Mindanao in my youth

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Sunday, March 30, 2014


1st KARATE CLUB- It was mid-sixties when I first visited Mindanao. It was some kind of an adventure.I was young and so curious. My friend Marino Guiao of Angeles City, who worked as a karate instructor in Clark Air Force Base, invited me to join him and wife Elizabeth. Our destination, Pagadian, then the capital town of Zamboanga Del Sur.

Me and Marino instantly fell in love with the place. Laid back, friendly residents, cheap prices and beautiful women. We decided to stay. We established Beaux Brotherhood Kyukushin Hai Karate Club in a rented second floor of a building in the downtown area.

MOVING TO ZAMBO CITY- Met a Kapampangan who worked as warehouseman(bodegero) of Rice and Corn Administration(RCA) forerunner of National Food Authority stationed in Ipil the halfway town between Pagadian and Zamboanga City. He invited me there and met more Kapampangans, mostly from Tarlac since the RCA adminstrator then was Jose Feliciano of Concepcion. Diosdado Macapagal was then president.

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I was invited to have a good time in Zamboanga City one weekend. On that Sunday early afternoon when our bus reached the city, I can't help but exclaimed, Wow, what a beautiful place! Pasonanca Park, Cawa Cawa beach, Plaza Pershing, Nuestra Seniora Del Pilar Grotto and many areas you visit even in the dead of night was so safe, like how it was safe to travel to any point in Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan and Jolo, Sulu.

THE SONG- 'Don't you go, don't you to go to far Zamboanga' so goes the song. It sends the message that once you are there, you will never want to leave. It happened to me. I stayed more than two years and decided to stay there forever, but a love affair involving me and a rich and beautiful Chinese girl ended my stay. Her parents threatened her.( My love story with her will beat a telenovela but it will require another story telling some other time).

I had several Muslim friends. There was no ethnic quarrel. There was peace all over Mindanao. Though some filtered news that trouble was brewing in Cotobato.

COTOBATO- Still nursing a broken heart, I accepted the invitation of a friend to work as newswriter for the Cotobato section of Mindanao News Tribune edited by Bert Tesorero and printed in Davao City. Not long after I was invited by Fred Babao, station manager of DXMS, to become an assistant news director of the station's news bureau.

Datu Udtog Matalam was governor of the Cotobato province and Salipada K. Pendatun was the congressman of the province which was then a lone congrssional district, and not yet gerrymandered. There was utmost peace, till a movement was being formed and gained ground, the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM). And later, the Moro National Liberation front (MNLF) of Nur Misuari, and the once peaceful Mindanao was bathed with blood.

PROMISED LAND- In my youth, it was said that Mindanao is the 'land of promise'. Maybe so, because leaders in our country made strings of promises which gave hope to people of Mindanao. But that hope faded as time passed by, and the despair turned into violence. Filipinos killing brother Filipinos.

THE AGREEMENT- The recently signed Bangsa Moro Peace Agreement is being given too much credence and many are hoping that Mindanao will now have peace and progress. If the killing will really stop, then the billions of pesos spent by our military in quelling the insurgency maybe tapped for developments, roads, seaports, airports and other needed infrastructures.

If we stop seeing some Muslim families begging in the streets in several cities all over Luzon, and them getting back to their roots in beautiful Mindanao then we may conclude really that peace and progress finally reign in the land of promise.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on March 31, 2014.

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