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Peace. They say they want peace.
I can think of so many expletives I want to scream out right now that I feel I could make Jerry Springer’s show look like Sesame Street. Whether P word or not, these “palabras sucias” would fly like sparks from my mouth as if it was a grindstone. But I guess this pent up anger is building up so much that I am getting ahead of myself, so let me begin again.
This morning, I woke up to the news that Zamboanga City, one of my favorite places here in the Philippines, has been attacked by armed hostiles, supposedly under the leadership of Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). I have to say “supposedly” because he denies those claims and says that he and his men were actually preparing a “peace caravan” (Taken from GMA News/24 Oras Twitter Account). Though I don’t like the guy, I will have to give him the benefit of the doubt. “Innocent until proven guilty” or some other bull like that.
This is just wrong on many, if not all levels. Then again, I have to ask myself as I type this, which part of this is right at all?
Mindanao has always been branded by the urbanfolk of Manila as dangerous territory. Their biases against what they don’t understand or what they are not used to come out in question form like “Diba puro Kidnapper dyan? (Will we get kidnapped if we go?)” or “Puro bomba naman dyan diba? (Is what I saw in the news true about bombings and stuff?)”. Zamboanga City has had to bear most of the prejudice and bias, which has had an adverse effect on its image and tourism. Even if there is SOME level of truth to those biases, these hostile acts were only reported out of the safety and refuge of Zamboanga City by the mediamen and women who were assigned to cover the events that actually happened in nearby provinces.
Today, all of that changed. They gave outsiders and non-Zamboangueños reason to fear. “They” being the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity. No, this is not a crusade, Jihad or Holy War. It’s not about Christian vs. Muslim, it’s about Mindanaoan vs. Mindanaoan, or worse yet, Filipino vs. Filipino. I don’t believe “Holy People” are capable of treating other human beings with such cruelty, using them as human shields against the threatening advances of government troops.
I woke up to a nightmare that stained my favorite Zamboangueño song (the only one I know, really) with the blood of the fallen soldier, who was unnamed in the news as he died protecting the little remaining integrity that we have as a Nation: The people and our land. A few lines from the song that my iconic Zamboangueño grandmother sang so well would describe how I have always seen Zamboanga City:
Zamboanga Hermosa, Preciosa Perlita, Orgullo de Mindanao! … (and most especially the bridge)
Flores y Amores que adornan tu jardin, ERES LA IMAGEN DEL BELLO EDEN!
this basically translates to:
Lovely Zamboanga, Precious Pearl, Pride of Mindanao! … (I skipped the rest & went straight to the bridge)
Flowers and Love adorn your garden, you are a reflection of Beautiful Eden!
I don’t know if I translated that right, but I don’t care. It’s not meant to be translated. It’s meant to be sung as is. Understood as is. FELT AS IS.
I have run out of good words to say, so I shall not say anything anymore. Instead, I will show you what Zamboanga City is to me. Not for Propaganda, but as candid and as natural as I can make it. This is Zamboanga. Not what these devils want it to be. Zamboanga City is Paradise.