Neither the swelling heat nor the crowded covered court can dampen the jovial mood of thousands of Laua-anons in Antique in celebration of their town’s 103rd founding anniversary and 13th Pahinis Festival. The buoyant cheers from students, teachers, elders and townsfolk were widely heard amidst the rhythmic beating of the drums, as they welcomed the arrival of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza for the first time.
However, in the middle of the applauding crowd was a frightened soul ready for a ceremonial offering: a wild pig bound by its legs, occasionally crying for mercy.
The soft clanks of metal signaled its verdict – a tribe elder raised his spear and bolo, chanted a prayer for good harvest and protection, and danced with the music as he slowly circled around the creature. From time to time, the elder will either strike his spear straight to the pig’s abdomen or slash with his bolo. The piercing screech of agony that came afterwards was undeniable.
The swine, drenched in its own blood, was hard to miss.
“I am sorry, Mayor – I know this is not part of the program. But may I intervene?”
Dureza stood up, politely asking to halt the ritual as well. The music faltered and the crowd waited in bated breath as the peace adviser addressed the town’s local chief.
“I can see the upset expressions of our audience here. So may I ask if we can compromise instead and beg for mercy on this pig’s life?”
Now addressing the tribal elder, Dureza continued, “I hope that we would not offend your tribe if we ask to postpone this ritual. First of all, I respect the culture that your tribe is practicing. However, I am also considering the beliefs of other people here, some of whom are Muslims.”
Dureza, repeating his request, said: “That is why I am asking you to postpone the ritual and just come up with an agreement – how about you take this pig to your home, take care of it until it grows, and then you can kill it when it’s healthier? Mayor will send me a kilo of this to Davao as a remembrance of our agreement. Is it okay with you?”
A warm round of applause ensued after Dureza’s proposition. Both the mayor and the tribe elder agreed, chuckling, and the spared pig was promptly removed out of the center stage.
To save, not to kill
The intervention that morning was a reflection of the work behind the peace process. Advocates envisioned a just and lasting peace that involves saving more lives, families and communities – not to decrease its number or to burn bridges.
“We have to work for peace together. ‘Wag niyo iiwan ang trabaho sa mayors, LGUs, o sa OPAPP because the real work to sustain peace lies in your communities,” Dureza remarked during his inspirational message at the festival’s program.
Dureza also reminded the Laua-anons that pursuing peace among their communities should start from within themselves, stressing that they cannot share what they don’t have.
New peace paradigm
Despite the armed conflicts between the government and insurgent groups, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on the other hand has been at the forefront in pursuing peace.
In the course of the peace process, the approach in handling it was also evolving. During his speech, Dureza introduced the agency’s paradigm shift that underscored how the negotiations should be a simultaneous action along with the execution of peace promoting development projects.
One example of this was the projects under the PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) program. These PAMANA projects were amongst the highlighted agenda during Dureza’s meeting with 47 local chiefs of Panay Island, in which he underlined the importance of fostering conflict sensitive and peace promoting initiatives in their own communities.
PAMANA is the government’s convergence initiative that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-vulnerable communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.
Settling for peace
Throughout the years, peace advocates have come to learn that settlements were somehow necessary when it comes to the peace process. Both parties can present their varying priorities, but negotiations mean that the people involved should also arrive on a common ground – thus comes peace.
The process may have been long and arduous, but the little steps taken by each administration marked progress towards what the nation has been attaining for – a legacy for peace, not war. ###