Narratives and the pursuit of peace PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 11:17



It has become accepted to think of those who live in Mindanao as those who are descended from the people who lived here from the beginning, a long time ago. We usually refer to them as the indigenous people of Mindanao, or IP.

Some of the IPs  became Muslims around the 1300’s, converting to the religion preached by Muslim traders from the areas known today as Indonesia and Malaysia. Some IPs remained followers of the religion they practiced at the time and continue to do today.

Over the years, particularly during the Spanish and American colonial periods and the years when the country was already an independent country, Filipinos from other parts of the country who had been Christianized came to Mindanao to settle here,  forming what is the third group that historians simply call the “settlers”.

Thus we have the three distinct communities in Mindanao, particularly the areas of  Central Mindanao, the BaSulTa area and ZamPen: the non-Muslim IPs, the Muslims and the settlers.

These three groups have their narratives to tell of their lives in Mindanao over the many years to the present realities of being Mindanao residents,  narratives  that tell of their dreams and aspirations, their struggles to realize the dreams,  their pains and heartaches, the most recent of which are those brought about by the incidence of the “Mindanao war”.

The narratives of joy and sufferings, especially the sufferings,  are not exclusive only to one group.  And yet we often hear the narratives of sufferings usually only  as told by one group, somehow coloring the memories of the past, the distant past and the recent past, in such a manner as to “load the bases” as some might describe the situation. This somehow makes more difficult the process of healing that we must all go through if in the future we are  to be kinder in our relationships than in the past . If we are to  continue in this manner of looking at each other  there will forever be the villains and the victims in our perception of the other in our communities.

I do not intend that we simply gloss over the injustices and the cruelties of the past, from one group to another group. I do not mean that we should be like ostriches who hide their heads in the sand and think that because they cannot see the reality,  the reality therefore does not exist. If land grabbing was a problem in the past, how am I now in the present be made to feel accountable for it, I who have not grabbed anyone’s land at all?

If a member of someone’s  family was massacred in the past that is a heavy memory to carry around but surely we cannot hold responsible the other members of the murderer’s family who were not  even in this world yet when the massacre happened, and even if around, did not support the action in any way.

Our narratives need to be told but they also need to contribute to healing.