WHEN our government decided to impose the community quarantine last March 2020, I knew that the coronavirus would hit us like a disaster. It would be a disaster like no other and without a clear end. I was even supposed to travel to Kuala Lumpur and Madrid last March to attend international conferences in line with my work in the Bangsamoro, but my schedules and plans for the 1st and 2nd quarters of this year drastically changed.

I knew back then that adjusting to the “new normal” would not be easy. Nevertheless, I focused my mind on understanding the situation. I made sure we got the right information about the Covid-19 pandemic and to know what we needed to do.

However, there has been nothing like this pandemic.

For the past three months, my family and I have stayed at home in order to avoid getting sick with Covid-19. We set our priorities and budget in the house strictly for our basic needs - food and medicine.

The thought of death has never been this close to our hearts, and Covid-19 has taught me and my family how to be self-reliant. As I pray and meditate, my mind sees the clarity of the human ecosystem around us. The ecosystem that covers the political, economic, social, ecological; all of which we are part of and are affected as they change around us.

My mom and dad taught me that a true Muslim is self-sufficient. This means that he or she has the capacity to provide a basic living for themselves and their families or what we call “makamang-on”. He/she also has the principle of “ma-sukur” or has the mind-set to be content with what Allah (SWT) has provided. In addition, they taught me to appreciate the balance of relationships with our families and neighbors, and that we should give and share the blessings which we received from Allah.

As we stay in our homes with our families, it is very important to teach our children the value of self-discipline and accepting individual responsibility. These two can help them develop self-reliance within themselves. Without their nannies, they have learned to pitch-in. So now, we all share the work in cleaning the house, washing the car, washing our clothes, and even cooking our meals.

Looking at the bigger picture, self-reliance does not only apply specifically to our home or to an individual. It can be applied to our country as well. We, in Mindanao, are used to natural and man-made (conflict-driven) disasters, and the displacement of people has been happening here as early as the 1970s due to armed conflict. Families in evacuation centers usually have had to rely on relief assistance given to them by the national government or donor agencies, but I have seen how resilient our people are amidst calamities or disasters.

Thus, this principle of self-reliance should form part of our nation’s strategy to rebuild our nation and economy after this pandemic. Practicing self - reliance, such as backyard gardening, would ensure food on the table during a disaster.

In Barmm, we must plan out how we can improve our economy and encourage our people to pay their taxes. We need to strengthen our agriculture and ensure we have enough for our own people because the region clearly cannot rely alone on the Block Grant from the national government. Thus, this pandemic has taught us the importance of cooperation and self-reliance from everyone, including our people, to ensure the survival of all.