ARMM’s first sr. citizens center opens in Maguindanao town PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 22 December 2012 14:14

The 2,101 Maguindanaon, Teduray and Visayan senior citizens in Maguindanao’s hinterland  North Upi  town now have their “peace and liaison center,”  the first ever in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Regional officials are now contemplating on duplicating the facility,  a “prototype,” in all of the towns in other ARMM provinces, where there are thousands of Moro and Christian senior citizens.

The P1.5 million senior citizens building, constructed near the town hall of North Upi by the office of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, was opened to public use Thursday by the provincial governor and the ARMM’s officer-in-charge, Mujiv Hataman.

The event capped North Upi’s celebration of its 10th “Meguyaya” festival, a yearly feast pioneered in 2002, where local folks indulge in ecumenical congregational prayer rites and colorful street dancing events as thanksgiving for the bountiful harvests and for the tranquility in its more than 20 barangays of mixed Muslim, Christian and Teduray settlers.

The Teduray term meguyaya means feast or thanksgiving celebration to show appreciation  to the “divine blessings” that settlers deemed essential for bounty harvest and the protection of their villages from aggressions.

The mayor of North Upi, Ramon Piang, who is an ethnic Teduray timuay (chieftain), said they are grateful to the provincial government of Maguindanao for having constructed for them their senior citizens center, something his elderly constituents have longed for since they organized themselves into a group helping oversee domestic peace and development programs.

North Upi, which is Maguindanao’s top producer of yellow corn, was the first to have an  organized ecumenical senior citizens organization in the entire autonomous region.

Lucia Cueto-Sinsuat, president of the town’s senior citizens group, said credit should go to their local government unit, whose chief executive has been supportive of the efforts to group them together to  improve the delivery of social welfare and health services intended for them.

Sinsuat said the senior citizens in North Upi have actively been helping maintain tranquility in the municipality through social interventions and conflict mediation.

The Maguindanaons and Tedurays both have strong cultures espousing respect for elders and obedience to their decisions on matters pertaining to community welfare.

Hataman and Mangudadatu both called on North Upi’s elderly residents to bond together and help push forward the government’s peace overture with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and help encourage public support to the newly-created Transition Commission, or “TransCom,” which is to oversee the creation of new autonomous political entity to replace ARMM.

President Aquino created TransCom early this week through Executive Order 120, in keeping with the October 15, 2012 government-MILF Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro or FAB.

Hataman and Mangudadatu already expressed support, through separate statements sent Wednesday to different media outlets, to the newly-established TransCom.
Hataman said the creation of the TransCom was a major stride towards the attainment of a durable, final peace accord between the government and the MILF.

The TransCom is to be comprised of 15 members, eight of them from the MILF.

Mangudadatu said he has recommended a popular Maguindanaon senior citizen, Maguindanao Second District Rep. Simeon Datumanong, to be enlisted as government representative to the TransCom.

“Not only is Rep. Datumanong a senior citizen, but is also well-versed on Mindanao issues, being a public servant who begun serving Moro communities in various capacities over four decades ago,” Mangudadatu said.

He also called on North Upi’s senior citizens to “do away with politics” when they indulge in community activities complementing the Mindanao peace process.

“I will cite as example my endorsement of Rep. Datumanong as a `durable timber’ for the TransCom membership. His daughter, Annie, is a rival of my brother, Zajid Mangudadatu, in next year’s race for the congressional seat in the second district of Maguindanao. Peace-building in Mindanao should not be overtaken by political and ethnic divisions,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu and Hataman also gave assorted vegetable seeds and more than 1,000 kilos of fresh tilapia to North Upi’s senior citizens after leading the inauguration of their newly-constructed center.

The distribution of vegetable seeds, an initiative of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamanayan project of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, was organized by Lea Sagan, provincial focal person for OPPAP’s community projects in the entire province.

A member of the ruling Liberal Party, Piang, who is seeking a second term as North Upi mayor virtually unopposed, said it was for the support to his leadership of the elderly folks and their intercessions that not one from any prospective contenders forged ahead with their plans to contest his re-election bid.

“The senior citizens are also key stakeholders to the Mindanao peace process,” Piang said.