Social Issues

Mindanao Studies: A Proposed Framework

(A modified transcript of fifteen-minute presentation under the panel “Peoples and Faiths: A Mindanao Overview” at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU)-School of Social Sciences (SOS) – Mindanao Scholars’ Consultation-cum-Conversations on Mindanao Studies” on September 12, 2018 at Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, Philippines.)

Salamun ‘alaykum and good morning to all of you!

Thank you, Sir Joey [Sescon] for giving me carte blanche to focus on any topic; hence, I opt for “Mindanao Studies: A Proposed Framework”. In continuing this conversation started by Br. Karl [Gaspar], I shall give an introductory anecdote, then state the existing conceptual framework in the study of Mindanao. Thereafter, I shall propose an alternative framework. After laying down this proposed framework, I shall talk about the ‘target profile’ to be followed by the objectives. Then I will proceed with my recommendation and finally make my concluding remarks.

Introductory Anecdote

At the outset, let me narrate to you an anecdote about a Maguindanaon perennial student who always strives to tell the story of Mindanao to himself, his fellows and others. By the way, ‘Maguindanao’ is where we derive the name ‘Mindanao’. (According to one view, Maguindanao is derived from ‘maginged’ (community) and ‘danaw’ (flood, inundation, marsh) to mean “inundated plain”. So, Mindanao (‘mindanaw’) means ‘inundated’.)

In October 2016 at the Philippine Sociological Society (PSS) Conference here in Davao City, the said student presented a paper entitled “Bay‘ah: The Missing Link in the Military’s Denial of ISIS’ Presence in the Philippines” (see http://mlimba.com/bayah-the-missing-link-in-the-militarys-denial-of-isis). At the end of the presentation, a lady professor who claimed to be connected with the military intelligence stood up and confidently dismissed the presentation’s thesis (ISIS’ presence in the country).

A few months later, on May 12, 2017 to be exact, at the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) Conference in Cebu City, the same student presented a paper on “The Media Discourse on Violent Extremism in Mindanao: A Postmodernist Reading”. During the open forum, a former government negotiator in the GRP-MILF peace talk insisted that “There are only ‘ISIS-inspired’ or ‘ISIS-sympathizers’ in the country.” Exactly 11 days afterward, the Marawi Siege happened!

Existing Framework

As I see it, this anecdote is a glaring example of the existing conceptual framework in which in the field of research on Mindanao, the Mindanaon is just a field researcher, research assistant or transcriber, while the Manila-based scholar or professor is the Mindanao expert in published books and conferences. Within this framework, Mindanao is treated as an object of study, and Mindanao Studies program is seen as an attempt to provide ‘voice’ to Mindanao through an outside spokesman, who happens to be the Manila-based author or professor. This is because Mindanao is not mature yet and can’t articulate enough.

Proposed Framework

What we humbly proposed is a framework in which Mindanao is a subject. Under this framework, Mindanao Studies program is considered an attempt to provide ‘voice’ to Mindanao by letting it speak for itself. Here, Mindanao is no longer treated as mere object of study but subject as well. Having this framework, Mindanao will tell stories about the mosaic of its peoples as diverse as its water current and waves and yet as united as its rivers and the seas that surround it are.

Target Profile

As some of us know very well, the first step in the curriculum development process (CDP) is the definition of the ‘target profile’. By definition of the ‘target profile’ we mean an attempt to define what should be (‘target’) the characteristics (‘profile’) of a graduate from the program (Mindanao Studies). As such, it embodies what our expectations of the program graduates are.

Now, granting that a sound definition of ‘target profile’ provides both a comprehensive and a holistic blueprint that can be potentially implemented in the program, what then is our ‘target profile’? In other words, what is the supposed trademark of our graduate?

In broader terms and for the purpose of this conversation, we may say that our target profile is a graduate with ‘a balanced worldview’. It is a worldview that could tell both the story of laughter and tears of Mindanao. It is a worldview that listens to both the ‘gong’ of kulintang and the agony of palendag. It is a worldview that pays heed to both the splendor of okir and sarimanok, and the might of kampilan and lantaka.

Objectives

As among its objectives, the Mindanao Studies program is supposed to help in (1) the formation of a national motto or slogan (By the way, do we have already a national motto such as Pancasila of Indonesia? Our Panatang Makabayan is too long to memorize, let alone internalize; for the millennials, that which is more akin to a hashtag or tagline is more appealing). The program should also be in tune with (2) the inculcation of national core values (such as patrimony, respect for diversity, acknowledgment of national history as a product of many local histories, and others). Obviously, it should also (3) contribute to nation-building and development through the discovery, promotion and utilization of Mindanao potentials and strengths.

