Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Life of a Hesitant Lawyer

After graduation from High School, the guy was in limbo. Just like any ordinary guy next door, he was confused on what course to take in College.

He sought the advice of Sir Hann Jannaral, one of his favorite teachers in High School. Since Sir Hann was an English Major, Sir Hann told the young man to take up AB English as a matter of course.

It was Sir Hann that firstly saw potential in our guy. Sir Hann expected that our guy would have a great future in store for him, either as a teacher or a statesman. Since seeing the enthusiastic and fragile young man among the innocent students of Skate section, the third section of the first year in MSU-Sulu, Sir Hann already developed an affection towards the young man.

Sir Hann and Labliner Staffers

And so because of sheer determination, our future "hesitant lawyer" jumped to first section by the second year, and he had maintained it until fourth year, graduating 1st honorable mention of batch 1997. Sir Hann specially mentored the young man in his third year and fourth year, getting specially close with him, until the young man no longer talked in Bahasa Sug, but only in English!

But did he take the advice of his mentor to take up AB English? Maybe he would, but our "hesitant lawyer" already had a full DOST scholarhip at his disposal. AB English was anything but supported under the program.

Still undecided, the young man took the pre-university program of the DOST. In that program, the DOST scholars were given free lectures on Math and Physics, and Science and Technology for a few months so that the scholars could best prepare for difficult life in college.

And so, our guy, Meltino Sibulan, the "hesitant lawyer," decided that Computer Engineering should be his best choice among DOST supported courses.

But his reverie of being a Computer Engineer was cut short by the teacher who boomed at him: "Why not buy yourself a computer and practice at home?"

And so "Ulong", as he was fondly called by family and friends, went home, enrolled at MSU-Sulu, and took up BS Math, a supported program under DOST program in 1997. And after receiving his first allowance from the DOST, he bought -- guess what? -- a second-hand IBM 386 computer in 1998!

It should go without saying that the partly-used computer frequently crashed. Bringing it to Zamboanga City for repair many times, he was able to finally understand the secrets of computer repair. And, of course, some of those crashes were actually self-administered. Ulong was learning and applying the tricks of computer repair on his own computer at home!

Mr Sibulan as 2nd Honorable mention in MSU Lab High '97


Back to the present, I asked him: "When was the exact moment of your life that you see yourself as a lawyer?"

"I saw myself as a lawyer only during the time that I was able to recite like a lawyer during our law classes in MSU-Marawi. I was able to stand the full hour recitation, which only few law students in MSU can do."

Uh-oh! From BS Math at MSU-Sulu to Bachelor of Laws in MSU-Marawi? I asked him: "Did you plan for it, to become a lawyer?"

"No, I did not plan to be a lawyer. It just happened."


From 1997-2001, in MSU-Sulu, Mr Sibulan, a BS Math student, achieved a lot compared to perhaps any other MSU-Sulu students. Among the many awards and distinction he was bestowed on his graduation day were 1) the "Leadership Award," being the president of the Supreme Student Government; and 2) the "Journalism Award," being the editor-in-chief of the Hangadhulat Publication, the school paper of MSU-Sulu.

The nemesis of Mr Sibulan in College, Ms Janice Negrosa (the only senator who won from the opposition party of Mhel), admitted recently: "Meltino is the best president of the SSG, ever! He was extreme, active, and prolific. He had many meaningful projects than all SSG president's combined."

But when they were in college, Ms Janice Negrosa recalled how she put thorns after thorns on Mr Sibulan's paths. By the influence of the Dean on Student Affairs, which was also the adviser of the student government in MSU-Sulu, Janice accused Meltino of being corrupt, and thus unfitting to be the president. She filed impeachment charges against Meltino.

"I know I can't really win against Meltino," Janice said. "I was a fool to listen to some teachers' accusations against Mhel. I knew all along that Mhel is a good guy."

And to prove Mhel's innocence, Mhel brought P18,000 worth of receipts to the chancellor. He claimed that it was the amount of personal money that he had used while doing his duties and responsibilities as President of the SSG. He used his own money because the admin was not releasing funds to the student government.

His being a student activist did not play well with the school administration. Most did not like it.

So, despite winning a landslide victory, Mhel had assumed his last term as President of the SSG after taking a late Oath of Office last February 2001, barely two months before graduation. He was able to use only a meager sum of P60,000 from the students funds for his projects, and doing it overtime just to finish them before graduation. The other P120,000 that was intended for other meaningful projects was not used. The admin kept it for the next school year.

Meltino Sibulan and Batchmate in College Graduation 2001

These challenges and frustrations had really become the motivating factor for Mhel to become a lawyer, his frustration that he could not do anything to defend himself; and that everybody was against him that time while being fully aware that he was not doing anything wrong. He was only trying to put the MSU students' interest on top of everything, frequently being verbally abused by the admins.

With a confused mind, he unexpectedly bumped into Ms Jennylinda Nandu (now an executive secretary of the DILG-Armm regional secretary) at the MSU-Sulu gate. Remembering that she was about to take up law in Marawi City, she asked her about the requirements of the Bachelor of Laws, which he immediately complied with.

