Thinking of Davao and Iligan cities, I cannot help but be struck by the difference of the two cities in its attitudes regarding the separatist question. Davao, with a tough-talking, bravado-filled mayor in the mold of Dirty Harry treats this question gingerly. And to think that Davao City is known for “salvaging” (no, not the type related to recycling) that it even caught the attention of Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.
Iligan City, with a mayor with the looks that can be mistaken for a “sacristan” (sacrist) when he was younger is gung-ho with regards to this question notwithstanding that the city hosts a sizable Muslim population (resident and non-resident) and it just a doorstep away from Maranao-dominated areas.
Davao City, led by its mayor, treats Muslims with deference and respect. It continually build bridges of dialogue with its Moro brethren. Even though the city is built on conquered Moro territory, its inhabitants does not have the thinking and arrogance of conquerors.
Amazingly, it is the “first families of Davao” (those who accompanied Don Jose Oyanguren in the Spanish conquest of Davao in 1848) who are leaders in treating the Muslims of Davao properly. In fact,the highest award that can be bestowed by the city government, the Datu Bago Award, is named after the vanquished leader of the Moro tribes of Davao. In my life I have never heard of a thing like this and this show of magnanimity never cease to amaze me. Descendants of Datu Bago are still feted by the city government.
Talk to an Iliganon and one would usually hear talks that Muslims are always “interested” in “their” land (as if they were already there since time immemorial). Any development that favors Muslims will always be followed by “war talks” and “raising” of Christian “Ilaga” armies, the feared paramilitaries of the ’60s and ’70s whose most notorious members are the Manero brothers. “Ilaga” is feared because it targets civilians and desecrates its dead victims.
Intellectuals and academics of Iligan are not necessarily afflicted by this attitude. Mayor Lawrence Lluch Cruz once belonged to these sectors but it now seems he has to dance to the tune of the powers of Iligan who are always warlike against the Muslims (after all, the AFP will do the fighting for them and woe to the soldiers if the reaction is slow).
I recall a political dynasty that has always been anti-Moro, the Lobregats of Zamboanga. There is a joke that the more the Lobregats lash at the Moros the more bombings happen in Zamboanga City.
I do not know if this is the case of today’s bombing in Iligan. I also do not know if this is a sort of a “welcome” for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is set to visit Iligan tomorrow to inaugurate the new plant of “Suka Pinakurat” (Try it, it’s different, it’s bitey, a concoction Bicolanos and parabuyong will probably appreciate). Because a bomb also went off last week in Maguindanao which forced her to cancel her visit.
I find it even ironic that one of the shopping centers bombed, the Jerry’s Bargain Center (the other being UniCity) did not get bombed in its native place, Pagadian City. This city, which sits atop an old Muslim sultanate (Labangan) doesn’t get bombed as often as Zamboanga and Iligan cities, home of warlike leaders. And to think that Pagadian City is probably the murder capital of the Philippines.
They say that, in Mindanao, aerial bombings and artillery shellings of Muslim areas during flashes of war don’t pay. For next comes the urban bombings. Now I do not know if this is the case here. But a month ago, bombs also exploded in two Iligan hostels.
Will this cease? I don’t think so. From my experience, bombings in Mindanao never cease as long as there is a war going on.