YESTERDAY morning, I was looking for my cell phone case. The search lasted for several minutes. Finally, saw it sitting prettily on top of a pile of newspaper clippings, planners, and books. If only its color is of the neon range instead of transparent, it could have stuck out of that pile like a sore thumb, making it easier for my senior-moment eyes to find it.
At least my senior moment wasn’t as bad as that of looking for glasses while they’re on top of my head.
Most of the time, we do see what’s wrong with a picture, and not even our senior-moment episodes could stop us from staring at it, but it takes someone like 1Lt Ron Villarosa of Joint Task Force Group Ranao to encourage us to voice out what we see.
Villarosa was one of the speakers of “A Forum on the Marawi Crisis: Countering Islamophobia and Violent Extremism” at Xavier University’s Little Theater in Cagayan de Oro last Wednesday. He’s only 30 years old and yet he already has a wealth of experience after being assigned in Basilan, and now in his present work in Marawi.
His positive attitude emanates from this: “It is only when a mosquito lands on your testicles that you realize there is always a way to solve problems without using violence.”
Wait. He did quote that but what he kept repeating in his speech was this: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”
The Marawi siege has been going and going like an Energizer Bunny on a perpetual sugar rush. Each time the authorities promise it will end this week or this month or in December 2017, my thought bubble morphs to Level 42’s “Something About You”: “These changing years/They add to your confusion/Oh and you need to hear the time/That told the truth/That there is something about you…”
If Villarosa was assigned in Marawi before the siege, could he have stopped it with “change the way you think about it”? Well, it’s too late to mull over that now.
Armm Assemblyman Zia Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur Provincial Crisis Management Committee, also one of the speakers at the forum, presented a map of Marawi, with the main battle area (MBA) and the controlled area. That map showed that indeed Marawi will require a lot of changing the way they think about the siege in order to move forward once rebuilding the city starts.
Adiong said that the controlled area is not exactly a safe zone—stray bullets have been finding their way there. He opted to show photos of partially damaged buildings instead of the ones that now resemble those in Syria. But some of his later photos did have those grim images. Well, sometimes one simply has to tell it as it is.
Adiong was probably joking when he said his source in defining some terms, such as violent extremism, was Wikipedia.
But violent extremism doesn’t need the most reliable encyclopedia to define it, thus, Wikipedia is enough I guess. All one has to do is to go to the MBA in Marawi to see violent extremism which Adiong divided into two: political and religious, with the latter having two categories, outward hostility and inward hostility.
One of the examples he gave for the political kind is the annihilation of the six million Jews during World War II, no thanks to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
For outward hostility, there was the Medieval Inquisition, when burning at the stakes was the norm for those guilty of heresy. His current example is the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.
For inward hostility, there’s the Jonestown Massacre where Jim Jones led 909 members of the People’s Temple to a “revolutionary suicide” on Nov. 18, 1978.
In other words, violent extremism has been around for many centuries.
And this recent one, the Marawi siege, has claimed the lives of many, including soldiers.
Villarosa said that one thing that unites us, Pinoys, is the Philippine flag, and that when we see the flag waving, we should remember each soldier who died in defending the country. He related this story about a soldier’s mom who hugged the flag that was given to her after her son died. That made me pause for a while.
Xavier University’s Social Development Office could touch you with their videos and the speeches of their invited speakers. There’s this one video of the Marawi siege, the displaced persons in the evacuation centers, and what XU and other stakeholders have done to help the displaced. It was used for the invocation at the forum, with “Panalangin sa Pagiging Bukas Palad” as its background music. Or should that be, the video as background for the music, since this was the invocation after all.
Panginoon, turuan mo akong maging bukas-palad
Turuan mo akong maglingkod sa Iyo
At magbigay nang ayon sa nararapat
Na walang hinihintay mula sa Iyo
Na makibakang di inaalintana, mga hirap na dinaranas
Sa tuwina’y magsumikap na hindi humahanap ng kapalit na kaginhawaan at di naghihintay kundi ang aking mabatid na ang loob Mo’y siyang sinusundan.
The forum had that effect again, the kind that makes you pause for a long while. It’s not a teleserye, though. It’s more like telling the truth and the reality in this world we live in.
Sponsored by Siraj Muslim Religious Organization and I Am Mindanao Movement in partnership with XU’s Social Development Office and Office of the Mission and Ministry, the forum’s other speakers were Dr. Jowel Canuday, PhD, and Dr. Chona Patricia Echavez, PhD.