"I told my parents about my plans," recounted Mhel, "But they did not agree with me. They told me to look for a job. I have to support my siblings, they said."

With the burning passion and determination in his heart to become a lawyer, he refused to follow his parents' advice. He escaped to MSU-Marawi using only the funds which he successfully reimbursed from the MSU-Sulu SSG funds: P11,000, part of the P18,000 worth of receipts he showed to the chancellor.

But he still did not know what to do, what was expected of him as a law student. The books given to him, he just put in the corner, and stared at them in disbelief: "How can I possibly memorise all of these?"

So the first day of class was a shock. One by one, the students were called up to recite on what they had learned so far. And Jennylinda Nandu was her classmate. Luckily she had consumed the whole hour, thus Mhel and the other students were freed from worry. But it challenged Mhel, of course.

So, the competitive Mhel wanted to do more but he didn't know where to start.

"After class, I ran to the Masjid (mosque) in MSU-Marawi, and say the Sambahayang Hajat," he recalled. "Though I didn't know the exact Niyat to utter, I only wanted to ask Allah for something. For anything."

And he was given Taufiq. That was the time that he appreciated the wisdom of the first commandment of Allah in the Holy Qur'an: Iqra! He read, read and read, until he got addicted to reading.

Mr Dahams, his friend in Marawi, said: "Nobody could distract Mhel from reading, even my friends' loud cacophony of friendly jostling and laughters. But after he was done reading, he would join the fun and enjoy our company."

So when the time came that Mhel was called to recite, he was able to utilize the full hour, his ideas were still unstoppable. "I was surprised when all of my classmates congratulated me. I was happy."

In MSU-Marawi, there were six students (Bennyamin Musahari, Meltino Sibulan, Radzmel Sibulan, Marghani Sabaani, Abdulaziz Kairan, Salimar Sali, and Alhabir Dahamban) sharing the same quarter. And all of them, looked at Mhel as a guardian, brother, and friend. He solved most of their problems: homework, school, financial, name it. They shared the same food (mostly noodles, sardines, and soy sauce), the same house, the same source of amusement.

"Siya sayan (hi Atty Mhel) in nagpasulig kamu," said Mr Dahams.

And so, to further support his growing budgetary requirement while in the Law School at MSU-Marawi, he applied at CHED which was accepted by the second application. The computer acumen he learned while in personal tutorial with himself also brought dividends. He had become widely known at the MSU-Marawi as a computer expert, earning few thousands of pesos for each successful repair. Not only that, he was also hired as secretary to the Dean's office, earning him P5,000 monthly more.

In 2005, he finished law, passing the Bar a few months later. He is now practicing law at Sibulan Law Office, Martires Street, Jolo, Sulu, while also doing part time as teachers in various schools in and out of Sulu!

The graduate and the few, the proud Lab High in MSU-Marawi in 2005

His greatest dream now is to have a Law School in MSU-Sulu, and become a high official* (see note below) thereat so that he can try to influence a lot of Tausug to take up Law, and make the Tausug people law conscious.

He had this mantra in college: "Ignorance of the law excuses no one."

Well, for Attorney Meltino Sibulan, "Failure is not an excuse!" Of course, it shall happen, because Attorney Sibulan think of it. In shaa Allah, it will become a reality!

As a footnote: Sometime in 2005 while reviewing for Bar, he was tested by a friend in Manila if indeed Mhel was not "Bading". Indeed, his friend Madz was definitely convinced. Mhel's reason that time amid the open temptation, "I will not use any woman who is not yet my wife." :D

At 33 years old, Attorney Meltino Sibulan is still a bachelor.

Hear! Hear!

Atty Mhel and Friend Madz during Graduation in High School.
Note: All images were taken from the MSU-SULU LAB HIGH SCHOOL ALUMNI NETWORK FB group.

Minor correction: I have misquoted Atty Mhel when he said that he wanted to become high official in the soon-to-be-established MSU-Sulu Law College. First, he is a person that will always refuse to be employed by the Philippine Government. MSU-Sulu is a public school, thus a Government-run school. He clarified that he just want to be "instrumental" in the strengthening of the consciousness towards Law of the Tausug people, and if being one of the professors of the MSU-Sulu Law School, he can do a difference, then he will accept the challenge.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Is The 15th Night of Sha'ban, Special?

The 15th Night of Sha'ban, Special?
by Umm Yusaiyr


Dum Ika-hangpu' Taglima sin Sha'ban..

Awn daying ha mga ma-nusiya' tiyartanto nila in dum ika-hangpu' taglima sin bulan Sha'ban ha pagsambahayang Qiyaamul Layl iban pagbassa Qur-an. In kaybanan puasahun nla in Adlaw ikahangpu taglima yaun.

Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem..

In sarayaw-rayaw suntuan sin kitaniyu sarta' uupihan amuna in Nabi natu' Muhammad s.a.w..

In Nabiy s.a.w. misan nakaminsan way sya nag-ibaadat tartantu ha du-man sin ikahangpu' taglima sin Sha'ban, damikyan in mga Sahabat nya (r.a.).

