Had the privilege of attending the 36th Commencement Exercises of the MSU-Maguindanao, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.It’s a three-hour ride from General Santos City. It’s one of the eleven campuses of the Mindanao State University System. Strategically located in Maguindanao, known for its war and the infamous Maguindanao Massacre, the campus has a very crucial and important mission to accomplish in the development of the province.
It’s not in this place that the massacre happened, but at the nearby town of Sharif Aguak (one hour trip from the school). In fact, Datu Odin Sinsuat is one of the most peaceful towns in Maguindanao. It’s were the internally displaced persons (IDP’s) or bakwits find refuge when there’s conflict in the nearby area.
When I stepped down from the Huskey bus, I noticed that there was an armored vehicle by the main entrance. Didn’t feel nervous at all. Thought it was just part of the protocol for a tank to be there for every special event. Men in uniform respectfully checked my ID, and after showing them they let me in.
That’s the second time I visited this campus. I had a consultative meeting with the student leaders there last November 2010.
I went directly to the Training Center, the holding area for the visitors. It was then that I learned that at 11am there will be a ceremonial MOA signing between the Provincial Government of Maguindanao and the MSU re: 500 scholarship grants given by the LGU. To my surprise, no less than the Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu arrived in the center by about 11 am. Later I’ve learned that he’ll be the guest speaker of the Commencement at 1:30 in the afternoon.
Together with the Governor were his brothers and cousin holding key positions in the various municipalities and province of Maguindanao. I cannot remember their names anymore, except Mayor Sajid Mangudadatu who’s seat was on my left. If I could remember it right, he shared an insight that if you want to develop a community for a year plant corn. If you want to develop a community for twenty years educate people… for a hundred years, plant a tree.
I told myself that I’m lucky to see these people. Before I just saw them in the television. Now they’re here before my eyes. I could feel a sense of empathy for this family. It must have been so painful—the pain and suffering of losing a wife on a horrific death, beyond one could imagine. I dared not ask about the case.
The LGU of Maguindanao granted five hundred scholarship slots to the poor but deserving students who will be enrolling in MSU. Considering the first year enrollees range in that number also, it seems to me that almost all of the first year students will be scholars.
As emphasized by the Governor in his speech, education still is the key to progress in Maguindanao. With a very few number of people who finished college, they are putting resources in education not just in MSU, but as well as in USM, Cotabato Polytechnic and in some other schools who have students coming from Maguindanao.
He also shared a painful story of the demise of his seven-year old child years ago due to dengue. It could have been prevented had the doctor carefully examined and detected the disease in its early stage. The moment they learned about it, they’re suppose to bring her to Davao. Sadly, the child didn’t make it. On their way to Davao, the child was nosebleeding which forced them to stop at the nearest clinic. There the child died.
They thought of suing the doctor and the hospital. After giving a thought of it, they decided not to pursue the case which could have costed the license of the doctor and the closure of the hospital. Instead they put up a foundation in their child’s name which would focus on education.
INVESTMENT IN MSU IS AN INVESTMENT TO PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT IN MINDANAO
President Muslim, after reading and studying many books in Mindanao problem and the Bangsamoro struggle, concluded that EDUCATION is the key to solution in the Mindanao conflict. I couldn’t agree more. And with this the MSU has a unique and vital role to play. It’s the only peace university in the Philippines with a mandate to integrate the Muslim minority and the lumads in the national body politics. I’ve heard that it was Muslim rebel Camlon of Sulu asked for a university during the consultation of the Commission of the National Integration (CNI) in the late 50’s. There are MSU campuses in Marawi, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Norte. I couldn’t imagine these places without MSU.
So, a million thanks to Gov. Mangudadatu for the scholarship grants. It does not just help individuals to finish a degree, but it’s a great contribution to the peace and development situation in the area. This is the challenge to political leaders–to pour out resources in MSU and other universities within the conflict-afflicted area. The return of investment is high, affecting the next generation.
CONGRATULATIONS AND THANKS
Congratulations to the graduates of the MSU-Maguindanao and all the MSU Campuses.
Thanks to Chancellor Bai Soraya Sinsuat of Maguindanao for a very warm welcome. Worth mentioning in relation to its Peace mandate, the leaders of MSU-Maguindanao advised the students not to return in their respective places when there’s a conflict. They inform the families, and provide them (students) shelter and food. The reason is that when these students return to their homes when there’s still conflict, they might drop out and join the the armed groups.
This is one of the unique features of MSU: it “competes with MILF, MNLF, and ASG Camps in attracting young Muslims.”
One of the reasons I have hope that genuine PEACE in Mindanao will eventually reign is because of MSU. Seeing the efforts of MSU-Maguindanao with the support coming from the LGU, peace, no matter how seemingly elusive, is within reach.