Practically the entire town of Tungawan in Zamboanga Sibugay accompanied around three dozen runners participating in the ongoing Run for Peace and Solidarity for Mindanao that is now on its third day to the next town of R.T. Lim some six (6) kilometers from the town center while formal talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended early today as the MILF announced that it will take back the government proposal to their Central Committee for discussion.
Led by its young Mayor Randy Climaco, thousands of residents- mostly students- joined the runners in an early morning program at 5:00 a.m. at the main town bus terminal before sending off the runners around 7:00 a.m. Climaco was also joined by his Vice-Mayor Abduraup Abison , members of the local council, the town’s police chief and the Commanding Officer of the 18th Infantry Batallion, Lt. Col. Erwin Alea.
Tungawan has been perceived to be a “no man’s land” until recently with incidents of massacres, bus burning, “salvaging” and kidnapping smearing its image. Climaco assured the runners and organizers of the Peace Run that this is no longer the case today. This was generally affirmed during a multi-sectoral community interaction with the runners convened by the Catholic parish church last night. Climaco however admitted that there were still some “petty crimes” around the town. Drugs have also been reported to be some source of a problem in the community. An MILF camp is situated in the surrounding mountains some 15 kilometers from the town center. Residents in the forum assert that the “crimes” were mostly perpetrated by outsiders and “lost command” elements and not those organically linked to the MILF.
At last night’s forum, residents thanked the runners who are members of the Bisayang Dako Alang Sa Kalinaw (BISDAK) or Genuine Visayans for Peace for passing by Tungawan and advocating for peace through a sport activity. Local businessman Edwin Tayag said that the presence of BISDAK is a challenge for Mindanaons like themselves to work even harder for peace as those from outside of Mindanao are sacrificing their own jobs and even lives for the same.
The Run for Peace contingent were then received by the equally young Mayor of R.T. Lim town, Michael Piodena with hundreds of his own constituents who then brought the runners to the municipal hall to savor some local delicacies and conduct a brief program. Lim then accompanied the runners to the town’s border with Ipil. The runners then proceeded with their 18 km run to the Municipal Hall where Councilor Felix Salinas and the municipal employees met them. A short program ensued with Salinas echoing the sentiment of Climaco and Tungawan residents about Ipil being perceived as a violent place where bandits roam. Ipil was burned in April 1995 by alleged Abu Sayyaf armed men. More than 50 died in the carnage. Salinas, a former fish vendor is a three-term councilor of Ipil.
The runners then took a lunch break in the municipal hall grounds partaking of food donated by a popular Filipino fast food chain. A local runner, Mario Manuel Rabosa decided to join the run after he witnessed the short program. A welcome downpour cooled down the runners as they prepared for their last stretch for the day to Kabasalan town, some 24 kilometers away. Kabasalan Mayor George Cainglet was at hand at the entrance of the Municipal grounds to welcome the runners around 3:00 p.m. with a school band that was only given a short notice to perform. Carrying the peace torch passed on by the runners to him, Cainglet then led dozens of municipal employees in enthusiastically chanting “Peace in Mindanao, Now Na!”.
The Peace Run is organized by the Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW), the broadest network of peace advocates for Mindanao in the country. The MPW is run by four NGOs as secretariats with the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) being its lead. IID is a regional advocacy organization based in Davao City.??The Peace Run will end in Cotabato City on August 31, a day after the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan. The run that started in Zamboanga City last Sunday will cover 452 kilometers which will approximately take 10 days.