Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Zamboanga Adventure: Exploring Asia's Latin City (Ground Zero of the Zamboanga Siege)

Wazzup Pilipinas!

It may be grim sight to look at but it was a reality that we could not hide from the world but only accept that there are really times that we even though we are all Filipinos living in one country, we could not agree to work out our differences in a peaceful manner.

That building that now looked like Swiss cheese was formerly a school but ridden with holes by weapons from government forces so they can drive away the alleged spliter group of the Moro National Liberation Front  (MNLF) away from the town they recently occupied by force.

We will never really know what drive these seemingly misguided elements to do such horrible acts because we mostly heard only from the side of the government. But in wars like these there are really no winners. Both lose in their hope for peace and unity, and the real losers are the families whose lives were lost, their properties damaged, and quite a number of them displaced. The conflict had paralyzed the economic activity of Zamboanga City. I am honored that I am now helping the city regain its foothold on its former glory.

The residents affected were from the barangays of Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo, Kasangyangan, Mariki, and Sta. Barbara. Some of them settled in evacuation and relief centers while some are all lined up at the boulevard named after Filipino politician Roseller T. Lim, "The Great Filibuster".

As part of our tour of Zamboanga city was a visit to Sta. Catalina street where the Zamboanga siege occurred. Amidst teh rubbles, you could see some of the residents have returned to the houses that are still liveable by their standards. Though the houses look rather ugly with all those bullet holes, and the neighborhood brings back memories of three weeks of hell, as they say we are a resilient race that will continue to rise despite the tragedy.

The sad fate of these people could not have been prevented but we should learn from it, and not ignore and hope it will not happen again. It will happen again if we wouldn't really exert the effort to find out what caused it in the first place.

The loss of lives still continues several months after that cursed standoff between our government forces and the so called splinter Moro rebel group. It somehow casted a shadow over the signing of the comprehensive Bangsamoro peace accord that the Aquino administration hopes will end the decades-long fighting in Mindanao. We are hopeful it eases the burden continuously suffered by our brothers and sisters from both sides.


For the luckier ones who may have tried rebuilding their lives because their houses still fairly stood amidst the damages, I salute you to have kept the spirit to survive. However, what about the unfortunate ones who do not have a home to return to?

There are a lot of baffling questions left unanswered. Some say the timing was just to convenient when certain politicians were in hot water. But whether it was coincidental or not, the authorities should spearhead a search for the answer - if it is still not known, or is it just being kept as a well-guarded secret to hide something a lot more insane.

I am deeply troubled that this particular conflict had to happen at a time when most of us should concentrate on putting the bad guys down. Instead, we had to take away our attention to worry about our fellowmen caught in the exchange of fire among two forces both dumb of what they really are fighting for. There seems to be a lot of evil in this world and most of it was a result of greed, not only with wealth, but with power or influence.

If only the public servants become true to the meaning of being "public servants" where they serve the public  and not themselves. The true leaders are the ones that go to the people and hear them out, and not the ones who let you fall in line at their office hoping you will come early o they could squeeze in their concerns among you busy schedules of lunch and dinner meetings with fellow politicians.

"I was here!" shared a fellow media member. He was there during the conflict covering the news for his newspaper. He was among the many souls who had to endure camping at the city hall just to be kept updated with the breaking news about the movements and activities of both forces. Sleeping uncomfortably on improvised bedding, he had to be there so the rest of the world will know what was happening to our brothers and sisters. The rest of the world will not sympathize and provide assistance if they are not aware of the situation.

This is why the media plays a vital role in putting everyone in place for the camera is a very powerful tool to make sure our authorities work and execute their obligations to the people as expected from them.

There is something in the media men's camera that makes them more responsible and conscious of their acts, even if it's "pakitang-tao" only.

The siege of Zamboanga City last September of 2013 resulted to the displacement of thousands of villagers belonging to the sea-dwelling Moro tribe known as the “Badjao” from their settlements in the shallows near or within a stretch of mangroves facing the sea.

Some of them are now living uncomfortably somewhere along the stretch of the Roseller T. Lim boulevard that was once a place for lovers to watch sunsets but is now a squalid encampment for the sea gypsies.

These people are very susceptible to sickness and disease because they have no proper protection against the elements and nothing will be hygienic within those areas. The area will continue to stink and filled with the stench of human despair. It is very difficult to forget especially when you loss everything you cared for.

You could see some of their boats lined up across the street in a hope that it will useful again someday. I pray that all will go well and will positively do if we all help out in our own little way. You know what to do. Instead of going out on out of the country trips for this summer or any other season, let us all help the people of Mindanao by supporting the tourism efforts of the city. This may not be a direct way to uplift their situation, but its the least we could do aside from just donating our vacation budget towards rebuilding the lives of these people.

I could see a lot of families going on with their everyday lives and the children playing on the streets. It is not surprising to see poverty among us because every country has this problem.What is difficult to accept is that majority of the Filipinos belong to the poorest of the poor "isang kahig, isang tuka" group, while there is a small population where all the riches are concentrated.

What is a harder pill to swallow is when you hear news of diverted funds coming from our taxes being enjoyed by only a few through illegal and deceitful means....and these sorry excuse for people do not even have the decency to admit when caught red-handed.

Seeing these people surviving desperately in tents brought tears and compassion out of us. It is very troubling to realize that no matter which government took over, they seem to have not yet discovered how to improve our living conditions. There are a lot of signs showing progress in our country but how come only a few benefit from it?

No amount of posthumous recognitions or Medal of Valor is enough to reward the families of those government troops killed during the armed conflict, and no one can effectively bring back trust to the eyes of  the families of the innocent indigenous people who got killed in the crossfire.

That wretched war brought nothing but shame on us. The acts of both parties could not be even considered as "exceptional acts of courage" but it should be of  called "stupidity" instead.

Have we become too inhuman already because we are fighting for an ideal that has been fervently ignored?  Are we fighting for a lost cause?

Frankly, I don't even know what the splinter group was fighting for. Generally, I don't even know what everyone else is fighting for because apparently there seems to be no clear means of communicating with each other as all our efforts are drowned in conspiracies, malicious intent and hidden agendas.

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