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May 1, 2014

Being a “Ka-Bayani” for Zamboanga

As the author returns to Zamboanga to check on the status of our brothers and sisters displaced by the Zamboanga siege, let’s look back on her call for us last March 2014 to be our countrymen’s keepers.

After the September 2013 standoff between the government security forces and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) troops, the displaced residents in Zamboanga City have been risking death everyday as they continue to stay in evacuation camps for almost 6 months after the crisis. Death toll of evacuees has already reached 88 in one of the evacuation camps in Zamboanga City, more than 50% are children. 26,000 residents continue to live in evacuation camps, most of them staying at the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Grandstand. Congestion and poor living conditions have caused mortality and health problems for families.

The dire situation of the Zamboanga City evacuees

This seems to be the same scenario when one of the groups that I’m involved with, the Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN), visited Zamboanga City two months ago to discuss support for the evacuees with YMPN Western Mindanao Chapter as we continue to receive alarming news about their situation in the city. While we were talking to different groups, helping and monitoring the displaced evacuees, such realities have left us in shock and have honestly broken our hearts into pieces. We just continued to listen to their stories of children dying in the Grandstand as young as 5 months due to severe diarrhea and dehydration, having witnessed 3 deaths of children in a week. Lack of hygienic conditions is also a problem with only 4 portalets for the thousands of residents. Sadly, some non-government organisations (NGOs) have also witnessed some illegal activities affecting mostly children, youth, and women. Poverty was the main contributing factor since most of the evacuees are unemployed while some have been taken in by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through its Food-for-Work program. The issue in Zamboanga City may not be as alarming as those in the areas affected by Yolanda, but having 3 or more deaths in a week in the past months (mostly children whose hearts and spirits may have been broken due to the psychosocial stress brought by the conflict) actually says one thing: our brothers and sisters in Zamboanga need our help. These kids need a “Ka-Bayani” like you and I to help care for them. The youth in Zamboanga, who have been actively volunteering to support the evacuees, need a “Ka-Bayani” like you to strengthen their capacity and help them be prepared for an incident like the standoff.

Civil society at work. Be a Ka-Bayani!

A round-table discussion is being planned with different organizations to get more support for Zamboanga evacuees especially those pertaining to the needs of the children. Gawad Kalinga is also inviting all of us to be a Ka-Bayani by participating in their Bayani Challenge to build houses for the displaced evacuees. While we acknowledge the efforts being made by our national government and local officials, it is high time that we all work together in the spirit of Bayanihan. The more solid support that we give to our brothers and sisters in rebuilding their lives, the more hope we can instill in their hearts and minds to surpass the rough path that they have been going through for the past months. The best thing to do to alleviate the pain being experienced by our countrymen in these challenging times is to become a “Ka-Bayani” just like how Mr. Gary Granada touched my heart with his song about being a “Ka Bayani”:

If you want to be a Ka-Bayani for Zamboanga, please feel free to inquire through desk@manilaspeak.com.  I hope to hear from you soon, mga Ka-Bayani!

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