LONG before the Marawi Siege, the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) was infested with war-driven elements, both by those who want to fight for their rights and those who have other personal motives. In some parts of Mindanao, the Lumads are always subject to ridicule and they do not have the voice. The Mindanaoan settlers and other Christian-born natives have always misunderstood other Mindanaoans especially the Muslim ethnic groups because disinformation has already existed since time immemorial especially during the Marcos regime where Muslims are killed for no reason. All these and more in our history in Mindanao.
Today, we are writing a different history and hoping for a better tomorrow because we have made significant contribution in educating Mindanao learners through the Development Communication Program of the Mindanao State University. We are training our students to become the agents of change by using all means of media and communication for the total development of man. Our development communication students are trained to raise awareness of the vulnerable and marginalized groups in Mindanao—the Tri-people. The department of Communication and Media Studies of our university fought for this program in order to usher peace and development in Mindanao and its people. We trained our students to be sensitive of their communities and the people around them.
We uphold the definition of Dr. Nora C. Quebral, the Mother of DevCom, in her definition of Development Communication emphasizing the importance of “human communication” in the transformation of a community/society by unfolding individual potentials. We have trained our students and alumni with the initiative to circulate relevant information and knowledge that is pragmatic, value-laden and purposive to bring about positive social change.
Because of the above perspective, our graduates since 2009 have started amplifying the voices of these marginalized and vulnerable groups by being the bridge in making messages that can push their rights forward. As an educator, seeing our alumni serve their communities is what development communication here in the heart of our Mindanao, the promised land. One of the pioneering alumni have served the defunct ARMM and has helped in the creation of this new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm). Another alumnus is now a peace educator in one of the best universities in Cambodia training more development communicators for peace. Another alumna is a disaster risk reduction manager of Marawi who is always in the frontline during this pandemic. This is just to mention a few of those whom I constantly interact with. Some of them even made documentary films about the lives of the Lumads in the hinterlands who were forced to become rebels of the land. All these and more.
As a practitioner of the field, being a radio anchor during the height of the siege, we have ushered the smooth flow of communication that led to understanding the roles of the government in serving the internally displaced individuals in Marawi. Presently, I have continuously provided information for the community of Meranaw to understand the current pandemic and how they can be better citizens in my community. Humanitarian advocacies are given the voice in my broadcast and social media programs in order to follow through the significance of empowering the vulnerable sectors. This I owe to my being a development communicator.
Again, development communication or DevCom is a vibrant degree and it is so timely for this era of disinformation. Our students and graduates create safe spaces for public debate, dialogue and action for the marginalized sectors in Mindanao especially the women. They use community conversation approaches to strengthen community responses. They have given the voice to the unheard.
Our department has always been very proud of what they have contributed to our society. In fact, being one of their mentors and one of the graduates of MS Development Communication from the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, I am proud to say that I have become the bridge of my people towards understanding the works and initiatives of our community leaders and vice versa including the humanitarian workers. Development communication has made me a peace communication advocate who will forever be a torch bearer for the understanding of how emancipation and empowerment of the vulnerable and marginalized communities is a way to forward nationalism.
I am a proud development communication practitioner and educator!