It never really crossed my mind that I would be able to join a conference that would let people understand what Mindanao really is. In fact, I have always thought that it would just be a wishful thinking of mine to have such a kind of activity with the kind of apathy we have been receiving as Mindanaoans from our fellow Filipinos.

Not until last September 30, 2012 when Elaine, Kuya Joe and I sneaked to Manila to participate in a one day event called “Building Bridges, Breaking the Barriers for Mindanao” organized by the Lyceum of the Philippines University- UNESCO Club in cooperation with Peacetech.

Us three. Kuya Joe, Elaine and Me.

“It was a conference intended to understand more of Mindanao” said one of the hosts of the event, and truly, I can say that after hearing the different lectures that day, it lived up to its purpose, to educate people.

Before that though, Elaine and I were skeptical in joining because problems came flooding. It was only on the night before the activity, 11 pm to be exact, that we agreed to pursue and travel to Manila the following day. Truly, if you really want something, all the universe will conspire in helping you achieve what you want.

Obligatory Inside-The-Aircraft Picture.

Fast forward to that day itself, we were welcomed by a lot of negativism. First, Kuya Joe just learned that the plane left already, and it left 15 minutes prior to its ETD. Then, rainy Manila welcomed us, not to mention that I accidentally splashed both of my feet on the portion of the runway where there was accumulation of murky waters (God knows what are the bacteria present in that water), almost even made a scene after complaining why the front door of the plane had ramps and why the back door didn’t have any. Third, since we got caught in the rain, Elaine and I got soaked. Too much for bad luck huh?

Good thing we were fetched by the president of the LPU Student Council, and arrived in the venue just in time. What was humiliating though was the fact that Elaine and I were seated next to some of the guests, and we were that wet and haggard-looking. But never mind so long as they would not try smelling us, ok na yun. Hahahaha.

Seatmates, no less than Prof. Guillermo Santos and Hon. Grace Padaca. =)

So the series of lectures started, yes it was series, non-stop, no frills kung baga. Hahahah. And to think I didn’t have much sleep that week, 3-4 hours at an average per day, plus the no-sleeping-because-I-am-excited-to-travel attitude the night before wasn’t really helpful in surviving the day packed with lectures.

And by the way, Kuya Joe arrived around 1pm. It was the only flight available that day bound for Manila from Iloilo.

Then Isabela Governor, now COMELEC Commisioner Grace Padaca. She was really amiable, and so humble, she even told me that we keep in touch. It was really an honor having seated next to you maam, and having talked for a while about your advocacies!

After I have experienced the life in Mindanao, after having been to Cotabato for how many weeks, I come home to Manila as a changed Grace.

-Grace Padaca

Second to talk is this renowned journalist, Prof. Guillermo Santos of LPU. He was a contributor for TIME Magazine, Associated Press. Mind you, he was a college drop out then. He just finished his journalism degree last 2010.

Yes, I was a drop-out. I worked for Associated Press before I graduated High School. I also contributed for Time Magazine. I only finished my journalism degree last 2010.

-Professor Guillermo Santos in one of our chit chats.

PeaceTech’s Atty. Robin Pettyfer talks about how Peace affects internationally.
OPAPP Asec. Jehanne Mutin talks about the different things the Philippine Government has been laying out for the peace progress in Mindanao.
National Youth Commission’s Ms. Baibonn Sangid shares to us the different projects of the NYC for the Mindanawan youth.
Maranao Princess and Country Director for Asia America Initiative Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman shares how the organization helped several kids through their KapaYapaAn Initiative.
Philippine Army Civil Military Operations, Major. Ruel Rombaoa gives us a heads up on the different projects the government has been trying to implement. He encouraged us to try participating.

After the first set of speakers, open forum followed. There were also break out sessions, such as the froggy dance, and the bear dance. What’s new,  I didn’t dance much, just stood up to look like I was really participating.

Second set of speakers this time.

Peacetech Country Manager, Zabra Siwa delivers the message of Secretary Ging Deles of OPAPP and likewise has enlightened us about the history of Mindanao.
Professor Yasmira Moner talked about the Political Dynamics of the Bangsamoro Struggle
Music Graduate from UST, Ayala Young Leader Alumnus Mr. Kabaitan Bautista enlightens the participants about the Youth Leadership in Peace and Nation Building.

Meanwhile, in between lectures. HAHAHAHAH.

It felt like a battle for me to stay awake the whole day. Although there were complimentary coffees given, I was to lazy to get out of my chair and grab one. So yes, next time, sleep before you travel, sleep before a major event, so you’ll never miss a thing or two.

Of course, showcasing arts and culture in Mindanao was not missed. Here’s a dance number by the Lyceum of the Philippines Dance Troupe.

Lastly, the obligatory photo-opportunities with some speakers:

With Hon. Grace Padaca.
With Prof. Moner.

The activity was very timely and relevant. As a Mindanaoan who has known the situation in our place, the activity made me learn more about Mindanao, especially from people who are at the best position in explaining it to other people.

-Quoting myself during the interview

It was really a fun and informative conference. It was indeed timely given what we Mindanaoan have been experiencing lately, all the apathy against us, all the misinterpretations, among others. It sure was an eye-opener especially for those participants who knew less about Mindanao, and I hope they have really learned from it. Indeed, Mindanao is more than the sum of its parts. We’re more than just about the batiks, more than about the beautiful and colorful culture, more than about pineapples or durians, and lastly we are more than just about war, and rebellion. There’s more to that, and in order to know us completely is to start learning about us.

An author once said, “Little Knowledge is Dangerous” and yes I believe on that.  This little knowledge, you see, might lead to misinterpretations, or misinformations that would result into conflict, and misunderstanding. These conflicts and misunderstandings might become worse, and we don’t want that to happen.

The more you know about Mindanao, the more you study about us, the more you will surely understand and get us.

We’re not really different from people of Luzon, and Visayas, in fact, what I do know is that we’re all the same- Filipinos. 

(See more photos here: It’s Annjo with a Double N Facebook Page)

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