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Fireflies and volunteers

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Fireflies. They look as insignificant and ordinary as the other insects in daylight. But when the evening comes, their true beauty is unleashed. Put them together and they’ll sparkle like the stars that will never fail to mesmerize a melancholic heart. One volunteer, one ordinary soul whose footprints can easily get washed away by the tides of time. But in the hour of darkness, put them together and their spirit would outshine it.

State of mind

Last night, I watched a BBC produced documentary about the Philippines. With the hype of the new tourism slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”, I had the expectation that the documentary would show the tourist destinations, the culture and rich diversity. On the contrary, it showed the pressing issues in the country instead.

I was particularly disturbed by the last video which featured Mindanao. It reminded me of the State of Mind – Life in North Korea, a documentary also produced by BBC. Both videos showed what teachers impart to their students. It was very disturbing to see how the young minds were fed with resentment instead of teaching them to be more critical on the real situation. It is quite frustrating to see that they are somehow — whether they are aware of it or not — molding future rebels instead of leaders.

At first glance it is easy to say that they were not doing the right thing. But what if we try to put ourselves on their shoes, are we still going to have the same reaction? I think our present state of mind would totally change.

Although I have lived in Mindanao for only a very short time, 3 months to be specific, my chance of volunteering in a Muslim organization allowed me to hear the grievances of our Muslim brothers and sisters and see the face of Marawi City, a known war zone in the region. The unequal distribution of resources and development programmes in the country deprived them of proper infrastructures, security and education among others. Other than that, they have also suffered the painful wound of discrimination and maltreatment. Muslim women were being raped.

If we only experience the life they are having particularly in the hinterlands — no proper infrastructures, walk miles away to go to school or market where there is a trace of civilization, being discriminated for being poor or Muslim, live in dire poverty while the other parts of the country progress and have access to services — I guess we will be willing to shed blood too, not only for ourselves but more for our children and grand children.

It is true that rebellion will not do them any good; war is never good. But if we’ll try to think what else they can do to make their complaints heard and addressed, perhaps we will find ourselves groping in the dark for answers. And this is what is so disturbing about it.