Fun with Maranao children during break time-A A +A
Sunday, September 8, 2013
RICH people claim that they are one of the “fortunate” because they can buy all the things that they want. Intelligent people on the other hand, profess how expert they are on their respective fields since knowledge is within their reach.
I would like to believe that I am one of the rich fortunate souls. In my own little way, I guess. Firstly, I am grateful that at the young(?) age of 33, I am blessed with two smart kiddos who are obviously my greatest fans even if I shout at the top of my lungs because of the mess they often leave at home. More importantly, I am at the peak of my career where opportunities are endless. I have been to different jobs since I graduated in 2001. And all of them left a mark, positively speaking. The jobs and the people I worked with taught me to hone my skills, be flexible in dealing people and even on learning on trivial stuff like using USB flash drives or filtering Excel files. Those were the good old days. And the most rewarding part of all is I married my college sweetheart. Call it a bonus, whatever.
But nothing beats my present job. Aside from consolidating and analyzing data and writing reports, my job calls me to travel to monitor the implementation of Pantawid Pamilya in the whole region.
I have come to realize that traveling is brutal. It forces me to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. I am constantly off balance. I have nothing except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the mountains, the sky (and you may even include the endless habal-habal rides) – all things tending toward the eternal or what I imagine of it.
The past weeks proved to be memorable when I traveled to Lanao del Norte particularly in the municipalities of Linamon, Maigo, Bacolod, Munai and Balo-i. But Munai stood out from the rest. There is something in Munai which is mysterious or eerie, perhaps because it is an armed-conflict area.
Munai is a fifth class municipality in the province of Lanao del Norte. According to the latest 2010 census, it has a population of 27,600 people and the municipality is politically subdivided into 26 barangays. I simply went there riding a van and stopped in one crossing which is still a part of Kauswagan. From there, I was supposed to enjoy a habal-habal ride but local folks told me not to ride all by myself because of the recent kidnapping incidents there. Well, for one, I do not have lots of money to pay for a ransom. But I do not mind giving up my meager allowance, shoulder bag or my pair of sneakers. Just in case. Hehe. Spare my external drive though. This gadget has become my official partner, so to speak.
“Maam, hulati lang nga moagi ang Buffalo ha (Ma’am, wait for the Buffalo, okay),” they said. And so I waited and after 30 minutes of waiting, my “Buffalo” arrived. It’s not the animal, but it’s called the Buffalo because of the signage on top. It was simply a jeepney. And so I had my Buffalo ride with the rest of the municipal workers. During the travel, I was captivated with the clear blue skies and the smiles of the Maranao people. We were only 9 (including the driver) but that did not stop me from asking as to why going in Munai has been feared by other people.
“Pag-all-out war last 2000 maam, daghan tanke dinhi. Ang looy maam kay kami, kay kapoy na mi sige balhin. Among mga hayop mabyaan. Dili na lang mi magpaayo sa among mga balay kay mao ra gyapon maguba ra na. Daghan gani iniagian sa bala maam (In the all-out war last 2000 Ma’am, there were lots of battle tanks here. We were in deplorable situation Ma’am, we’re so tired of constantly moving. We left our domestic animals behind. We didn’t repair our houses because it would just be destroyed all over again. There are even bullet marks Ma’am),” a Maranao said, his distinct accent hinted me.
While I was listening intently and conversing with him, I got smiles from the others since I could not understand Maranao. A simple “oway” is the only word that I can think of. A few phrases that I have learned during the ride was saying, “Mapiya kapipita” which means good morning. And of course I need to learn on how to say “Pekababaya-an ko seka” correctly, as this is my only pasalubong for my husband when I return home. It means “I love you.”
Then, we passed by Brgy. Delabayan, a community torn by conflict, which is in the process of rehabilitation as I saw lots of streamers and signs of infrastructure and livelihood projects. Then, Brgy. Inudaran came into view which was once the lair of Commander Bravo. It can be noted that Munai was once the refuge of MILF as well as other factions known for kidnap and ransom activities. Minutes went by and at last we arrived at the municipal hall. It was only then that I realized that my companions were the only workers who will be reporting during that day.
The municipal hall was ghostly. But that did not stop me from getting my work done, as I monitored the Pantawid Pamilya program.
If there is one thing that struck me during that day, it was the realization that I am indeed fortunate because I can still eat three times a day and with snacks even. I am privileged to have resided in a place where all resources are accessible, where hailing a taxi is not a problem, where strolling in the afternoon is still safe and where watering the plants at nighttime is something that I can still enjoy.
As my favorite John Lennon sings, “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 09, 2013.