NEAR COMBAT JACK

June 9, 2011

My article on the first Bike for Peace in Mindanao is up on GMA News Online.

Below is an excerpt:

Maguindanao hosts ‘Bike for Peace’ in Mindanao

All around me is gunfire. The sharp sound of M16s releasing live rounds resonates through the air.

No, I haven’t joined the Army. This shooting exercise is part of the welcoming activities the 6th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (KAMPILAN) has rolled out for us lifestyle scribblers who were flown in for the first ever “Bike for Peace” event in Mindanao.

Usually, the biking events are held in Manila. But this one aims to celebrate the government’s newly resumed talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It’s a hopeful note about the continuation of negotiations, a touch of optimism towards a definitive agreement.

“Unless people come [to South Central Mindanao] they will never be able to understand that the caricature that’s been painted about the Bangsamoro people is not wholly true,” says Marvic Leonen, chief negotiator for the peace panel and Dean of the UP College of Law.

Our hosts and the people who manage Camp Siongco in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao, through the efforts of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, lined up a choice set of activities for the visiting journalists.

We witnessed the pomp of an Army retirement ceremony and dropped by the Mechanized Division to take a Simba Light Combat Vehicle for a spin. We dined on the local staple pastel — two tasty cups of rice mashed into one with chicken bits sprinkled on top and wrapped in fragrant banana leaf, it’s absolutely great with beef or vegetables. It is found in most carinderias in South Central Mindanao and in every soldier’s packed meal.

Now read the FULL STORY.

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