In defence of those in Mindanao not affected by Martial Law

Understandably, Mindanao is divided over Martial Law.

In response to outcry from Manila over Duterte’s declaration of it over Mindanao in response to the Marawi crisis, many in Mindanao have taken to social media to insist Martial Law reassures them against the spread of terror. I am one of those who have been very vocal on that score.

Since then there is growing dissent to this view from within Mindanao, most crucially from those directly affected by the Marawi crisis. Civilians are being killed by the indiscriminate firing and the air strikes, it is argued.

This reaction comes in the context of the discourse of Mindanao identity, a contentious and deeply divisive problematique which pits Lumad against Moro against Settler. People in Mindanao claiming to feel safe under Martial Law, viewed through one lens of such a context, are in fact merely bourgeois Settlers serving to silence the Moro subaltern, blind to the plight of the most vulnerable in the island. (this is a very rich topic to discuss and I think it deserves a separate discussion altogether).

True enough, the Settler community has always been guilty of silencing the two other peoples of the island, just as the Moro has been historically guilty of silencing the Lumad.

But I contend that the present situation is not so straightforward.

The problem with any subaltern perspective is that it always thinks because its problems are indisputably the most pressing and serious, it is the only perspective worth taking, its concerns the only ones worth considering.

Of course it is horrible that civilians are dying in Marawi, of course we have to find a way to avoid it, of course many Lumad will not even have IDs to present at checkpoints, of course Martial Law is a double edged sword.

But in this complicated, deeply divided land, one man’s bane is another’s boon.

This is a terrorist crisis, the tables might turn anytime, and we who are currently privileged and safe may suddenly be the ones being brutally mistreated, accusing those who are currently suffering of being privileged.

Can you imagine what horrors non-Muslims face (and the possible advantages the Moros have) if an Islamic State was established? And worse, the heat of warfare may breed a communist totalitarian regime like the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, which may well make even being educated a crime.

There are many historical examples of this recurring horror already, of the marginalized suddenly oppressing the originally privileged and using their marginalization as justification for oppression.

How many of the privileged Tutsis in Rwanda did the Hutus slaughter? What atrocities did the working class revolutionaries in China commit to the scholar-bureaucrat class during the Cultural Revolution? How did the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Daesh take advantage of Western interventionism and local resentment to destabilize governments and perpetuate the systematic slaughter of non-Muslims – and of Shiites – in the Middle East?

It is being close-minded to insist people are being selfish just because their security comes at the cost of that of other’s.

‘We’ feel safe in Mindanao because of Martial law, and that plural first person pronoun may not include everyone, but it includes a significant portion of Mindanao’s population, one which is now at risk of being actively and deliberately neglected. The current victims are not the only ones affected by this crisis, everyone is at risk.

And it is no coincidence that I am also against the class struggle being advocated by the communist terrorists – it is rooted in divisiveness and exclusion, responding to silencing and oppression with more silencing and oppression that only perpetuates a vicious cycle of endless conflict.

We who are urban Settlers are not silencing the Moro or the Lumad subaltern here (if we are, we do so unwittingly).  As a matter of fact hearing them plea against the horrors they suffer under Martial Law is very welcome, as it helps improve the declaration’s implementation.

But with their response to our positive attitude towards Martial Law, they’re already bordering on wishing to silence us, seething with resentment at what are perceived as intentionally committed injustices.

They versus us.

The dispossessed Moros are playing right into the Extremists’ hands, sowing hatred and division among themselves against non-Muslims. And the privileged but morally self righteous in Manila (and even in Mindanao) are only making it worse by amplifying the message of divisiveness.

The message all this UP-centered opposition to Martial Law is sending to the ordinary Moro is simple: ‘You’re a victim, this Martial Law was declared to oppress you, the non-Muslims like it even if you’re suffering, hate the non-Muslims.’

And all for what? In more practical terms, do you think these suffering sectors will be safer without Marital Law? Do you think the situation will be better if the declaration was revoked? If we are to be silenced for our shortsightedness, what better alternative is there?

Can we not simply work together to address the problem at hand and improve one another’s solutions so that they work for all, instead of bickering about being excluded?

Extremists, communist terrorists, and Imperial Manila are all pitting our three peoples in Mindanao against one another.We must resist this, we must resist the temptation to think only from our own perspective, Lumad, Moro, and Settler alike, and try our best to listen to one another.

