Not even a heavy downpour could douse the enthusiasm of the Municipality of Buug in Zamboanga Sibugay yesterday when they welcomed around 50 runners and their support crew in the ongoing Run for Peace and Solidarity for Mindanao that is on its 4th day today. This reflected how the Buug community as well as the other municipalities along the route taken by the runners went all out in embracing the runners coalesced under the advocacy group Bisayang Dako Alang Sa Kalinaw (BISDAK, Genuine Visayans for Peace).
Key local leaders affirmed their support for the calls of the Peace Run for a more active citizen’s participation in the peace process as well as for a negotiated political settlement as a means to end the conflict in Mindanao and the rest of the country.
Prof. Mildred B. Masong, Director of the Mindanao State University in Buug called on local residents to start the peace journey with one’s self echoing the teachings of the Christian bible while local Muslim leader Moner Ampuan also said the same teachings appear in the Koran. Moner also challenged Buug residents to organize themselves for peace advocacy in response to the challenge of the Peace Run.
Earlier, local officials led the actual welcome of the runners when they arrived at the town border from Diplahan. They were joined by motorcycle enthusiasts, bikers, local police, two ambulances and even the town’s lone fire truck.
Officials from the Mayor’s office led the ceremonies with Moro, indigenous, academic and religious representatives in the municipality were at hand to greet the Peace Run. An elaborate formal welcome ceremony was held at the town’ bus terminal despite a series of cloudbursts that lasted till almost midnight. Students in their uniforms patiently sat down and performers of special and intermission numbers paid no heed to the heavy rain. Their grit and spunk mirrored the commitment of the BISDAK runners who have so far run 267 kms out of the 452 kms that they aim to cover up to Cotabato City.
Earlier at noon, the runners were also welcomed warmly by the Municipality of Siay and Imelda. Imelda Vice-Mayor Rodelyn Pabayos led municipal employees in receiving the runners at the municipal hall where a hearty lunch was prepared for them. In the afternoon, a short forum was held between the runners and the government employees.
Judito Cabusao, Program Manager of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) which spearheaded the run together with BISDAK and the Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW), challenged the employees and Imelda residents to share the “peace” the are enjoying to the rest of Mindanao. Vice Mayor Pabayos affirmed their Municipality’s support to the campaign.
Meanwhile, the One Million Voices for Peace in the Philippines campaign that is also being carried by the Peace Run has been gaining ground. Around two dozen schools along the national road traversed by the run have vowed to collect signatures from students, parents and their communities. The OMV was also adopted by all the municipal governments the runners paid courtesy calls to.