Submitted by Siglo

What seemed to be an elusive figure to the Bangsamoro communities in Mindanao became an active player to the recent series of events, dialogues and even performances for the Bangsamoro people— Peace. The initiatives of joint partnerships led by the British Council enabled the convergence of key personalities in the quest for the Bangsamoro’s self-governance and discuss concerns on the Bangsamoro struggles and triumphs. 

The Bangsamoro and Beyond: A National Conversation transformed the Dolphy Theatre into a safe space for exchanges on matters concerning the Bangsamoro people; the future of the region; and the anticipated struggles to be confronted by its communities. The ‘messaging’ on Peace was indeed apparent, even outside of the context of panel discussions as food became a vessel to share tables with peoples of different practices, affiliations, regions, and even races. It was festive to say the least, and most of the Filipinos take pride in the joy of solidarity through occasions and feasts. The coming together was indeed a good rehearsal for what we were preparing for the audience.

Moments before the panel discussion took place, artists of the Sining Kambayoka, a performing group from the Marawi State University, showcased the richness of the Bangsamoro culture. This was when we, artists of Sipat Lawin X, took the cue to invite everyone to register for our post-panel performance, and get a boarding pass, a symbolic ticket to Komunidad: Bangsa Salam. We were more than delighted to receive a positive sense of curiosity among the people at the Dolphy Plaza. People from the Bangsamoro, from Manila, from different institutions, became more and more interested with the idea of the boarding pass -  where should they travel to?; who were they supposed to visit?; and what should they do?We invited everyone to simply join us in co-building a peaceful Bangsamoro. That was the invitation, and the rest was history.

The conversations with the panellists were urgent, straightforward, and yes, enlightening to the point of magnifying hopes for a peaceful manifestation of the Bangsamoro aspirations in the years to come. The forum host Karen Davila’s line of questioning was keen on providing better avenues to bridge gaps among the legislators and the greater populace of both the Moros and the non-Moros. This was when we as artists acknowledge the power of dialogues and communications to enlighten legal nuances and implications on the future of the Bangsamoro, and the Philippines. More importantly, it was also an opportunity for us to get a sense on how to prepare for the performance and transform  a very formal discussion to a softer structure of exchange; an exchange that accommodates the voices of the citizens and of the ordinary people. 

 

An equally important post-event came to fruition —the Komunidad: Bangsa Salam (Peaceful Bangsamoro Community). The artists of Sining Kambayoka, through a showcase of cultural performances, welcomed group of people entering a symbolically transformed community to generate conversations and to share the rituals celebrating togetherness. 

Prominent members of organisations working for and with the Bangsamoro people were among the observers of the peaceful encounters unfolding. The performance of Sining Kambayoka transitioned to a formation of one big circle led by a litany of “pagpupugay” (giving honor) to people, spaces, pasts, struggles, activism and aspirations. This continued as members of both Sipat Lawin X and Sining Kambayoka passed the mic among its members and later on to the audience-participants who took the nature of the ceremony. This then led to a community prayer — one of an ecumenical praise hymn and the other of Islam. It broke my heart to witness some participants wiping their tears. It was indeed a moment to cherish with everyone.

The artist-facilitators then directed “Magsama-sama” (join together) where certain prompts were given for participants to form small groups. With certain prompts as simple as ‘chocolate or coffee,’ different people were mixed together based on their truths and their preferences..  Through their respective groups, the participants entered the stations of conversation. to generate a specific nature of conversation or exchange among the group. The stations were themed Station I - “Buwag / Buo” (Destroy / Build); Station II - “Pangarap” (Dreams); Station III - “Pangako” (Promise); and Station IV -  “Tanim / Ani” (Plant / Harvest). Prior the prompts, each group gathered in their respective circles for “Pagpapakilala” (introducing oneself). After each station activity, the groups were then shepherded to a new station by the Sining Kambayoka artists.

The participants were asked to build a documented performance in fifteen (15) minutes based on the collection of notes gathered for each station. The types of performance were also determined by the skills of the facilitator in the station. The group at Station I with performed Buwag / Buo through a Skit, the group at Station II performed Pangarap through Shadowplay, the group at Station III performed Pangako through Singing, and the group at Station IV performed Tanim / Ani through Dancing. The performance was documented by and was later on viewed by everyone.

The participants were all generous in sharing their views, their dreams and aspirations, their promises for a better Bangsamoro community; but more importantly, in their generosity, they acknowledged points of connections, common wishes — and in our own hopes — oneness and solidarity.

 “It was a performance orbiting around the idea of rehearsing togetherness, playing our own roles in our narratives of peace" as described by JK Anicoche, President of Sipat Lawin Inc. It was indeed a joyful performance in the hopes of brewing peaceful communities in the future Bangsamoro.

It was in those moments when I begin to feel the need to engage more in conversations; to get to know more of my fellow Filipinos; to listen and to facilitate the voice of the people (Moro or non-moro) all for a promise of a hopeful future for the country. Perhaps, in saying that the greater part of History is always ugly, we join our faiths to imagine and orchestrate a better history we will all thrive to build.

*Sipat Lawin Inc. is a contemporary group of artists that empowers communities through performances. To join future British Council and Sipat Lawin activities in the Bangsamoro, contact Bangsaforum@gmail.com.

“Bangsamoro and Beyond: A National Conversation” also airs on October 6 (Saturday) 10.30 PM and on October 14 (Sunday) 10.30 AM on the ANC (ABS CBN News Channel).