Where angels fear to tread, Angel Locsin came and earned the love and
the Moro people. On June 26-27, popular actress Angel Locsin visited the
evacuation center in wartorn Munai, Lanao del Norte. Since she and her
already released their official reflections on the visit, I hope my story
help contextualize their visit.
When Angel’s brother-in-law sent me a text message a month ago asking me
organization to assist them in a low-profile exposure trip for Angel to an
evacuation center in my province, I was skeptical at first. How can one
Angel Locsin from the politicians and military officials who constantly
the remaining evacuation centers in Maguindanao? The route to Datu Piang
probably the most watched highway, and there were several reports of
refusing entry to NGOs, media and relief agencies, practically food and
information blockade. Our organization suffered
the same military harassment when we held a national interfaith
mission (NIHM) on October last year.
The other option was Munai , the other venue of the NIHM last year where
Muna Representative Satur Ocampo participated. I immediately informed the
local chapter of Suara Bangsamoro in Iligan City and the Initiaves for
Mindanao to help us in this endeavor.
When I first met Angel during our briefing in a hotel she stayed in
Oro City, she explained at length why it had to be low-key. She wants to
the story of the people, wants to give the one’s she would be talking to
impression that she did not go there as a film star but as a person, as a
countryman. She need not explain; Angel is known for her women’s rights
But of course, our partners in the local government unit would interpret
differently. In Iligan City, we were met by the Mayor and his father, the
former mayor. We again reiterated our request – no media, no military
and no broadcast of her presence. But as soon as we got to our car, we saw
several pick-up trucks with loads of people with cameras and police
which will become part of our convoy. We took the diversion road that
Kauswagan municipality where a 6×6 truck with loads of soldiers joined the
I was surprised to see a paved road in Kauswagan extending to Munai.
Iligan City, the mayor’s father was telling Angel that they needed a
farm-to-market road that would help bring progress in his municipality and
to resolve poverty in the area that has caused the insurgency in Munai.
road was wide and thick and kilometers long, complete with military
detachements, APC tanks and presence of soldiers who were standing by the
every after five to ten kilometers.
Why, war has not restricted development in the area! I then wondered if
construction started during the war, and if USAID or GEM was responsible
construction. No politician or local government agency would release
pesos for a road that thick.
When we got to the municipal hall in Bgy. Tabuk, where the mayor placed
displaced persons in Munai and Kauswagan municipalities since last year,
jampacked with people and school children holding streamers welcoming
There goes Angel’s low-key visit.
Inside the Mayor ‘s office, the young politician asked why of all places
chose his municipality to visit. Previously we briefed Angel that among
five provinces affected by the war last year, Lanao del Norte is probably
most controversial one. There was a public outcry against Commander Bravo
suspicion of ordering members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to burn
civilian villages, which was fueled by national and local politicians who
distributed firearms to Christian residents.
I guess the mayor did not fully understand that if Angel has visited Munai
actress, he would have to pay her millions of pesos to be able to give in
request later that she come to the stage at the multipurpose hall where
father has prepared a program for Angel. Angel had to give in to that
in exchange for a closed-door interview with the victims at the evacuation
She barely had time to interview health and education officers at the
office. People were pouring in at the tiny mayor’s office at the behest of
mayor’s aunt who was never contented with one shot taken with Angel. She
got facts like out of the 11,000 population, two thousand children got
measles, pneumonia and other common diseases brought about by being camped
long time in a classroom and bunk houses. There were 50 cases of children
afflicted with measles and an unaccounted number of deaths due to
Angel finally relaxed when she was inside the bunkhouse talking to a
Bgy. Ramain. With only three young lady volunteers from the DSWD to
us in the interview, Angel was able to piece together the incident last
Her personal thoughts in her blog reflected mostly her conversation with
Diyadapon Bayabao, who told her how hard it was to go back to Ramain to
because of the military presence in the area. Bgy. Ramain is one of the 26
villages affected by the war. The mayor placed all evacuees in front of
municipal hall which was a kilometer away from an infantry battalion
ferret MILF forces in Munai.
While Angel was conversing with victims, youth volunteers were
blankets to the evacuees–a personal gift from Angel. The volunteers were
from youth groups based in Iligan City such as League of Filipino
ng Kabataang Moro, Anakbayan, local chapters of the College Editors Guild
Philippines and National Union of Students of the Philippines and the
She also provided lugaw for the evacuees. She wanted to personally
the gifts and join in the parlor games for kids prepared by the youth
but the presence of so many people prevented her from exposing herself
of the bunkhouse.
At two in the afternoon, Angel had to say goodbye to the people of Munai.
did not inform all our escorts of our next stop. We wanted to provide
complete picture of the struggle of Moro farmers and residents in Lanao
Norte, and so we took her to the home of Sultan Macasalong Sarip in Iligan
where he is battling for land rights with an multinational cement firm
built a factory blocking entrance to his home. Although tired due to
and lack of sleep, Angel listened to the impassioned story of Sultan and
Sultan’s home is no different with the bunkhouses of IDPs in Munai. Sultan
finished the construction of his home due to lack of funds. He told the
of his family’s land, and how he gave parts of his land for some Bisaya
to live in but he never counted that the construction of a cement factory
be the one who will force him out of his land.