Laung hi Sheikh bin Baaz Rahimahullaah:

((Wayruun saheeh hadith manunju-ki ha hangpu' taglima sin Sha'ban.. Kataan sin hadith magkasabbot sin mga ma-nusya, in mga yadtu bang bukun hadith mawdhu', hadith daiyf, way puunan nya..

Wayruun special tungud ha dum ini iban wayruun pagbassa Qur-an atawa pagsambahayang, sambahayang isa isa na ka atawa barjama-a amuin natartantu ha dum ini..

In amuin pyagsabbut sin kaybanan Ulama' awn kunu' special ha dum ini in iyan ra'yi daiyf (weak opinion). Di' makajari tartantuhun in dum ikahangpu' taglima ha unu unu na kakahinang tartantu (special actions).. amuini in kurik opinion..))

-- fataawa islaamiyya 4/511

Ha tungud sin i'tikad sin kaybanan in Allaahu Subhaanahu wa Ta'aala magnaug pa Langit Dunya ha du-man sin ika-15 asupaya ampunun ktanyu,

In mattan nya, bukun hadja ha dum ika-15 magnaug in Allaah S.W.T. pa Langit Dunya, buwat malaengkan, magjatu ini dum dum sin katan patahunan..

Nagsabda in Nabiy s.a.w.:

[ dum dum apabila dumatung in tung kabahagi' nya (1/3 of d nyt) magnaug in Allaah Tabaaraka wa Ta'aala pa Langit Dunya maglawag ha mga Eipun Nya mag iistigfar iban mga ma-ngangayu' du'a..] -- byah sin nasabbut ha Bukhaariy..

Naasubu e Abdullaah bin al-Mubaarak tungud pa pagnaug sin Allaah pa Langit Dunya ha dum ika-15, in agi nya:

((in yan daiyf!! amun ha rum sin ika-15? magnaug in Allaah S.W.T. dum dum!))

read more:


In pagpuasa ha bulan Sha'ban sunnat nahinang sin Rasul s.a.w. sagawa in 'illa (salla') dayindun, amuin TARTANTUHUN mu in ika-15 sin Sha'ban puasahun. Atawa TARTANTUHUN mu in adlaw 13, 14, 15 (amun 3 white days sunnat puasahun kahaba' bulan) sin Sha'ban, sah in ha dugaing bulan di' mu puasahun in 3 white days yan.. amuyan in di' manjari.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pagtunang Tunang Sin Mga Usug Taga Asawa

Bismillaahi Wassalaato Wassalaamu ala Rasuwlillaah..

Bihayaun bissarahun natu' in hambuk mawdu' amuin ma-hang magkatackle ha mga patumtum sagawa mattan tuod jimajatu..

amuna in:

((Pagtunang Tunang Sin Mga Usug Taga Asawa))

by Umm Yusaiyr

Muna muna, pasawahun namu' in maksud sin post ine..
Magmaaf man tuod ha way kyuddan..

Bukun ine asupaya dihilan sakit in mga kaasawahan.. atawa dihilan chance in kaasawahan maghuna' huna' pa mga kabanahan nla.. sagawa' in ine ha pagmuhot muhot namu' magsuggest solution ha problema ine..

Sabab, mabaya' ktanyu iban sin dh, tanto tanto in parkala ine jimajatu.. bukun ine halucinations namu' hadja.. nah ha sakainu ine dh natu' inu inuhun, masi masi in ummat alawm kahalubiluhan..

Balikan namu' bukun ta ine sabbutun asupaya magcreate troubles between married couples, sagawa dihilan ta solution, mura murahan magmumfaat..

Tumtumun ta in PAGTUNANG TUNANG HARAM in hukuman nya, kumuddan naka ha subul/budjang atawa ha taga asawa..

Nah byadien kaengat ta in usug (bana) awn tyatapuk nya (awn tunang tunang)?

Mga alaamat sin awn tyatapuk:

* dh na pagbuta-nan in cp dyara madto mari sampay pa cr awn wakto
* dh pagpaulinan in cp nya
* bang kumatingug in cp magtoy lumungkahad kawaun
* hyuhulid sampay matog in cp, awn wakto ibutang pa asawm u-an
* dh idihil in password sn fb/ym, etc
* awn keypad code/password in cp
* apabila pasaran kw umulin sn cp nya, empty isab in inbox/sent items nya

Ha bihaine na dagbus sin pagjaga nya sin celfon nya, tanto tanto way pagduwa ruwa in usug yan awn tyatapuk nya..

Karna' bukun mahunit in pasaran mu in celfon mu duun ha kabutang nya, bukun mahunit in idihil mu in passwords mu ha taeban mu.. bang bukun da maksud awn tyatapuk mu..

