Saturday, July 19, 2008

ugly moneylender, poor farmer, bright girl

Many years ago, in a small Indian village, a FARMER had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a village MONEYLENDER.

The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the farmer's beautiful DAUGHTER. So he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgo the farmer's debt if he could marry his daughter. Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the Proposal.

So the cunning money-lender suggested that they let providence decide the matter.

He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. Then the girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag.

1) If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father's debt would be forgiven.

2) If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father's debt would still be forgiven.

3) But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.

They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the farmer's field. As they talked, the money-lender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag.

He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag.

Now, imagine that you were standing in the field. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE IF YOU WERE THE GIRL? If you had to advise her, what would you have told her?

Careful analysis would produce three possibilities:
1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.
2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the money-lender as a cheat.
3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment.

Take a moment to ponder over the story. The above story is used with the hope that it will make us appreciate the difference between lateral and logical thinking.

The girl's dilemma CANNOT BE SOLVED WITH TRADITIONAL LOGICAL THINKING. Think of the consequences if she chooses the above logical answers. What would you recommend to the Girl to do?

Well, here is what she did ...

The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles.

"Oh, how clumsy of me," she said. "But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked."

Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the money-lender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.


Most complex problems do have a solution. It is only that we don't attempt to think.

(source: forwarded e-mail from a colleague)

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Give senior citizens a break!

Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting.

Well, for example, the other day the wife and I went into town and went into a shop. We were only in there for about 5 minutes. When we came out, there was a police officer writing out a parking ticket.

We went up to him and I said, 'Come on man, how about giving a senior citizen a break?' He ignored us and continued writing the ticket. I called him a DUMB ASS.

He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn tires. So Mary called him a SHIT HEAD.

He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first. Then he started writing a third ticket. This went on for about 20 minutes. The more we abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

Just then our bus arrived.

We try to have a little fun each day now that we're retired. It's important at our age.

(source: forwarded e-mail from papa)

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Visiting Jolo, Sulu for the first time

The airplane is so tiny that it shakes every time a strong gust of wind hits it. The 15 passengers are flying over big islands, small islands, and islands arranged in circles like pancakes floating in the ocean.

Moments later, the plane touches down and everyone’s attention focuses on the airport’s entrance where a cement arch proclaims: “Welcome. Jolo. Sulu.”

I am thrilled to be here, home of the Sulu Sultanate which was once the most powerful in Asia. My mission: listen and learn from the over 70 Bangsamoro participants from civil society organizations in Sulu as they discuss about their realities, their aspirations and recommendations for self-determination.

Along the road leading towards the venue of the Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Provincial Consultation, huge acacia trees grow beside the small wooden houses of the residents; like giants and dwarfs. Everywhere trees cover the mountains, not a bare patch of soil indicating logging activities. I ask the driver if there’s a possibility to go mountain climbing. He laughs and warns that the mountains are crawling with Abu Sayyaf, MNLF, Filipino soldiers, and American soldiers. “So don’t even think of exploring the town on your own!” he says.

The soldiers stay at the very top of the mountains where helicopters drop off food once a week. Below the soldiers stay the Abu Sayyaf and the MNLF. The driver shares that often, when everyone’s asleep in Jolo, sounds of drilling pierce through the night. Nobody knows exactly what’s going on behind the high fences that the American soldiers have constructed around these drilling sites because nobody is allowed to come near. “Those aren’t military operations!” jests the driver, “They’re American soldiers secretly digging for minerals!”

Here in the municipality of Jolo live some 150,000 Tausugs in about 22 square kilometers. It’s not much space for a people who have built their houses even on creeks and canals. Majority are squatters living in ramshackle dwellings built so close to each other that every day they live in fear of their houses being razed to the ground. Many of them have built their houses at the sea’s edge turning the ocean into a giant septic tank and garbage dump.

Adding to the congestion in the municipality of Jolo are the people from neighboring municipalities who come during the day to sell their fruits and vegetables but go home at night and leave behind some 60 tons of garbage.

