Sunday, March 30, 2008

Paradise Lost


By Miles Pobre-Valdez

Far in the hinterlands in an island in Southern Philippines, a beautiful valley lies with its lustrous greenery. In the early morn the cold damp air sends chills to the bone as the fogs envelope the nearby mountains. It is a quiet place with a number of settlers from Luzon and Visayas regions who have cleared the grassy plains and farmed. There are some tribal groups like the Tirurays and the Moslems who lived among the Christians. American missionaries have built churches where the people come together to worship God and they have also erected schools where the inhabitants learn the three R’s. Not far from the market with a few stalls, stands a Moslem Mosque where the faithful believers of Allah say their prayers and do their rituals at certain times of the day.

I cherish childhood memories in this place. I value my friends, Muslims and Christians alike. When we were at play and we hear the echoing from the Muslim Mosque, “Allahu Akbar…” and the ringing bells from the belfry of the Catholic Churches, “Ding-dong, ding-dong”, we knew it was prayer time. The sounds were like music to our ears. Our Muslim friends would heed the Islam call to prayer and they join their elders. At dusk, when the bells rang the Angelus, Christians would stop and say a silent prayer of thanksgiving. Families gathered in their humble abode to pray to God.

Way back then, I did not see the difference nor discrimination among Muslims, Christians and the ethnic tribes as they practiced their religious beliefs. To us, religion did not matter when all are one in prayer. There was respect for everyone. Our parents hailed from different parts of the country and the world but they were good role models and we looked up to them with great regard. Here, the affluent and the lowly blended and lived in harmony.

Each one shared and took part in making the place conducive to stay. No one was above the law; all had equal rights.

My playmates, they were a varied lot. They were the children of the community leaders, teachers, gardeners, employees, farmers, policemen and house help who had different cultural backgrounds: Ilocano, Ilonggo, Cebuano, Chavacano, Tagalog, Bisaya, Tiruray, Moslems. And yes, there were Americans, too. They were the children of the American missionaries and the Peace Corp volunteers. They adapted to our ways and we, in turn, learned their language.

We were fortunate kids with this kind of environment. We could freely roam around the neighborhood. Parents would allow our friends to stay the whole day in our house or sometimes we stayed in the neighbor’s house having fun. We created and invented things that became our toys. Other times we played make-believe. We made castles out of blankets and curtains pitched from wall to wall. Pillows piled at the center of the room served as the royal throne. And among us, one would be a king, a queen, a princess, a prince and the rest as loyal guards and servants. Other times, we set up our fairy land in the garden or at the convent where the nuns stay. We played the role of characters in stories we have read or heard. One could be Cinderella, Hansel, Gretel, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Jack, The Three Little Pigs, The Billy Goats Gruff or any of our favorite character in the land of fantasy. The nasty ones were assigned the role of witches or beasts until they behaved to deserve the role of the royalty and beauty. Our outdoor games included tumbang-preso, taguan (hide and seek) or luksong tinik. At the school grounds or the churchyard we played catch and run.

On moonlit nights, we gathered together to play patintero, our favorite outdoor game. We poured water on the dusty road to mark the lines where we play. While we, the young ones, ran around, bigger boys and girls grouped as they sang and strummed their guitars. On some occasions, parents organized barn dances for the teen-age group. They took turns on whose house it would be or they held it at the community social hall. The youth, mostly cousins and friends went to the dancing place chaperoned by a relative, not necessarily to be heavily guarded but just to keep them company in going home when the party was over. Such was the freedom in that peaceful place.

People were happy in their own simple ways. And I supposed everyone in the community were relatives because we called every man and woman about the age of our parents “Uncle” and “Auntie” or “Bapa and “Babu to the Muslim tribe. We kissed the hands of all men and women with graying hair whom we address as “Apo Lakay” or “Apo Baket” to show our respect. Their wisdom, we believed was associated with he number of gray or white hair on their head or the area where the hairline had receded. We called the others who were older than us “Manong” or “Manang”. Everyone seemed to belong in one big family.