Recommendation

One recommendation for this program is that it should not limit the students to the theory of Mindanao but to engage them as well in its praxis, or else, it will definitely meet the same fate of peace and development studies programs whose students are fed up with concepts and theories but no sufficient skills in the actual practice of peace and development (for example, skills about negotiation and mediation, entrepreneurship, and investment analysis, among others).

To be specific, if the student would intend to focus on Mindanao history and culture, then she should be introduced to actual ethnography, cultural mapping, and local history writing. If she would want to delve into Mindanao politics and administration, then she should be directed to immerse in Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), or similar agencies of the government. If she would incline to specialize in Mindanao economy and finance, then she has to be familiarized with the various plantations in Mindanao, the halal industry, Islamic banking, and shari‘ah-compliant investment products, among others.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we humbly submit that an ideal – if not the ideal – offering of Mindanao Studies program is not just to provide opportunity to tell the story of Mindanao, but rather to let Mindanao tell its own story, nay stories, to itself, its own people as well as to others. Being an interlocutor itself, Mindanao is now less in need of a spokesman, but rather of attentive listeners.

And I thank you for listening!

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There’s No ‘Irrelevant’ Question

Photo via Gigi Bueno

Makati City (September 8) – There was a recent invitation from the Mindanao Institute of Journalism for me to be a resource speaker at an academic forum attended by around a hundred lecturers and students of Kidapawan Doctors College.

So I had to fly back home to speak about peace journalism and share my personal observations of the media as a MindaNews columnist (http://www.mindanews.com/author/mansoor-l-limba).

It can be observed that at the end of speech of the other resource speaker, he asked the young audience, “So, wala kayong tanong? (So, do you have NO question?)”

Result?

None raised his or her hand except a lecturer sitting in front who made a comment or two about the current imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao.

Photo via Gigi Bueno

At the end of my 20-minute presentation, I thus told the audience something like this:

“In the Open Forum, you can make a correction to any point in my presentation, give your comment, or pose a question. In posing a question, let me remind you of certain things: (1) There is no such thing as ‘irrelevant’ question. In many instances, your question may exactly be the same thing which your seatmate wants to ask, and it may highlight a key dimension of the subject. (Remember, the casual falling down of a fruit from the tree catapulted Isaac Newton into the discovery of the Law of Gravity.) (2) Language is meant to be a bridge in communication. So, do not be imprisoned by the English language. You can freely express yourself in English, Filipino, Visaya, or any other language for that matter. (Yes, you can even ask a question in Mandarin or Thai, but you need to translate it because we can’t understand any of the two foreign languages.) (3) Asking question is already half of knowledge and right answer constitutes the other half. I hope I could give a percentage of the other half.”

Result?

The Open Forum took 72 minutes to address 17 questions (both oral and written). In other words, they threw hook, line and sinker of every ‘relevant’ question they could ever think of. One may even say that they threw everything including the kitchen sink.

Photo via Gigi Bueno

Next time, perhaps I would rather say, “There’s no such thing as ‘irrelevant’ question – provided there’s still time left to address it.”

As my fellow millennials would express, “Tanong-tanong lang, kapag may time!”

Photo via Gigi Bueno

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My Magic Wand While Lecturing on Federalism in Maguindanao

As the 2018 Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) International Conference draws to a close, last weekend I reluctantly accepted – as I’m still recovering from a minor surgical operation – the invitation to be the resource person of a three-hour “Municipal Orientation on Federalism” of a Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)-recognized Drug-free municipality in Maguindanao and a recipient of 2017 Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) Award.

When I grabbed the microphone, the sound system turned to be uncooperative! What a timing! So, the attention of the person in charge was immediately called upon to fix the problem. While everybody was anxiously waiting and sitting idly, I suddenly stood up again in front and shared a Maguindanaon ‘bayuk’ (proverb):

NELATAN SU LAGAT SA TIMPU NA KABPAGULUG, NA NANGITIS SU KALUDAN SA BASA NA KAPEMBALAT.

(Translation: “The sea dried up at the time of high tide, while the ocean turned into a draught during rainy season.”)

I was trying to allude that sometimes something undesirable happens at the most unexpected moment – an uncooperative sound system at the beginning of a program, as a good example. 

“Now, what shall we do?” I rhetorically asked the audience. Then I answered it myself through another ‘bayuk’:

PAGAWANG KA SA SABAL NA SAN KA SA KAPAGIMAN, KA BETAD NA PAPEDTAYAN I MAPAMATALU.

