• The long, lonely road through Camp Abubakar

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    Camp Abubakar, for so many years, was a name which evoked fear among the Christians but served as a source of pride for the Muslims in Southern Mindanao.

    In the late 1990s up until the day then President Joseph Estrada launched a major offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberartion Front (MILF), Camp Abubakar was the seat of power of the de facto Bangsamoro government headed by the late Ustadz Hashim Salamat.

    For majority of the Muslims in Central Mindanao, Camp Abubakar was their Malacañang where leaders were summoned for important consultations and where wayward members of the MILF and even Muslim civilians were brought to for discipline and punishment.

    For most Christians, Camp Abubakar was the seat of power of an organization they perceived to be a threat to their lives, properties and peace in their communities.

    For the military, it was a No Man’s land where those who ventured risked losing their lives.

    Indeed, when the Armed Forces overran and captured Camp Abubakar, they paid a very high price in so many lives lost which included high ranking officers.

    The long stretch of road from Parang in Maguindanao Province to Malabang, Lanao del Sur called the Narciso Ramos Highway is considered a high-risk stretch where travelers are advised to take only during day-time.

    Yesterday, Friday, Feb. 13, I and my staff of three decided to take the shorter route going home to Kidapawan City from Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte.

    We had been on the road for four days with Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte in the continuing Federalism advocacy which brought us to Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, and the cities of Dapitan and Dipolog in Zamboanga del Norte.

    The trip back to Kidapawan City via the “safer” route which would take us to Cagayan de Oro City back to Kidapawan City via Davao would have been a day-long travel.

    Passing through the Camp Abubakar route was a bit scary but it would only take us about six to 8 hours.

    The members of the staff were scared but I assured them that even with the tension between the government and the MILF following the Mamasapano carnage, there was still relative peace in the area.

    I was thankful I made the decision to pass through the long, lonely stretch of the Narciso Ramos Highway because it gave me an opportunity to see for myself how the people in this “feared” area were leading their lives.

    What I saw gave me a pleasant surprise.

    Along the way, I saw the highway being repaired by a construction group whose equipment fleet was being guarded by military men.

    Local people were working on the road projects.

    The vehicles we met along the road were not that many but most of these were small cargo vehicles carrying bananas, copra, boxes containing fish to be delivered to Cotabato City, obviously.

    In Tukuran town, Zamboanga del Sur, I and the staff dropped by the fish post and bought fresh fish for P45 per kilo.

    Very near the former Camp Abubakar, which is now the headquarters of the 603rd Brigade of the Philippine Army, and I and the staff got off to take photos of the beautiful sunflowers in full-bloom by the side of the road.

    In the fertile lands and by the seaside, I saw farmers and fishermen do their daily work.

    Children coming home from school to prepare for Friday prayers frolicked along the highway. One of them took a rest inside a concrete culvert by the side of the highway.

    They were all moving in easy gait and seemingly unconcerned that there is an air of fear enveloping other parts of Central Mindanao because of the Mamasapano carnage.

    I could not help but feel both pity and admiration for the people I saw along the long stretch of road.

    I pitied them because development appeared slow in coming to the area, perhaps because of the fear of Camp Abubakar.

    But I also admired them because in spite of the apparent neglect by government, they seemed to be contented with their simple lives.

    Maybe, if true and lasting peace were achieved in this part of the country, the Narciso Ramos Highway will cease to be a long and lonely stretch of road seldom traveled.

    Sadly, as the nation grieves over the tragedy in Mamasapano and the national politicians dance to the cries of the angry multitude, peace seems to be as elusive now as it had been in the past.

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    3 Comments

    1. what is wrong with the everyday citizen who elect politicians that tolerate
      terrorist who even establish their own government and military,
      the voters get what they deserve, and it is not the fault of the terrorist who are tolerated and pampered.

      as for the next generation of filipinos ,they will be either born or grow up in
      america, japan, australia, new zealand, europe and will even thanks their parents for sacrificing everything just to be able to leave the philippines

    2. In my humble opinion the only problem I see here is the desire of Muslim to have their own Islamic state so they can establish a caliphate governed bySharia law. The problem with this is Sharia belongs to the medivial times and can never co-exist with our Philippine constitution which is a legislation that is dynamic, enacted by reasonable legislator, that is supposed to carry us towards the future and beyond. An independent state that has its own laws that is conceived during the time of the prophet Mohamed has no place in a progressive and civilized society. In fact it undermines the constitution. Under our constitution there is freedom of religion, under Sharia law there is one God but Allah and Mohamed is his prophet. This statement to me is telling me that there is no other religion that will be tolerated, and in addition if you are not a Muslim you are non believer and an infedil and should be put to the sword! I do not profes to be a Koran scholar but I believe that it is like reading a horrorscope you tailor it to what suites you. Again this is just my opinion scrap the BBL!!

      • emmanuel mallari on

        I beg to disagree with your statement. Middle East countries like Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, etc with exception of Saudi Arabia allowed the existence of Catholic churches with nary a problem.