Chanting “Peace in Mindanao, Now Na!”, more than a thousand children from around 13 schools along the Maria Lobregat highway between Curuan district and Tungawan municipality in Zamboanga gave a stirring welcome to the runners participating in the second day of the Run for Peace and Solidarity for Mindanao as they passed their schools.
Braving heat, rain and time as they waited for hours for the mostly Visayan runners, the children waved small flags emblazoned with words of “Peace”, “Kalinaw”, “Salam”, “Paz” and “Kapayapaan”; held aloft posters with messages and drawings; played a drum roll, sang a song of peace, “high-fived” and clapped for the runners, provided water, candies, boosting the morale and energy of the runners as they passed them by.
One poster in Lower Tungawan read: “The Ailing Peace in Mindanao Awaits To Heal: Its Never Too Late to Care…”
Ten-year old Cristy Joy Frondoza also of Lower Tungawan Elementary School mused “Sana magkaisa na ang lahat ng tao para makamit ang katahimikan, wala ng gulo, away, barilan, patayan (Hopefully people will unite so we achieve peace and there will be no more troubles, fighting, shooting and killings”).
Grade One teacher Neneng Dequita, 42, of Tingbungabong Elementary School broke into tears upon hearing the collective chant of the children lining up the highway in front of her school. “ Nangilabot ako. Na touch sa sigaw ng mga bata para sa kapayapaan. Dapat talaga lahat magkaisa. Malapit na sana natin makamit ito. Simulan natin sa sarili. Peace in Mindanao, Now Na! (I felt goose pimples. I was touched by the chant of the children. We really need to unite. I really wish that peace is at hand. But we need to start with ourselves.)”
The Run for Peace and Solidarity for Mindanao took off from Zamboanga City last Sunday featuring more than two dozen running and bike enthusiasts from Bohol, Dumaguete, Digos, Davao and Cotabato. The run will end in Cotabato City on 31 August covering a total of 452 kilometers. The runners today covered 64 kilometers in 8 hours.
At the Mangusu elementary school, the runners paused from their run to receive a blessing from an Imam and token of thanks from members of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP) which hosted the
runners in Zamboanga City. The IRSMP is a network member of the Mindanao Peaceveawers (MPW)- the broadest peace advocates coalition for Mindanao in the country who organized the run. The MPW is anchored by the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a regional advocacy institution based in Davao City.
The run is being staged as part of MPW’s campaign of raising awareness, constituency building such as citizen’s support for a peaceful negotiated settlement to the conflict in Mindanao. The run coincides with the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
As the runners meandered their way to Upper Tungawan, heavy clouds formed into a looming heavy downpour. Only when the runners finally passed and the young children were safe back in their classrooms did the rain finally break.