NOT JUST A “DOCTOR”, BUT A HEALERBy: Datu Ibrahim “Toto” Pendatun Paglas III, Guest Speaker A SPECIAL MESSAGE DURING THE GRADUATION CEREMONIES Davao Medical School Foundation 2007 Commencement Exercises, 11 April 2007
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This is a special message, from my heart I dare say, to all of you the graduates, who to me are young leaders in your own rights. You are, as the great Malay and hero Jose Rizal was quoted to have said, “the future of the next generations,” to help make this world a better place for our children, a world of peace, love, and harmony… a world that believes in The One and Only Creator, called in the most Majestic Names by the respective different languages on earth: GOD or ALMIGHTY or DIVINE PROVIDENCE in English, ALLAH in Arabic, DIYOS or PANGINOON or GINOO or BATHALA or POONG MAYKAPAL to native Philippine dialects, TUHAN to the Malays (Indonesia/Malaysia), DIO to the Italians, GOTT to the Germans, APO MAGBABAYA to the Highlanders of Mindanao, YAHWEH or JEHOVAH to the Jews, to mention some. To you graduates, and to the officers and members of the Board of Trustees, administrative officers, heads of academic departments, the rest of the staff and others, all of you who help make the Davao Medical School Foundation an outstanding institution of service to humanity, I convey to all of you, the universal greetings of peace: Assalamu Alaikum, Shalom, Peace of God Be Upon everyone, and Kapayapaan ng kaisa-isang Panginoong Diyos ay Mapasa-ating lahat, ang Kalinaw sa Ginoo Maanaa Kanatong Tanan. When Doc Evelyn (Alabado) first broached to me the idea of my speaking before you today, I could hardly believe it, although I never doubted her seriousness. I said, how could I be the “right person” to speak when I am not in the medical profession. I am a farmer turned businessman. I consulted a Christian friend, a dear brother, and he said “Datu, healing, which doctors are traditionally identified with, need not only be physical.” I also then recalled that Doc Evelyn said it was more my story, which is the story of my town’s transformation from a “sick and dying one” into its present state of peace, enjoying the economic boom, now the focus of observation by curious observers, considered a “living showcase” of how sustainable economic development can help lasting peace. My formerly sick and dying town may now be considered fully healed. Rebels and former lawless elements are now living a normal life with their families. Vehicular traffic pass through the town of Datu Paglas 24-hours a day, unthinkable in the not-so-distant past when ordinary travelers would not even dare pass this once-dreaded highway after 3pm because they could be held-up or ambushed which were not uncommon occurrences then. Today, Datu Paglas is a melting pot of people of different culture, races, and creed, all living together in peace, working together in contentment and gratitude to the Almighty, bound by the common objective of sustaining the banana plantation and other economic activities because it provides them food for their tables, education for the children, shelter and clothing for the family, in short a new life, a hope for the future. What has brought about the transformation of Datu Paglas? I guess it started with the realization that the people in my town deserve a better life, that they need to reform, in the same manner certainly that patients need to be cured. Modesty aside, I was not born poor although ever since my younger days I had always found natural affinity with the house helpers, drivers and bodyguards of my parents. Because of this, I had seen the glaring divide that separated the “Muslim nobilities” from the “common families”. I was tired of seeing the same vicious cycle of violence and poverty. I wanted to try something new because the traditional “Muslim way” of leading our people was not working for the poor. I knew I had to change the rules of the game:
- When the convention dictates that the Datus are the only people who can make sound decisions for the people, I encouraged dialogues and consensus among local folks.
- I brought everyone’s concerns on the table… the government, the military, the religious leaders, the workers, the rebels and even the lawless elements, because I believed that what each of these groups have to say is of great value.
- We often had difficulty welcoming new ideas and new ways. We did not want “outsiders” in our territory. But again, this system did not work for us. We therefore built partnerships with as many groups as possible, regardless of culture, faith, and ideologies.
- I was brought up in 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 bodyguards. My personal campaign took a toll on me. I lost my father and 3 brothers due to violence and lawlessness.
- 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. 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.
- “protect the environment at any cost because this is all we have for the next generation,”
- “do not abuse the workers, protect their rights and look after their welfare and safety,” and lastly,
- “provide education for the children.”