A tower of peace in Iligan

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2020 - 12:00am

Groups of concerned citizens have been mulling over ideas on promoting peace in Iligan City. The wonderers who included Rotarians, civil engineers, Chamber of Commerce and Christian businessmen and professionals asked why their next-door neighbor, Cagayan de Oro, moved faster economically and socially. Their discussions revolved around the observation that their city’s laggard pace was due to “lack of peace.” 

Recently, I received a copy of the letter that Engineer Salvador Gerona sent to the Most Rev. Jose Ramirez Ramadas III, DD, Bishop of the Sea of Iligan City.  Gerona writes that peace “is always recognized as an essential component of progress. The absence or lack of it spells a big difference in the development and growth of an organization or a place.” 

Perhaps peace seems elusive, and impossible to achieve because of the differing beliefs, customs, traditions and aspirations of the residents of a city that lies at the foot of   the Islamic city of Marawi, Gerona writes. Feelings of mistrust have pervaded the relationship among Muslims, Christians and Lumads. But that should not be. “We forget that we can coexist harmoniously despite the diversities among the residents, because after all, we have one and the same Heavenly Father. Thus, I believe what is needed is a positive outlook that as long as the ingredients and success factors of peace are present, then Peace is attainable.”

Gerona, taking up the cudgels for his peers, prays for the approval of His Eminence of a peace proposal to unite the Muslims and Christians of the city, then issuance of  a pastoral letter that would serve “as an eye opener as well as an invitation and challenge for the Iliganons to respond to.” In addition, members of the clergy can be nominated by His Eminence to get deeply involved in the endeavor. (My contribution here is for members of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines to get involved in the project.)

Being proposed is the creation of a Council of Iligan leaders, peace advocates/counsels among Muslims, Christians and Lumads, whose objective is “To attain genuine Peace in Iligan City.”

The council members will form themselves into five committees, and each committee will select five representatives who in turn will elect a chairman.    The committees shall adopt a common prayer that runs thus: “May our Heavenly Father be our Guide and Light to our darkness and blindness as we come together for the attainment of PEACE.”

The members will frame a constitution and bylaws, and choose a name to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, enabling it to accept and receive donations or grants from local and international sources. Local, national and international participants and contributions are welcome to send in their ideas and suggestions via an electronic system. A “nerve center” will be created to manage, update, respond, control, monitor, account for and or evaluate the organization’s progress.

“Getting to know you” activities will include round-table discussions, open box suggestions to better understand each other’s culture and respect the likes and dislikes of each cultural group. “This,” writes Gerona, “would be a vehicle for unity, and opportunity of getting the message across.”

Cultural shows, competitive arts among children depicting the peaceful co-existence among Iliganons, education and awareness drive are aimed to correct misconceptions and historical prejudices among the different groups. 

Gerona emphasizes: “If our present generation has observed some cracks in the human relationship between the Muslims and Christians, what do we expect of the next generations? Hence, the necessity to fix up the cracks – NOW.”

A monumental project being planned is the construction of a Peace Tower (ala Eiffel Tower) to be built at Overton, Fuentes, Iligan City, specifically at the Iligan-Marawi junction road. It will serve as an asylum area for surrendered, sanctioned by the military, a tourist attraction, a traffic directional, and recreational park.

The design includes a Laurel Peace symbol, and highlights 3Ks, which stand for K-Kalilintad (Muslim), K-Kalinao (Bisaya) and K-Kapayapa-an (Tagalog).

The proponents of the project must be congratulated for their earnest desire to have peace in Iligan. Yes, let there be peace, not only among Iliganons but everyone in our country.

*          *          *

The Rotary Club of Gingoog is where you meet prominent residents of Gingoog City. They include landholders, fishpond owners, businessmen, educators, and peace advocates. They meet every Wednesday evening at Larry’s Resto Bar, owned by Rotarian Lemuel Valdevilla, discussing fund-raising activities (to help grade school children have a steady supply of notebooks and crayolas and the like), relevant goings-on (the Trump Impeachment, President Duterte’s not seeing eye to eye with Vice President Leni Robredo),  the Odiongan Hydro Power project, the erratic electric supply and internet connection.

The camaraderie among Rotarians everywhere is noticeable. So, is it among Gingoog Rotarians? At the Christmas party held at the home (described as a mansion by visitors) of Juval “Boy” and Evelyn Nadal, there was the “for boys only” huddles, the wives’ merry chit-chat, the nice music provided by local singers. There was the induction of new members – Saeed A. Daof (who is Philippine Red Cross governor residing in the city now), and two ladies – Frevanrose “Bambam” Cutar, and Eva Valdevilla.

Guest speaker was Mayor Erick Cañosa, a young man bent on putting Gingoog on the world map, but who at the Rotarians’ program demonstrated his skill as a pianist. The Christmas message was provided by Department of Energy Undersecretary Benito Ranque, who talked about the good deeds of his friend and boss, President Duterte, and, at length, on the good the Odiongan Hydro-Electric Project will do for Gingoog and neighboring municipalities. “Let’s hurry it up, ORE,” he challenged the company (Oriental Energy and Power Generation Corporation) which was  approved by the DOE  to develop and operate the Odiongan hydro project.

I must say my kudos to the club president Thaddeus “Thad” P. Lugod, VP Manalo “Noli” Torres, Toti Lugod,  Rubio “Jake” S. Lopez, Luis Mario Prado,  Bes Ben Maquiso, Stephen David “Boy’ Pascual; Bernard “Boy” Calagui, ABC President Robert J. de Lara, Rotaract president Charles Saranya, Chief of Police Ariel Philip Pontillas, and the ladies – Daisy Lugod, Ivy Lugod, Meleanette Mercado, the city mayor’s chief of staff; Portulin Kagawad Cleofe Ranque, Irene Co, Honey Pajaron, Tita Torres, Jusil Maquiso, and the Balik-Gingoognons from New York.

The night wore on, and the boys seemed unwilling to depart from their beer and whiskey. The ladies were the first to stand and say goodbye. For, as Robert Frost said, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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