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.

Continue reading “Root Causes and the Independent Small Press”

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.

Continue reading “Island Wilayat Rising? Stemming the tide of violent extremism after Marawi”