Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Issue No. 45                         December 23 - 29,  2001                   Quezon City, Philippines

Join the Bulatlat.com mailing list!

Powered by groups.yahoo.com

Photo Essay
At The Da’Wah Center: A Call for Help


Text and photos by CARLOS H. CONDE


Here, in the hall where many a Moro dream was declared in the past, people like 21-year-old Maira are dreaming of just one thing: to be given the chance to return to their homes, free from the ravages of strife.

"We've been here for almost two years now," Maira says, covering her face with a scarf.
She sounds as if some great force had swept them off their land and forced them to endure the indignity of living within the dark confines of the Da'wah Center in Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao. (Da'wah literally means "call").

That force was Joseph Estrada and the war he unleashed on the Moro people, with catastrophic effect.



In this multipurpose center alone, at least 300 families are living in conditions that can only be described as miserable. Children are far from healthy. Food is hard to come by.  And although the government and some nongovernmental organizations like the Kadtuntaya Foundation and the Medicins Sans Frontiers have done their share in alleviating the conditions of the refugees, there are still many of them who are without jobs, without food, and without adequate shelter (many of them have even used anti-Estrada banners to build their shanties or divide the main hall of the center into several "rooms").

Worse, they have been bereft, too, of dignity. There's just too much suffering not to think of that, no matter that it may not be accurate or fair. "I cannot even describe what I and the others here feel," Maira says, her voice shaking. "I'm still mad."

Maira is from Barira, a town allegedly within the influence of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. She was studying at the Cotabato State Polytechnic College when the war destroyed their home and forced her family to evacuate to the Da'wah Center. She has never gone back to school since.

"We cannot go back to our town because of the presence of many soldiers there," Maira says. Her parents, she says, are hardly inside the center. "They are always out looking for work."

All over Maguindanao, thousands of Moro people displaced by Estrada's war are still languishing in subhuman conditions.

All over this province, one can still hear the wailing of sick and hungry children, one can still discern sadness in the blank stares of old men seemingly resigned to their fate, and one can still hear the mutterings of angry women who, nearly two years after the all-out war, are still trying to make sense of it all. (MindaNews/Bulatlat.com)


We want to know what you think of this article.