HAILEYSTONES| The price we pay

I WAS ON my way to school when I heard it, scrolling through my Facebook news feed as one does. The news had just broken, I guess, because the details were hazy. Then numbers started to be thrown around, and all these reports of “terror in Mindanao” began to tick me off. The interesting conundrum is that, if my father were still around, he would have seen both sides of the issue. Being a member of the Philippine National Police and a proud Muslim, he was always striving to find a balance between both sides.

As a kid, I never really knew much about his service. I knew that he was already active during Martial Law, and was in charge of making sure everyone stayed on curfew. He was stationed in Cagayan de Oro in my early childhood, before he retired in 1998 and went to live in the States. As much as I asked, he wouldn’t say anything. I have no idea if his role was already completely administrative by the time I was born, or even if he’d seen a lot of action. I don’t like to think too much about it. My Dad was a lot of things, but he wasn’t violent.

Because of what he was, he tried very hard to instill in me a sense of understanding for both communities, be it Christian or Muslim. He didn’t mind that I was being raised Catholic, but he didn’t want me to think of his people as belonging to one, big, violent Clash-of-Clans style culture. One odd thing is that, despite being proud of being Muslim, he would never let me set foot in his hometown of Jolo. I’ve only been as far as Zamboanga City.

The thought brings chills down my spine — 44 members of the PNP Special Action Forces killed during an encounter with the MILF in Maguindanao — and even in a culture so desensitized to violence, it makes everyone angry. Former President and now Manila Mayor Erap Estrada even commented on how an “all-out war” is “still the only solution” to solving this. How well did that turn out?

I want peace. We all want peace. Everyone is tired of hearing about violence in Mindanao, as if the whole of the island is at war. It is exhausting to hear about more men and women having to pay the ultimate price over and over again. It’s become less about sacrifice and more about senseless violence, about our government’s inability to find a solution to this conflict that has gone on generations before I was even born.

It is so tiring to keep paying the price when, to my father and to countless others, being a Muslim and a member of the PNP wasn’t paradoxical. There was never an issue of how our beliefs differed, because we rejoiced in what makes us similar. Anytime something like this happens, that stalls peace and only reinforces the negative stereotypes that many Filipino Muslims have to deal with every single day. As much as one doesn’t want to feel hopeless about it, this is several steps back from where we were when we witnessed the handing over of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress.

There isn’t even any energy in me to pin the blame on anyone but ourselves, those who watch all of this unfold and yet do nothing. Us, for allowing this violence to continue. Us, for not trying hard enough to clamor for a lasting solution that finally grants peace to the region. Us, for continuing to remain complacent about this. I do not want to pay the price when my children, my future kids, will have to deal with this. Our men and women in uniform are there to protect us, so we must also protect them, by being vocal about not wanting a war in the first place. As much as we would all want that this would be the last one, even I’m not so sure.

Posted in Opinion