At the wharf there are around 20 little boats with people either sitting or standing in them. Can Jolo really be as dangerous and unsafe as the media project? The picturesque scene of mountains, sea, fishers, spotless sky make this hard to believe.

Some half hour later in the conference room of the Sulu State College Hostel where the Bangsamoro CSOs are gathered, a well-respected member of the community, (let’s call him Dr. Mike), is ready for his presentation on the Sulu Situationer. “There are two problems in Sulu,” he begins, “Problems created by Muslim themselves and problems created by external forces.”

Dr. Mike describes a province where the PNP is too weak to enforce the law and the AFP perpetuates hatred between the military and the people instead of ensuring everyone’s security. Time and again, civilians are being arbitrarily arrested and locked up for years just because the military, without any concrete proof, suspects them of either being a member of the Abu Sayyaf or being in cahoots with them. Their properties have been seized and their houses burnt. They are the luckier ones. Others have been salvaged and massacred. Living without peace for the past 40 years has displaced around 450,000 Tausugs.

In today’s Sulu, Dr. Mike says, gone is the exemplary leadership of the Sultans of long ago. Political leaders have no capacity to chart the destiny of the Tausugs, the people of Sulu. In fact, most municipal mayors are not holding office in their respective municipalities. Local government units have become instruments for promoting vested interests and oppress constituents through graft and corruption. Local Special Bodies, the mechanisms for participatory governance, have never been activated. During elections, voters are coerced into voting for politicians; there is massive vote buying, fraud and cheating.

The state of education is not a pretty picture either. Sulu has a 39% illiteracy rate. Last year, only 2% out of 3,000 examinees passed Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). Dr. Mike asks, “How can we expect our students to excel when three students have to share one textbook and six students have to share one chair? Worse, out of 410 barangays in Sulu, 105 barangays have no schools!” In places that do have schools, the problems are poor school management, poor school facilities, poor performance of teachers who have a hard time implementing the curriculum.

Shaking his head and throwing his arms in the air, Dr. Mike shifts to another hotly debated topic in Sulu: health services. He reveals that out of 410 barangays only 50 barangays have midwives. The few existing hospitals lack modern health facilities and specialist doctors who are unable to help the scores of people dying of preventable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, and malaria. “This isn’t surprising,” says Dr. Mike “because 98% of our water sources are polluted and only 30% of the population have access to potable water!”

One gloomy scenario is presented after another. There are no manufacturing industries in Sulu because most of the 87% road network is gravel and earth, the drainage system is poor, the sea port, the airport, and the roads are of substandard quality. Dr. Mike informs everyone that the unemployment rate is 20.87% and that the poor comprise 63.2% of the population.

“How can we be so poor when we are literally sitting on a goldmine?” he questions and proceeds to enumerate Sulu’s rich natural resources: seas and lakes are thriving with fish, there’s abundant seaweeds, coffee, coconut oil, and cassava to earn from. Without waiting to be acknowledged, one member in the audience stands up and almost shouts, “It’s the foreign capitalists who control production because we, the people of Sulu, can’t do it ourselves since we lack access to finance, technology, land, and water!”

This, it seems, has been the perennial dilemma of a people who all have legitimate claims over the fertile lands of their ancestors, but because they do not have land titles, they fight each other over the right to till the lands until some rich politician or the national government shows ‘official’ documents that render all other legitimate claims null and void.

Then there is also the problem of rapid environmental degradation that is caused not only by the abuses of the rich and powerful. For instance, though fishing is a lucrative business, 80% of coral reefs around Sulu are destroyed by dynamite fishing and trawling. Only seven (7) islands out of 157 still have mangrove forests; the rest are destroyed by farmers. There’s poor management of watershed and garbage disposal and there’s no sanitary landfill.

The conclusion: although many of Sulu’s problems are the people’s own doing, in the Philippine government’s list of priorities, the wellbeing of the people of Sulu is placed at the very bottom. “Aren’t we citizens too?” Dr. Mike asks. “Clearly the state itself is a threat to the Bangsamoro people!”

