I STILL REMEMBER when I was a kid, when night comes, before going to bed, we all gathered together with my siblings and cousins ready to intently listen to the interesting stories of our grandparent about their childhood life in Sulu. I still remember the joy in their faces as they elatedly narrate to us the stories of their past as how they lived in a peaceful and lovely place of Jolo, the capital town of Sulu, wherein even if they roam around with their friends in the middle of the night, watch a movie at the theatre together, and they even joked that during their time even if you sleep at Plaza Rizal, among others; they don’t have to worry that something bad might happen to them and they always feel secured as they enjoyed a calmer life in the town. Indeed, it is exhilarating to hear the story of the past, especially so if coming from our loved ones. As if we were the one that lived in their peaceful time.
However, sadly, they say that many things had changed now, especially after the infamous burning of Jolo in February 1974 – forty four years ago today, wherein “around 20,000 Muslims, Christians and Chinese civilians who were residents of Jolo perished in the wild inferno at the central commercial district caused by repeated land, sea and air bombardments by the lethal Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) war machines of mass destruction. They were caught in the cross fire between the two-day battle of the colonial AFP occupation soldiers and the freedom fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) right in the town center of Jolo.” – [Sulu Online Library]
As a consequence, the unfortunate incident had left a strong effect on lives of many natives of Sulu then. It triggers them to leave their beloved homeland even if it was painful for them, hoping that in other places, such as Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga City they can finally live in peace and harmony, and eventually secure the welfare and future of their children and the coming generation.
I hailed the unwavering sacrifices that our leaders have done to us in order that our Agama, Hulah, and Bangsa will be preserved for the coming generations because irrefutably, since then and now, Muslims in Mindanao particularly in Sulu are often target of persecution. They only fought for what they truly comprehend is right for us – their children. I pray to Allaah that they will be rewarded for their good intention. I do also understand the long-time physical and emotional agony that our people have patiently endured as a result of what the past governments has done to us. This even resulted in numerous encounters between our side and their side that cause serious devastation of copious lives and properties of our nation. Who wouldn’t like that we finally attain our goals for our Agama, Hulah, and Bangsa?
Nonetheless, I personally believe that warfare is not the ultimate strategy that we can use in order to finally attain our goals. We have tried this for decades now, but still we haven’t yet totally achieved our goals and this caused more harm than good to our people and communities. Our goals need a sustainable diplomatic methodology that shouldn’t result to the devastation of our people and their hard-earned properties. The well-being of our people must not be compromised at all times. This doesn’t mean that we will forsake our defense, no! Bear in mind that even our body has its own defense mechanism —the white blood cells that provide immunity to our body. They help in fighting against diseases, infections, allergies and foreign particles. These cells keep our body safe and healthy, much like the soldiers of a nation.
Consequently, I also do believe that we must embark and focus on other approach to address our long-time predicament by building a dynamic and stable Muslim community. Let us all put our guns down to give way to another methodology that we may possibly apply all through the process. Although, these are long term solutions, but it will be effective and suitable for our people and community and the impact is astonishing. Even if we will not attain the outcome, the children of tomorrow will surely reap the benefits of the sacrifices of today—and I am hopeful to Allaah that time may come soon.
Indeed, if we will just expand the boundaries of our minds and focus on to the peaceful remedies that will result positively as well as devote much of our lives towards creating peace—not destruction that the first and foremost to suffer are our own people and community, we can see gargantuan progress and development that will benefits our Agama, Hulah, and Bangsa. In fact, there are many contributing factors that are crucial and impressively simple that we can do to uplift the well-being of our people and community and if we want that our beloved Sulu will someday become progressive. Leaders must exhaust all possible means to uplift the lives of their people. These are only few from the many things that we must be focusing on:
1.) Education, be it Islamic and secular, play a crucial role if we want our community to gain splendid status from other communities. Also it plays one of the most important roles in the development of a community. Modern society is based on people who have high standards and knowledge which allows them to implement the best solutions for different problems. After all, education means innovation. Innovation and creativity can only occur when people are skilled enough to know how to operate with different technologies and machines. If we can build many Islamic and secular universities across Sulu, let’s do so. From it, various courses can be taken by students such as Islamic studies…like Islamic Law, History of the Prophet (Peace be upon Him), Medicine, Law, Engineering, Agriculture, Fisheries among others that can eventually contribute for the progress of our beloved Sulu. In so doing, the Tausug will no longer need to go far away from their homeland just for education. Let us produce more Tausug professionals from various specializations that can be of help in attaining our long term solutions. As a result, whenever we need an expert on a certain fields that we need to explore and develop, we have readily available who has the sense of patriotism to Agama, Hulah, and Bangsa. Just imagine if many Tausug possess this qualification. Let us uphold education because any society requires a good education system. The leaders of tomorrow are formed and inspired today. However, their leadership can only start by acquiring life lessons and having potential.
