Root Causes and the Independent Small Press

Large-scale disasters and fascist regimes serve one useful purpose: they’re blanket design constraints that force people to work and collaborate in ways that would not normally be possible.

Luckily for us, 2017 had these man-made constraints aplenty.

Luckily for me, that led to meeting the ladies of Gantala Press, an independent women’s literary press run by the likes of Faye Cura, Janine Dimaranan, Bebang Siy and Rae Rival. Thanks to our common friend, filmmaker Jaja Arumpac, that led to helping out with Laoanen, a fundraising and information-sharing drive on the effects of the Marawi Siege on women and children on the ground. With Faye’s and others’ equal parts of madness and tenacity, Laoanen quickly evolved into a number of events and talks, the Me & My Veg Mouth and Good Food Community-led Food for Peace yumfest, plus two books: the Laoanen chapbook of talks and reflections, and Mga Tutul a Palapa, a cookbook featuring the food and stories of longtime friend and colleague Assad Baunto. The latter was mostly Asi, and I helped chop onions and peel garlic in collaboration with Nash Tysmans, food writer, scholar and designer Ige Ramos, with the amazing Emiliana Kampilan doing the cover art. Some of my writing, and surprisingly, a lot of my amateur ink sketches, are included in both.

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Island Wilayat Rising? Stemming the tide of violent extremism after Marawi

Thanks to a few twists of fate, I’ve got a short (read: heavily redacted) piece on Marawi  published by the Australian National University’s East Asia Forum. It comes in several weeks later than I’d like, but at any rate, I’m posting here an earlier unedited and less circumspect version, written roughly two, three weeks ago.

Marawi was a victory for Islamist extremism in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. The next choices taken by the Philippine government will determine the extent of its spread.

 

It has been more than sixty days since the outbreak of violence in the Islamic City of Marawi, just over 500 miles south of Manila, and kilometre zero of the island-region of Mindanao. What started in the morning of May 23 has led to over 314,000 persons displaced. More than half of the lakeside city is in ruins; approximately 100 civilians and hostages are still trapped in the crossfire. Aerial bombardments and house-to-house fighting continue. As the first widespread incident of urban violence in the Philippines—its partial precursors being Zamboanga in 2013, Ipil in 1995 and the razing of Jolo in 1974—the impact of the Marawi siege is unprecedented, not least in its implications to the rise of violent extremism in the region.

While the reported death of Abu Bakr Baghdadi and the jihadi group’s losses at Mosul and Raqqa signal a transformation of Daesh presence in the Middle East, Marawi by all accounts was a victory for islamist terrorism in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. From a ragtag group of ‘black flag wannabes’ that could barely stage a bomb attack on the US Embassy in Manila in 2016, the Maute group now has enough street cred to attract international interest and support. They have achieved what others have failed to do: signal to the disgruntled and marginalised that violent extremism, particularly through urban warfare, is a viable path forward.

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The Fool’s Journey

When depressed about the state of the world, what better way to procrastinate but through (f)art.

I challenged myself a few months ago to try to draw one thing a day for a year. Mostly for fun, and partly to recover from the creative crippling that brought me out of the humanities and into development work over a decade ago.

Being the obsessive I am, I decided to use seventy-eight of those 365 days to draw my own tarot deck. Drew the 22 cards of the major arcana, one card a day, each card corresponding eerily to each day of one of the most intense months I’ve had in a while. While some of them were partially painted, I’ve kept the black-and-white feel as a nod to two of my favorite decks: Kim Krans’s The Wild Unknown, and the David Foster Case and Jessie Burns Parke Builders of the Adytum deck.

I figure the best way to motivate myself to get through the next 56 images is by compiling them into a zine, since that’s what kids like to do these days. I figure I’ll eventually print them into a proper deck, but in the meantime, if anyone’s reading this, feel free to message if you’d like a physical copy of the twenty-two cards of the Fool’s Journey, or in Tagalog, ang lakarang baliw. Otherwise, I’m putting a low-resolution version online here: (Ang Lakarang Baliw).

I realize belatedly that it’s a little fuzzy, since the images weren’t scanned (I don’t own a scanner) and were just captured on an iPhone 6. It’s the first thing I’ve made and finished purely on my own just for kicks since high school, so do be kind.

 

Implementing Peace and Development in the Bangsamoro: Potentials and Constraints of Socio-Economic Programs for Conflict-Affected Areas in Southern Philippines (1913-2015)

Even as an early-career institution-less wannabe scholar and development worker, I’ve always tried to walk the fine line between theory and practice, research and ground operations. I’ve given up on getting my shit proper journal peer-reviewed so in case anyone has any interest in reading a very roughly written attempt at a history of government development programs for ARMM from 1913-2016, focusing particularly on the mainland (Maguindanao, with spillovers in Ranao)–here you go.

