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Hope Amidst War in Zamboanga

Submitted by: regina
On: 10/11/2013

 “We wait for peace to no avail and terror comes instead”.

Being born and growing up in the regions of Isabela and Bicol where the culture and life situations are very different from that of Zamboanga Peninsula, made us shiver to see the gruesome realities on TV on how innocent civilians were used as human shields and pawns in the war in Zamboanga City. It was an unbelievable site to watch.

Despite efforts to prepare the girls for the worst possible scenario and to get in touch with our Sr. Henedina Mananzan and having asking her if Cagayan de Oro could be our future evacuation place, the aspiration to go out of our comfort zones and be with the wounded and traumatized burst into flames within our hearts. Friends both in the non- government organizations (NGO) and government agencies were faithful in giving updates and asking for prayers. Hence, praying for peace took on a new understanding and meaning.

On October 27 at 2:00 am, together with our 2 lay mission partners from the DWSD and Maebeth, we travelled to the bus station to catch the first trip that will bring us to Zamboanga City. The JFE Sports Complex became the biggest evacuation and internal refugee center for the majority of our Moslem brothers and sisters. These people were from the most affected communities, zones of conflict of Rheo Londo, Mariki, Sta. Catalina, and, Sta. Barbara. The RVM convent was our base for the next 3 days.

In the morning, the Badjaos and their tents along the sea side of Port Pilar were the scenes that greeted us on our way to the grandstand as volunteers help victims in the stress debriefing trauma management center. Usually we would be back in the convent by 8:00 pm. Two social workers also stayed late to do their duties.

The Good Shepherd Spirituality

Most of those who came for debriefing were women, with their children in tow. They shared their ordeals and triumphs on how they saved their lives and those of their loved ones. Since majority of them were Muslims, we had to adjust our ears to be familiar with the sound of their names and spelling when we wrote them in the debriefing sheets. Solidarity and faith enabled us to listen to their stories and withstand the danger of the possibility of an attack from within the refugee camp as articulated by the women themselves. Sometimes, we would hear the roar of helicopters, the sound of a bomb, a siren from an ambulance or see smokes going up in the sky. The Spirit of the Good Shepherd strengthened us to face the rigors of language barriers, culture, prejudices, and, danger knowing that some of those whom we came face to face during the debriefings were relatives of MNLFs. On our 2nd day in the refugee camp, the presence of policemen/women were visibly felt, their number increased the following day including that of the military.

Light Dispels Darkness

We are one with the innocent civilians, especially the women and children and the elderly, in our prayers, aspirations, and, struggle for a society that is just and violence free.  A violence that has become cyclical and demonic. The violence brought by war.

We hold on to God’s promises of lasting peace. “They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not raise sword against nation; they will train for war no more.” (Isaiah 2: 4-5) We remember with deep gratitude and admiration the unsung heroes who silently toiled and sheltered the infirm, the elderly, and, the children evacuees in the confines of their convents amidst stray bullets; the working students who chose to stay on to serve instead of going back to the safety of their places of origin; the teachers, who risked going to critical evacuation centers to bring food and other supplies, to those who prayed to the God they believed in that all will be well. Most of all, to the many valiant women who in the most trying situations did their best to save the lives of their loved ones and face the future with hope. 

 Srs. Tess Cordova and Virgo Espineda

Pagadian Community