Mindanao, Philippines: Building people who will build the nation

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Noranna busy at work: A true-blooded Moro, she is among the many witnesses to the struggle around her. As a child, she saw how conflict affected the lives of the people in their community in Maguindanao – lack of social services, slow development progress and displaced families.

In Mindanao, southern Philippines, the decades-long search for long lasting peace has been hindered by many challenges and natural calamities. This has led to a situation where young professionals are learning a type of development work that deals with the effects of various conflicts. 

The Bangsamoro Development Agency or BDA, provides more than work opportunities for residents of Mindanao. Bangsamoro basically means “Moro nation,” a term currently used to describe the Muslim-majority areas in Mindanao – its peoples, culture and ethnic groups. 

Working with the BDA is a dream come true for me. As a graduate of Mass Communications, I’m fond of writing and love graphics work including audiovisual materials. I want to serve and at the same time develop my communication skills for the Bangsamoro as this is my commitment being a young Moro professional. 

The BDA is the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has been engaged in peace talks with the government for the past 17 years. On January 25, 2014, the last of the four annexes to the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro signed 15 months ago was signed by the government and MILF peace panels, signaling that the comprehensive agreement is coming soon. 

Its vision after all is “building people who will build the nation.” 

My colleague Noranna, an administration assistant, shares my aspiration for peace and development in Mindanao. Noranna began working for the BDA as a volunteer and believes that working with the agency for three years now makes her a productive member of society.

She recalls how her fellowmen feared for their lives when they heard gunshots, experienced discomfort in evacuation sites with poor and unhealthy conditions, and suffered from the scarcity of food in times of displacement.

“When I first joined the BDA, the only important thing for me was to have a job, to earn money and help my family,” recalls Noranna. Now she sees herself as a more responsible and helpful individual not only to her family but to others as well. She also became more confident and patient in dealing with people. 

“My life now has better direction than before, where all I used to think and do was for myself alone,” says Noranna.

The agency also promotes the spiritual development of its staff, based on the teachings of Islam. Noranna also observes and practices religious obligations in her daily life, such as praying five times daily. She shares that she has gained a deeper understanding of religion through her work in the BDA, which helps her in performing her job well. 

“I feel that working with this agency will build my skills as a young Moro professional. At the same time, it allows me to help or contribute, along with my fellow Moros in achieving justice and sustainable peace,” Noranna says. 

My other colleagues feel that working for the agency has been both rewarding and life-changing. “Working in the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) has opened my eyes and my heart to the plight of the less fortunate and made me realize that the struggles I go through in life are nothing compared to the difficulties experienced by the communities in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao,” says Norhaini A. Manongkarang who left her job in the IT industry in Manila to join the BDA.

I also have to agree with my colleague, Antara Alfonso, who left his job in an international organization for the BDA. “It’s a great experience that I would love to share with the next generation, that once upon a time, I was part of development initiatives for the Bangsamoro and for humanity as a whole.” 



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