Ikaw asawa, ha bihayni na in kyasasaksian mu ha bana mu, ayaw na kaw magbuta bisu.. ayaw pasari in bana mu ha bihan hantang.. tanto in sya na-sasasat sin Shaytan..

engata apabila mattan nagtunang tunang sya, in sya nagdurusa.. in sya nagmama'cyat pa Allaah!

unu in hinangun apabila jumatu kaymu in bihaine?

muna muna, da-ha magminnu minnu in bana mu in a nice way..

buntula sya baytae sin kyasasakupan mu kanya..

sarta' nasi-hati sya bilang tymanghud mu ha Agama..

die ha ine subay in babae maisug tumindug ha kasabunnalan..

ayaw paunaha in emotions mu (pagdugal/pagselos mu) karna' in problema ha bana mu nakalanggal sya shara' sin Agama..

patumtumi sya arakala nalupa hadja sya..

sarta' baytae, "bang kaw mabaya' umasawa, anytime suportahan ta kaw, sah in pangayuun ku kaymu ayaw da-ha magtxt txt/ magcol col/ magchat chat in babae way mu pa kyakawinan, luba' luba' na ayaw da-ha magktah ktah.."

karna' bukun hadja in bana mu nagmama'cyat pa Allaah, sagawa unti' unti' kyakange' nya in ngan nya.. maisturi sya taga asawa, nagti txt txt/ nagko col col iban kabudjangan.. maraw hadja bang way kabagayan sin budjang yaun dh sya ipangisturi..

ampa tanto tanto in usug awn kyababayaan dugaeng (ha dan haram) tanto mapinda sya pa anak asawa nya amuin halal kanya..

mapansin mu na lang daran na hadja sya dyudugalan, daran na hadja nagbubunges, dh na pagkatyu' tyuan.. halos amura in kakitaan nya ha asawa nya (halal kanya) in kapintasan katan.. mali na sadja ha pangatod nya in asawa nya..

dba, tanto halubilu?

nah ikaw asawa, in hikatabang mu ha bana mu kanungnungan bukun mu isab da-hun magbuget..

Sagawa patumtumi.. tindug kaw ha kasabunnalan..

Kaengatan mu bang mayta' magtapuk tapuk in kabanahan?

Daen da isab ka-toh kaasawahan.. pag istriktuhan ta sila landu'.. apabila sila sumukat asawa magtoy magmatay kta..

Landu' ta sila pag-istriktuhan.. sagawa way sab kimuddan in pag istriktu ta..

In kta subay in pag istriktuhan ta in hinang ma'cyat!

Tumtuma in pagganap asawa bukun sya ma'cyat asupaya ipagmatay mu landu'! sagawa in pagtunang tunang nla in hinang ma'cyat salaggu' laggu'!

Tindug kaw ha kasabunnalan ya kaw Asawa..

17 years of DepEd ARMM accrued Debts to GSIS, to be settled

Celebration of Independence in Armm more meaningful

written by JK

This years celebration of independence in the ARMM will be unique and more meaningful. Not only because it could be the last celebration under the ARG but also because there is a different kind of freedom and independence that we are going to celebrate beginning today.

Since 1997, less than 10 years from the establishment of the ARMM and barely a year since the signing of The Final Peace Agreement between GPH and the MNLF, DepEd-ARMM started to remiss in remitting both the personal contribution and the government share of the teachers to the GSIS. Due to the large bureaucracy that deped-armm has, its total amount of monthly remittance was already tempting or enticing for the covetous and corrupt heads of the agency. Unknown to the public, remittances of contributions and loan repayments no longer reached the GSIS. Teachers' application for loan were denied, retiring teachers were made to repay for the loan that has long been deducted from their monthly salary by Deped, some retired teachers received lesser or no pension at all. Salaries were delayed and in one instance was never actually paid. It was the dark age of Deped-ARMM. These situations even reached the halls of congress.

For 17 long years, this account of deped-armm hangs like the sword of Damocles over every head of every retiring teacher. It makes retiring stressful rather than something that every government employee anticipates after a long service in government, something they are looking forward to be able to pay off their debts, have their son marry or in most cases pay their way to a pilgrimage to Mecca.

I still can vividly remember my friend's wife, a provisional teacher who joined the teachers' rally in Jolo sometime in 2001. The teachers were complaining about their loan benefits with the GSIS. I was there on invitation from the municipal government of Jolo to convince the teachers to get back to work. Retired teachers also joined the younger ones, among them was my friend's wife. I explained among others that the fine prints allow GSIS to deduct payments from their retirement benefit. I also told them that they should report back to work when ordered by the superintendent. I advise them to demand from the regional government and deped-armm the immediate settlement of the gsis obligations. The teachers went back to work as directed by the superintendent but no action was taken by the ARG.

Three years ago, my friend's wife died and the benefits received by her family was lesser than they expected. The superintendent that issues a return to work order retired a few years after that incident about 300,000.00 poorer than she expected.

Today, however, we are all gathered here by the generosity of the GSIS and the government under the Administration of President Benigno S. Aquino lll and the determination of my administration in making sure that every living, dead and retired teachers received what is due them from the gsis. We are here to bury the mother of all ghosts in the ARMM, placed it in its final resting place without the possibility of resurrection. The long wait, the series of sitting together and our repeated announcement of this settlement on various occasions is finally over.

Today, we have freed our teachers, in service as well as those who already retired, from the uncertainty of the full entitlement of their retirement benefit.

(note: full text was taken from an FB post)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Notre Dame Enrollees decrease this SY 2014-2015

Notre Dame of Jolo for Boys Kasulutan

The school administrators of the Notre Dame of Jolo for Boys-Kasulutan (NDJFBK) and the Notre Dame of Jolo for Girls (NDJFG) find both of their students' population significantly dropping this School Year.