He challenges the Bangsamoro CSOs to prioritize human security issues through promoting constituency building among the Tausugs. When he declares that the problems confronting Tausugs are the result of their failure to assert and exercise their right to self-determination (RSD), the audience jump to their feet and clap enthusiastically.

“We Tausugs,” Dr. Mike continues, “should make RSD alive regardless of the political arrangement be it regional autonomy, federalism or independence!” A roar of approval fills the room as Dr. Mike leaves the stage. People come up to him and shake his hand, wishing aloud that the politicians of Sulu should have been present to hear everything he said.

Shortly after Sulu’s Provincial Bangsamoro CSO Consultation concluded and its success had yet to be broadcast nationwide, the entire nation’s attention was focused on an unfortunate event in Sulu. On June 8, 2008, (my birthday), ABS CBN TV news reporter Ces Drilon and her two videographers were kidnapped while on their way to interview a high-ranking leader of the Abu Sayyaf about a possible peace negotiation between the bandit group and the government. Filipinos were glued to their TV sets when the news broke that after nine (9) days of captivity and eating instant noodles from saucers, sleeping in hammocks and on sacks laid on the ground, and being beaten with M-14 rifles, the three kidnap victims were released. Until now, it’s not been confirmed whether the 15 million peso ransom demand was paid. But that’s probably not the heart of the matter.

The heart of the matter, as Drilon correctly pointed out during the press conference held shortly after her release, is that many of her kidnappers were 12, 15, 17 years old and holding guns. She wondered aloud, “Why are these children holding guns instead of holding notebooks and studying?”

How ironic it now seems that this was exactly the same scenario that was discussed just weeks before during Sulu’s Provincial Bangsamoro CSO Consultation. If Drilon had been present, she would have learned that because of the extreme poverty in Sulu, out-of-school youths too poor to enroll become vulnerable to drug abuse and end up working as fighters for the MNLF, Abu Sayyaf and private armies of the local politicians. So instead of annihilating these young kidnappers, wouldn’t it be better if the Philippine government ask themselves, “What can we do to make these youths give up their guns and turn to their notebooks instead?” That’s exactly how Sulu’s Bangsamoro CSOs would approach the problem of child bandits.

If Drilon had been at the two-day CSO Consultation in Sulu, she’d be surprised at everyone’s fast and easy solutions: There should be sufficient education funds, free from political intervention. There should be dedicated, effective Bangsamoro teachers and school officials who are hired and promoted based on their qualifications and who are paid a just compensation. There should be scholarship centers for the Bangsamoro and equal access to scholarship opportunities. And so on.

Clearly, if Sulu’s Bangsamoro CSOs had their way and be given their right to self-determination, they would be making sure not to kill the young criminals but improve their living conditions for them to become contented, secure, self-sufficient, happy citizens that all Moro tribes – Tausog, Meranaw, Maguindanaon, Iranun, Kalagan, Yakan, Jama Mapun, Molbog, Badjao, Kolibugan, Sangil, Palawanis, and Samal – deserve to be.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Missing Teaching

Ah students! You noisy, noisy students! 

You can't sit still. Always fidgeting, tsismising, staring into space, groping for the right English words, complaining about your load, your teachers, my requirements, working your assess off, talking about sex, being so self-conscious, boy-crazy, girl-crazy, not doing your assignments, then again surprising me with your well researched papers and well thought arguments. 

I thought I was fed up with the routine of going to school. Every day. For 7 years. Imagine that. 

It's been almost 4 months since i last stepped into a classroom. But I catch myself every other day thinking of students and classrooms.

How are you I wonder. 

(P.S. I'm still photoshopping the other pics.)

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why do the Bangsamoro feel bad?

Correction: Ferdinand Magellan did not ‘discover’ the Philippines five hundred years ago. Neither did Portuguese explorer, Ruy Lopez de Villalobos when he first sailed through Sarangani Bay, saw the Philippines, and named it Islas Filipinas–after King Philip of Spain; hence the names Philippines and Filipinos.


