There is hope for Basilan

AKO ay isinilang sa isang bayan sa … Basilan.  Bakit pati ako ay tila may pag-aalinlangan sa pagsambit ng pangalan ng aking bayang sinilangan? Ang dahilan marahil ay ang reaksiyon ng mga taong kausap ko sa tuwing nalalaman nila ang isang aspetong ito ng aking pagkatao, at ang aking malabong sagot sa kanilang mga tanong, halimbawa:

Tanong: Basilan? Saan yon?

Sagot: Dun malapit sa Zamboanga.

Tanong: Muslim ka?

Sagot: Hindi. Tagalog ang tatay ko, Ilokana ang nanay ko.

Tanong: Abu Sayyaf ka?

Sagot: (Pag naaasar na) Oo, kaya ‘wag mo akong subukan! (Pag may konti pang pagtitimpi) Hindi ah!

Basilan is an island province in Mindanao that, except for Isabela City, is administratively under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). No matter how much effort, though, is done to promote its alluring tourist destinations—Kumalarang Beach, Alano White Beach, Cabunbata Falls, Sumagdang Beach Resort, Farmland Resort, etc.—the fact remains that it is and has always been conflict-ridden for more than 40 years, the situation going from bad to worse.

Today, more than ever, there is prevailing distrust in authorities, and people do not know whom to approach for help.  Accordingly, even peace workers who have gone to Basilan would comment: “There’s no hope for Basilan.”  Such remark, for us who now reside in other parts of the country and the world, is such disheartening news, giving us the impression that situation is so bad back home that even peace advocates seem to be giving up hope.

It comes as some consolation for majority of Basilenos, therefore, to hear news that the next ARMM governor might most likely come from Basilan. His appointment becomes a beacon of hope, but vying parties from other ARMM provinces are quick to dash such expectation, pointing out that such is a claim made by four other hopeful candidates for appointment.

It is pointless to ask the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for information.  There is, accordingly, a selection process.  But that process has never been transparent.  We do not know who these candidates are.  They remain faceless and nameless.

Again, the only recourse is media—it is media people who make fearless forecasts, who have first access to information, who can make the distance between the three branches of government shorter.  In a few days we will know if they did the right prediction again.  Good for Basilenos if they did.

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