HOME OF the Sultanates, sarimanok, and Islam: Visiting Lanao del Sur province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is like going back to centuries ago, when women walked around gracefully in their malongs (traditional wrap-around clothing) and men who had betel-stained golden teeth played chess all day. But although being transported to a place that seems stuck in time could be soothing to a frazzled urbanite, the truth is Lanao del Sur is that way largely because it is one of the poorest provinces in the country, while ARMM is the poorest region in the Philippines in all indicators of human development.
THE GHOSTS of the last elections haunt Lanao del Sur and they refuse to rest. They will not go away. They flit about, seeking resolution. So when Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, the commander of the Marine brigade stationed in the province during the last election, testified in the Senate in September, saying that he had been mysteriously relieved from his post two clays after the voting, the ghosts were roused again. Days after the Senate hearing, Gudani and one of his officers, Marine Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan, were sent to court martial for refusing to heed their superiors’ orders not to testily. The ghosts, having been roused, are now rattling even more noisily than ever before.
POONA BAYABAO, Lanao del Sur — “Fernando Poe, Fernando Poe.” With clenched fists and his right hand raised, octogenarian Hadji Mohammad Monte repeated the name of the late action star like a mantra when asked whom he voted for in the last presidential elections. He insisted that Poe was number one among the residents of this town where the late king of Philippine movies was — and still is — very popular.
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