In her blog, Angel mentioned the importance of land for the Moro people,
especially the likes of the two Sultans who farm the lands that they own.
visit marked the reality of the contradiction in a Moro society – that
call ourselves Sultans and Bai, we are not the rich and influential
that our ancestors were. There is no more sultanate system that gives
to the bloodline of the royal families, nor lands to claim territory and
Angel asked why the land is rich but the people are poor. We told her that
ownership was monopolized by rich Moro and Christian warlords who got rich
selling their lands to foreign corporations or taking partnership in
businesses. She was exposed to these plantations when she did a film where
played a pineapple picker in Bukidnon.
We told her about the land laws that legalized landgrabbing of Moro lands
Philippine government in the name of national interest such as mining and
plantations. We told her that the incessant military operations, aerial
bombardment and the perennial displacement of people have destroyed the
livelihood of the people. We told her how evacuees became captives in
land, as they were used by national and local government as a selling
multinational donors and relief agencies.
While it is true that her two-day visit cannot give a complete picture of
problems in Mindanao, her one-day exposure to war-torn Moro areas has
lot of realizations for her, and for us too. As Atty. Beverly Musni of
put it – when movie stars come down from heaven, they experience the same
problems, too. And that’s what made Angel go down to Mindanao. She went
to the masses, ate and conversed with them. And we know, that was not for
Angel is known for her political convictions advocating for women and
rights. She lives the character that she plays, the heroine of fantaseryes.
But only a movie star like her who lives in real life, can empathize with
victims and can bravely call for a stop to war and the resumption of peace
talks – and mean it.
Larawan mula kina Locsin, Colmenares at Lidasan.
*Si Angel Locsin ay tanyag na aktres ng ABS-CBN Channel 2. Kasalukuyang
siya sa teleserye na “Only You” sa naturang estasyon. Si Angela Colmenares
kapatid ni Angel at miyembro at dating nominado sa Kabataan Party-list
2007. Si Amirah Ali Lidasan ay tanyag na lider-Moro at tapagtaguyod ng
kapayapaan at karapatan ng mga Moro. Lider siya ng Suara Bangsamoro at
Christian People’s Alliance.
EU ups aid to alleviate
deteriorating condition of civilians in Mindanao
By Michaela P. del Callar and Gina Peralta-Elorde
The European Commission (EC) has allotted an additional 3 million euros or
about P200 million for humanitarian aid to help ease the "deteriorating"
condition of more than 300,000 civilians displaced by the ongoing armed
conflict between government troops and Muslim secessionist rebels.
In a statement from Brussels, the EC, which is the policy-making body of
the European Union, raised its concern over the displaced civilians’
condition after a report by its humanitarian aid experts who recently
monitored and assessed the situation in the troubled Southern Philippine
region."More than 300,000 people are internally displaced in Mindanao,
most of them living in very difficult conditions in evacuation centers, at
relocation sites or with host families," the EC reported.
The assessment-mission report prompted the EC to approve on Tuesday a
3-million euro humanitarian aid to assist the most vulnerable people
affected by the hostilities between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao.
The assistance is actually on top of the 6.5 million euros the EC gave in
October and December 2008, and the 3 million euros in rehabilitation
assistance that it provided in October 2008.
"The Commission’s humanitarian aid is entirely needs-based and our support
is necessary to tackle the deteriorating humanitarian situation of the
many displaced on the island," the EC said.
EC’s relief assistance covers food aid and nutritional surveillance,
including feeding programs for children, as well as basic health care,
water and sanitation, shelter, protection and psycho-social activities for
displaced children who rarely attend school. It will be implemented over a
All funds will be channeled
through the EC’s Humanitarian Aid department under the responsibility of
Commissioner Louis Michel. Relief projects are implemented by
non-governmental organizations, specialized UN agencies and the Red Cross
and Red Crescent movement.
"The internal conflict in Mindanao does not get much attention in the
international media. But the people who are in need there can be assured
of our attention. The Commission’s humanitarian assistance complements the
aid efforts by the government of the Philippines as well as contributions
from other international donors," Michel said.
The EU is one of the country’s largest providers of development assistance
and aid, particularly in Mindanao. It has provided support to alleviate
the plight of tens of thousands of villagers displaced by the fighting
between troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front starting in August
Meanwhile, in central Mindanao, local police operatives were in hot
pursuit of a still unidentified man responsible for the July 5 blast near
a church building in Cotabato City that claimed five lives and injured 50
The police had just released a copy of sketch of the suspect, which an
agent of the National Bureau of Investigation had prepared. According to
the police, the suspect stands between 5’4" and 5’7" in height, of medium
built, with dark complexion and around 30 years old.
Post-blast investigators also reconstructed the cellphone-controlled IED
and found it to be made an 81-mm mortar projectile packed with two-inch
nails to enhance fragmentation, based on fragments recovered and chemical
analysis conducted by the crime laboratory.
In Camp Crame, Senior Supt. Leonardo Espina, police spokesman, said
authorities in Region 12 and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao have
all been alerted to hunt suspect.
The Cotabato City government raised a P2-million reward for the suspect’s