June 17, 2011

The second article on my coverage of the first Mindanao Bike for Peace is up now in the MONDAY MAGAZINE blog in the Editor’s Notebook section.

Excerpts follow:

Pastel and Combat Boots

Notes from the field at the first Bike for Peace in Maguindanao and Cotabato Province.
By KARL R. De MESA (Deputy Editor)

The ground is filled with the overlapping prints of combat boots. The mess hall reeks of sweat, steamed rice and trampled grass. The cadets consume their food on the beat, to the voice of their trainers’ count.

Where we are is Camp Siongco in Maguindanao. It’s a literal stone’s throw from the Cotabato City airport and it’s also the headquarters of the 6thInfantry Division of the Philippine Army. The nickname of the division is Kampilan – a long, broad bladed sword of Moro origin, the same tapered weapon used by the Maranaos since the days of yore.

Around 1,000 personnel of mixed divisions populate the base excluding the cadets we’re now regarding. Colonel George Avila, Commander of the 6th Army Training Group oversees this whole operation of honing civilian mush into veritable swords fit for soldiery.

“Understanding local culture is essential in teaching our operational courses,” says Avila. “We want them to be critical which you may not expect from a military course. Out here, we need to be more adaptive to the environment.”

We’re here to cover the first ever Bike for Peace event in Mindanao courtesy of the Office of the Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and Avila’s thoughts on adaptation coupled with tolerant understanding are words to live by. They’re keys to the intricate puzzle that makes up the peace talks in South Central Mindanao. . .

Read the full piece HERE.


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