“Mag-bakwit” or “to evacuate” is what the children, men and women of Lapok and Tapikan villages did when they heard gunshots in the middle of the night.
Most of them ran on foot, with their carabaos, chickens, ducks, and anything they could carry with them, covering at least two kilometers of distance away from their homes.
That is what happened to a community living in tents in Shariff Aguak town since February 2015. But without supplies like trapal (tarpaulin) and banig (hand-woven mats), the ground is barely covered, and the tents have holes.
One of the women living in a temporary shelter recalls a night when it rained and water seeped everywhere. Worms crawled out of the ground and ants fell from the trees, she says. But without the rain, the heat coarsened and cracked the earth making even just walking around painful.
The weather and their temporary shelters, however, are the least of their worries. Supply of toiletries and food has not been enough for their families. They have always been wondering how to survive whenever they need to evacuate. “Kung ‘di kami ma-suplayan dito, eh ‘di wala, (Here, if we are not given supplies, we have nothing,)” Noraisa from Tapikan says.
But they won’t go home even if they long to. Aside from having no livelihoods to go back to with their farming cycles disrupted, they are afraid of getting hit by stray bullets or their homes hit with mortars.
They need assistance, but their sincere hope is for things to go back to normal. They do not want to live longer in a situation where they are in constant fear of getting caught in the crossfire.
The older ones say there was peace for a time. The last time they experienced beingbakwits was when the peace negotiations collapsed in 2008 and warlords ruled the area, grabbing land from the indigenous.
For most of the children, this is their first time to be bakwits. Their education is disrupted. Their simple dreams of helping their families are now farther out of their reach.
“Napakahirap talaga ng ganito, (It’s really difficult here,)” Samraida says. At 20 years old, Samraida is four months pregnant with her first child.
“Di natin alam kung anong kinabukasan ng mga anak natin kung patuloy lang ‘yung ganito, ‘yung giyera. (We don’t know what our children’s future will be if this continues, this battle.)”
Another generation is inheriting the conflict unless something is done.
(Paul Dawnson Formaran/ Teach Peace Build Peace Movement)
Mindanao Peace Mission in Maguindanao: Why Peace Project by the Teach Peace Build Peace Movement in partnership with Center for Social Concern and Action (DLSU-COSCA), Kaya Natin Movement, Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao, Armed Forces of the Philippines and Young Moro Professionals Network.