Then there was this Old Grandfather, a missionary who had gone to the United States. He would walk down our street to gather us children and listen to his Bible stories and amusing tales of life in Chicago. How we loved to hear those stories told repeatedly. We would liken ourselves as the heroes in the Bible: David, Solomon, Daniel, Abraham, Moses, Mary, Martha, Ruth, Rebekah. And we all wanted to be like Jesus but when someone asked, “Would you be hung on the cross?” The innocent boys would cringe and all would be silent. Until Grandpa would say, “There are many ways to be like Jesus.” We would shout with glee and Grandpa would ask us to listen more. Even our Muslim playmates would join us in these sessions and they would also liken themselves as heroes in the Biblical times.

Life was simple then. No television sets, no playstations or any electronic gadget to tinker with; no telephones or mobile phones to communicate with friends or relatives. Conversations were interactive. People would feel and act together.

The place remains. But times have changed. People have come and gone. Differences in beliefs and ideologies have caused violent clashes and have shaken relationships or even displaced the former residents. But these do not daunt the happy memories we have treasured. Once upon a time, in this neighborhood, we were a bunch of happy kids who frolicked under the bright or dark skies. We have moved on bringing with us the value of respect, hard work, perseverance, love, kindness, patience, peace and joy. And we remember with grateful hearts.

I only wish that one day, I will see my childhood friends in our small paradise. Most of us have left and lived in some places but I am sure, each one of us have that longing to go back to show our children where we grew up. We will no longer build castles in the air but rather bridge friendships and connect the past to the present. Over cups of coffee and rice cakes, we will reminisce the good old days and share our blessings. And perhaps before we permanently depart from this place we once called our paradise, we can all together pray that it will regain its beauty and tranquility.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lessons from Mindanao History: As seen from Mindanao by Mindanaoans

Part 1 - The "conquest" of Mindanao

One sad part of Mindanao history was when sometime during the 1920s some "Mindanao leaders" misrepresented Mindanao to the "national leadership" that enabled the imperial Manila government to "conquer" Mindanao. That was one very unfortunate event that would later prove to be one of the major causes, if not the major cause, of this perennial unrest in Mindanao.

Up to this day, the historically well-versed Mindanaoans particularly the Muslims, maintain that as a people, they were never conquered by the Spaniards, Americans and the Japanese, but they have been conquered by the Philippine government. How did that happen?

Through their religion, guns and canons, both the Spaniards and Americans colonized Visayas and Luzon with virtual ease. But not Mindanao. Both suffered heavy casualties in the hands of the “uneducated moros,” whom the Americans classified as “wild tribes,” as chronicled in history books as the Moro Wars.

Mindanao saw decades of war against the colonizers. The Muslims had consistently resisted colonial attempts. The colonizers had to be unconventional and creative in order to overcome resistance. For instance, the Americans had to invent, among others, the Cal. 45 pistol with knocking down power in order to subdue the kris-swinging Maranao warriors who would continue to lunge at their attackers even if they were already bleeding by bullet wounds, and many other examples.

Beginning in 1250s, the Muslims from the Indo Malay region and from the Middle East arrived and settled in the Sulu archipelago. By 1350, Jolo was already a local government, the oldest in the Philippines, and a very vibrant economy largely because of its being a natural “crossroad” of ancient trade winds and sea current. By 1390, the Minsupala region and Sabah became Sulu Province, Jolo being the capital.

Since then and until the time of Rizal or the end of the Spanish colonial rule, Mindanao was and always thought of as “another country.” One glaring proof was the exiling of Rizal in Dapitan. No government would exile its citizen within its own territory.

During the American colonial period from 1900 to 1946, and until now, the Muslim resistance continued. However, setting their eyes on material promise of becoming US citizens and of going to America, in 1920s a group of about 20 lesser known Sultans mostly from Lanao, wrote to the American-led RP gov’t. expressing their desire for Mindanao to be under the United States. That was the misrepresentation!

Certainly they did not represent other Muslim tribes, the Maguindanao, Tausug, Yakan, Iranun and other groups in Mindanao. They were not appointed, elected, told or allowed to represent them. They were just self-made representatives. Presumably taking a cue from that, the “national leaders,” in quotation marks because they too were not elected, and the US-influenced drafters of the 1935 RP constitution, stated that the territory of the Philippines include Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Finally, Mindanao was "conquered" and annexed to the Philippines.