Brother Eugene Pius, the administrator of the NDJFBK, notices at least 10 percent decrease. Even though the Notre Dame is still accepting entrants, the administrator believes that it would not affect the percentage.

Brother Eugene Pius

Concurrent to the decrease of the enrollees is the increase of the transferees to other schools outside Sulu.

The administrator attributes this sad situation to the spate of kidnappings. The private schools are having a feeling that the government is not supporting them.

“Some of our students belong to the average family, or maybe more than the average, so probably they have money to pay, so they are subjected to kidnappings,” said Brother Eugene Pius.

Aside from the threats of kidnapping, Brother Eugene Pius sees two other reasons why transferees are increasing: 1) no fee in the public schools, and 2) the decision of the anxious parents.

Because of the increase of transferees, “the morale of the school has to go down. . . . And even the school feels sometimes that it is also subjected to threats,” said Brother Pius.

“And we cannot do much about it because these outside forces, and we do not know who are they, are probably not directly threatening the school but the parents of the students of the school, so naturally, to save their life, they have to transfer (their wards) to other place.”

A classroom in NDJFB

Brother Pius definitely feels helpless about it, “We feel we do not get support from the government officials.”

As an intervention measure, the Notre Dame hired additional securities for the school to secure the students while inside the premises.

“We have to have securities, otherwise the students would be endangered,” said Brother Pius.

The Notre Dame of Jolo for Boys is catering to Grade 7 to 12 in the province of Sulu. The teaching is good, the school supplies and equipment are considerably complete. The only problem perhaps is the peace and order situation.

"My advice is for the government officials to really function, and do their responsibility (in ensuring peace and stability in the province of Sulu)," said Brother Pius.

Notre Dame of Jolo For Girls complete with school amenities

Notre Dame of Jolo for Girls

Enrollees also plummet in the NDJFG, a private and exclusive school for girls in Sulu. It is now down to 800 from 900 students last 2013.

Run by the vicariate of the OMI, the Notre Dame of Jolo for Girls while an exclusive school for high school students, also caters to boys and girls from Grade 1 to 6.

Parents and their children

A son of Dra Farah Jajurie Intimani, together with two other pupils of the NDJFG were kidnapped recently, and release a few days later. The three pupils did not return to the school after abduction.

Notre Dame of Jolo for Girls's picturesque school compound

The school, enclosed in high walls with military and blue guards, looks very safe for students. The school has complete amenities with sprawling buildings to boot. They have their own working school laboratory, which some schools in Sulu lack. The pupils of grade school are free to play after class.

Military Guard inside the NDJFG campus

Some of the students share their experiences during the first days of classes.

Ms Amaani Abdulkhabir and Ms Fairuz Albani, and their friends, all students of NDJFG, said that the school is very strict. They are not allowed to display colored hair, and they need to be neat-looking all the time.

Ms Abdulkhabir said: “Masaya naman sa ngayon. Medyo natatakot din dahil sa mayroong nakikidnap, pero hatid-sundo naman kami. Satisfied naman kami sa paaralan in terms of security.”

Student Ms Abdulkhabir and classmates after class

The students are now wary on the tricycle drivers because of the threat of kidnapping outside the campus. But within the campus, they are feeling safe and secure. They have security guards and blue guards who protect them round the clock. Additionally, military men are there also for the protections of the three sisters who are teachers and administrators of the NDJFG.

Mommy Susan (not her real name), the mother of two students in NDJFG, said she transferred her daughters to Zamboanga City because of the volatile situations in Sulu.

Mommy Susan

“For peace of mind, kasi during the time of February and March, the peak of kidnapping, natakot kami, kasi wala ng pinipili that time. Hindi natin alam, baka ma-timing ang mga bata papuntang eskwela o pauwi, baka makuha nila, kaya nag-decide na lang kami na i-transfer sila,” said Mommy Susan.

The school administrations of NDJFG agreed but said that they had little choices because they were so afraid.

“Di kami pwede mag-prayer rally, mag-rally, mag-ano. Wala, we resort only to prayer and take careful steps, kasi takot ba talaga. Wala kami magawa kundi magdasal, and advice our students and all of us na careful lang, kamaya always,” said Miss Agripina Dime, senior teacher of the NDJFG.

Miss Agripina Dime

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The New Thrill: Adventure Tourism!

Just sharing this news from the The Star Online Malaysia to my Filipino friends.

Semporna kidnap: We ate a lot of fried chicken on Jolo island, says Filipina worker

by ruben sario

KOTA KINABALU: A Filipina hotel worker has revealed that kidnappers ensured she and Gao Huayun were well fed during their two months in captivity on Jolo island in the Philippines, and even gave the Chinese tourist "special food" on her birthday.

"Most of the time we were fed fried chicken the Abu Sayyaf bought from a food store somewhere. Masarap din! (it was quite tasty)," forty-year-old Marcy Dayawan said.

When Gao celebrated her birthday on April 8, Dayawan said the kidnappers even bought "special food" from town.