This was the sentiment of the Bangsamoro participants from civil society organizations gathered last May 14 to 15, 2008 in the conference room of the Sulu State College Hostel in Jolo, Sulu. For two days, representatives from non-government organizations, people’s organizations, professional organizations, the academe, the health sector, the business sector, and the religious sector, were holed up making plans about their aspirations for self-determination.

Everyone had suggestions: an institutionalized Bangsamoro Islamic justice system, an Islamic curriculum for the Bangsamoro, and an Islamic political system with the principles of shura, justice, equality and obedience to leadership. All were strongly in favor of the total pull-out of the AFP and the US Forces in ARMM areas and that the PNP should be more active in peacekeeping. Someone suggested that there should be an established and institutionalized Bangsamoro Armed Forces and a Bangsamoro Police Forces under the supervision and control of the chief executive of ARMM. Someone else proposed a massive reconstitution of land titles, complete upland and coastal reforestation, the protection, conservation and sustainable use of marine and land resources, etc.

It is unanimous this desire is for an independent, free and progressive Bangsamoro nation governed with Islamic justice, liberty, freedom, led and protected by Muslim Ummah. The participants pointed out that there should first be an institutionalized Bangsamoro national reconciliation and unification composed of the ulama, civil society groups, the Bangsamoro Police and other credible bodies.

An elderly man emphasized that important to this process of Bangsamoro reconciliation are having honest leaders who are voted through a credible election process and who always have the people’s best interests at heart. He further explained that because no matter what form of self-determination Bangsamoro CSOs will ultimately attain in the long run–whether it be a federalism, an Islamic state, an autonomy in the truest sense of the word–all their aspirations and recommendations will not come into fruition if their own government officials stay as corrupt as they are.
When an important man, (let’s call him Ali), took his place in front and explained the historical bases of the Bangsamoro exercise of self-determination, the audience listened transfixed. “Several hundred years before Magellan and Villalobos first set foot in this country it was already occupied by the Moro people [Bangsamoro] who were so fiercely protective of their Islamic roots that even when all the rest of the islands in the archipelago succumbed to the invaders, they continued to resist.” Ali told of ancestors fighting to retain the Bangsamoro political system and government influence over their vast territories covering Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Sulu, the Mindanao mainland, Panay, and Palawan. They fought to stay free and self-sufficient and continue engaging in international trade (barter) with the neighboring kingdoms of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Time and again, the Bangsamoro fought back and were able to ward off the encroaching Spaniards 320 years long. Ali explained that in 1898, the Spaniards finally retreated but not before leaving a final blow. “They sold the entire country–including the lands of the Bangsamoro–for 20 million dollars to the Americans who immediately embarked on a conquest to exploit the abundant natural resources. In 1915, in an attempt to subdue the Bangsamoro and break their iron will, the Americans turned entire Mindanao–excluding Surigao–into a Moro province and placed an American governor as its head.”

In 1946, another crippling blow sent the Bangsamoro reeling when the Americans granted the Philippines independence. “Bangsamoro leaders,” Ali explained, “tried to reason they were already independent and sent letters to America asking to be excluded. They were ignored. Once again, Bangsamoro autonomy was undermined and against their will, their Bangsamoro identity was replaced with a Filipino identity.”

But life in the Philippine Republic did not improve for the Bangsamoro. Ali continued his story: “Political power, which they had for years, was now transferred to Filipinos. When the entire Philippines was declared as public land, the lands of the Bangsamoro were up for grabs. The national settlement programs starting during the American period and continued to the Commonwealth period up to the early years of the Philippine Republic, brought even more Filipinos from Luzon and the Visayas dreaming to start a new life in Moro land.”

“The dissatisfied Bangsamoro,” Ali narrated, “were angry at the blatant neglect of the Philippine government so they gave up trying to be diplomatic and continued raising arms against the government.” It was only in 1985 when Cory Aquino became the president that the Bangsamoro were finally given some degree of independence through the new autonomy law (RA 6734), which created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). In 1996, when Fidel Ramos was the president, ARMM’s land area was expanded with the addition of Basilan province and Marawi City. That same year, after years of armed conflict and intermittent peace talks, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the government of the Philippines signed the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA).

