Maguindanao in my mind

Can a land be cursed?

Oh, Maguindanao!
Why is your earth so hungry to swallow souls?
Why does your soil bear graveyards
That torch a nation’s psyche?
Why does your name conjure up
Visions of fallen men and women –
Their voices silenced before their prime?
Why is peace so elusive in your air?
How much more can your people bear?

Oh, Maguindanao!
When will justice be done?
And so it goes, when hope is gone ….
Farmers, tired of tilling from dawn till end of light,
Stow rifles at their sides, ready to fight.
Tired of waiting for a government with promises to keep,
They moonlight as militia, forsaking their sleep, 
While in their bosoms: mothers, wives, daughters and sisters weep.

It may seem odd that a matron who largely spends her time outside the house shopping should write about a place that she has never visited much less mingled with its residents. Let me explain. Twenty years ago, I married a farmer’s son. Thereafter, a world that was hiherto unknown opened itself up to me. Alien to city dwellers, the rural life remains living reality for the majority of people in the Philippines. That it is a daily experience for so many Filipinos still astounds me to this day.

With each visit, I had to keep my mouth shut from complaining and reach out to find a common ground with folks with whom I had little in common. Thus, I know. About farmers who get up two hours before sunrise, drink a mug of hot coffee then go out to till their fields or mind their livestock before having breakfast at daybreak. About walking a kilometer or two to fetch water or wash clothes when the water pump runs dry during summer. About barking dogs that signal the presence of Communist guerrillas lurking around at midnight. Frankly, I doubt whether those commuters and motorists cursing the traffic in Metro Manila will readily trade places with a farmer living in a barrio without electricity or water flowing from a faucet.

Then again, I’m a journalist’s daughter. And. The audacity of the perpetrators behind the Ampatuan Massacre six years ago still leaves me gagging. So much so that I promised to pen a poem after reading about the Mamasapano clash last year and the Christmas Eve murder of farmers by the BIFF.

Can a land be cursed? I don’t know but Maguindanao sure seems to be …

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