Observation: In Mindanao today, there are many misrepresentatives! And sadly, many groups blindly and others unconsciously repeat the same mistakes. Many in Manila are even recipient of undue recognition from Mindanaoans because of the Mindanaoans themselves.

Lesson: Unless Mindanaoans rise up and start thinking we are not third or second class citizens because we are world class, misrepresentations will continue.

Part 2 - Foundation is suspect

During the Japanese invasion, the Manila government sent soldiers from Luzon and Visayas to fight side by side with Mindanaoans in defending Mindanao. Little did they know that such “heroic” act from Christians would “bring” another debacle to Mindanao. Why and how?

After the war, then President Quezon “opened-up” Mindanao for development. Luzon and Visayas were invited. The firsts to answer the “call” were the more daring and adventurous Ilocanos and Ilongos. The Ilocanos followed their relatives that came much earlier as missionary teachers during the American colonial rule. Both were fascinated with the thought of owning vast plain tracks of land that they could cultivate.

The Cebuanos, having perhaps the worst bias against the Muslims whom they always “knew” as pirates and kidnappers since way back to the pre-Spanish era, were more reluctant. To encourage them to come, a sort of agricultural fair was done in Cebu City where corn plants having four ears were displayed, as compared to their one ear per plant. That was so convincing. However, the first wave of Cebuanos to come should know martial arts (doce pares) so as to defend themselves, like they were told.

The hospitality of the locals surprised the migrants arriving from Luzon and the Visayas. Because they didn’t know that it is culturally natural for Muslims and other tribes to reciprocate an act of kindness. Kindness what?

The Lumads & Muslims concluded that because the Christian government "helped" them drive away the Japanese from Mindanao, Christians could actually be good neighbors afterall, or so they thought. So they accommodated them in their ancestral lands. Some exchanged or “bought” huge parcels of land with flashlights and other perishable goods, but most were just allowed to cultivate their lands for free.

Meanwhile, behind the knowledge of the unsuspecting natives, the more educated Christian migrants titled the lands they were tilling. This was a major foundational problem. Mindanao development was founded on pretense and lies.

Observation: To these days, Mindanao has never been innocent to pretense and lies.

Lesson: Unless we advocate and intentionally pursue fairness and truth, we won’t be able to leave behind a better Mindanao to the next generation.

Part 3 - Implications of Merdeka & Jabidah

Jibin Arula heard a series of gunshots and saw his colleagues fall. Afraid for his own life, he ran towards a mountain and rolled off the edge on to the sea. He recalled clinging to a plank of wood and stayed afloat. By morning, fishers from nearby Cavite rescued him. He was the only survivor of the infamous Jabidah massacre at Corregidor on the night of March 18, 1968, that fueled independence movement and gave birth to a re-emerging sense of Moro national identity among Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu. He is still alive, living somewhere in Jolo.

Their trainors led them out of their barracks in batches of twelve. They were taken to nearby airstrip where they were gunned down. They were supposedly part of a secret government scheme to split Islamic ranks, provoke a war between Sulu and Sabah, and then invade and reclaim Sabah. When they discovered their true mission, it struck them that it would mean not only fighting their brother Muslims in Sabah, but also possibly killing their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there. Already feeling disgruntled over the non-payment of the promised P50 monthly allowance, they demanded to be returned home. Fearing leakage of the plan, the army opted to silence them forever.

Operation Merdeka (Bahasa for freedom) was the codename for the destabilization plan. Nearly 200 Tausug and Sama Muslims aged 18 to 30 from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi were recruited. Their first training was in the island-town of Simunul in Tawi-Tawi. Simunul was where the first Arab missionary Makhdum built the first mosque in the Philippines in the 14th century. The recruits felt giddy about the promise of not only a monthly allowance, but also over the prospect of eventually becoming a member of an elite unit in the Philippine Armed Forces. That meant, among other benefits, guns, which they culturally regard as very precious possessions. From August to December 1967, the young recruits underwent training in Simunul. The name of their commando unit: Jabidah.

On December 30 that year, nearly 100 recruits, representing the better part of the group, boarded a Philippine Navy vessel for the second phase of training in the island of Corregidor at the Manila bay where they were supposed to receive additional and advanced skills and tactics. Instead, they died. Only one survived to tell their tale.

