about me, i am a christian, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, my country: the philippines, my travels, this is my family

Dear PDiggy: Please Work On Lasting Peace for the Mangyans (and Every Filipino)

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If my Papa were alive today, I don’t think he’d allow me to join the mission team in the mountains of Mindoro. A military man, he was the enemy of the LEFT, and in fact we weren’t allowed to enroll in UP for he feared we’re too gullible and just find ourselves in the mountains. I don’t know. But if my Papa were alive today, I’d tell him the ceasefire is real where I came from.

I do not claim to be an expert of this world. From my comfortable place, in my Metro Manila existence, I never claimed to understand the significance of the ceasefire apart from the absence of “kills”. A semblance of peace seems good enough and I took comfort in that, but I never really grasped what people talk about until I felt it–and saw it for real.
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The two sites I served in with Team Jesus were to Mangyan (Iraya) Tribes. Both tucked away so far into the mountains, they are hardly reached. A patient of mine half-joked, “Umaasa lang kami sa ambon” (We only wait for rain to fall here). That’s sad, right? But do you know why it’s so hard to reach these areas? Apart from the fact that they are more or less forgotten, they live in RED-infiltrated areas. They live in critical areas where entry is next to impossible. The ARMY Lieutenant we were working with told me that before ceasefire, it was so much different because no one could just enter the area, much more to bring a civilian, like myself. The “friendlier” environment has changed things. It may not be much, but it is truly something you cannot just dismiss.

So yes PDiggy, with the little that I understand and can grasp about all this, I thank you for working on the ceasefire and I pray that you can truly bring peace this way. I don’t know how far you’ll succeed here, but even as a military brat, I wish you well. Just imagine how many communities, tucked away so far, become even farther because the people reside in unsafe areas of the country. Of course this is just one aspect of the depth of the difficulties of the Mangyans (and the many IPs), but I now have a better grasp of how the dream of long-lasting peace can improve the lives of the Filipinos in the outskirts.

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If my dad were here, he wouldn’t have allowed me to join the mission. I was telling my sister about my trip and she agreed that Papa would have sent people to get me from the mountains. He was a military man and I grew up hating the “armed” leftists because my dad hated them. He would have flipped if he learned I slept in an Army infantry camp, but I know he would be proud of the work I was a part of, because he’s always been proud of his personal dentist.

As for me, I am proud to be a part of a team whose passion for service is incomparable. To my dear President Duterte, let’s work on lasting peace, can we, not just for the Mangyans but for everyone. I understand what you mean now.

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