2.) Health Care System, just like education, is one of the foundations of good society. If everyone is free from diseases, we can able to do our tasks effectively. General hospitals as well as clinic must also be built across mainland part of Sulu in order to cater the health care needs of every citizen both living in rural and urban places alike. In so doing, no need for our people to go to other places in times of emergency because they have heath institutions in their own place capable of giving the quality health care that they need. These medical institutions must ensure that they follow high standard health care systems that suit our capacity and situation. Hospitals must equip with every machine that our people might need such as CT scan, mammography, MRI, etc. as well as medicines and it must also be readily available in all pharmacies. Additionally, for emergency purposes, we must have an ample ambulance to fetch patients that need to be taken to hospitals. We do have plenty health care professionals who are willingly committed to serve in their homeland. Let us raise the standard of our health care system because this is crucial for our goals.
3.) Environment and sanitation. Cleanliness is a half of faith. Thus, it is incumbent for everyone to ensure that their surrounding starting from their home and community is clean and tidy at all times and local government units or LGUs must be at the forefront in embarking and strengthening this noble advocacy to every citizen of their governed community. Each and every one must be responsible enough in disposing their garbage. Don’t throw it into the ocean as it will destruct our ecological system. Eventually, our children will be the one to suffer the repercussion of our bad deeds. Hence on this matter, LGUs must provide innovative approaches and solutions on waste and management as how this dilemma will be properly addressed.
4.) Economically speaking, “most of the residents are into the agriculture industry. Agricultural products include coconut, cassava, abaca, coffee, Lanzones, jackfruit, durian, mangosteens and marang. Jolo is the only municipality in Sulu that does not farm seaweeds. Fishing is the most important industry; otherwise people engage in the industries of boat building, mat weaving, coffee processing, and fruit preservation.” – (Garrido, Marco C. (2005-01-20). “Tribulation Islands, Part 2”. Asia Times.)
Alhamdu Lillaahi, thankfully, my homeland is truly blessed by Allaah that even if you are poor, you can still eat three times a day with fresh food, you can still go out with friends and have coffee in your favorite café with them, eat exotic fruits like durian, marang, Lanzones, mangosteens, among others. These are proof that the land and sea of Sulu have a huge potential for economic growth and rich in natural resources. Not only that, Sulu is also rich in numerous delicious world-class unique delicacies, although, this still needed to be marketed both national and international. Just imagine this, if Sulu has its own sardines’ factory and other factories that will turn Sulu raw products into finish one, what can be a great help to augment the employment of many Tausug! If other places have their own “Pasalubong ng Bayan”, we can also set up our own “Sasampangan daing ha LupahSug” fostering our delicious bawlu, hantak, panganan, durul, jah, and many more. That way, our people will be engage in business and our lives will be uplifted because we all have the descent work to earn halal living for our family.
5.) Moreover, not only some, but it must be every household in many rural communities across Sulu must enjoy the quality life that they deserved and entitled to such as comfortable restroom right beside their houses. Anyway, we have huge, vast tracks of lands where this restroom can be built. In so doing, the old practice of going to the jungle just to answer the call of nature will be eradicated. I couldn’t conceive women practicing this. They don’t deserve it. In fact, their modesty and chastity must be preserved and uphold; every road must have street lights even just solar powered street lights so that at night time total darkness will turn into bright night. At any emergency or untoward incident during the night, they can see the roads; direct water supply in every house so that no need for them to go to the far places just to take water; hospital or at least health clinic with available doctors, nurses, midwives, among others, as well as equip with the needed medicines and medical equipment; schools both for Islamic and secular education available with competent professional teachers providing best quality education. At the same time, the materials being used are upgraded and innovative, among others.
6.) Militants who are hiding in the jungle of Sulu, with all due respect, must come out and join our cause for our beloved Sulu. They must put to an end now to their bad activities that will only endanger the precious lives and hard-earned properties of our fellow Muslims and non-Muslims alike, as well as tarnish the splendid reputation of our Agama, Hulah, and Bangsa. You are a crucial part of the solutions to our various societal dilemmas. If you have grievances to our government, express it diplomatically and peacefully not with rancor that only result terror in the hearts of our beloved fellow-Tausug. Don’t you love us? Whom will you expect to love and take good care of our Agama, Hulah, and Bangsa if not first and foremost you; yes it’s you, and the rest of the resident of LupahSug, of course apart from Allaah. Hence, don’t be part of the problem; instead be at all times a proactive part of the solution.
Corollary to these, in order that we may achieve our ultimate goals, everyone must help hand-in-hand and we must all do what we can, now. This is absolutely a collaborative effort that every Tausug must take part. I perfectly resonate to what American author Matthew Lesko has said that: “Good government only happens when people working in it do their jobs, and do them well.” Indeed, union is strength. We all yearn for positive changes to happen in our beloved Sulu, but we must always remember that even Allaah wouldn’t change our situation if we ourselves will not change. Indeed, leadership (change) starts on one’s own self and at one’s own home and family. Should everyone will be doing this, in shaa Allaah, we can have a good if not best community. This is only basic things that everyone can easily do on their own, but has impressively positive impact to a larger horizon.
Finally, let us not allow that we will be forever left unprogressive. Let us be shameful to the next generation. The well-being of our people must not be compromised. Above all, let us always be reminded with this beautiful word of Allaah (Azza wa jaal); “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided.” – [Qur’an 3:103]. Change is real, surely it will happen. When? If we start if from ourselves by surrendering our desires to the will of Allaah and the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). As much as possible, let’s take from these two our formulas in addressing various dilemmas that we are facing in our day to day life. (Ar-Rayyan Mawallil Tulawie)
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