The Jabidah massacre is a story of Marcos’ attempt to use and misuse the people of Mindanao, and of a cover up of a deception and impure motives through murder. This story is as old as David’s, when he murdered Uriah by assigning him at the frontline of war to cover up his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife.

Observations: Deception and cover up are still very familiar in RP today. And Mindanao being used, misused, abused and overused has been an unfortunate saga of Mindanao’s disadvantageous affair with Manila.

For instance, AFP and PNP colonels need at least a Mindanao assignment to become generals. The perennial war in Mindanao has been thought of as government’s perpetual reason to receive steady foreign aid classified as security funds to finance the fight against the enemies of democracy, namely, rebellion and terrorism.

At ten million or so, the Mindanao vote, if there is such a vote, has been sought, bought, cheated and manipulated to give national candidates an edge of winning. Talk about the hello Garci brouhaha. Talk about the senator from Maguindanao episode.

With all the risk of the negative side effects to health and environment, the BT corn and other genetically engineered species have been tested in Mindanao.

Scalawag policemen, army and judges have been thrown like thrash to Mindanao.

And during the last decade or so, a thought has developed among corporate planners in Manila that any approach or strategy that works in Mindanao must work throughout the country and the world.

Lesson: Mindanaoans should cut off imperial tendencies by non-Mindanaoans through information, positive projection of Mindanao and pursuit of truth and justice.

(With readings from: The Minoritization of the Indigenous Communities of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, B.R. Rodil, 1994; The Bangsamoro Struggle: Religious Conflict or War of National Identity? Edilwasif T. Baddiri, Feb. 2005; Seeds of Terror, Maria Ressa, 2003; Tentacles of Terror: Al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian Network, Z.Abuza, 2002; Under the Crescent Moon, Maritess Vitug, 2000; The Growth of Islam in the Philippines, Yusop Ansari, 2000; History of Islam in RP, Ibra Montawil, 1999; Struggle for Autonomy in Mindanao, Chito R. Gavino, 1998; Understanding Mindanao Conflict, Patricio Diaz; The evolution of Philippine Muslim Insurgency, Abu Ali, 1998; Int'l review of Peace Initiatives, 2005; The Bangsamoro Struggle, Salamat Hasim; The MILF,; Interview with Salamat Hasim,, March 31, 2000)

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Biloxi, Mississippi
March 17, 2008

Being from Mindanao sometimes connotes a certain reputation when one introduces himself/herself as from Mindanao to another Filipino especially here in the US. But such responses do not bother me anymore since I am proud to be a Filipino by birth, and prouder to say that I was born and raised in Mindanao. The region of Mindanao, Sulu, TawiTawi and Palawan has a lot to offer to all types of tourists, both locals and foreigners. There are a lot of places to visit and enjoy while you are in Mindanao, including but not limited to the following:
  • Hot springs in Camiguin
  • Surfing in Siargao
  • Whitewater rafting in Cagayan de Oro
  • The brass and handicraft industry in Tugaya
  • Maria Christina Falls in Iligan
  • River Cruise in Agusan River
  • Offshore fishing in Davao
  • Nearshore fishing in Illana Bay
  • Pasonanca Park eateries in Zamboanga
  • Barter Trade Zone in Zamboanga
  • Jose Rizal Park in Dapitan
  • Nearshore Seaweed Farms in Sitangkai
  • Boat Houses in Isabela
  • Underwater caverns of Puerto Galera
From The Butuan Global Forum: Recently, the city of Butuan introduced a unique cruise along the Agusan River to attract foreign and domestic travelers. The river cruise on board a replica of a balanghai, a water vessel that dates back to some 1,700 years ago, sails along the Agusan River.

Our party of 28 family members experienced a similar two-hour cruise in a floating restaurant with lots of food (pusit, lukon, alimango, pansit, lato, manok, isda, boiled rice) and live music of Yoyoy Villame along the Loboc River in Bohol in June 2006. Loboc is the home of the smallest monkey in world-Tarsier. There were live Tarsiers on display at the small petting zoo. A small gift shop sells several types of relatively cheap gift items as pasalubongs.

