MALAYBALAY, BUKIDNON — ‘Ustadz! Ustadz! Ustadz!’ Repeated shouts pepper the air as the children call the teacher’s attention. The teacher has just asked a question, and it seems everyone wants to answer. Finally, the teacher calls out a name, and the rest of the children settle down.
IF I had to write a script for a movie on political violence, I could not come up with a better one than the ongoing live drama starring political bigwigs from the province of Abra. The assassination of Abra Congressman Luis Bersamin Jr. and his bodyguard outside a church — right after a wedding — last December 16 provides the slam-bang opening scene. Cut to assassins escaping on a motorcycle. Tracing the registration of the getaway vehicle leads to the arrest of one Rufino Panday, a former Army master sergeant, who identifies not only the assassins, but also the mastermind, who he says is Abra Governor Vicente Valera. Two weeks later comes the cinematic arrest of Governor Valera himself, shortly after he leaves the house of his alleged mistress at dawn. But of course there has to be a dramatic car chase first, and then there is the governor looking bug-eyed in a roomful of authorities and nosy media. Arrested with him are three bodyguards, and the police find in his new, hulking SUV an automatic assault rifle, six 45-caliber pistols, and a fragmentation grenade.
JUST AS I wear different hats as an activist, journalist, or trainor, depending on the task at hand, I also have to deal with layers of identity: Maranao, my tribal affiliation; Moro, my valiant ancestry; Filipino, my passport nationality; Muslim, my faith. To make matters more complicated, I am a woman in an evolving community that many say is also confused. At the very least, they say, it has to contend with three laws: the traditional and customary law, Philippine law, and Islamic law.
WE OFTEN think of the lives of military men as nothing less than exciting, and the one led by retired Brig. Gen. Raymundo Jarque does not disappoint, although it had some unexpected and confusing twists. From a young lieutenant assigned to Mindanao to face the Muslim secessionists in the 1970s, he went on to become a military commander fighting a raging communist insurgency in his home province, then a fugitive from justice seeking sanctuary among the very rebels he fought, and later a consultant to them in their peace talks with the government. Had the local film industry not been in the doldrums, there would probably have been a movie based on his action-packed life by now.
“IT WAS a little bit eerie,” Nur Misuari says, recalling that cold early morning in January 1986 when a stranger came knocking on the door of his hotel room in Madrid. On the run from the Marcos government, the chairman of the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF was then living in Tripoli, dependent on the hospitality of the Libyan leader Muammar Khadaffi. He was in Madrid for just that night, waiting for a flight to Casablanca in Morocco, where he was to attend a meeting.
BEFORE ME was an Islamic religion studies graduate, an aleema who divorced her aleem (Islamic learned man) husband (for beating her up. She was lecturing on significant Muslim women in Islamic history. So far she had taken up the Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadija and daughter Aisha. Today’s topic: Madina’s Umu Sulaim Rumaisa. All were women of virtue whose lives could give us insights on what a Muslim woman should aspire to.
“WHERE ARE the boys?”
Quezon City Schools Division supervisor Beth Meneses has been asking this question the past several years. On really bad days, she says, as many as one in five of the male students in the city’s high schools could be anywhere — the streets, the canteen, the mall, the computer gaming shop — but in the classroom.