Download a pdf here: Fernandez – P&D in the Bangsamoro 2017-06-20

Main point being to look at potentials and constraints, especially (!) on the sins committed. A key limitation: it looks purely on government policies and interventions, and not on international donor interventions. This is partly true due to data constraints, but also because local decisions and choices will largely determine if any true transformation can arise. And I say this as someone who has served in government but whose bills have been paid for the past few years by the multilaterals.

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Conflict in Cities and the Contested Philippine State: Notes After Marawi

Originally a FB post but migrated here because the maps and photos wouldn’t show.

Dahil ako’y taga Maynila lamang, hanggang mabilisang sulat lang ako. Para sa minamahal na mga kaibigan at katrabahong Meranaw, kung mamarapatin.

It has been over a week since the May 23 Maute Group attack on the Islamic City of Marawi, and President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao. Skirmishes to clear and control the city are still ongoing. The majority of its 201,785 recorded citizens have since fled on foot, leaving behind combatants, journalists, and the occasional terrified resident trapped in the crossfire or attempting to protect their homes and businesses from looting.

Many questions remain. Was it truly a botched military operation against Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, who had purportedly ventured out of Basilan to operate in the mainland, unifying the disaffected under the black flag? Or was it well planned in advance, this scene of least fifty young fighters emerging from Lake Lanao, occupying and damaging key installations—hospitals, churches, university buildings, city hall, the local jail? Was the Chief of Police truly beheaded (despite photos emerging of him appearing alive and with head intact)? Can we call them ISIS or IS-Ranao? Why is Marawi City being shelled? How will the airstrikes affect power dynamics on the ground? Will the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao set the stage for nationwide policy?

What is established is that as of May 31, at least 22 civilians, 30 security personnel and sixty-odd Maute and ASG fighters have been killed. Over 44,000 families have been recorded as displaced across Northern Mindanao, taking uncertain shelter during the Holy Month of Ramadan in evacuation centres and the homes of friends and relatives. Only twenty percent of the metropolitan area has power restored; food in surrounding communities is scarce. Tensions have spilt over to neighbouring towns. It will take weeks before comprehensive damage assessments can be conducted but one wonders if Marawi, with its rich 400-year-old history and its role as the economic, political, and cultural heart of Lanao del Sur, can fully recover.

Mainstream approaches to Mindanao’s peace and conflict situation is through its security or political dimensions, and for the immediate phase, the humanitarian response for the likas (“those who left”, a more culturally-appropriate alternative to bakwit), or internally displaced persons. However, Marawi, and to some extent its predecessor Zamboanga, begs the question: how can we start thinking about peace in terms of how conflict dynamics play out in actual space and place, in the fabric of our communities and cities? Violent state-non state contestation in the Philippines has been largely rural, with a few sporadic exceptions. So does Marawi signal a contemporary turn to urban warfare, similar to many of our Western counterparts? Is urban conflict the next Philippine battleground?

marawi1.jpg

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Workshop: Waldorf Education at ang tawag ng panahon

Para sa mga interesadong kaibigan sa Pilipinas: will be co-facilitating a short workshop with Louise Far next week at the 2017 Steiner/Waldorf Early Childhood Symposium at Acacia Waldorf School in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. We’ve got two hours for a quick-and-dirty exploration of the links between early childhood education and how we can engage the many social, political, economic, cultural, and environmental challenges facing our communities. Been way too long since I last worked in this space, but it does feel like the right place and time for a stock-take.

Bonus points: doing it back-to-back with Bella Tan and Meila Payawal of the Sipat Lawin Ensemble!

For more information, clickety-click here.

Lupa

Writing this quick note to process one of the many strange developments of the week, which included my being roped in last minute to present a study conducted by the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration on marginalization through land dispossession in the Bangsamoro region. Presentations are part of my usual day-to-days but this was unusual—it was a launch at Camp Darapanan, the present headquarters of the largest armed revolutionary group in the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (or MILF, read as M-I-L-F, not the lewd joke familiar to most westerners).

It just so happened that our lead author, Dr. Fermin Adriano, was unable to fly to Cotabato and our rather crazy and generous team leader, Matt, chose to gleefully task me with translating the key technical messages in a vernacular that would be understood by the larger audience, and not just the international actors and VIPs present in the room. And that entailed being the lost young female non-Muslim, non-Mindanawon pseudoacademic on the dais with Mindanao peace process heavy hitters such as Ishak Mastura, Guiamel Alim, Rufa Guiam, peace panel chairs Mohagher Iqbal and Irene Santiago, plus the amerul mujahid himself, Al-haj Murad Ebrahim. Kumbaga sa Tagalog, pinabili lang ng suka, napadpad na sa Darapanan. (Which actually describes a fair chunk of the seven years of this life, to be fair.)

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