Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention Start with the People of the Lake

By Adrian Sto. Domingo | Posted on May 20, 2022

Having been to Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, and Lanao del Sur was my second time to visit the Land of Promise, the island of Mindanao. It was last February 2018 when I, together with my colleagues from the Philippine Information Agency, came to Davao to attend a national convention for information officers and media practitioners from all provinces of the country.

This year, my reason for touching down again to Mindanao was to attend another national conference but this time a summit initiated by Rotaract.

An arch that welcomes people to the City of Marawi (Photo of PP JN Vianney)

Just like any other, I am one of the people who is also thrilled to see striking historical attractions that a certain place has to provide, especially those that we have only seen in textbooks and learned from our geography class, like the 17 regions of the Philippines.

Lanao del Sur, where the City of Marawi is located, is a place which belongs to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao along with Basilan, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi. Our momentary visit to the Islamic City of Marawi was enough to see some of the major problems that are in view, like mounds of garbage which is a common sight in the city, and the upshot of the Battle of Marawi.

Rotaract leaders involve themselves in the practices of Mindanao (Photo of PDRR Christian Castillo)

Despite all these, which are unusual to the eyes of newcomers, the beauty within the characters of Maranaos gleamed as we viewed and visited spots around. As a sign of showing politeness and giving respect to the City Officials of Marawi, the Rotaractors, which were represented by MDIO Chair Manuel Joseph Franco and 10 District Rotaract Representatives, had a courtesy visit to the mayor and other officers. To show their way of hospitality, an official ushered the Rotaractors on their way going to the Office of the City Mayor, and as we were leaving the City Hall.

The people of Marawi have an appreciation for their culture and religion. Wherever you turn your head, you will see Islams wearing their clothing, like hijab, abaya, and niqab. The architectural designs of their mosques must also be boasted as we admire the Philippines’ heritage churches. 

Residents coming into the wrecked area. (Photo of PP JN Vianney)

The resiliency and courage of the displaced population to go back home are essential qualities of Maranaos that are also impressive, knowing that their place is a militarized zone due to insurgencies brought about by the Marawi Siege. While touring around by a van, I have seen some residents entering the affected area boarded by a tricycle. Even though I felt dismayed as I was seeing houses shattered by intense fighting and aerial bombing, I also felt the same feeling of the Maranaos that they have been constantly longing for, and that is hope.

MDIO Chair MJ Franco observes the most affected area of the siege. (Photo of PDRR MJ Franco)

The geniality, love for culture and religion, and optimism. These three things I have observed during our short visit to Marawi are essential elements of promoting peacebuilding. Indeed, it is admirable that the people of Marawi and the whole province of Lanao del Sur do not impose these characters without emulating them personally. Participation is one of the primary ways to address such prevalent issues in the area. As they involve themselves in participation, we, as advocates of Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention, have to come along with them by understanding where they are coming from at the very least. When we understand their culture and society, respect starts from every individual.

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