diaz’s first book, “To Tripoli and Back,” was published in Cotabato City in 1995 and “What Ails Muslim Autonomy?” published in General Santos City in 1998.
MindaNews published three of his books: Understanding Mindanao Conflict in 2003; “The 2010 GRP-MILF Peace Drafts: With Comments and Analysis” in 2010 with Mindanao historian Rudy Buhay Rodil; and “Troubled Odyssey,” also on the Bangsamoro peace process, in 2011.
Burying a 12-year old grandson
Where biases and prejudices between the Moro and settlers were high, Diaz made people understand through his writings the legitimacy of the Bangsamoro struggle.
On July 5, 2009, Diaz lost his 12-year old grandson to terrorism. Prince Allen was among the victims of a bombing incident across the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City. “So young and so full or promise,” he said of his grandson.
“Prince’s death was wrenchingly painful to his parents, his brother and sister, and to the Diaz and Cang clans. Beyond the painful test of their faith in God, they thanked Him for sparing Andre, though seriously injured, Pia with relatively slight scratches, and Jun, their father, unscathed,” Diaz wrote on July 15.
“God’s ways are inscrutable – full of mystery. Why did He make me a witness to the burying of my grandson? As Tolstoy said, ‘God sees the truth but waits,’” Diaz wrote.
He said his grandson was “one of the thousands of ‘so young and so full of promise’ victims of man’s cruelty to man through the years.”
He added that a carpenter’s year-old son was among the victims of the blast, and cited other “young and full of promise” victims.
“In the squalid bakwit (evacuation) centers in Datu Piang and neighboring municipalities of Maguindanao, scores of children died from bullets, bombs, artillery shells and disease. They, too, were so young and, in their own ways, so full of promise.”
“Thousands suffer with their elders, deprived of education and other opportunities in life. How many of them will fall victim to bullets, bombs, artillery shells, disease and hunger? Their cry for man’s cruelty to man to stop has been falling on deaf ears and hard hearts. There is no end in sight of that cruelty in Muslim Mindanao. Woe to the many so young and so full of promise.”
He noted that the intent of the perpetrators was to harm the mass-goers, to sow anger against the Muslims as the bombing then was immediately attributed to the MILF.
Diaz asked: “Did the bomb shatter the good Christian-Muslim relations in the city?”
“If it is any indication, our Muslim friends – many of them – came to the six-day wake for Prince. Among the condolence messages that flooded my e-mail box were those from Muslims, some of whom I haven’t met,” he wrote.
During the wake for Prince Allen, Diaz, then 82 turning 83, found time to go to the crime scene to make his own investigation.
Diaz is survived by wife Lucy, his children — Maria Lourdes D. Johanson, Patricio Alfonso Jr., Sister Maria Teresa, OND; Tirso Eduardo, Maria Margarita, Ana Victoria, Maria Dolores D. Lo, Ma. Carmela D. Arellano, and Frances Elizabeth – four grandchildren and a great granddaughter. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)