Young Maranao advocate says empathy key to promoting peace, dev't
MANILA, Philippines – Empathy is key to promoting peace and development, especially in Mindanao.
This is the message of 21-year-old Maranao Jamil Faisal Saro Adiong, after he received the Sultan Kudarat Award for Peace and Community Development in late January.
The award is an annual academia-based recognition organized by the Federation of Muslim Students and alumni of the Mindanao State University in General Santos City. This year's ceremony marked the 14th anniversary of the awarding tradition, held at the Green Leaf Hotel in General Santos on January 22.
"Try to imagine how different others' problems are and how important it is for us to understand peace and development. Without peace and development in Mindanao alone, it wouldn't be able to grow in all aspects. Even the smallest town in the Philippines, it will always affect the whole country, the economy," Adiong said in an interview with Rappler.
A graduating student of Political Science at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Adiong dedicated the award to his fellow Maranaos who survived and continues to reel from the devastating impact of the Marawi siege and severe Tropical Storm Vinta.
Potential of Mindanao
"This is an award of the strong Maranaos, who, despite losing their homes in the Marawi siege, have embattled fear and doubts for peace. This is an award of the resilient Maranaos, who, amidst the catastrophic Vinta, have risen with renewed hope for development. To all my fellow Maranaos, this is yours, claim it," Adiong said in a Facebook post a couple of days after the awarding ceremony.
Adiong said his personal struggle with acculturation when he left his hometown Lanao del Sur to study in Cebu City is nothing compared to the struggles of his fellow Maranaos.
Adiong told Rappler in an interview that ironically, he started his advocacy to promote peace and development among his fellow Maranaos in Lanao del Sur and surrounding provinces when he moved to Cebu City.
"Sobrang development dito sa Cebu City, parang naiinggit ako (Cebu is so developed, I got kind of envious). I started questioning the reality – bakit walang ganito sa Bangsamoro, sa amin sa Marawi (how come we don't have the same in Bangsamoro, in our hometown, Marawi)? Ano ba'ng meron dito na wala doon? Doon, (What's the differense between the situation here and there)? I started looking for motivation. I started to open myself to the community and volunteered in some outreach programs," he said.
After leaving his hometown, Adiong said he realized the potential of Mindanao to prosper if only peace reigns in the community. (READ: Mindanaoan youth: 'We want just and lasting peace')
Last year, the World Bank said in a report that 37% of the country's poor population live in Mindanao, which is home to 15% of the Philippines' total population. In fact, the World Bank said Mindanao continues to lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to shared prosperity.
This is the image that Adiong wants to help change. The young advocate said that not everyone in Mindanao has the privilege to go to school and understand the importance of community development.
For example, in urban areas like Cebu and Manila, Adiong said that the problems may only range from lack of Wi-Fi or chairs. In rural areas, however, the reality is more grim.
"When you ask them about Wi-Fi, some students don't know what it is. We visited an elementary school washed by Typhoon Vinta, there's one book that the teacher was able to save during the flood, and they are using it for all low-grade level students. If you're going to look at their facilities, it's really not good. Aside from lacking of chairs, there's also only few usable classroom," Adiong said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Realizing how much conflict has hampared progress in Mindanao, Adiong pushed for projects and campaigns aimed at turning the situation around.
The young Maranao also knew that the elusive goal of achieving peace in Mindanao can only be done through a collective effort. This is why he urges the youth, through his projects, to put themselves in the shoes of others.
Adiong established #PeaceNaTa, a social movement that "campaigns to reconcile the history-old gap between Moros and non-Moros in the Philippines through peace education and retelling of history." When the war in Marawi took place, Adiong also initiated Tabang Sibilyan Visayas, a volunteer-driven relief operation for those directly affected by the war.
Adiong pursues these efforts, driven by his ambitious vision for Mindanao.
"I dream for peace in Mindanao – a kind of peace that encompasses the meaning of social, political, economic, and ecological peace; a kind of peace that promotes human dignity and mutual respect; a kind of peace that fosters a culture of dialogue; a kind of peace where the people speak and the government listens," Adiong said.
"In whatever way it is, I see Mindanao as a home and always will be, regardless of how and what it was, it is, and it could be," he added. — Rappler.com
Jamil Adiong is a Rappler's mover in Cebu communities.