Now is the worst time to be divided as peoples living together in this beautiful, beautiful land.

 


Why people in Mindanao don’t mind Martial Law

(Featured in the Esquire Website’s Unpopular Opinion section)

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.


Meeting Miguel Syjuco

Syjuco

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.

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My now missing copy of Ilustrado. I lent it to someone and I forgot to whom. I had a shaky hand with this photo!

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.

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Miguel with SALEM

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.


SALEM 2017 Writers Workshop Fellows

(My old club in Ateneo de Davao is doing well!)


15 Fellows to the 23rd Iligan National Writers Workshop

Fifteen writing fellows have been selected for this year’s 23rd Iligan National Writers Workshop to be held at the MSU-IIT on May 30 to June 3, 2016. They are:

Luzon:
Poetry (English): Thomas David Fillarca Chavez, UP Diliman; (Filipino): Rogene Apellido Gonzales, UP Diliman; Fiction (English): Dominic Paul Chow Sy, UP Diliman; Erwin Escarola Cabucos, (Filipino): Arbeen Regalado Acuna, UP Diliman; Drama (Tagalog): Josephine Villena Roque, De La Salle University.

Visayas:
Fiction (English): Charles Dominic Pelaez Sanchez, University of San Carlos; Poetry (Kinaray-a): Elsed Silfavan Togonon, University of San Agustin; Drama (Waray): Amado Arjay Babida Babon, Leyte Normal University (Boy Abunda Writing fellow).

Mindanao: Poetry (English): Saquina Karla Cagoco Guiam (Manuel E. Buenafe writing fellow), Mindanao State University-General Santos; (Sebuano): Krishna Mie Ceniza Zabate, Ateneo de Davao University; Al Bangcolongan Gra-as (Ricardo Jorge Caluen writing fellow), Lyceum of Iligan Foundation; Fiction (Filipino): Eric John Betita Villena, Xavier University; (Filipino): Jack Aguid Alvarez; (Hiligaynon): Nal Andrea Cabao-an Jalando-on, Koronadal National Comprehensive High School.

The panelists this year are: Pranesh Prasad, John Iremil Teodoro, Victor N. Sugbo, Erlinda K. Alburo, Shirley O. Lua, Steven P.C. Fernandez, German V. Gervacio, the Project Director Christine Godinez Ortega and the Keynote speaker, Isidoro M. Cruz.

Highlights of the Iligan workshop are the Jimmy Balacuit Literary Awards and the launching of the Proceedings of the 22nd Iligan National Writers Workshop (2015) entitled The Mythopoetic and Creative Writing published by the MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology-Office of Publication & Information (MSU-IIT OPI). The workshop is funded by the MSU-IIT and the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA).


Call for Submissions to the 17th Ateneo de Davao Writers Workshop

(This is where I started writing in Davao. I can’t believe it’s been six years since I was a fellow!)

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Call for Submissions to the 16th Iyas Creative Writing Workshop

The University of St. La Salle-Bacolod (USLS) is inviting young writers to submit their application for the 16th IYAS National Writers’ Workshop which will be held on April 24 – 30, 2016 at Balay Kalinungan, USLS-Bacolod.

Applicants should submit original work: either 6 poems, 2 short stories, or 2 one-act plays using a pseudonym, in two (2) computer-encoded hard copies of entry, font size 12 pts., double-spaced, and soft copies in a CD (MSWord). Short stories must be numbered, by paragraph, on the left margin.

These are to be accompanied by a sealed size 10 business envelope, inside of which should be the author’s real name and chosen pseudonym, a 2×2 ID photo, and short resume. Everything must be mailed on or before February 19, 2016.

Entries in English, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Tagalog or Filipino may be submitted. Fellowships are awarded by genre and by language.

Fifteen applicants will be chosen for the workshop fellowships, which will include partial transportation subsidy and free board and lodging.

This year’s panelists include Grace Monte de Ramos, RayBoy Pandan, D.M. Reyes, Dinah Roma, John Iremil Teodoro and Marjorie Evasco as Workshop Director.

Please submit your application to: Dr. Marissa Quezon, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of St. La Salle, La Salle Avenue, Bacolod City. For inquiries, please email iyasliterary@yahoo.com.

IYAS is held in collaboration with the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center of De La Salle University-Manila and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.