By JOHN TRIA
A look back at the last year in Mindanao reveals a list of unprecedented events and outcomes that its 25 million people have never seen or experienced.
The impressive regional growth figures from 2017 spurred the entry of investments and tourists flocked to the island, aided by new direct flights from Hong Kong and the rest of the Visayan islands and new routes through Clark – bringing Mindanao to a higher appreciation on the world stage.
A road trip through the island through newly widened and repaired highways reveal new commercial buildings condominiums and malls, subdivisions and farms. Emergent cities of Tagum, General Santos, Butuan, and Iligan now boast new malls to take in the new wealth being created.
This is also the year that Mindanao has received the most investment missions from various sectors and countries, all wanting to see the promise many have spoken of from underneath the impression of a violent history and failed past governance, seemingly defeated along with ISIS militants in Marawi and the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the end of conflicts with major dissident groups.
This year saw the strengthening of Mindanao’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China established its consulate in Davao. Other countries are set to beef up their diplomatic presence.
These developments have reshaped the way political and security analysts and many others will have to look at this island.
In the last two years, a new crop of business and cultural writers have emerged, chronicling the new realities that burst into national consciousness from this once beleagured island: The end of war and Mindanao has intrigued even more with its mix of cultures, a melting pot that even the Filipina Ms. Universe Catriona Gray could not help but love through her much shared videos of herself in a Mindanao indigenous dress.
Are these facts and images this the start of a new, growing, and vibrant Mindanao? Perhaps. While this gets many excited, it still cannot sink into the heads of many who continue to dismiss the island as a backwater forever inundated by sectarian violence and inequality.
These new realities may have struck a deep vein in many of Manila’s elites and pundits, challenging their thinking that this island is defined as a bundle of failed promises, strange moralities, and violent currents they are forced to imagine as a hail of bullets and “swish of the kris.”
Perhaps it is time we all imagined Mindanao not as a collection of conflicts but in its barest truth – a mixed basket of colorful opportunities simply waiting for new hearts to open.
The new crop of Mindanaoans who graded President Duterete with an excellent trust and satisfaction ratings in the latest Social Weather Stations surveys are also the most optimistic Mindanaoaons ever, brimming with confidence as their culture and language has gained a foothold in the corridors of Manila power and culture.
The last two years has brought to the surface a sense of “southern pragmatism” that aims to take advantage of opportunities never before obtained, a bold set of moves that have reaped initial fruits that bear the hope of more to come.
On both mainstream and social media, many who were once queasy of martial law now endorse its extension, support the government’s foreign policy, and monitor the completion of infrastructure projects that even their parents had waited for.
They attest to a more peaceful community they say is the fruit of better order, and think of ways to invest in hinterland areas once avoided as violent, as they clamor for even more roads and bridges in their growing cities to help ease vehicular traffic brought about by an increase in motor vehicle sales.
This new generation in Mindanao has witnessed a transition. For many of them, 2018 is a year when change clearly took place – setting the stage for a long period of growth that will break age old stigmas and forever throw out old negative outlooks and defeatist tendencies and deliver the promise of abundance and peace that eluded previous generations. 2019 even promises to be more exciting for them.
Happy New Year!
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