Soon after returning home to her native Midsayap town in North Cotobato in Mindanao island, Marcy told Philippines media that Gao cried when they went their separate ways after arriving in Kuala Lumpur from Sabah.

She said she and Gao were held by a group of gunmen led by an Alhabsi Misaya, in the jungles of Indanan on Jolo island.

"They called their leader Misaya and sometimes Maas (elder)," she said.

Dayawan said while in captivity, she served as Gao's caretaker, attending to her needs at the gunmen's mountainous hideout.

Marcy said the gunmen did not harm them in any way, but were constantly guarded by two armed men.

She said the gunmen also allowed Gao to call her family in Shanghai and she had to translate the conversation to the gunmen.

Gao and Dayawan survived almost two months of captivity in the mountainous jungle hideout of Jolo island in the southern Philippines.

Dayawan was working at the Singamata Reef Resort near Semporna, where Shanghai native Gao Huayun was staying on April 2, when five gunmen abducted them and spirited them to Jolo island using high-powered speedboats.

The two women were eventually released on May 30 to Malaysian security officials.

Malaysian and Philippines officials have both said no ransom was paid for the women's release.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Challenge of Bangsamoro

The Challenge of Bangsamoro
June 4, 2014 at 2:55pm

Address: General Faculty Convocation, Ateneo de Davao University, June 2, 2014.
By Joel Tabora, SJ

Because of the historical moment, and the mandate that is ours as a Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino University at this juncture of history, I would like to focus on the Bangsamoro. Based on the Comprehensive Agreement Bangsamoro, the Transition Commission has drafted a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Soon, the draft, reviewed by the Office of the President, shall be submitted to Congress. The BBL, if approved, will create the Bangsamoro political entity to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. With the Bangsamoro, we hope for peace. But how bright are our hopes in the Bangsamoro? And what is the role that we must play from within our university in order to brighten these hopes?

We are at a historical moment in the history of Mindanao – as the Filipino nation shall deliberate on whether to pass or not to pass the BBL. In this moment, we as a Catholic, Filipino and Jesuit university community must understand our role.

It is a moment which impacts immediately on Muslims of 13 different ethno-linguistic tribes living in Mindanao and their longtime desire to find a homeland in Mindanao – a home where their customs and traditions might be practiced and respected, a home where they might worship and serve Allah in peace.

It may be said, once the homeland was theirs when the Muslim missionary Sharif Muhammad Kabungsuan offered Islam to two brothers. One, Tabunaway, accepted Islam in freedom; the other, Mamalu, did not. As brothers, however, both accepted to live on this their island in peace. Mindanao was home to the Islamized indigenous peoples; it was also home to the non-islamized indigenous peoples. Together it is said they lived in peace.

The harmony forged by brothers tolerant of differing faiths was broken by the coming of the Spanish conqueror. Islam had not been forced on the Filipino, but it came with a vibrant seafaring trade between Mindanao and communities in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and even China and India.

By the time the Spaniards came, the Islamized descendants of Tabunaway had organized themselves into indigenized communities of Muslims in Mindanao: the sultanates of Maguindanao, of Buwayan, and of Sulu as well as the four principalities of Lanao. When they were discovered by the Spanish conqueror as worshippers of Allah, they were called Moros – the same pejorative, hate-filled term they had used for the north-African Muslims – Moors – who had ruled Spain for 700 years. The Spanish conqueror claimed the entire archipelago for the Spanish crown and named it in honor of the Spanish prince, Felipe, who eventually became its king.

We know the Spaniards shared their faith with the natives of the Philippines, whom they first referred to with disdain as indios. In Luzon and in the Visayas “the child of colonization was the Filipino,” and most of us owe our faith and culture to that historic tradition. In Mindanao, however, the “offspring of anti-colonization was the Moro.”

The Moros refused Spanish rule because they had perceived it as inextricable from Christianization. When the Spaniards came to conquer, often with the help of islanders from Luzon and the Visayas, they also came with the conviction that the “infidel” should be brought to the true faith. The Moros resisted in defense of their way of life, their traditions and their religion. They resisted in cunning, valor, and ferocity. They were never conquered.

But as we know, when the fathers of our Filipino nation had used the fruits of the European Enlightenment against the unenlightened European conqueror, when Emilio Aquinaldo had declared independence from Spain, and when the Malolos Constitution had amply demonstrated the Filipino to be educated, enlightened and skilled enough for self rule, independence was snatched away from the Filipinos through the Americans. At the end of the Spanish American War, Spain sold the Philippines that had won independence from it to the United States, and along with it the sovereign sultanates they had never conquered.

Ironically, it became part of the “manifest destiny” of American imperialists, whose nation had been born under the “self-evident” notion “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” to impose their notion of life, freedom and happiness and their imperial interests on the unequal Filipinos.

While it was relatively easy for the Filipinos of the north to be reconciled with American rule, it was not the case with the Moros. After a brief interlude of peace, when the Moros thought the Americans offered them more religious freedom than they had ever enjoyed under the Spaniards, the true colors of the Americans emerged.

