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.)

Continue reading “Lupa”


Originally posted on 5 May 2011 here.

Last week’s grisly events at Laperal Compound prompt me to riff on something near and dear, but is rarely spoken of by fellow Manileños: our relationship to space and place. Not a fan of violence (or the criminal elements taking refuge in such slums), but if someone’d raze my community to the ground and dismantle the boards of my home, then I’d certainly feel like hurling molotovs and shitbombs too. In the midst of the protests, one Laperal Compund leader even said that they’d rather die where they stand than relocate to far-flung Calauan or Montalban, where death is a greater, if slower, certainty: no electricity, water, access to health services, schools. In such conditions, she said, “unti-unti kaming pinapatay ng pamahalaan: magiging libingan na namin ang lupang pagtitirikan namin ([they] are being killed slowly by the state: the land [they’re] cast to will be [their] graves)”. [1]

But what differentiates us middle-class folk from informal settlers anyway? Not much, really. Just the luck of being born into the socioeconomic means of legally owning/renting a home–with its accordant veil of delusion, thinking that our shoebox condominiums and gated subdivisions are somehow better, safer, healthier places. But we’re just as disconnected.

Continue reading “Space/Place/Sacredness”