OPINION: Bangsamoro youth and shared narratives

Amir Mawallil

Posted at Feb 04 2017 05:22 AM

As a child, I grew up with the stories of my parents and grandparents, and their stories are far from the usual bedtime stories other children grew up with. 

Coming from a place that was far from the city, and all the more from the country’s capital, it was the stories of my family that shaped my consciousness as a young Tausug and helped form my identity as a citizen. 

These stories were my families’ lived realities and the truth in these stories cannot be denied.

These stories are essential to my people’s history, in the same way the stories written in books and taught in schools are essential to the national narrative. In a country where the stories of my people are often erased from mainstream narratives, my education as a youth leader and, now, as a public servant has always consisted largely of stories shared among friends and family. 

Sharing these stories has become a responsibility especially during times of conflict and despair, and sharing these stories with the youth has become imperative especially because claiming our identity requires more than an ounce of depth and understanding.

The Bangsamoro as an identity was borne out of the need for survival, and the stories we carry as a people speak of our shared struggle to survive. At a time when Moro communities faced extinction due to mass murders, attacks on their Muslim faith due to prejudice, and a slew of injustices due to being minorities, the Bangsamoro emerged as a united front with a shared faith in Allah and united with the Ummah.

Our youth today is blessed to live in less troubled times. The peace process has made considerable progress, a number of clan wars that have once lasted for decades have ended, and basic social services are now available in communities that once knew nothing but conflict and grief. 

however, with a semblance of peace has come a sense of complacency. When our generation is asked about the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination, it seems our elders’ stories have been lost to the times. When asked about the fight for justice, it seems the stories of our mujahideens have become mere anecdotes. When asked about the peace negotiations, it seems decades of narratives have been drowned out in social media.

Now, more than ever, we need to engage each other in conversations not only about our future but also about the past that has brought us to where we are and pushes us forward to where we should be. We take comfort in the progress we have made towards peace, but we need to remember to account for the many injustices that are yet to be resolved and how genuine peace can only be achieved when we have claimed justice for our people.

We need to remember how the massacre in Jabidah sparked a revolution, and how past massacres throughout our region have forcibly taken away a future from many of us. We need to remember how lands that have given us life have been reduced into mere property and have been stolen from our people. We need to remember how Martial Law ravaged our communities, how a dictator deemed our lives less valuable, and how we must resist every indication of going back to those dark days of our history.

It is easy to forget when grief feels far away and the conflict seems over, but the grief of our people is never truly far away from us and the conflict we’ve managed to live through is far from over. The grief and conlifct will always be there, threats lying in wait and nipping at our heels, ready to overtake us as soon as we forget the lessons our people have learned through years of suffering and struggle.

It seems our stories are now only shared whenever the threat of grief and conflict is closest to our shores and our homes, when these stories must be shared everyday if only to remind ourselves of what we have gained, what we have lost, and what still needs to be done.

Our shared identity thrives on shared histories and narratives. Our shared identity as Bangsamoros remains synonymous to shared struggle across generations, and a struggle that is far from over – a struggle for safe spaces, a struggle for mutual respect, and a struggle for genuine self-determination.

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Amir Mawallil is the executive director of the Office on Bangsamoro Youth Affairs of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He is also a member of the Young Moro Professionals Network, the country's biggest organization of Muslim professionals. 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.