Once he had conquered the Filipinos of the north, he turned to conquer the Moros of the south. It was the American manifest destiny to “civilize” the “savage” Moros and make them into “true Filipinos” – his “little brown brothers,” just like the Christian Filipinos of the north. With superior firepower and military might, their way of pacification was savage carnage and slaughter – as in the Battle of Bud Dajo and in the Battle of Bud Bagsak in Jolo.

They created a Moro Province to further pacify the Moros and integrate them into Filipino society. In this “integration” they claimed respect for Moro culture, but subjected the Moros to the rule of Christian Filipinos in newly-created provinces. These had absorbed the American disdain for the savage and heathen Moros. In time, the Moros’ hatred for the Filipinos surpassed their dislike for the Americans, and many eventually preferred to be ruled by Americans than by Filipinos.

Already under the Americans, but even under the Commonwealth, an insidious means of pacification and integration of the Moros into Philippine society was the resettlement of Christian Filipinos from Luzon and the Visayas into Mindanao. First through the Agricultural Colonies Acts of 1913 of the Philippine Commission, then through the Colonization Act of the Commonwealth Government of 1935, waves and waves of homesteaders came into the Mindanao “Promised Land.”

But the promised land for the migrant settlers disenfranchised the Moros and the indigenous peoples of their communally-owned lands, and the unfamiliar system of land registration imposed on them led to the loss of their lands when they did not comply. What ought to have been an orderly homesteading program became chaotic and often violent. Landgrabbing became the order of the day, with the educated and those familiar with the northern bureaucracy taking advantage of the uneducated and ignorant, among them the descendants of Tabunaway and Mamalu.

It must be noted that in both the Agricultural Colonization Acts under the Americans and the Commonwealth’s Colonization Act under the Filipinos, resettlement and repopulation was a tool of colonization. Not only the foreign Americans but the Filipinos subjected Moro territories to “colonization,” implying that they were colonizers and the Moros were foreign. For the Moros then, the Filipinos were foreign. Are we to be surprised at the deep-rooted ill-feeling Moros harbor for Filipinos?

Ill feeling became hatred, and hatred turned violent. To defend their new homesteads, the Ilongo settlers, the Ilagas, warred against the Moros. The Maranao Barracudas and the Maguindanao-Iranon Blackshirts retaliated. The Promised Land, now overrun with people who shared nothing of the fraternal harmony between the descendants of the brothers, Tabunaway and Mamalu, had become a battlefield of the imperialism, proselytization, “national” interest, greed and land hunger of intruders from the north, on which the Moros spilled blood in defense of their traditions and religion, and sacrificed their own.

As houses were burned and people perished, hatred and frustration deepened. Where they were regarded as “other,” outsiders, second-rate citizens, pagan, savage, mere means for the good of the Filipino nation in the north, they knew their aspirations for a homeland had not been achieved.

Some of us have personal memories of the ferocity of the Mindanao wars against the Muslims, triggered by the massacre of men, women and children who had gathered in search of peace in the mosque of Manili of Carmen, Cotabato. How had the Muslim suddenly become the national adversary on the island of his birth?

We may also recall the shamelessness and national treachery of the Jabidah massacre, where the adventurism of Marcos into Sabah, ended with his massacring the young Muslims he had recruited and trained in Corregidor, because they’d asked to be paid their fifty peso monthly allowance. How cheap Muslim blood had become! To cover up this murder, Marcos then renounced the Sabah claim that in fact was not his to renounce but belonged to the Sultan of Sulu.

Soon after the Maguindanaoan patriarch Udtog Matalam announced the Muslim Independence Movement; it was complemented by the emergence of Nur Misuari’s armed Moro National Liberation Front. The idea of Muslim independence sowed fear and terror in the hearts of many non-Muslim inhabitants of Mindanao. Soon the battlefield of Mindanao was to claim more victims, including an interlude when the President of the Philippines declared “all out war” against the Moros.

Today it is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front led by Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim that continues the struggle to break away from a past of discrimination, hatred, and violence, and find a homeland for the Muslims in the Philippines. After years of struggle and negotiation, the chance for that seems to have come in the political entity called Bangsamoro. It is the Bangsamoro Basic Law that is a chance for a Moro homeland in the Philippines.

I am not a historian. I confess, most of what I now understand – and moves me personally – concerning the Bangsamoro issue I have learned here through the various events and conversations we have hosted here on the issue plus my readings in relation to these.

Especially helpful have been been personal conversations with Datu Mussolini Lidasan of our Al Qalam Institute and with Dr. Heidi Gloria, author of the now sold-out, “History from Below: A View from the Philippine South.” I have also been privileged to travel recently through Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Cotabato City where I have conversed on the Bangsamoro with such as Orlando Cardinal Quevedo and Chairman Murad Ebrahim. In all this I have been conscious of the role that the ADDU as a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino university is playing in the issue, and shall continue to play.

Today, I would like to invite us all, from all of our units, to the extent that is possible to each, to continue to play a defining role in this process. Work for understanding. Work for insight. Work for peace. Teach peace. Not the peace of the graveyard, not the tenuous peace that comes from signatures on parchment, but the peace that comes from what our Pope Francis calls “reconciled diversity.”

For us, this means making our contribution as our mission mandates: in the service of the faith, in promotion of justice, in sensitivity to cultures, in inter-religious dialogue, in the preservation of the environment.

