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Widow of fallen MILF fighter expresses mixed feelings about peace pact

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CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao, Philippines — The tents, the decorated stage and the colorful “padara (flags)” lining up the dirt road can only mean one thing – celebration.

“We are holding a party to show our support to the peace deal,” said Kongan Asim, a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighter since 1982.

Camp commander Mohammad Nasif said they were expecting around 2,500 MILF fighters to come, some of them have started to arrive Sunday. In Maguindanao alone, there are about 150 ground commanders.

“We have prepared a program where commanders will speak,” Nasif said.

Asim, a father to 23 children by two wives and a member of the Moro National Liberation Front, who joined the MILF in 1982, said they wanted “to show to the world that we are happy.”

Wilma Madato, 46, a training officer of the Bangsamoro Islamic Women’s Auxiliary Brigade, said she wanted to cry because of happiness.

“This is the first time I have felt this kind of inexplicable joy. No words can describe it,” she said.

Madato joined the MILF when she was still 10 years old. She is married to another MILF fighter. They have waged the revolution while raising four children.

Madato said they have proven that “being revolutionaries should not be a stumbling block in sending our children to school.”

“We have waited for so long. Now peace looms ahead. I hope it will succeed,” she said.

Sam Ibrahim, 20, a graduating high school student and son of an MILF fighter, has nothing but hopes. “I’m always worried about the safety of my father and my family. But once peace is achieved, we can start living a normal life,” he said.

“Being the only child, I want to see my parents grow old with me. I’m so glad the peace deal was made,” he added.

But Sumlay Mangindra, a 49-year-old mother of two and widow of an MILF fighter, would just “wait and see” for the next developments

Mangindra, a resident of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, refused to be photographed for security reasons, saying while everybody has appeared to be celebrating the framework agreement, she has been less optimistic, recalling the dream of her fallen husband for actual peace in Mindanao.

“I will only be convinced by it if peace is at hand,” Mangindra, who brought up her two children by selling vegetables in a crowded Cotabato City market, told the Inquirer.

Her sons were 12 and 10 years old when her husband died along with many other “mujahiddens” (freedom fighters) in the war against the government soldiers in 2000.

Now 24 and 22 years old, her sons are married and have families of their own. She lives with them.

It was in 2000 when her husband, Kagi Adullah, a regular member of the MILF, who had been working as pedicab driver to bring in food to his family, was called to duty by the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s military arm, to help defend Camp Abubakre Assidique in Northern Maguindanao from attacks by Philippine Army.

“He told me to be ready to lose a husband for he was leaving to fight and defend the Bangsamoro. He may not come home alive,” Mangindra recalled Abullah’s final words during an interview with the Inquirer Sunday in an impoverished community a few kilometers from MILF’s Camp Darapanan.

Mangindra recalled not stopping her two children from joining the MILF armed struggle six years after their father died.

Her sons served in the BIAF four times a week and the rest days of the week were spent with their families and as rice farmers in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

“They go to Camp Darapanan to serve in the BIAF for four consecutive days as our family’s contribution to the struggle for self determination,” she said reluctantly, asking that the names of her children be withheld.

Learning about the framework agreement on radio and from Islamic preachers during Friday religious services, Mangindra maintained she felt some hope but has been less optimistic.

She said many government efforts to recognize Muslim rights failed, including the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“Independence would have been the best solution to our problem, to our poverty, to our being less developed, and I am convinced it is,” she said in broken Tagalog, taking a deep breath as she prepared “kangkong” leaves to be sold at the Cotabato City market Monday, the day when the government and the MILF sign a historic framework agreement in Malacañang.


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Tags: Moro Islamic Liberation Front , Moro National Liberation Front , News , peace negotiations , peace process , Peace Talks , Philippine Government , Regions




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