From Obani Obodo
The beautiful countryside, Mindanao is blessed with a massive island at the foot of the Philippine archipelago, and in many ways, is the cultural heart of the country, a place where indigenous tribes still farm like the ancients in their homelands. Rich in religious diversity and cultures alike, the city is inhabited peacefully by Christians and Muslims who first settled there in the fourteenth century. In terms of colonisation and immigration, Spanish rule came much later to the island on February 2nd, 1543 when Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, the first Spaniard settled in Mindanao.
The island has an outward beauty paralleled by none. However, Mindanao is one of the most impoverished areas in the Philippines and some parts are considered unsafe for tourists.
The beauties of Mindanao are: in North Mindanao, from the lively gateway city of Cagayan de Oro, in the centre to the surf magnet of Siargao Island in the east, is the area that most tourists and travellers are interested in. In between is geographically placed Camiguin – a ravishingly awe-inspiring volcanic island off Mindanao’s northern coast. Also laid therein is the untouched Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, inhabited by the Manobo tribe, and the hypnotic azure waters of the Enchanted River.
Also worth exploring are the western cities of Iligan and Dapitan (where in the pages of history, the national hero, José Rizal, was sent into exile), and Mount Malindang National Park, a little-known area of dense rainforest near Ozamiz. Other highlights include the traditional Muslim city of Marawi, which stands on the northern shore of the serene Lake Lanao, and the hundreds of islands that make up the spectacular Sulu archipelago, especially Tawi-Tawi. Mindanao is also blessed with beautiful beaches great for killer surfs and sports, rugged mountain with high ranges also great for mountain climbing with vast lands occupied by people of diverse cultures living very much as they have for centuries.
Mindanao boasts of a colossal size of 104,530 km2 (40,360 sq mi), and because of its varied ethnographic make-up, is blessed with natural resources deposit still largely untapped.
Mindanao no doubt will be filled with a lot of what is lost in other places in the Philippines and that is highly worthy of research and archaeological findings. For sure, it is an island of beautiful people and rich cultural heritage.
Throughout the lasting peace and coexistence between the people of the different religions in Mindanao, unsuspecting of them all, violence was brewing. In the 1960s, violent conflicts in the southwestern regions of Mindanao, led to the 1971 Manili Massacre, Pata Island Massacre, which culminated in the founding of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the formation of the Ilaga respectively.
In the year 2000, the month of March, President Estrada declared an “All Out War” against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a return attack from the militant group committing series of attacks on government buildings, killing of civilians, and foreigners. In the bid to quench the blazing fire started by the dreaded groups, a number of sources of revenue intervention projects from organisations such as USAID and the Emergency Livelihood Assistance Program (ELAP) was adopted and it aided in the reconstruction of areas affected by constant battles on the island.
In December 2009, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo officially placed Maguindanao under a state of martial law following the Maguindanao Massacre after 57 per cent of the adults said that in putting the whole of the South under martial rule, he was right, after a survey was conducted.
Culled from happenings of the recent events and the prevailing talks, President Rodrigo Duterte cited an alleged attempt by local terror groups to create an Islamic State Wilayat (province) in Mindanao behind his declaration of martial law in the restive south. It was therefore apparent that they were aided by foreign fighters – local terrorists besieged Marawi City.
In May 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the entire island group of Mindanao following the Marawi Siege by the Maute terrorist group. Thousands of civilians were killed by the terrorist group during the siege, and more than 180,000 people were forced to evacuate Marawi City after terrorists took hostages from several locals and burned structures in the city, displacing thousands of residents. All these came from alliances blossomed from terrorist groups and their attempts to gain absolute control over the entirety of Mindanao.
The Maute group also known as the Islamic State of Lanao, born out from “The Maute Brothers”, are responsible for the attacks and clashes in their homeland, and were known to have allies with visiting operatives of Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), according to an intelligence report obtained by Rappler.
The terrors rained on Mindanao by the Maute group are: in the year 2012 was significant as the Mautes led the military to Ustadz Sanusi, one of seven of the JI members who sought refuge in Mindanao. The terrorists were also allegedly involved in the 2005’s beheading of 3 Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia inside the compound of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi, and the list is endless. The fight still goes on and looks like a road ad-infinitum to doom for the state of Mindanao. The 2016 Davao City bombing on October 4 was also an attack linked to the Maute group; three men were arrested in connection with the 2016 Davao City bombing. The President, on November 28 still 2016 said that the Philippine government has finally and officially acknowledged that Maute is linked to ISIS in a live televised comment.
From researches and different broadcasts made by the Maute group and news alike, it is clear that from their attacks, they are clamouring for the creation of an Ideal Islamic State, this could also be seen in the translation of their name – The Islamic State of Lanao.
The Philippines, as a result of the constant burning, hostage taking and killings, fighting and degrading of the city of the state of Mindanao, is at a great loss. The flora in the dense rain-forests and Mindanao environs suffers greatly as bombings will give rise to radiation and that can destroy the environment. Plants will not grow and will be hard to get decent vegetation. In a report of one of the cross fires between the Maute group and the military, the military rained bombs in the quest to eliminate terrorist forces and this caused a lot of damages that involved the loss of building, lives – civilians inclusive. Both sides have lost greatly in the battle to attain the victors.
War is a terrible thing as there is a lot that is involved in it. I would say that it is only an end to a means. The end being destruction, in other words, nothing good emanates from it. The Philippine government can seek the assistance of world powers when they attend peace keeping summits to reduce more of civilian casualties. There should be a steady broadcast of the happenings in the city because most of the world is not following the war happening there. It is taken lightly.
The future holds a lot for Mindanao and the Philippines in its entirety. The city of Mindanao is strong and resilient in the face of these trials. The area is one, just like every tourist attractions, that can bring a lot of GDP for the country as well as recognition.
The city’s glory can be restored again and people can visit again, start exploring and in turn shine like the ancients meant it to be. The city of Mindanao, if given a persona, would be Pegasus for its sufficient strength, beauty, rich culture and perseverance through the years in not burning out.
From Obani Obodo