Watch video on women caught in conflict in Central Mindanao

Pinang Dan and Marawiya are “bakwits,” a local term for internally displaced persons, from Datu Piang, Maguindanao.  Like many residents, they fled their villages at the height of military offensives against three Moro Islamic Liberation Front commanders in 2008. More than half of the “bakwits” were women who often become the breadwinners ensuring their family’s survival during armed conflict.

The stories of Pinang and Marawiya are among those featured in a video produced by the Mindanao Commission on Women. Written and directed by Charina Sanz and Ferdie Cabrera,  the video also shows the various  initiatives of Moro women in ensuring their participation and representation during formal peace negotiations and the protection of women’s human rights during conflict. Watch the video.


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In Datu Piang: A Family Journeys the Rio Grande de Mindanao to Bury Baby Zaida

Datu Piang, Maguindanao – Silence has fallen on everyone aboard soon as the small motor pumpboat begins crossing the Rio  Grande de Mindanao, a grim journey for the Ponso family who is going home to bury their baby Zaida, who died in an evacuation camp here, back to their village in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.

The baby was wrapped inside a woven mat being carried in the arms of an uncle, her body shrouded in white linen in accordance with Islamic tradition. Her mother, Tot, heaved muffled sobs a few seats away, her right palm shielding her eyes, as her three children looked on. Still mute with grief, she could not bring herself to be near Zaida and would rather watch her seven-month-old baby from a distance. Continue reading

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War takes a heavy toll on children as fighting drags on


Photo by Rene Lumawag

Munai, Lanao del Norte – Almost lifeless, Baby Hamda was lying peacefully on a mat, his eyes closed, his tiny fingers curled stiff, pale almost bluish. His mother, Meriam Mecaranda, slept by his side, her face one of resignation, as if waiting for the hour when death may strike her little one.

“It has been days already like this, the baby would often stop breathing. But just when we think he is dead, he would come back to life,” said a woman in the adjoining makeshift shelter.

Meriam roused herself from sleep, surprised to see a group of journalists crowding around their packed quarters inside a market stall here turned evacuation center in poblacion Munai.

Cradling him in her arms, she gently tapped the baby’s cheeks several times to wake him up, as if checking whether there remains life within the little bundle. The baby remained motionless.

“The baby is dead,” someone frantically shouted. The crowd fell silent, waiting with bated breath, some had tears in their eyes.

Baby Hamda is just 28 days old. Ever since the day he was born in early October inside the Munai evacuation camp, “nag-aagaw buhay siya lagi,” caught in a constant struggle between life and death, said the woman in the adjoining makeshift.

But just as all seemed without hope, the baby suddenly stirred back to life, breathing once again. Continue reading

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Civilians search for end to war in Central Mindanao

Photo by AKP Images

Photo by AKP Images

DATU PIANG, Maguindanao — In the afternoon rain, Raiz Adteg, 16, walked somberly on his way to bury his baby sister, one-year-old Anariza, who died from diarrhea that morning at the evacuation center in the town plaza here.

To shield his sister from the pounding rain, Adteg held a tiny red umbrella over her body, dead only for four hours and wrapped in a malong (ethnic cloth) and a mat tied on each end of two bamboo poles carried on the shoulders of an uncle and cousin.

“We had no money to buy medicine,” he said in hushed tone, his young face dazed and uncomprehending.  Continue reading

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The Road to Pikit: Grim Images of War

PIKIT, North Cotabato –Barefoot, five-year old Mohammad Guianalan has been walking on dusty roads since seven in the morning. In both his hands, he cradles a tiny black-feathered chicken, “his beloved pet,” his mother Amirah, says.

“He does not have any slippers,” Amirah explains.

Her two other children, Norhana, 3, and Sarah, 2, ride on board a
carabao-driven sled manned by their father packed with their
belongings: cooking pots, a plastic gallon for water, mat, pails, some
more chickens, a couple of goats in tow.

Amirah is worried. “We are scared of the buto-buto (explosions) .”

It is now an hour past noon. Here, along the road inside Pikit, little
Mohammad and his family, like scores of others, have been walking
since daybreak this morning to flee “loud explosions” that ripped
through their villages.

The road to the Pikit poblacion is filled with images such as these,
grim scenes of war, families on board carts, motorcycles, carabaos and
cattle. Most of them come from the barangays of Pagangan, Dualing,
Tapodoc, and Dungguan in Aleosan, and Kolambog in Pikit. Continue reading

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‘Warrior of the Light’

The abduction of Professor Octavio Dinampo of the Mindanao State University-Jolo (along with ABS-CBN’s Ces Drilon and her crew) had come as a shock to many of his friends and colleagues in the civil society network. But the shock immediately turned to grave concern when news reports have started implicating “Prof. Octa,” also chair of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, to the kidnapping. For those who know the well-loved and respected professor and peace advocate, this mere insinuation is outrageous.

It was not too long ago that I had met “Prof. Octa” but he struck me as one of those kindred souls you meet once in a while, whom you know would be teacher and friend, no matter how brief the encounter is.

I met him when he gave a Bangsamoro situationer to one electoral conference I attended last year. The professor’s sharp insights, delivered with clarity and peppered with humor, dispelled the many warped notions, myths and stereotypes about the region and its people. I congratulated him on how well he put the issues in context in clear messages and punch lines. He also maintained a calm presence when rebuked by a clueless Manila-based participant, parrying her stings with his characteristic wit, depth of insight and dignified grace. Continue reading

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Ongoing since last week (May 21-23; May 26-28), Mindanews’s editors and writers have been going back to school, this time, to train for narrative reporting under Janet Steele, an American professor from George Washington University, and Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian journalist working for Pantau, a media training organization operating in Jakarta, Banda Aceh and Ende. (For more on this, see and clicked on the 1st Mindanao Summer Institute of Journalism icon). One writing exercise required of us was to use the “I” in a two-page double-spaced story. Below is my ‘attempt’ submitted last May 23:

“Mom, we need to bring Jackie to the doctor today. He looks weak.” My ten-year-old son Xandro cried out, his large brown eyes starting to get misty with tears, as he anxiously paced back and forth in front of me. I looked at him and asked, “Why, what happened?”

“Jackie is seven years old – but aren’t dogs supposed to live for ten years?” he asked, a silent plea in his voice, begging me to please do something, ‘not to let Jackie die’. Jackie is a dachshund and he first came to us seven years ago when Xandro was only three. My son, who is an only child, practically grew up with Jackie, his beloved playmate. Continue reading


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