As always there is war in my country.
But as always, two different wars are waging in Manila and in Mindanao.
In Mindanao the Maute group – sympathizers of International terrorist group Daesh – are assaulting the Islamic city of Marawi in Lanao. Duterte has declared Martial Law over all of Mindanao. In response the Communist insurgents – another group of terrorists – added to the fire by bombing my city of Kidapawan, injuring 2 policemen.
In Manila, the war is between those who are supportive of the Durian President, and those who are condemning him for being Marcos 2.0. Fears of human rights violations (already there because of Digong’s bloody war on drugs) are being aired, and rallies have been and continue to be organized by university students and others to oppose the declaration of Martial Law.
But this time, there is a war between these two wars.
Anti-Martial Law activists are under fire for intervening with Mindanao’s business, Pro-Martial Law Mindanawons are being accused of Regional closemindedness.
I do not begrudge the activists in Manila for rallying, that is their constitutional right and I celebrate their freedom to do so. I do not agree that they have no say in the debate of Martial Law’s appropriateness.
But I am still accusing them of Manila Imperialism.
Here in Mindanao the paramount concern is the threat of terrorism (which was the motivation behind the declaration of Martial Law in the first place). Texts messages and chats are being circulated from city to city of bombings being plotted in Malls and other city centers, images circulate on Facebook of the chaos and violence in Marawi and the ongoing acceptance of refugees in Iligan. Amidst the Budots and the Basketball tournaments, a faint climate of worry hangs in the air over Davao.
And once again, Manila has hijacked National attention by insisting its own experience with Martial Law is more important than fears of terrorism.
Sure, remind us of Manili and the killing of Favali and of Ilaga and of all the horrors of the last Martial Law in Mindanao, I’ll be the first to preach the importance of remembering historical injustices (Favali was buried just ten minutes from my ancestral home in Kidapawan). It is almost arrogant to assume the Mindanawon does not know his/her history, and even if he/she doesn’t, there is nothing but the top-down education system – centered in Imperial Manila – to blame for not teaching local history.
All the injustices and fears of history repeating itself are second priority when public safety is at immediate risk. There are three peoples in Mindanao, each of them with their own harrowing experience of the Marcos years, but the attitude of Mindanawons to Martial Law is far more complex and far more nuanced that just fear of a heavy-handed government. All this talk of rights possibly being violated because of abuses under Martial Law only reveals Manilenos’ imposition of their own experience of military rule on Mindanao.
And we here in Mindanao don’t need Martial Law to have our rights abused, rights have been abused here for centuries. Bud Dajo, the Manhunt for Mangulayon, Malisbong, Manili, the Estrada offensive – Mindanao earth is no stranger to blood being spilled. Remember that military rule was declared in Maguindanao after the Maguindanao Massacre.
Marcos’ Martial Law was a horrible thing for Mindanao, but it was not the first, and it certainly wasn’t the last horror we have seen. Military rule itself did not leave a bad taste in our mouths.
If anything, a Mindanawon President leading Martial Law in Mindanao for many means order, security, and a firm command of the crisis. Whatever abuses may be committed by government forces, they are a preferable evil compared to the much worse threat of a Taliban State or a Khmer Rouge being established here.
Right now we don’t need history lessons, we need solutions. Martial Law is the only solution being presented to us, and instead of giving alternatives those critical of the move are simply indulging in the thrill of being outraged.
We here in Mindanao try our best to understand. It would be best if those in Manila try to understand us too.
Laksa is one of the greatest inventions of mankind, the Malay world’s great contribution to world cuisine. Whether Lemak (with coconut gravy) or Assam (with sour soup), Laksa demonstrates the intensity that so pleases the Malay palate.
I’ve been to Singapore three times and to Malaysia four, and on each occasion I made it a point to try as many kinds of laksa as I can. Here are some of them.
I hope to try all the kinds of Laksa out there, and as I try new ones this post will be updated!
I finally got to meet the most successful Filipino writer in the world.
Miguel Syjuco was disarmingly friendly, as he had always been online. Perhaps it was the death threats.
The Man Asia prize winner came to Davao at a very politically charged time: a consistent critic of the Duterte administration, he has been very vocal with his concerns about the many victims of alleged Extrajudicial killings in Metro Manila and other urban areas.
When he confided on social media that friends were warning him about his safety as he entered the baluarte of a politician he publicly criticized, Syjuco received a barrage of death threats, which only seemed to confirm his friends’ concerns. I had assured him there was nothing to fear, and he went to Davao anyway.
I met and hosted him as a Duterte supporter, as one who has been so since I was young (I had urged our then mayor in this blog to run when he was not even making national news yet), and whose family is passionately pro-Duterte.
But above all that, I met him as a genuine fan: I had read Ilustrado some years ago, when the Cebuano writer Januar Yap gave me his copy, and was floored by the skill of its writing. I still believe it is the closest anyone has come to a Great Filipino Novel, and ought to be taught in all schools instead of Rizal.
Miguel came over for four main reasons: to see Davao for himself (he had not been here since the 90s); to lay the groundwork for a possible project with Ateneo de Davao; to give a workshop to my old club in Ateneo, SALEM; and to chat with my ninong, DCPO director Alexander Tagum.
In between excursions we would chat about politics, the Philippine literary scene, and some humorously bad jokes. He’d share personal struggles, his family’s not always successful foray into politics, and having to overcome the mob of pro-Duterte netizens who gang up on him.
In the lobby of the Marco Polo while he, I, and Nal had a drink on his first night, I joked that I hope he stayed safe, who else would win the Nobel for the Filipino people. He laughed it off with a National Artist’s name, though I was dead serious about him getting it. The only flaw Miguel Syjuco has as a writer is that he hasn’t written enough yet.
He has been saying he enjoyed Davao, though I feel he didn’t see as much as he should have. I’m hoping he finds time to return and see the Philippine Eagles.
Did we disagree while he was here? Surprisingly not much. What we learned early on online was that nobody is ever really entirely pro or anti anything. He wasn’t entirely critical of everything Duterte, as I was not entirely supportive of everything the President does.
We both agreed that the current climate of polarization, of painting everything black and white, is not productive for both sides and is unleashing a mob of hateful fanatics. Where the Duterte administration can improve with feedback, it turns a blind eye because all negative feedback is viewed with violent suspicion. Where it does good, the critics refuse to see because they only see the EJKs and a man who speaks nothing but murder.
And we both saw that while we stood on opposite sides of a political divide, we are linked together by a renewed passion for our country and its people.
On his last night while we lounged in the Marco’s lobby, a gunshot pierced the busy Davao evening. It turned out a guest who was surrendering his pistol to the guard accidentally fired a blank.
I asked, jokingly, if he thinks RJ Nieto had meant that as a warning.
Well, this is unexpected.
While vacationing in Singapore, I found my name in a book in Books Kinokuniya. My ego purrs with delight as it is stroked.
This is perhaps the most flattering rejection I have ever had. I sent a play for inclusion in Southeast Asian Plays, edited by Cheryl Robson and Aubrey Mellor and published by Aurora Metro Publications in the US. I didn’t get accepted, but it seems they acknowledged the writers who sent in submissions.
Normally, publicly accepting you were rejected would be unflattering. But this time it isn’t.
- For one thing, I see my name in a book in Singapore. Beat that, HaveYouSeenThisGirl!
- Then, the only Filipino to get in is Floy Quintos, and I don’t stand a chance against the likes of him
- The other writers acknowledged were pretty accomplished writers too, so I’m in prestigious company
The least I could do in return, of course, is to promote the book. It’s available in most branches of Books Kinokuniya!
Every rejection should be like this!