(Translation: “Ride on the boat of patience and take asylum in faith, for it is but natural for the darling to be tested.”)

As I sensed that the audience’s silence transformed into smile, laughter and even giggle, I pulled another ‘bayuk’ out of my sleeve, so to speak, followed by another, until the problem with the sound system was fixed.

Apart from a general overview of the federal system of government, I also informed the 250 or so members of the audience – including the mayor, vice mayor, municipal councilors, employees, barangay officials, civil society organizations’ (CSOs) representatives, and military and police personnel – of the current proposals and debates on federalism at the national level, particularly the PDP-Laban Party’s proposed constitutional amendments.

“Let’s not think of federalism – the upcoming carabao in the national political field – as an automatic panacea. It’s not necessarily ‘manna and quail from heaven’. It’s up to us to make a paradise or hell, as the case may be, out of it,” I concluded. 

During the open forum, the time for the transition mechanism, the possible scenarios if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) lags behind the government’s agenda for federalism, and the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) vis-à-vis the so-called Equalization Fund were among the issues and concerns raised by the audience.

As I was reflecting on the lecture while on board the aircraft in my way to co-facilitate a conflict analysis workshop in another city the other day, I realized the importance of the law of connection in public speaking. In the said experience, just a few lines of Maguindanaon proverbs unexpectedly served as a magic wand for me to catch the Maguindanaon audience’s attention, and more importantly, their sympathy.

In short, when you are invited to speak, do not ever forget to bring your magic wands.

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Rebooting on Federalism, BBL, and Violent Extremism

In the recent rebooting workshop on federalism, Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and violent extremism, instead of the usual ‘what-is-and-what-is-not’ presentation, I just shared to the participants my personal observation of the ruling PDP-Laban party’s federalism movement, the current status of the BBL in the Congress, and the inclusion of preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE) in the Masa Masid program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Thank you, DILG-Maguindanao Province, for the invitation and opportunity to share personal thoughts!

       

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Retiring is Re-tyring

Just last December, I was invited to speak about the concept of ‘reinvention’ in political philosophy at a training-workshop for media practitioners. I was really honored to meet again one of my mentors who happened to be a fellow speaker. As I never saw her after sometime, I ventured to ask, “Ma’am, are you retired now?” She replied cogently, “I didn’t retire; I just re-tyre – T-Y-R-E. And I will never retire!”

That short answer of my mentor turned into a subject of reflection of mine that night at the training venue which is a mountainous garden resort.

Yes, I realized then that any lover of knowledge and imparting knowledge never retires. He or she incessantly sips the nectar of learning and most graciously share the same to others. The lover is not only a candle – in fact, a sparkle of light; a kindler of fire.

The more frequent the lover is invited in the feast of education and teaching, the more he or she becomes hungry and thirty.

In other words, retirement is just a unique time for re-tyring; yes, you may say it’s a moment of re-tooling and reinvention.

In conclusion, the lover never retires as he or she knows no retirement in this arena of pen, paper and speaking. For the lover, the only retirement is the ultimate reunion with the Beloved and that Beloved is the Fountainhead of knowledge, learning, and wisdom.

Ma’am Dans is indeed such a LOVER.

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Amusing Things in 2017

Let me share to you the following random list of amusing things I have encountered this year:

Three Persons

During my trip to Sri Lanka in the month of May, Kriya from Thailand and I were fetched in the Colombo International Airport by the personal driver of a common friend, Lady Hom. Kriya arrived half an hour ahead of me, and we exchanged pleasantries while waiting for the driver to signal us to mount the street monster. But the driver seemed waiting for somebody else. As I read again the insignia he was holding, I realized that he was indeed waiting for three persons – Kriya, Mansoor, and Limba. I told him, “Brother, let’s go to the hotel.” He replied politely, “But Sir, we have to wait for Limba as well.” I said, “Don’t worry, I have already put Limba inside my luggage!”

Men’s Toilet

In a seafood restaurant in Guangzhou City, China, the toilet sign for men is an image that depicts the action inside the toilet. On the contrary, the toilet sign for women is just a usual image of a standing lady. I wonder, does the second image also imply the action (mere standing) inside the toilet for ladies? If it is not, then perhaps males should cry “gender (masculinity) sensitivity, please!”

Democrazy

As we visited the Shenzhen City Museum before the concluding day of our training workshop, Harry from Myanmar drew my attention to the caption of a picture, and asked, “Mansoor, do you think it is intentional?” “What do you mean – the caption? Sure, it is intentional!” “Read the caption again.” As I read again the caption, I realized what Harry was referring to – the word ‘democrazy’ instead of’ democracy’. So, I told him, “Yes, maybe it’s intentional [as a satirical way of alluding to the self-styled Champion of Democracy and Defender of Human Rights]!”