From MSUan Recto Puno: We had the chance to make a trip to northern Mindanao some 2 weeks ago. Met some MSU friends (mostly members of the msu skylarks). My family enjoyed the white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro, the different springs in Camiguin, and surfing in Siargao island. Mindanao is truly blessed with a lot of things but foremost of which are the warm people you meet everywhere.

From MSUan William Adan: If by chance you are back in Pinas - I mean especially for those who are freezing today in the land of milk and honey - try the challenge of the rapids of Cagayan de Oro River. It will loosen your creaking winter-challenged bones!

It is cheap. Only P500/person in about 3 hours of exciting adventure.

MSUans are all over Mindanao, so if you have the chance, please send a paragraph and a current picture of trourist attractions in towns or cities you recently visited in Mindanao. Tell us about the location, attractions, amenities, months, days and hours open, prices per head and website.

Thank you.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Good Morning MSU

(NOTE: This piece came from PERLA FICKENSCHER. She sent it to through the Googlegroup and asked me to post it. She has been invited to be one of the Contributors but is not yet familiar with the blog system. I have already sent her instructions on how to activate her status as contributor. So hopefully her next piece will be posted directly by her."

Good Morning MSU!

Southern California is cloudy, bit cold this morning. We are expecting storm and rain tonight.

Past few weeks has been hectic - so hectic in fact that I had bad dreams about it. But nobody to blame but me. Dont get me wrong. I am smelling the roses as well.

The pace is my choice. I wrote renewal for my own work/grant and I wrote two new grants. Found out all three got funded. Now I have to write full blown application ..but only for one grant. Ok so my ego got stoked, but come July 1, I have to walk the talk. However, I am not so lucky in my other application. So, I won 3, lost 1.

It is so nice to read about many MSUans joining our internet group...especially them young ones. And they are just as emotional about MSU as we are! MSU has magic that captures us back, even after we leave. I read Marc Castrodes poem about MSU. His story is different. When the rest of us MSUans leave for home during semester breaks, he is already home. And he remembered the quite and chilly nights....must have been special when MSU was his….alone. I was in MSU once before class started and it felt different. Felt like I was trespassing. After reading Marc's poem, now I understand.

A friend mentioned that I was the last one he expected to do stuff for MSU. He is right. But when we left MSU, little did we know that she tied a string to our hearts. We have moved to the farthest places on earth, but MSU doesn’t allow us to forget her. Every now and then, she tugs the string, reminding us not to forget her, in essence, not to forget where we came from. So here we are, decades after graduation, thousand of miles away, and still, the memories are vivid, like it was just yesterday.

I echo Celia Lavilla’s wish to have learned the Maranao language. And to be honest, I didn’t have any desire back then. I wished was forced to learn Maranao, because it would have been the right thing to do and many of us would have been thankful. I hear the same from my children who now blamed me for not forcing them to learn Bisaya. They now say, that I should have made it mandatory. It would have been easy too since my parents lived with me for 17 years. I regret this too. I have a 2 ½ grandson – maybe its not too late.

Ben’s article about looking for places to eat reminded me of John’s favorite Chinese restaurant in Iligan…can’t remember the name. This old Chinese guy was the nicest guy. He felt sorry for John so every Saturday morning, this old Chinese guy used to cook American breakfast for John – the whole works – toasted and buttered white bread, sunny side up eggs, chorizo, and a thermos full of coffee. I would get hot rice and banana catsup with the chorizo. The sunny side up eggs was yummy sprinkled with big, coarse, unbleached sea salt, smothered all over hot rice. We would order pancit canton to go (as bringdorm) and pick it up after bowling and movie, back to MSU that afternoon. Sometimes, we would finish our chores early in Iligan and while waiting for the MSU bus, John would drink beer with barbecued chicken cooked right there (at the street).

Wow, seemed like centuries ago. Have a nice week guys.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Biloxi, Mississippi
March 14, 2008

Typical university students living in campus dormitories are always hungry but do not have much to eat or choices of food to eat because of the lack of money. This is true among MSU students in Marawi when I was there in 1970- 1974 and 1976-1980. I have also heard the same stories when my eldest son and only daughter were living in the dormitories in another MSU campus in Mississippi. I already warned my third child, Gabriel about limited food choices when he moves to the Mississippi State U campus this fall to start college.

