Thursday, August 21, 2008

When will this war end?

Being someone from Mindanao, I cannot help but get concerned about the news of renewed hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The question, "when will this end?" echoes through history in the Christian-Muslim confrontation in the South. I too ask that, when will this end? Honestly, I do not see an end to it. But I admit my vision is limited on this matter. There are seemingly irreconcilable forces at work here.

The history of Christian-Muslim relationship that dates back to the middle ages in Europe has somehow translated itself into the southern part of the homeland. We honor Lapu-Lapu, who was Muslim, for slaying Magellan, who, incidentally, brought with him priests who introduced Christianity into the islands. We honor Sultan Kudarat for his sense of nationhood and his defiance against Spain, which ruled us for 400 years and brought the influence of the Catholic Church into our lands. See the conflict that is raging inside me. I am a Catholic. I also am a Filipino patriot.
The history of Muslims in the south is one that we cannot ignore. History tells us that once upon a time there have been three sultanates that dominated Celebes Sea: the Sultanate of Brunei, now a nation of its own and a rich nation at that; the Sultanate of Sulu, which has claims over Sabah that strains the relationship between the Philippines and Malaysia; and the Sultanate of Maguindanao, the home of the MILF.

They claim they are a nation prior to the Philippines. That's not a nonsense claim, and my friend Bong Montesa, who's with the negotiating panel, pushes that we respect it, even if we have to amend the Constitution. See the conflict in my heart. I have a heart for these Muslims whom I consider my brothers in Mindanao; but I don't want to see this country torn apart.

Under a tree inside the UP Los Banos campus around 17 years ago, I sat down to reflect what I wanted to do with my life. I already finished all my course work in college, and I was already accepted into the Philippine Air Force Flying School. They were waiting for me to report for training. In two years, if I survived, they would have commissioned me as Second Lieutenant in the Air Force, and, chances were, that I would have been part of the contingent that dropped bombs in the MILF lairs in Mindanao years later.

At that moment under that tree, I saw a future that was bleak. I saw a future that was full of pain. At that moment, I made a decision never to hold a gun. I could not see myself up in the air, piloting a war machine and killing brother Filipinos on the ground; whether they're Christians, or Muslims, or communist rebels. Yes, I wanted to be a soldier, a noble soldier, a protector; but not someone who shoots my own people. I decided not show up at Fernando Air Base and join Class 1993.

How I wish I could finish this post with an answer. I could only finish this with the same question I started this post with.

When will the war end?

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