Dela Cruz Juan

While I was doing a research on corruption-violent extremism nexus in the Philippines last August, I had to read the maiden book of a veteran Filipino journalist who is a well-known expert on the armed groups in Southeast Asia, and reread her second book, among many other materials to read. What I noticed in both books is her consistency in mistakenly interchanging the first and family name of the late founding chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). If the chairman’s name were Juan Dela Cruz, she would always call him ‘Dela Cruz Juan’. Ma’am, ‘Salamat’ is the first name while ‘Hashim’ is the family name. It should be ‘Salamat Hashim’ and not ‘Hashim Salamat’!

MSU

Yes, MSU means Mindanao State University – the largest state-run university system in Mindanao and second only to the University of Philippines in the whole country. I was shocked, and thereafter, amused, when a Philippine expert on terrorism in Mindanao assumes in a national TV interview that MSU means ‘Marawi State University’.

Private Vehicle

A government agency invited me as the Resource Person on two separate topics. After the event, I was asked to present pertinent receipts for the reimbursement of my transportation expenses. The financial officer refused to honor my receipt for fuel on the ground that I used private vehicle. I told her, “So, Ma’am, do you mean to say if I took an airplane in coming here, you will also not reimburse my money?” “Why?” “Because the aircraft is also owned by a private airline company!”

Sleeping while Taking Exam

While conducting a major examination, I noticed that a student of mine who was seated at the back was not moving. As I silently approached him, I found out that he was sleeping! Sleeping while taking an exam? Yes, it’s also my first time experience. Assuming that it was not done intentionally and he must not be feeling well that time, I just let him sleep. It’s good that after three minutes, he woke up and then continued taking the exam. The same student once slept in my regular class session. And he did not wake up even after I dismissed the class. Fortunate indeed are the ‘young ones’. We, the ‘young once,’ on the contrary, would experience having a professor that prohibited his or her student from even looking at his/her watch!

Wahhabism from Africa

In a regional workshop on violent extremism and religious education in Southeast Asia, the speaker in a plenary session gained enough audacity in claiming thus: “You know, there’s no problem with Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia; the one that brings problems around the world is the Wahhabism from Africa!” What – Wahhabism from Africa!

Choice of Words

A close friend recently reasoned out, “I did not give wrong information; I was only wrong in my choice of word!” No comment.

How about you? Any amusing experience you want to share?

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Dear Year 2018

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews/31 December) – I was about to extend my wishes for a “Happy New Year” to my friends online, but then certain things were bothering me; certain questions lingering on my mind. So, what I did instead was to scribe this personal letter to Year 2018:

Dear Year 2018,

Will you be really a ‘happy new year’? I’m asking you this rather awkward question because of the undesirable unfolding of events in the remaining days of your predecessor (2017).

After the global attention had been invariably diverted to false flag operations (activities related to terrorism and violent extremism), it is drawn back again to a main global issue – the Palestinian Question – thanks to Donald Trump’s blunder.

Will Trump triumph in pushing for his agenda of Zionization of Jerusalem?

Not to mention the internal squabble within the kingdom, will Saudi Arabia be able to rescue itself from the quagmire of Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and more recently, Lebanon?

Dear Year 2018,

Now, two months have already passed since the end of the Marawi Siege. Do you think the Philippine government will be able to aptly ‘reinvent’ itself (see “Time for government’s ‘self-reinvention’?” http://www.mindanews.com/…/marginalia-time-for-governments-…), particularly on the pressing issue of the city residents’ return, resettlement and reintegration, in accordance to the 30 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement laid down by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)?

Within this year, Duterte said many times he will father the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to make sure it will come into fruition during his term, with a warning that trouble might brew if the said draft law will not be passed. (See “PPRD calls on Congress to expedite BBL,” PTV News, October 30, 2017, https://www.ptvnews.ph/prrd-calls-congress-expedite-bbl.)

Yet just two weeks ago (December 17, 2017), a perceived ‘anti-BBL’ congressman was allowed to be named as one of the three members of the subcommittee who would take the lead in ‘harmonizing’ the four BBL bills filed in Congress.

Is the fatherhood to the fetus transferred to someone who is expected to abort it?

Worse still, two days afterward (December 19), the supposed ‘father’ expressed doubt if the BBL could hurdle constitutional barriers. Was there any lawyer among the government representatives in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that could have detected these ‘unconstitutionalities’ while drafting the BBL? What was the use of the more-than-two-month time interval between the submission of BBL to its supposed ‘father’ on July 17, 2017 and its filing in Congress as a bill on September 29?