Ali assessed that today, more than 10 years after the FPA, the peace and security situation in ARMM is still very volatile. Disgruntled Bangsamoro like the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are blaming the Philippine government for either breaking or not following many of the provisions agreed upon in the FPA. Many Bangsamoro feel that although ARMM has given them the chance to participate in executive, legislative, and judicial decisions regarding their own welfare, the power that ARMM has given them is, in reality, very limited.

For example, civil cases cannot be tried in Shari’ah courts. New laws can be created but they cannot contradict the Philippine constitution. In addition, the Philippine government still has not relinquished control of security in ARMM to the MNLF. The Philippine government also has the last say about what to do with all the natural and mineral resources in ARMM.
Late last year just when the memorandum of agreement laying out all the ancestral domain claims in ARMM was about to be signed, the Philippine government pulled out of the negotiations. Their reason: all previous agreements with the MILF need to be reviewed and realigned with the constitution of the Philippines before they will sign any future deals. In response, the MILF walked out of the negotiating room. Many Bangsamoro feel that the present ARMM is supposed the mirror their desired autonomy but the kind of Bangsamoro autonomy that is possible under the Philippine Constitution will not be real autonomy.

Clearly, the more than 500 years of war waged by the Bangsamoro against the Spaniards, the Japanese, the Americans, and now the Filipinos, has been a war against injustice to the Bangsamoro identity, injustice to Bangsamoro political sovereignty, injustice to Bangsamoro ancestral territory, and injustice to Bangsamoro integral development.

Time and again, Bangsamoro have been victims of discrimination. They have been called ‘pirates’ during the time of the Spaniards, ‘uncivilized’ during the time of the Americans, and are called ‘cultural minorities’ today. National laws have favored foreigners over Bangsamoro. 
History books fail to mention the history of the Bangsamoro. Everyone is quick to make negative judgments about the Bangsamoro’s culture and religion and laugh at the idea of giving them the right to self-determination.

For Ali, who is an observer in the ongoing peace negotiations, the Government of the Philippines (GOP) seems determined to defeat the MNLF politically and the MILF militarily as evidenced by the AFP’s modernization plan not being used against external threats but against the MILF and the MNLF. “Does the GOP have the political will and the sincerity to choose a diplomatic solution over a military solution? What holds the GOP from granting the exercise of self-determination to the Bangsamoro?” These were just some of the questions posed by Ali during the first three Provincial Bangsamoro CSO Consultations in Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Sulu.
For months now, those privy to the peace negotiations have been worrying over the MILF’s walkout during the peace negotiations and the possibility of a full scale war as a result of the pullout by the International Monitoring Team (IMT) from Malaysia. Then last week, some good news. When President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited Davao City on June 18 for the inauguration of the newly constructed Bankerohan Bridge, she announced that the National Security Council approved the draft on the ancestral domain issue that was submitted by the government negotiating panel. The draft, President Macapagal said, is now going to be submitted to the MILF peace negotiating panel for approval and she expects the peace negotiation to resume as soon as the MILF accepts the government proposal.

Probably nobody better than the Bangsamoro CSOs living and working in ARMM understand how important this step towards reconciliation is. Bangsamoro CSOs are eager to make their struggle for self-determination a peaceful one and not tread the path of violent conflict that other new nations like East Timor had to take to finally achieve their right to self-determination.

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Why ARMM isn't enough

Six times the electricity has turned off for several hours and then on again. The Bangsamoro sitting in the conference room of the Sulu State College Hostel in Jolo, Sulu have opened the windows and converted folders into fans. But the men in their kupyas and the women in their hijabs don’t really seem to be bothered by the heat. They’ve got more important things on their minds. Like discussing their right to self-determination (RSD). For them this means ‘self-rule’, ‘justice’, ‘identity’, ‘cultural integrity’, ‘having our own government system.’ Heads nodding, hands clapping, and shouts of approval reverberate through the room.

