As I sat with my mom after watching the movie in UP, I recounted to her various scenes in the movie. Sometimes, when I'm lucky, her face would light up with a distant memory of her birth and childhood in Siasi and Jolo (both in Sulu). I told her how the actors in the movie carried an accent which tinged the Tausug tongue my relatives have exposed me to. I told her of scenes in coffee farms where both husbands and their wives desperately picked their lot. I told her how this one character, a teenage boy, dropped out of school to become a bandit--with the consent of his ailing father (who had probably needed the recruitment money).
To continue the nostalgia, she told me--late into the night--how they used gas lamps in the 1970's and 80's to light nights where she and her siblings would squirm and sleep on the floor. She told me about the crisp, white, untouched sands of Sulu that would put even Boracay to shame. She also told me of the evil of ARMM's local government which calls to mind big names such as Misuari and Ampatuan.
These scenes are not new to Filipinos. All over the country, poverty and conflict encroaches every door. But Mindanao suffers worse off as it bears the brunt of extremes--statistical extremes and ballistic extremists. For the first part, Mindanao has the lowest literacy rate, the lowest average number of grade school pupils who are expected to finish high school, the lowest performance levels for students, the poorest and most famished areas, the lowest scores for infrastructure and sanitation, and, ironically, the highest scores for cases of corruption. For the second part, Mindanao is home to the operations of various terrorist groups who, having taken the word of the Qu'ran to greater, bloodier interpretations, leave many of us Filipinos at their mercy.
Because of this, because of war, my mother would have to wait some years before she could find herself in the arms again of the place of her youth. Because of this, I myself would have to wait before my mom can point her house to me, introduce me to my Tausug relatives, and educate and show me a half of me I barely know. Because of this, we leave the lush, white, unknown sands of Sulu and its neighbors as a canvas to gashes of blood.
However, as the movie Patikul bravely tells us, this issue cannot be ignored nor left at the hands of other people. It is mainstream, relevant, here, and now. However far Manila may be from Mindanao, there is a war. There is blood being shed. And it is our war; it is our blood being shed. I am of the opinion that peace cannot be undertaken without action and understanding. With the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library, we fulfill the actions that enable us to solve the issue little by little. With an openness to the world of Islam, to the nearly-half of us Filipinos we barely know of, we fulfill our responsibility of understanding.
Truly, Sulu and her neighbours are like veiled Muslim women; there are not many things to see. But understanding is beyond perception. And if we open not just our eyes and ears--but also our hearts--then peace will be achievable.