Is the original ‘gameplan’ really to subsume the BBL into the federalism track? In that case, is there any real guarantee that a BBL compliant with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro / Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB/FAB) can be truly pursued under a federal set-up? In other words, is it reasonable to make a dress without getting first the body size of the person who is supposed to wear it?

Dear Year 2018,

As the current Philippine administration’s abstention to the UN General Assembly’s resolutions about the status of Jerusalem and the plight of the Rohingyas is widely perceived to be ‘denial of current wrongs’ and is therefore contradictory to the spirit of the 2016 presidential campaign on ‘correcting historical injustices’, will you not be just a 365-day extension of “That’s Entertainment” show in Manila-Davao theaters?

Dear Year 2018,

Exactly after 50 years, will you not be a repetition of the year 1968 when our youth would no longer listen to and follow the elders, and eventually pursue their way of expressing the inalienable right to self-determination? What will be the decision of the middle-aged like me: to cling to and always believe in the wisdom of the elders, or to join the youth in charting their own destiny?

Due to these lingering questions, I would rather seek refuge and find solace in this short supplication:

“O Transformer of the hearts and insights!

O Alternator of the nights and days!

O Changer of the conditions and states!

Change our condition with the best of conditions!”

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

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Community-based Religious Education and Preventing Violent Extremism

Parallel 1.B COMMUNITY-BASED RELIGIOUS EDUCATION ROLES AND PREVENTING VIOLENT EXTREMISM: EXPERIENCE FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES

1. How is community playing role in religious education across various context?
2. How can community play bigger role in shaping religious education to prevent [and counter] violent extremism?

Parallel 2.B PROMOTING RELIGIOUS LITERACY EDUCATION

1. How important is religious literacy in our current context?
2. How can religious education increase religious literacy?

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Two Questions

During the second plenary session on “Religious Education and Violent Extremism: The Southeast Asian Context” on the second day, the four speakers from Myanmar, Indonesia, and the Philippines endeavored to address these two guide questions: (1) What are the roles of state and community on religious education and PVE in Southeast Asia? (2) What are the differences and similarities, for example, in terms of
pedagogy and curriculum?

During the open session, somebody from the participants ventured to pose these two questions:

Question to the 3rd Speaker: Considering your proximity to Marawi City in more accurately analyzing the conditions on the ground as well as the ‘recapture’ of the city by the government troops and the deaths of Isnilon [Hapilon] and Omarkhayam [Maute], the top two leaders of the group/s that occupied Marawi on May 23, do you think we cannot expect another Marawi in the near and medium-term future? Why?

Question to the 4th Speaker: You have made mention of the ARMM Darul Ifta’s religious edict (fatwa) against terrorism – a courageous move which is really worthy of appreciation. But I’m just curious: Since the ‘fatwa’ was originally written and issued in Arabic language, which the overwhelming majority of the youth in the ARMM cannot understand, is it already translated into languages and vernaculars of the common people – Filipino (Tagalog), Visaya (Cebuano), M’ranao, Tausug, Maguindanaon and others?

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Why Religious Education Matters?

The first plenary session of the Regional Workshop on Violent Extremism and Religious Education in Southeast Asia which kicked off yesterday dealt with the question “Why does religious education matter for preventing violent extremism?” The speakers who dealt with the subject were a Buddhist monk directing a monastic high school in Myanmar and a member of the advisory board of an Islamic university in Indonesia.

My personal take on the issue is as follows:

Before directly answering the question of ‘why’, stating two hypotheses here is in order. First, religion can either be a bridge or a wall. Like a kitchen knife, it can be used to prepare a very delicious food and it can also be a tool to commit a heinous crime. Second, in the context of violent extremism, religion can either be a driver or a diverter.

Given these two hypotheses, it can then be stated that religious education really matter for preventing [and countering] violent extremism due to the following reasons:

1. Some violent extremist groups use religious narratives and symbols.

2. Religion can be powerful enough to stimulate people to action, for good or bad.

3. Religious education provides political authority and moral ascendancy to any ‘messenger’ of any ‘message’.

4. A ‘messenger’ of violent extremism, as in many instances, may capitalize on this religious education-rooted political authority and moral ascendancy he/she acquires in addressing his/her audience.

5. Such a ‘messenger’ who capitalizes on religious education-rooted political authority and moral ascendancy can only be competently combated by an alternative and superior ‘messenger’ whose political authority or moral ascendancy also emanates from the same religious education.

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