Last February 15 to 17 in Tawi-Tawi and on May 3 to 4 in Basilan, Bangsamoro from non-government organizations, people’s organizations, professional organizations, the academe, the health sector, the business sector, and the religious sector gathered to talk about their aspirations for self-determination. This May 14 to 15 it is the turn of the Bangsamoro civil society organizations (SCOs) of Sulu to contribute their opinions on the matter.

What kind of self-determination do we want? Isn’t the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) enough? In the next months, there are going to be seven (7) more Bangsamoro CSO Consultations in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and Cagayan de Oro; Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental and Iligan; Maguindanao and Shariff Kabungsuan; Davao, North Cotabato, and Caraga; Socksargen; Zamboanga Peninsula; and the last will be in Palawan and the National Capital Region (NCR).

The participating Bangsamoro CSOs are neither pro government nor pro revolutionary; they are representing themselves in the fight for radical reform. For the first time, Bangsamoro CSOs do not anymore want to be in the sidelines as mere supporters of evacuees and civilians whose lives have been turned upside down by clashes between Filipino and American soldiers against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Misuari Breakaway Group (MBG), and so on. For the first time, Bangsamoro CSOs want to make decisions about their own welfare and not let others do it for them. They do not, however, intend to replace the initial victories of the MILF and the MNLF in the peace processes with the Philippine government, but instead do a parallel movement.

This means monitoring interim agreements and human rights in the on-going peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF and the on-going tri-partite review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. It also means engaging in massive educational and information campaign about the peace processes in a way that will also generate local and international solidarity support. The Bangsamoro CSOs further plan to oppose and expose the spoilers and provocateurs and their vested interests in the peace process while at the same time work for the unity of the Bangsamoro through intra-dialogues and consultations that will also educate the Bangsamoro on the issue of self-determination and freedom.

As an important sector of Bangsamoro society, the Bangsamoro CSOs strongly feel they are the missing link in the peace process. Ideally, they should be the counterpart of the MILF in the negotiating panel in the same way that the Philippine government has its own CSO counterpart. But whether or not the Bangsamoro CSOs are given a seat at the peace table, with their sheer number, skills, competence, and commitment, they can make a difference because every day, they are the ones dealing with issues that directly and indirectly affect the Bangsamoro.

The Bangsamoro CSOs are aware, however, that signing the peace agreement is not the end–it’s only a political part of the peace process. They are concerned with helping the peace talks succeed yet are also worried about what will happen to the MILF and the Government of the Philippines after signing the peace agreement. This is because experiences of new nations like Aceh and East Timor who have achieved the right to self-determination through decades of armed struggle, show that in order to have peace, agreements need to go beyond just talking about who will own what piece of land and include agreements about how to take care of the environment. For indeed, true development is more than just constructing houses for the homeless, farm-to-market roads, bridges, schools, health centers, and hospitals in places where there are none.

Needless to say, most of the time in the series of Bangsamoro CSO Consultations is spent in focused group discussions (FGDs) talking about realities and aspirations of the different sectors of Bangsamoro society and then agreeing on a common position and actions that will uplift their lives. The provincial meetings will end around April 2009 in a National Bangsamoro CSO Congress, the culminating activity where all the aspirations and recommendations of the country’s Bangsamoro CSOs will be consolidated into a Bangsamoro Civil Society Organization Development Framework.

The plan is to make it the roadmap for everyone–MILF, MNLF, the Government of the Philippines (GOP)–and all other Bangsamoro and non-Bangsamoro stakeholders in ARMM whose actions impact on all forms of Bangsamoro existence. These include environment and land tenure, peace and security, political governance and electoral system, education, economic development, cultural integrity, social services, human rights, as well as protecting women, youth and children. Nothing important should be left out in the making of the Bangsamoro Development Framework–an enormous task–given the breadth and depth of the discussions on self-determination. The challenge is how to integrate all the outputs in the ten consultations held in different locations in the country.

