Monday, 4 May 2015

Remember Jabidah Massacre? Historical Marker Unveiled in Corregidor 47 Years After

The Mindanao Garden of Peace, a memorial for the Moro soldiers killed in the Jabidah massacre, in Kindley Airfield, Corregidor. TRICIA AQUINO/

CORREGIDOR ISLAND, Philippines -- On 18 March 1968, between 14 and 200 young Moro soldiers secretly trained to retake Sabah were massacred here. The tragedy served as a catalyst of the Moro independence movement in Mindanao with the establishment of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), triggering decades of internal conflict.

On Wednesday, 47 years after the largely forgotten tragedy, a historical marker commemorating their sacrifice was unveiled. 

Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), government peace negotiators, and some Catholic leaders attended the unveiling at the recently created Mindanao Garden of Peace in Kindley Airfield, Corregidor Island. ARMM officials were particularly emotional.

The unveiling was also timely with the still raging issue of self-determination among the Moro people after the January 25 Mamasapano tragedy that took the lives of 44 police commandos, 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces, and seven civilians.

Apart from the political fallout of the Mamasapano clash, which some say present the biggest setback to the Aquino administration, the military is now on an all-out offensive against the MILF splinter group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters - which has displaced tens of thousands of Maguindanao residents from their homes and communities.

‘Para sa atin ‘to’

Anak Mindanao Representative Sitti Djalia Hataman, who accepted the responsibility of being caretaker of the Mindanao Garden of Peace, addressed the Basilan-based students who formed a large part of the audience:

“Para sa atin ‘to. We’re doing what we can now para sana sa panahon ninyo, hindi niyo na kailangang manawagan ng kapayapaan kasi mayroon nang kapayapaan.”

(This is for us. We’re doing what we can now so that when your time comes, you no longer need to call for peace because peace already exists).”

More than a piece of metal, she said, the marker serves to recognize Moros.

“Hetong pagkilala, hetong marker na ‘to, bilang isang Moro mahalaga siya sa akin. ‘Yun ‘yung hindi namin kayang i-explain sa hindi familiar sa Bangsamoro struggle. ‘Yung kilalanin ‘yung naging kontribusyon naming laban sa pang-aapi, ‘yung kontribusyon ng mga kabataang Moro na pumunta rito sa Corregidor. ‘Yung pagkilala sa historical injustices na nagawa sa amin. Malaking bagay na ho ‘yun. ‘Yung kilalanin kami bilang kami, at tanggapin kami nang hindi namin kailangang talikuran o kalimutan kung sino kami. ‘Yun ho ang Bangsamoro.

(This recognition, this marker, as a Moro it’s important to me. This is something we cannot explain to those who are not familiar with the Bangsamoro struggle. That our contributions against the oppressors, that the contribution of the Moro youth who went here to Corregidor be recognized. That the historical injustices against us be acknowledged. This is already a significant thing. That we are recognized as who we are, and accepted without us having to turn our backs on or forget who we are. This is the Bangsamoro).”

“Sabi nga nila ang hustisya ay hindi lamang ang mayroon kang maipakulong o mayroon kang mapanagot.

(They say justice is not just about getting someone in prison or holding them accountable),” she said, through tears.

Rep. Hataman said she shares the task of maintaining the garden, which symbolizes the Filipinos’ yearning for peace and development, with the students at the unveiling.

Jabidah massacre recalled

MILF Bangsamoro Transition Commission member Hadji Al Camlian called the Jabidah massacre “a triggering device” for the Moros’ struggle for self-determination.

Over the centuries, and especially the last 47 years, he noted, Moros have not tired of defending their rights, their faith, and their home.

He reminded guests that their ancestors fought and died against the Spanish, American, Japanese, and other foreign invaders because they loved their land - and this was not confined to Mindanao, but for the rest of the country.

ARMM Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid A. Lucman Jr. has a different memory. His father, a congressman at the time of the Jabidah massacre, told him that at about 3 a.m. in March 1968, the Cavite congressman told him that Cavite fishermen found a wounded person who spoke a strange language. The locals believed the man might be from Mindanao judging from his language.

When his father found out what happened from the Jabidah massacre survivor, the lives of the Lucmans changed: From a congressman, his father became a Muslim rebel leader who fought against the Marcos regime.

The younger Lucman remembered former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., President Aquino’s father, visiting their family and telling them that autonomy is the solution to the historical conflict in Mindanao.

Now, almost 50 years after the turning point in Moro history, Lucman still believes the Moros are experiencing injustice.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law, he stressed, is the only solution for “a comprehensive peace.”

‘Fresh wounds’

The wounds of the Jabidah massacre are still fresh, said ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, who had had been working with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) for seven years before the historical marker was finally installed.

“Sariwang-sariwa in the sense na inaasahan natin na after ng Jabidah massacre na wala nang mga massacre na mangyayari (Fresh in the sense that we hoped that after the Jabidah massacre, no other massacres would occur),” he said.

The investigation into the Jabidah massacre was cut short by Martial Law, said NHCP executive director Ludovico Badoy, leaving many questions about the operation unanswered: how many young Moro soldiers were killed, what happened to their bodies, and who ordered their massacre.

Justice for the Jabidah massacre victims, said Gov. Hataman, is not about seeking prosecution, but peace.

‘Tending peace is like tending a garden’

To chief government peace negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, one of the guests at the commemoration of the Jabidah massacre, compared the peace process to tending a garden.

“Kung hindi natin pangalagaan itong ating mga sinimulang pagsisikap, pwede talaga ‘yang mawala, mabitawan,” she said.

(If we do not take care of the efforts we have initiated, it can really vanish, slip from our grasp).”

“O kung isang garden ‘yan, tapak-tapakan, makalimutang diligan, yurakin pa nga. Pero kung lagi pong may tao diyan katulad ninyo, bata, matanda, babae, lalaki, Bangsamoro, Ilocano, Kapampangan o ano pa man, ‘yang ganyang klaseng aruga, matitiyak niyan na hindi ‘yan mawawalay, hindi ‘yan mawawala sa atin. At kung hindi man ‘yan kaagad makamit, makakamit pa rin ‘yan kasi meron talagang nagsisikap na mangyari at mangyari ‘yan.

(Just like a garden, it can get trampled on. One can forget to water it. Destroy it, even. But if there are people like you, young, old, woman, man, Bangsamoro, Ilocano, Kapampangan, or whatever, with that kind of care, we can be sure that it won’t slip away from us. And if we haven’t achieved it yet, we will still achieve it in the long run because of those who strive to achieve it).”

After the unveiling of the historical marker, visitors were invited to participate in a campaign to gather a million signatures for peace. (TRICIA AQUINO/

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