First, the faith. As we are Catholic and believe in Jesus Christ, pertinent to the Bangsamoro, articulate the truth, no matter the cost, no matter how painful. Where we may have erred due to an overzealousness for our faith, or for our personal interests, that may need to be clearly stated in truth. That may need to lead to a more enlightened way of sharing our faith.

Today, after the Vatican Council II, we all accept freedom of religion and the right of all individuals to worship as their consciences urge. Today, as has been demonstrated by Pope Francis in his recent visit to the Holy Land, this includes the right of Muslims to worship Allah as they freely choose. But it also includes concerns, based on painful lessons in history, that the freedom of religions does not violate fundamental human rights and human dignity.

Today we hope that Muslims’ witness of faith in Allah might help us to witness to our own faith in the Triune God with deeper fidelity and generosity. We also hope that our shared worship of a God of Compassion turns us not into violent warriors but into persons ourselves of compassion.

Second, justice. As our faith in this world cannot be credible without justice, pertinent to the Bangsamoro, articulate the injustices that have been brought on to the Muslims living with us on this island, bring to your students and the world insight into the reality and shamefulness of these injustices. Cardinal Quevedo has said that the major issue pertinent to the Moros is injustice: injustice pertinent to Moro identity, to Moro political sovereignty, and to Moro integral development.

Say where we have been unjust. At the same time, Muslims may also give voice to occurences in history that have violated their collective conscience before Allah. For Christians and Muslims telling the truth can lead to a deeper experience of the God of compassion, on which we all depend. In this truth, through scholarship, teaching, writing, use of media and the social media, we can then act together to rectify injustice.

As we have underscored our obligation in the ADDU in our commitment justice to articulate the demands of social justice, we must contribute to an ever truer articulation of what the common good demands pertinent to the Muslim Community in Mindanao. What shall be the manner in which our different faiths complement and strengthen, and not undermine nor destroy one another? What shall be the manner in which the Bangsamoro and non-Bangsamoro areas recover something of the peace and tolerance that once characterized Tabunawa and Mamalu?

Third, cultures. The Bangsamoro is referred to as a “political entity,” and that is what the BBL defines it to be. But the Bangsamoro is also a bundle of cultural entities. It has been questioned whether the 13 ethno-linguistic groups which comprise the Bangsamoro is really a “bangsa” (a nation); it has also been questioned whether the pejorative term Moro is the appropriate term to refer to this bundle of cultural entities. While there are Moros who for reasons explained above reject the notion of their being “Filipino,” other “Filipino Muslims” accept this freely.

Among these in fact are Muslim communities that pride themselves in the level of their having been indigenized within the Philippine Garden, and distance themselves from a foreign process of homogenization into an Islam of the Arabian desert.

Yet other Islamized Moros – the Sama di Laut – are not Filipinos because they are seafarers and belong the sea, which connects to many countries. Finally, recalling Mamalu, we must recall the cultures of the indigenous peoples who have not embraced Islam, and today, the complex cultures of Filipinos who have embraced Christianity.

The question of cultures is among the major mandates of our university mission. Bangsamoro is a “work in progress” – especially from the viewpoint of its cultures. Perhaps the ADDU can contribute substantially to the discussion on what Bangsamoro means culturally, promoting a new cultural identity yet respecting a rich cultural diversity.

This may impact on the conduct of Bangsamoro education – which will promote values consistent with the Islamic faith, rather than those of secularism, materialism and hedonism, which are in fact also inconsistent with true Christian faith.

Fourth, Inter-religious Dialogue. Here, we must begin with a dialogue of life, whenever possible, sharing life between Christians and Muslims. Making friends. This is why I am proposing we support the newly approved JVP-like Volunteer Program between the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) and the National Association for Bangsamoro Education, Inc. (NABEi). This calls for immersion of CEAP volunteers in Muslim communities for one to two years and their teaching DepEd “content courses” in selected madrasahs. This is the CEAP-NABEi Volunteer Program.

The mission shall be not only to teach subjects but to learn of Muslim life; not to convert others to Christianity, but deepen one’s own Christianity in encountering the faith and devotion of the Muslims. We can then move on to a shared engagement for the common good.

Finally, the environment. What we certainly share is the environment. We must learn together that our island is one ecosystem, and that the different regions of Mindanao must find in her the means of their sustenance and livelihood, they must preserve it also for future generations. Under no conditions should it be destroyed in favor of foreigners.

Reconciled Diversity

In singling out the Bangsamoro issue, I did not mean to denigrate the importance of our other engagements: our efforts for poverty alleviation, for peace with the NPA, for justice for indigenous peoples, for human rights, for progress against corruption, for the environment.

But we are at the historic moment of the Bangsamoro, which involves us specially because of our shared mission to faith, justice, cultures, inter-religious dialogue and the environment.

What we can hope for in the Bangsamoro may have to depend on how all may shape it as a true vehicle of peace based especially on justice and on its being a “reconciled diversity.” That I have underscored in this address. May the Bangsamoro – which encompasses all the aspects of our mission – inspire and challenge us all!

B'laan woman belonging to one of Mindanao's oldest tribes