MINDANAO is the host of this year’s 9th National Conference of the Association of Development Communication educators and practitioners (ADCEP) of the Philippines. It was hosted by Mindanao State University in Marawi City and Iligan Institute of Technology with the theme DevCom in Conflict, Peace and Community Building.
Last November 29, the opening program of the 9th ADCEP captured the significance of communicating peace and culture in all media forms. As the keynote speaker, Dr. Rex Navarro, a DevCom pillar, emphasized in his speech that the only best way to create spaces for peace dialogues in Mindanao is through strategic communication. We cannot just express what is in our minds but to carefully plan the messages and the platforms where our intentions are to be understood without prejudice.
The plenary speakers of that day highlighted how anthropological bearings of a societal crisis can be well addressed when one’s culture is understood and given much of an attention. Dr. Jose Jowel Canuday of the Ateneo de Manila University and Prof. Mohammad Jihan Macarambon of the Mindanao State University have emphasised the value of peace and cultural understanding in order to understand the plight of the Mindnaoans especially the Muslims in Mindanao.
In the same occasion, the ADCEP conference ended with a bang when it culminated with the closing keynote speaker, Ms. Samira Gutoc, an advocate for peace in the country and women empowerment, said that Mindanao’s peace is also of the whole country. We cannot be separated. The pain of every Meranaw is the pain of all Filipinos. She has challenged the media to write about the Muslim Filipinos’ plight with a perspective of a sympathetic Filipino.
Ms. Gutoc was then followed by the research data of Dr. Juvanni Yahya Caballero who has analyzed the prejudices of the media and some reputable people in online platforms. He has given color to what Samira has been wanting to emphasise in her talk. Finally, the conference ended with the practitioners of communication and social change’s impact on the societies they serve. These are the experiences and encounters of the country director of the Equal Access International - Philippines, Mr. Exan Sharief; a young woman leader’s perspective in serving the agricultural and rural communities of Lanao, the MAFAR information Officer, Ms. Johaniah Yusoph; and the best practices of the community services of the people of Cotabato and Maguindanao through the organization of Ms. Zenaida Ampatuan of the Suara Bangsamoro. All these plus the many scholarly exchanges that were presented during the parallel sessions of the conference.
One of the enlightening presentations I got interested about is the paper by Nur, a graduating Muslim student of the University of the Philippines, Los Banos when he did a text analysis of the use of the word Muslim as it is affixed to many words, both negative and positive connotations in the current media outlets of the country. It confirmed my theory that until today, the misuse of the word Muslim in the Philippine dailies are still existing. We both agreed and recommended that this unjust use of the word should be minimised or totally stopped, if we really want to have peace in this country.
Again, in this affair, the cultural sensitivities of the Minanonaoans and the Muslim Filipinos were given more of a chance to be understood by development communication educators and practitioners from the different parts of the country.
We can only hope that one day, peace and development is just a phrase of the past and a reality of tomorrow.