Over the years, as I progress in my professional life, I have the opportunity to travel in many parts of the globe. Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Eastern Canada, England, Hawaii, and several of the states in mainland USA. One thing I always concern myself during the first day of my stay is where to eat and get a couple of 21-oz glass of the local brew. The choices of food and drinks are unlimited despite the fact that I have a semi-fixed daily budget for food and drinks. I usually end up ordering more food and drinking more than what I can normally consume on a typical day at home.

Where is Tatoy's? The name kept coming back to my head during the last hour or so when I was eating my lunch of catfish cooked in a pot, boiled jasmine rice, soup, and asian salad at a local Vietnamese restaurant. I remember going to Tatoy's before and I am sure the the chicken served there was really good.

When I was in Zamboanga City in 1987, the late Doming Tan brought me and some friends to the eateries in Pasonanca Park. I remember ordering sinugbang pusit with stuffing, kinilaw nga isda, seaweed salad, of course boiled rice and lots of cold SM beer. It was truly a feast everytime we ate in those eateries. Also, we ate at the Maranao restaurants in the park where we ordered grilled fish served with a big bowl of soup cooked with coconut oil, curry, and cabbage, a bowl of the very spicy piapa, and of course boiled rice.

When I was in Cagayan de Oro City while I was conducting an economic survey in 1976, I remember eating several times at a local restaurant. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the place or food I ate there. But at the market place, I remember, eating at several small eateries serving different kinds of food, drinks and delicacies.

Where did you eat during your recent trips to Mindanao? What are the specialties of the restaurants, the quality of the service, and the price of the food and drinks? Would you share your experience so that we may know where to go and what to eat when we get there in the future?

Thank you.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Memphis Marriott Downtown
March 10, 2008

This post was inspired by my long drive from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Memphis, Tennessee yesterday. The whole drive took about seven hours covering about 400 miles (1 mile = 1.6 kilometers) including one stop to fill up my truck's gas tank (~28 gallons), pick up some guides and maps at the first Tennessee welcome center, withdraw money from my bank's ATM, and stop at a rest area. I wanted to take some pictures of the drive but my camera ran out of battery. Anyway, at the highways (Interstate Highway 10, MS Highway 49, and Interstate Highway 55) I drove, most of the vehicles I saw were cars, pick-up trucks (called trucks here), SUVs, minivans, and 18-wheeler truck-trailers. A lot of people are traveling as well as goods and materials are being transported across state boundaries. These are signs of domestic travel and interstate commerce.

While driving, I kept thinking about highways and roads in Mindanao. Road conditions, driving distances, vehicle types, travel time, rest areas, gas stations, restaurants, lodging places, tourist attractions, etc ...... What about at night, is it safe to travel and transport goods and materials in the roads of Mindanao? Merchants and producers need to deliver their products to various destinations or points of sale or consumption on time to provide for the orders of their customers. People need to arrive at their destinations on time for personal or business reasons to fullfill their commitments to friends, relatives and clients.

During our last visit to the Philippines in 2006, we did some traveling by public transport. Charter bus trip from Caticlan, Aklan to Tigbauan, Iloilo and from Bacolod to Dumaguete. These trips were different from the ones I made with public buses from Zamboanga to Pagadian, Pagadian to Linamon, Iligan to Cagayan de Oro, Cagayan de Oro to Butuan between 1986 and 1988. We stopped in one town about two hours from Dumaguete to buy coffee and have cigarette and restroom break. The children did not make it in the public restroom while the private restroom of the local bakery was not available for public use. We decided to stop in a dark spot somewhere in the highway to have the restroom break sometime before midnight.

In late 1960s to early 1970s, I also remember the trips I made from Marawi to Iligan, Marawi to Malabang, Ozamis to Dipolog, Iligan to Pagadian, Pagadian to Zamboanga, Iligan to Cagayan de Oro, Cagayan de Oro to Butuan, Parang to Cotabato, Malabang to Kapatagan (via the tunnel), Maluso to Isabela, Cagayan de Oro to Manolo Fortich, and many more. I do not remember the buses traveling at night in those areas. I suppose these buses do not travel at night nowadays for obvious reasons.

