During discussions about the Bangsamoro, it is often said that there can be no peace without justice. Our collective struggle as Bangsamoros rests on the shared reality that injustices have been committed against us for centuries, and yet these realities have been often denied or, worse, erased by those who do not share our history and identity.
It is also easy to say that the Bangsamoro of today can now live in peace, if one would content himself with the absence of war in the region. But the reality is that this generation is one that lives in a time of transition for the Bangsamoro – a time where we have experienced the shift from armed struggle to parliamentary struggle, from a life of constant fear to a life of constant vigilance.
This means that our longstanding struggle is far from over, although at times it may feel like it is. The shifts we have experienced in our struggle have not made our claims for justice any less revolutionary, and it does not render our resistance to the continuing oppression any less necessary.
The lives our people lead are lives of constant struggle. When we talk of peace, when we use the word “peace” in our daily conversations, it remains to be more about our shared aspirations than our lived realities. The Bangsamoro Week of Peace is borne out of this constant struggle and the hope that someday our struggle will end – that peace will not only be a possibility, but a reality.
The theme for this year’s Bangsamoro Week of Peace, “Bangsamoro: Revisiting the Past, Continuing the Cause,” captures the essence of our struggle. As Bangsamoros, there is a need for us to constantly study and review our history – a history that is hardly ever discussed in mainstream historical narratives in the Philippines.
More often than not, a Moro hero would be mentioned every once in a while out of token recognition, as if a name or two is meant to signal that a narrative is inclusive. While the curriculum of Philippine history is replete with names and stories of heroes from Luzon and Visayas who led the revolution, there is hardly a Bangsamoro hero that Bangsamoro children can identify with. Our history as Bangsamoros is one that we learn from our families, one that many of us learn outside the classroom.
It is this marginalization in history that has made it difficult for many to understand the grievances we share as Bangsamoros. It is a testament to how our right to self-determination has been undermined through a national historical narrative that takes pride in the Philippines' eventual independence as a nation – one that we are expected to share despite the constant erasure of our own triumphs in our struggle for freedom and independence.
This erasure of our people and narratives continues until today, and it is this constant erasure that makes it our duty to continue the cause of our people.
It is easy to think that the struggle should be easier these days, given the access to information that comes with new technology and the newfound ease of communicating to a wider audience. But these very same things make misinformation and rumormongering easier, and presents a challenge to our goal of fostering understanding and acceptance for the Bangsamoro people.
The wars in the open fields of the region may have ended, but battles continue to be waged elsewhere. In the struggle to win minds and hearts, the long internalized prejudice against our people coupled with ignorance about our cause can sustain battles that are no less difficult to win.
At no point in our history were we free to entertain the illusion that we live in a time of peace, not when we are yet to claim justice for our people who have lost land and life in our struggle for self-determination. The lives we lead today are lives we owe to the Bangsamoros who came before us and have committed to our cause, and the same commitment is expected of us if we also want a better future for our people.
It is in this context that the Bangsamoro Week of Peace hopes to clear a space for our people to find comfort in solidarity, and to express our resistance against the constant denial of our identity and erasure of our history. In our shared struggle for just and lasting peace, we must constantly remind each other of our history and steadfastly work with each other towards the fulfillment of our people’s highest aspirations.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.