By CAROLINA PERALTA
NEW YORK — A year ago, I wrote the this piece during the height of the Marawi siege. With the recent bombings in Sultan Kudarat, truth is no farther than it was.
This is my answer to one of the posts I read. Times are uncertain and we must let truth be told before fear engulfs us further into animosity and oblivion.
I was struck by what a high ranking Philippine official who visited New York said that Marawi was a failure of institutions. He said the Bohol incident was nipped in the bud because a tricycle driver reported the presence of armed men in the area.
If we want peace, it is everybody’s responsibility to be vigilant. One cannot expect peace in a place where weapons of war are present, where even children are allowed to carry arms. We, too, must speak of the truth because if we don’t, many people will continue to believe that they are the only ones who are disenfranchised, who are victims and must carry arms.
At another forum in NY, one woman was talking about how she felt her people have suffered and still continue to suffer. I was squirming on my seat listening to her rhetoric as she goes on and on.
Wow!, I told myself. Hundreds of thousands of students have already been given free education by Mindanao State University and they still feel this way? I stood up and told them about the IPs (Indigenous Peoples) who do not enjoy as much opportunities like they do but never resorted to violence. Peace cannot be legislated. It is a mindset and a choice.
I stood up to tell her that poverty cuts across communities, without regard for color or creed and emphasized that no government, no matter how rich can finance the need of all its people.
It is wrong to rebel against a government because a government is not able to cater to all the whims of its citizens. We all must act and bravely tell the truth at the same time chart our own destiny individually and collectively.
I was a child of war . My own mother was ambushed by Moro rebel groups because of a crazy ideology. I know how it feels to lose a loved one and it does not mean that I hurt less because of my belief.
One thing I did differently was not to resort to violence, not to avenge, not to kill because I believe that killing is wrong and love is the only answer. Peace is a choice, if I may emphasize. I believe that both Islam and Christianity teach the creed of love and to kill is a sin. To kill another person because of his/her belief is simply barbaric/ We are not God .. we cannot judge.
Many soldiers, civilians and rebels lost their lives in this crazy war fueled by false information. Let us revisit the main causes of this ongoing conflict.
- Lie number one. Many are misled into believing that they should support the separatist movement because they own the Minsupala Region by virtue of the fact that Islam came first (14th century) that Christianity (15th Cntury).
Truth: Before any modern day religion came to the Philippines are one people living in peace and harmony with one another. There are scientific and historical evidence of this very important truth. This truth must be told over and over again to as many people as we meet. We are losing out on this PR war.
- Lie number two. Many are misled into believing that they are poor, disenfranchised and they are victims.
Truth: This victim mentality has flourished because we fail to speak the truth that poverty cuts across all sectors of society- regardless of religion. Everyone has the capacity to help oneself.
- Lie number 3. Government is to be blamed for poverty.
Truth: Even advance economies are not able to cater to all the needs of its citizens. The US is reeling from Hurricane Harvey and the coffers of Fema is almost empty. Now, at presstime, another major hurricane Irma is on its way.
We all must work together to be where we want to be individually and as a people.
Enough of the victim mentality. Enough of lies.
As of this writing, two powerful storms are raging over the Carolinas, US, and the Northern part of the Philippines – Florence and Mangkhut. There are reported casualties but the death toll may rise.
One good thing about a storm is that it does not stay in one single location. The path normally changes course and travels over large bodies of water. Storms carry billions of gallons of water that are released with strong gusts of wind resulting to flooding. We can only imagine the devastation and death if a storm stays inland.
We can also say the same in life. Storms are not there to stay. Challenges we face are temporary. After every storm comes the sunshine.
Nothing is more beautiful to behold than seeing the sunshine after the storm. We look around and we see loved ones and strangers who stood by us through the night. Those who heard the howling winds but tell us it will be over in the morning and everything will be okay. Those who risk life and limb to rescue people in danger. It is a community coming together. After a storm is where we see the finest in humanity.
Farmers may lose their crops but can plant again. Houses are destroyed but houses can be built again. Rebuilding is a sometimes a slow process but it does build values and character – patience, perseverance, humility, wisdom to name a few.
These values make us stronger and more resilient.
We do not ask for storms but when they come, we can always say, there is an end and a new beginning awaits.
We offer our prayers and condolences to those who lost loved ones to the fury of a storm.
(CarolinaVillanueva Peralta of Kiamba, Sarangani, presently resides in New York but is actively involved in development efforts in Sarangani. She finished her Masters in Development degree at the Asian Institute of Management.)