Already, members of the National Steering Committee (NSC), the ones in charge of coordinating the implementation of planned activities, are noticing that because the Bangsamoro CSOs in each region experience different realities, their aspirations are different too. For instance, the Bangsamoro CSOs in the Basilan Provincial Consultation emphasized the importance of integrating Western and Islamic education. On the other hand, the Bangsamoro CSOs in the Sulu Provincial Consultation found it necessary to have a purely Islamic curriculum for the Bangsamoro.

Always the debates wind down to what’s the best form of self-determination for the Bangsamoro. While some see nothing wrong with still being part of the Philippine Republic as basic services are delivered, others say that’s not enough and see self-rule as a better option–with no control whatsoever by the Philippine Republic.

The bottomline is to be proactive. “Bangsamoro,” somebody in the audience explains, “are like a family who have the money to replace their ramshackle house with a new, concrete one. But while waiting for the construction of their new house to be finished, should the family remain in their old house full of leaks and suffer every time it rains? Of course not. A practical family would cover all the holes in the roof of their old house while waiting for their new house to be finished.”

The challenge for the Bangsamoro who aspire for a certain form of self-determination is to not just be waiting around for it to happen but work towards reforming the systems that are already in place. On the other hand, the challenge for the other citizens in the country is to free their hearts of centuries of prejudice against the Bangsamoro, embrace each other’s differences, and support the Bangsamoro in their struggle to achieve the form of self-determination they deserve.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Family reunion with relatives from Pikit, Panabo and Saudi

Auntie Lorna, who's from Pikit, is mama's first cousin on her mother's side. Then there's Auntie Sabet, from Saudi Arabia. And the youngest is Auntie Eva from Panabo. They're the three sisters. Mama's their cousin from Davao. An only child. 

So naturally, every time these cousins meet, it's usually once in a blue moon and there's a lot of updating and laughing and singing and dancing as apparent in these pictures. 

Ma's the noisiest of them all. During times like these, ma is in her element, being everywhere at the same time and holding multiple conversations across the room. 

She's only 62 and getting more uninhibited each year. 

She usually only plays the drums only during Christmas. But this day was an exception.

This is the typical Norma pose.
Drinking special tea from Saudi.

Roda, Inday and Belen are choosing songs. Magic Sing's the Philippine pastime. 

PM and Karlos. PM is short for 'puslan man' - the name of the resto where her parents met.
Aunties Sabet, Lorna and Eva. Together again.

Ma with Haidee and her kids. Flew in all the way from Pampanga.

Sexy Inday, a.k.a Flor Eliza.  

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Auntie Jet's despedida party

Auntie Jet is ma's best friend. Uncle Carl too. They were friends during the time when all the buildings in Ateneo de Davao University were still alive. (I mean, Fr. Dott and Fr. Weiman, etc. were not dead yet. When they died, the buildings were named after them.) 

Auntie Jet's now based in New York City with the love of her life, Fred (he's American but his Cebuano is flawless. Just like papa's Cebuano and Tagalog.) Auntie Jet's here for a short while visiting family and friends. She's in Manila now visiting pre-schools and observing how they teach for - her Masters. 

You see, Auntie Jet, aside from being a pre-school teacher in one of the most prestigious pre-schools in New York City (Susan Sarandon, Tom Cruise, etc. send their kids there), she's also studying in the best school in the world that specializes in Early Childhood Education. (I forgot the name. It starts with "B" i think.) 

To get to the point, Auntie Jet's tuition is soooo expensive. Something millions. Good thing is that part of her life's masterplan is to come back to the Philippines and train teachers to teach poor indigents. Below are some bits and pieces of Auntie Jet's despedida. 
Mila's Catering's delicious. (I'm still studying how to photoshop the rest of the food.)
The three best friends since college - Uncle Carl, Norms, and Auntie Jet.
Harry Belafonte, Elvis Presley, cha-cha, swing - he knows them all.
What's a party without folk dance? 
 Dancing and singing and talking non stop. All the energy was a bit overwhelming for exhausted Maya who ended up sleeping through the revelry. (60+ is the new 50. For these people at least. Hehe. No offense Ma.) 

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