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PIA Press Release
2007/09/21

Young Maguindanaon, who dreamt of becoming an MILF combatant, becomes a peace worker

Tacloban City (September 21) -- When he was a small child, Kasim Lauto of Barira, Shariff Kabunsuan, Maguindanao dreamt of becoming an MILF Combatant just like his father and mother. He admired young combatants with armalites on their hands. He nurtured this dream for years.

However, in April of year 2000, something happened that made young Kasim forget his dream and become a peace worker instead.

Kash as he is fondly called, was one of the speakers during the September 20 Peace Symposium with the Youth held at the Tacloban City Convention Center under the joint partnership of the Office of the Presidential Affairs on the Peace Process and the Philippine Information Agency Region 8.

Kash who is a graduating student in Public Administration said that in 2000, he personally saw and experienced the horrible bombing of his village during the all out war policy of then President Joseph Estrada.

Everything was destroyed, Kash told the more than 3,000 students from the secondary schools in Tacloban City. Houses, trees, plantations, schools, animals were killed and all the people scampered for their own safety. People died; many of them were babies, small children and pregnant mothers.

Those who survived, Kash said, experienced so much hardship in the evacuation centers. The government troops were sometimes unable to bring food for the evacuees because of the rebel groups. Many children got sick. Kash saw how war destroyed lives and properties. He realized this was not right. The war should end and carrying a gun is not the way to put an end to it.

It was then when Kash decided he did not want to be a combatant after all. He realized that guns will never be the answer to the problems of people. He said he made up his mind that he can do something to help his people and this is by advocating peace instead of armed conflict. Kash discovered another way by which war can be fought, with peace.

So Kash became a peace worker, first organizing the youth in his village in Barira to become peace workers. He has been involved in several peace advocacies and becoming a Young Advocate for Peace is one of them.

He said that he was able to encourage his father and his mother to become advocates for peace too. His mother led in organizing the women in their village to become more productive and help in achieving peace.

He said that before the coming in of rebels, the Moro people were living peacefully and harmoniously with the Ilonggos in the same community. They were fetching water in the same deep well. When conflict started, the well dried up and the old folks believe that water will come back only when peace is achieved.

Kash led the implementation of the Paminaw ug Ipadayon and Kalinaw in Barira, a project that hopes to develop story books capturing a time in the past when people of Barira lived in harmony and peace. The stories will help enhance the preservation of culture, tradition and practices promoting peace in the community.

These stories are gathered by the youth and will be spread through the power of story telling using the big book concept. Kash said that the elders shared that agong played a major role in broadcasting news and activities in the community, be it marriage, deaths, calamities, community meetings and festivities. The agong has a language of his own, the key is the beat.

These discoveries inspired Kash and his fellow young people to continue the journey towards their past. They had uncovered precious stories about their tribe and they wish to relive some of them. They know that it could be the key to promote unity among their tribe.

He called on his fellow youth, to advocate peace too in their own little ways. He urged them to unite so that they will have a stronger voice in asking that armed conflict be stopped to usher in peace and development. (PIA 8) [top]

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