Highways, roads and streets are the links between suppliers and buyers of manpower, materials and finished products. They link up surplus regions with deficit regions. Should you travel the roads of Mindanao next time, please share you exprience for us to know more about them. Thank you.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Using Maranaw as Medium of Instruction in Lanao

(I have recast this posting somewhat to add what I missed in my original posting and instead of posting in toto an excerpt from Michael Tan's column I am merely citing the gist of the column so as to avoid any copyright infringement problem!)

MSU is probably the only university in the Philippines that have what is called the "College-bound" program to accommodate students who are not yet college material due to lack of English and Math skills. The present MSU President (or is it Office-in Charge?") is supposed to be one of the success stories of the "College bound" students. But the existence of such a system merely indicates that many Maranaws exit elementary and high school still lacking in the basic knowledge skills required for tertiary education. Had this always been the case or had literacy among Maranaws deteriorated?

I would like to cite in this posting what Michael Tan in his Pinoy Kasi! column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (2/20/2008) had to say about the use of Maranaw language in Lanao by the Americans during the U.S. colonial period. (if you want to read the whole column I suggest you look for it in the Inquirer website, specifically

Michael Tan cited an article written by Frank Laubach entitled "The Lanao System of Teaching Illiterates". ( If the name Laubach rings a bell, think Laubach Institute which he apparently founded. Laubach was one of the American pioneer educators in the Philippines). It appears that when the Americans first came to Lanao to establish schools they found only a small percentage of the population was literate and that furthermore they could read and write only in Arabic. It was then they realized that Maranaw as a language was only spoken. So before they can even establish any school and recruit teachers they have to devise a writing system for Maranaw using the English (or do is it called Roman?) alphabet. Citing Laubach, Tan pointed out that the Americans did this by transcribing local songs, prose and poetry. They did not lack for materials and found that the Maranaws had “at least 35 long epic poems that would range from 20 to a hundred printed pages in length,” “many prose stories resembling those of the Arabian nights,” “kisas,” or stories from ancient prophets, and thousands of lyric poems “about the harvest, the rain, the clouds, the sunset, love, despair ... everything in their lives.”

Laubach attributed the success of their literacy program in Lanao to the use of these folk literature The Maranaws were intrigued by the idea of being able to read their own literature. The success can be gleaned from the fact that in the first four months of 1931 when the program was launched they were able to teach 3,000 individuals to read and write. From there it was easy to translate into Maranaw other materials on “health, government, history, geography, business, morals and religion” as well as Philippine laws into Maranaw" and even Philippine laws so they became accessible to the Maranaws.

The present approach of the DepEd is to allow the use of the mother tongue only during the first two years and thereafter shift to English and Pilipino (which of course is basically Tagalog). After reading Michael Tan the following questions came to my mind:
  1. How do the elementary and secondary schools in Muslim Mindanao fare when compared to other schools in the Philippines?
  2. Up to what level is Maranaw used as medium of instructions in Lanao del Sur? How about Tausug, Samal. Badjao in Sulu and Tawi-tawi? This includes of course the Subanen, Manobo, Tiboli, etc in the respective areas where they are spoken.
  3. Could an increased use of Maranaw (or whatever mother tongue) as medium of instruction especially in Level 1 and Level 2 education be an effective way to improve the literacy levels in Mindanao?
  4. Has any study been made by MSU along this line?
Looking back I now regret not having learned to converse in Maranaw during my four years of stay in MSU beyond the "bastos" words and a few others. Learning another language is always enriching, I now realize. But then again there was no organized effort at that time towards getting those interested to learn how to converse in Maranaw. In effect Binisaya became the lingua franca in the campus. Not surprising Bisaya being the lingua franca for most of Mindanao.

This posting of course should not be taken to mean I am advocating the use of Maranaw as medium of instruction in the MSU Marawi campus! This cannot be due to the mixed nature of the students who come from all over Mindanao. What I am only saying is that the use of the mother tongue as medium of instruction during the formative years may be a means to improve even English or Pilipino, not to mention Math and Science skills of the youth in Mindanao so that they are better prepared for the university as the following excerpt explains.

