Originally published at El Fuente Magazine, The Curse and The Panacea Issue, S.Y. 2008-2009
Anna’s major class ends at 07:30 in the evening on a Tuesday. Since she does not have a well-off family to provide her a Suzuki Wave or a Toyota Innova of her own, she has to walk La Purisima Street from end to end. She then will be contented with a public transportation. When she reaches outside Gate 1, the road is half-deserted. There is almost no one except for the kids who are trying to steal away that one-peso coin quiescently displayed inside her uniform pockets. Does Anna feel secured enough to go through? She might encounter either stray cats or stray bullets. Will she proceed? Well, as if she had a choice.
Just five months ago, a divisive matter has sent shockwaves to the people in the Southern part of the country, Mindanao, especially to the Zamboangeños. The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain or the MOA-AD issue crept into the headlines in newspapers, radio stations, and televisions shows like a scorpion that has waited a very long time to strike its target. Then, for all we know, we can already spot pictures of bloody people lying on the ground on national papers and reports just like what happened to the townspeople of Pikit, Aloesan, Midsayap, Libungan, and Pigcawayan in Cotabato province. Innocent people, even women and children, were being dragged away from their home. If not, they run away from their quiet zones, run away for their lives.
Series of talks and consultations have been conducted to resolve this matter. “The government and rebels did try to compromise. Actually, they should. They must at least meet half-way to avoid the injustices on our innocent brothers and sisters,” says one sophomore Nursing student in the Ateneo. But the question is, have they met even just half of the half-way?
“The end does not justify the means,” states a second year Computer Science student. Accordingly, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) organized a series of peace talks regarding the matter on ancestral domain. They even have Malaysian interveners. Consequently, both parties aim for peace. For peace. But why does it need to include guns and bullets?
Recently, according to reports, ‘the issue on MOA-AD ends as the Supreme Court declares this homeland deal unconstitutional.’ Will this devastating matter end just like that? In this subdued city, we cannot contend with barangays being attacked or families being murdered. We cannot afford to allow the fatal scene in the Iligan City bombing happen at our very own backyard.
One third year Psychology student states that the direct effect of this matter is the security. “Dahil sa conflict, dumami uli ang kidnappings, kaya mas strict na ang mga tao ngayon. Lalo na mga Ateneans kasi ‘di ba, may nakidnap na Nursing student?” It was almost two months ago when Joed Pilanga was abducted in Barangay Tetuan. And for all we know, Anna might also be a Nursing student.
Ateneo’s response to this was a very serious one. Strict rules about the security of students have been implemented like all Nursing students must change in civilian clothes after their duty and all faculty, staff, and students must take off their IDs whenever they are already outside the campus. Even organizing class outings and outside the school activities has been put under close scrutiny.
The concern about the possibility of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity or the BJE creeping at our city’s important zones has put everyone on tight watch. “Kapag natuloy na talaga ‘yung BJE thing, lilipat na talaga kami sa Manila,” a sophomore Accountancy student disclosed.
Because of this silent, unending battle that has started decades ago, a lot of young lives has been affected—some slightly, some drastically. It may end that way or another. Or even not end at all. But surely, it has left a scar in everyone’s memory and something that Anna will never forget: the notion that even just one step in the streets at night might cost her life.