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Datu Paglas: A successful experiment in Muslim-Christian enterprise

"Bawal ang tamad sa Datu Paglas"

This novel rallying call of 1999 TOYM Awardee Ibrahim "Toto" R. Paglas II strategically displayed all over the area, serves as a reminded to the former mayor's vision of development and progress for this remote village, once a notorious haven of kidnappers.

The extraordinary success of Datu Paglas town, is that if the potentials of a locality is pushed, with the inspiration of a daring, active, aggressive, and innovative leader, there is no way to go but up. For this achievement, Toto Paglas was chosen as one of the Outstanding Young Men of 1999 in the Countryside Development category.

Through the initiative and drive of this youthful leader, the dreams of his forebears of turning the area into a peaceful and productive place with its people living in harmony regardless of cultural beliefs, are now reality.

In its now steady march to progress, the town drawing the attention of not only local observers but foreign capitalists as well.

Datu Toto Paglas much lauded paper, "From War to Economic Zone: A Case of Enterprise Development-the Datu Paglas Experience" is a testimony that extensive studies, research, idealism, and long hours of hard work and dedication will carry through his pet projects, and that the spirit of self improvement and self-reliance can mobilize people into action.

A noted local writer once said: "The ideas of Mayor Toto, I am certain, did not crop up overnight. Much of his vision to create a productive community may have originated from his illustrious forebears."

"Back in the 70s, I had the privilege of meeting the elder Datu Ibrahim Paglas Sr. Even then, Datu Ibrahim revealed to us his plans to establish rubber, coffee, and cacao plantations in his vast agricultural estate."

The resourceful former mayor also brought in a modern irrigation system and animal breeding technology from Israel, and successfully promoted the inflow of much-needed capitalization from Arab, Italian, and local resources. These triggered the opening of allied agricultural entreprises as well as livelihood opportunities for thousands.

The first private firm that poured capital in the area was the Southeast Asia Sugar Milling Corporation (SEASUMCO) which has established its 1,000 hectare of sugar plantation. The multinational corporation, La Frutera, has also invested in the area with an initial 1,000 hectares planted to Cavendish type (also known as "chiquita") bananas.

The Datu Paglas Toto-Unlad project is now also being set up with the lead projects: Cattle Fattening and Breeding with Rice Production, Sugarcane Production, Pineapple Production, and Banana Production as its allied projects. This is also another benchmark project of Toto Paglas.

The town is now said to be politically stable, enjoy strong government and non-government support. More important, its Muslim and Christian residents live in complete harmony. The town has also a zero crime rate.

The development and progress of Datu Paglas has served as a sterling example to many Muslim political and traditional leaders especially in Maguindanao province. (Cecilio Cadorna/Aida Agad, PIA ROXII)