As Michael Tan lamented in his column "We don’t seem to have learned from that experience in Lanao. English remains the preferred medium of instruction, using English textbooks, and we like to imagine a time when, supposedly, Filipinos spoke proper English. We forget fluent English was a function of class, of people who could use English both in schools and at home, and with their social circles. For the majority of Filipinos, English and, later, Filipino was, and still is, distant."

Lately due to the mushrooming of the all centers, there is a demand for greater fluency in English among Filipino college graduates. Its not enough that all our textbooks and public documents and even court hearings are in English, many of our lawmakers are demanding for laws to make English the only medium of instruction evejavascript:void(0)
Publish Postn in all subjects in high school and college. Its as if it will be more effective for a Physics teacher whose competence in English is less than 100% to explain Newton's Laws in English to students whose competence in English is probably less than 50%!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


The overall goal of the proposed blogsphere is for everyone worldwide to read about MSUans points of views about the MINSUPALA REGION. There are several MSUans from all ages (1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, 2000's) who are reluctant to participate actively in the current MSUan e!Groups (e.g., Goggle, Yahoo, MEVN) due to several reasons.

Primarily, they prefer to be anonymous and just be readers or listeners.
Secondly, internet inadequacy and inaccessability prevents several MSUans to participate.
Thirdly, the younger generations of MSUans prefer different flatforms to interact with fellow MSUans.
I am sure there are other reasons which are personal in nature that need to be left unsaid.

Less than 3,000 MSUans are now actively participating in various MSUans e!Groups. There are good reasons to further increase this number to enhance the visibility of MSUans voice in cyberspace.

I fully support the plan to develop and maintain an MSUan blogsphere where MSUans can to their hearts content subject to some guidelines express their points of views about the MINSUPALA REGION.

In this connection, let us deal with the logistics of developing this blogsphere:

Select three volunteer moderators
Create blog site
Advertise blog site by print and e!media
Formulate blogging guidelines
Let the work and fun begin.

Circulate this blogspot to your families, friends, communities and e!Groups.

Welcome MSUans

Welcome to Miakadodo!

You are all welcome to contribute your thoughts. Please restrict your entry to matters that has to do with MSU and Mindanao. Let us not be tempted to stray into general Philippine politics except of course where it directly affects MSU and Mindanao, and much less into US politics as exciting as the present presidential race has been, even while still in the primaries. If you feel very strongly about such matters I suggest that you find other more appropruate blogsites . I am sure there are many of them in the blogsphere. You can Google for blogs that contain your desired topic.

Regarding tthe nature of what we can enter, Blogger --the blogsite host, which happens to be owned by Google has this to say:

"Blogger strongly believes in freedom of speech. We believe that having a variety of perspectives is an important part of what makes blogs such an exciting and diverse medium. With that said, there are certain types of content that are not allowed on Blogger. While Blogger values and safeguards political and social commentary, material that promotes hatred toward groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity is not allowed on Blogger."

As for specific guidelines on what is acceptable or not for this particular website I will welcome all of you to contribute your ideas so we can formulate the guidelines collectively on line -- that is if you feel very strongly about having such guidelines. Personally I prefer this to be a forum for "malayang talakayan basta walang personalan". As moderator if I think something may hurt the sensibility of others I reserve the right to remove such material from Miakadodo. Likewise if any of you feel strongly that a particular writing does not belong here and has to be trashed please alert me and state your reason for believing so.

There is nothing frivolous on my choice of the name I gave this blogsite. I originally wanted to name it as follows:
MSUans Intent on Advocating Knowledge, Action and Determination to Obtain Development Objectives.
But you have to admit it is too long a name for a blogsite so I settled on the its acronym which happens to spell out MIAKADODO. How about that!

It is actually named after the group of MSUans that has the record of meeting most frequently and for the longest time, -- to be exact almost every Thursday since 9/11 according to the founding organizer of Miakadodo -- Bob Lim. What can be more appropriate than that. Neither rain or snow or sleet or hail can deter us from meeting Thursdays at the Dome in EDSA Shangrila. I have to admit though that the occasional Typhoon Signal No 2 or 3 does prevent us from meeting. So no amount of calamity (short of a power outage) should prevent us from meeting in this site.

So bloggers log in and type away!