Mindanao in my mind

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

An aggrupation of islands as large as Mindanao is multi-layered. What you hear in the news is not always the full and accurate story of the whole place. One must experience being there, at least for a while --enough to build relationships and share experiences within its communities.

While three-fourths of my roots are in Cebu, my late paternal grandfather hailed from Mindanao, particularly in the pristine volcanic island of Camiguin. There he met my paternal grandmother who was a migrant from Cebu in the early years before World War II. They later settled in the nearby province of Misamis Oriental, in Barangay Calamcam, Talisayan town.

Calamcam is famous in the province for its white beaches and abundant natural resources. It was the place of my childhood summers where I made good memories with cousins. My paternal grandparents who have long gone to the other side had left several properties to their heirs, the most valuable of which is a large undeveloped piece of land with a white sand shoreline.

Being the lawyer in the clan, it fell upon me to take care of matters related to real estate. That is one of the reasons why I try to visit Talisayan at least once a year. I usually time my visits during the town fiesta in July.

After skipping my annual visits in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic, I was finally able to visit Talisayan last month. I figured out it was the best time to hop on to Mindanao while COVID-19 numbers are still down to its lowest in several months.

Some years ago shortly after the death of my father, some in my Cebu family suggested that we give up our stake in Mindanao --in particular, sell all our inherited properties there. Having spent a good amount of my childhood summer vacations in Talisayan and the province’s capital city, Cagayan de Oro, I was and still am hesitant of the idea of not having a stake in Mindanao.

A large part of Mindanao is as peaceful and orderly as Cebu. Cagayan de Oro, my favorite city in the country, second only to Cebu, is an economically vibrant and progressing city. I like its genuine dynamism, a city not too hard on itself and where community peace is not contrived by some external forces that rule by fear.

Yes, there are areas in Mindanao where constant military presence is needed, or where a culture of fear trumps a culture of civic participation. But these few areas do not define the entire region. A big mistake for development stakeholders is to miss the constant flux of cultures, community dynamics, and economic dimensions in Mindanao for those incidents of lawlessness in some parts of the island that land big in the news.

Such mistake is reflected in some Manila-based journalists who see Mindanao through a one-dimensional lens. Journalist Raissa Robles’ tweet mocking incoming Tourism secretary Christina Frasco’s plan to further open up Mindanao to tourism naturally earned no respect from netizens. Some saw the comment as stereotypical framing based on superficial if not ignorant impressions of the region allegedly being a haven of extremists and bandits.

Twitterati IndayBisaya (@IndayMindanao) replied to the tweet of Roble (@raissawriter): “This is so irresponsible. Mindanao has so much to offer to help boost Tourism in the Philippines and security issues are pretty much limited in certain areas and quite rare. Stop branding Mindanao as unsafe. The entire island is paradise.”

I agree. And with Frasco’s tourism plan, I will even increase more my stake in Mindanao.


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