MOVE FORWARD, FAST, FIRSTBy: Datu Ibrahim “Toto” Pendatun Paglas III Message during KYMAA- Year 4 Young Muslim Professionals Council, SOCKSARGEN PRINT THIS ARTICLE
THIS IS AN OPEN LETTER, first, to you my dear brothers in faith, particularly the young moro leaders who are the main participants to this event that is made possible by the initiatives of the YMPCI, and the other stakeholders to sustainable development. I convey to the reader of this letter, the universal greetings of peace, Assalamu Alaikum, Shalom, Peace of God Be Upon everyone. Very challenging indeed, is the theme of this gathering, very strongly meaningful to me as I believe it also is to all of us, who aspire for a better world not just for ourselves but especially for the succeeding generations. Occasions like this, I always remember a saying of the Wise: “…we did not just inherit this world from our parents, we also borrowed it from our children…” Everyday, we see a lot of bad news on television, read discouraging news in the papers, hear about the same in the radio. Quite sadly but is the reality, many of those bad news, particularly those that dwell on violence, peace and order problems, terrorism particularly, are linked to the Muslims, to the people of my faith. I wish to say it at this junction, that those who do so unfortunately misunderstand Islam but then we do not blame them for their innocent, mistaken belief. It is therefore a challenge to us Muslims, to show that we are just like any other people on earth who wish to live in peace and harmony, who wish to see a better life for ourselves and our families, who submit to the Will of the One and Only Creator, the God of all, without discrimination as to race, religion, and creed. In facing this challenge, it is my humble belief that IF only we are economically developed, IF only our poor brothers and our poor villages and lands are productive, IF we are able to trade and do business with others, then we can co-exist with more pride and self-respect. It is my belief that IF only our poor brothers are better educated and adequately provided economically, then they can no longer be a fertile breeding ground to terrorism and other form of criminality and lawlessness. We have to believe in the value of leadership, of humility, of self-help, of integrity, of industry. We need to unburden the government from our prevailing mindset of dependence on government fund which is basically unavailable anyway. We need to stay away from overindulgence in political play, as leaders let us better focus on good governance. I am asked to share my insights on the above-mentioned theme of this event, a subject not alien to the transformation of my own town from being a war zone and criminality torn in the not so distant past, to its being a bustling and peaceful economic village at present. A relevant question is, how do we move not just forward, but FAST. We may not be the first to do it, but we can do it now. And key to this is ENTREPRENEURSHIP, as far as my own experience and perspective is concerned. Yes, Entrepreneurship and Moro Development could be an effective approach to peace building in our war-torn ARMM, it could be an effective means of changing our negative image before the world, and even before our very own selves. This can be our legacy to our succeeding generations who we definitely do not wish to go through the kind of difficult times that we at present, starting from the time of our ancestors, have been suffering from until now. ALLAH had Blessed us with able bodies, and, I believe, intelligence. Also, we may look upon as a Blessing, our tribal pride. It is therefore very important, that whatever we do or decide not to do now, be something that not only us but our succeeding generations will benefit from or at least, not blame us when their times come. Our poor villages have actually been blessed with their own, respective richness, a blessing from ALLAH swt, which is basically the bounty of nature, whether they be in our lands, or seas, or lakes, or rivers. As important as the need to make them productive, is the need to keep them sustainable. How do we then harness our respective abundant, God-Given Blessings? I greatly believe that we have to be ENTREPRENEURS, whether we be farmers, civil servants, political leaders, datus and other religious leaders, small businessmen, or even as an ordinary, “jobless” member of society. There are many definitions of an Entrepreneur, this is the one I prefer. It means an INNOVATOR, it is one who recognizes opportunities and organizes resources to take advantage of the opportunity. So much has been told about the “Datu Paglas Story”. I am sure there are other stories of transformation for the better, they all show that we can all innovate, we can all transform, everything have their own respective timing, but we have to be around to grab the opportunity when they come. And to be able to do such, we have to possess the right ATTITUDE. I am definitely not in the position to prescribe what should be done in your respective cases, allow me however, to share my own story, hoping that from it you may find from this experience how your own story may also unfold, in your own circumstance. People often ask, what made the “Datu Paglas Story” happen? May the succeeding portions of this message help answer that question. I sum them basically as leadership plus of course, the realization that, as earlier mentioned, its time has come. How did “leadership” play a role in my town’s unique story? It started with the realization that the life of my people must change for the better. But then, that change must also start with myself, the leader, a bridging-leader. Then, private investments, which I know was the sustainable way to economic development in my own case, must come in. Then, for investments to come in, I must have a “business plan”. My elders, and in particular my dear late uncle Hashim Salamat, former Chairman of the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front who returned to our Creator 2 years ago, had the following three things to say which I then adopted as Guiding Principles, when I proposed to them my “business plan”, which basically was my decision to let investments come in:
- 1) protect the environment at any cost because this is all we have for the next generation,
- 2) do not abuse the workers, protect their rights and look after their welfare and safety, and
- 3) provide education for the children.
- When the convention dictates that the Datus – or members of the local royal families --- are the only people who can make sound decisions for the people, I encouraged dialogue and consensus among local folks. By doing so, we share the accountability to make things work for all of us.
- Philippine Muslim culture is basically very exclusive. I challenged that by bringing everyone’s concerns on the table … the government, the military, the religious leaders, the workers, the rebels and even the lawless elements because I believe that what each of these groups say is of great value.
- I was brought up in a culture where guns and goons define a Man’s status in the society. I challenged that convention. At first, I was not comfortable because it was “not the normal thing” to go around town without my bodyguards. But, I decided to put an end to that fashion because the old ways were not working for others and for me either. My personal campaign took a toll on me. I lost my father and 3 brothers due to violence and lawlessness, before I could demonstrate to the rest that we don’t need guns. Other traditional and political leaders are still relentless, but I keep the faith that in due time they will change.
- I was brought up in a culture of “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth”. Throughout my growing years, I was witness to vengeance killings (we call “RIDO”) among clans, perpetuated throughout the succeeding generations. In the pursuit of my “business plan”, and inspired “ironically” by my late uncle former MILF Chairman Hashim Salamat, I decided that this “culture of hatred” and cycle of violence MUST STOP. Therefore, when my father and younger brothers became murder victims, I decided to accept that it was their fate, their time had come, God had Allowed it to happen, and I must forgive. I left justice to the laws and to the authorities.