Bridge to a Better Future

 

Sanny Sebio and the remote area of Sitio Maringen, Barangay Datalpandan in Guindulungan, Maguindanao

The isolated community of Barangay Sawer, Masarag in the Municipality of Masiu, Lanao del Sur was a safe haven for Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrilla fighters during the past armed clashes. Even before it became a satellite for Camp Bushra Somiyorang, one of the six previously acknowledged camps of the MILF, Barangay Sawer was already quite inaccessible to common people. It, thus, became host to families of former combatants and to a community displaced by armed conflict.

Barangay Sawer was one of the communities provided with socio-economic infrastructures under the Mindanao Trust Fund – Reconstruction and Development Project Phase II (MTF-RDP/2). With the completion of a hanging bridge with a 200-meter pathway and the implementation of an Alternative Learning System (ALS) project, community members talked about the changes that these developments brought to their lives.

 

Sultan Abusadid Amerol

Sanny Sebio and the remote area of Sitio Maringen, Barangay Datalpandan in Guindulungan, Maguindanao

Sultan Abusadid Amerol has been living in the far-flung village of Barangay Sawer for over 20 years. This 61-year-old camp commander plays a vital role in community decision making as a leader. He is also a farmer whose main sources of living are crops, such as rice and corn.

“Although most of the residents here are combatants, we also do farming to sustain our daily needs,” said Sultan Abusadid.

Their struggle to earn a living in this remote area is compounded by various other challenges. They have to walk through a hilly terrain and cross a rocky river with a strong current in order to deliver their produce to the nearest marketplace.

“We cannot carry all the sacks of produce on our own, so we have to use horses to carry them. We pay the horse owner 25 Pesos per sack and walk with the horses for almost an hour to reach the highway that leads to center of Masiu Municipality where we sell our produce,” he stated.

But today, those struggles have become a thing of the past.

“After MTF-RDP/2 was introduced to us, I began to see various changes in the community. People from the Community and Family Services International (CFSI) and the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) 

often came to visit and share lessons about community development. I saw how excited and participative the community members were with this project,” he uttered.

Being the community leader, Sultan Abusadid had to closely monitor the construction of the hanging bridge project. He was happy to see the structure finally completed.

“I am glad that all our sacrifices paid off,” he stated with relief.

With the presence of the bridge and the additional pathway, residents no longer need to wade through the treacherous river and it only takes them 30 minutes to reach the national highway compared to an hour that it took them to walk before.

“This project is a gift to the community and we will surely take good care of it,” he committed.

Noraima Casan

Sanny Sebio and the remote area of Sitio Maringen, Barangay Datalpandan in Guindulungan, Maguindanao

Noraima Casan, 26, spent most of her life in this quiet village of Masiu. She and her siblings were raised by parents who are both farmers. Her father was also a former combatant.

Seeing how difficult life was in this place, Noraima dreamt of having a profession outside of farming in the future. But this dream faded away when she was not able to finish school.

Noraima recalled how hard it was to reach school in the past.

“I remember how dangerous it was to cross the river and how far we had to walk to reach school. Oftentimes, we had to attend classes with our clothes soaking wet,” she shared.

Noraima described the struggles people experienced in their community in accessing formal education. Most of the residents were unable to complete school because of these circumstances.

“I was just hoping that one day, a great opportunity will happen for us,” she said.

 “One day, this project (MTF-RDP/2) was introduced to us. I heard that they will construct a bridge and thought that this was my long-time dream for the community. People will no longer worry about crossing the river and children will be able to get to school safely,” she declared.

Eager to pursue her own dreams, Noraima also completed the Alternative Learning System (ALS) sessions offered by the project. She finished the secondary level.

“The program (ALS) was able to reach us though we are in a remote area, so I considered this as a rare opportunity for me to finally realize my dream despite the fact that I am already married,” she said.

Noraima’s husband is also a farmer like her parents, thus she is aware of the challenges he faced in transporting produce.

“With the completion of the bridge, we no longer have to worry about our crops getting soaked while crossing the river. We can now deliver quality products without any reduction in the price, and lessen spoilage on the way to the market,” she added.

 “Someday I will tell my future children that this Project (MTF-RDP/2) changed the lives of the people in this community,” she said expressing her gratitude.

Johari Mangacop

Sanny Sebio and the remote area of Sitio Maringen, Barangay Datalpandan in Guindulungan, Maguindanao

Johari Mangacop, 28, grew up outside of this community. But he claims to have spent the best of his life when he transferred to Barangay Sawer 10 years ago.

Johari is currently assigned in the Hejratussalam Satellite Camp of Camp Bushra Somiyorang located in the barangay.

“I think destiny really brought me here. The chance to avail of an education through the ALS is a once in a lifetime opportunity especially for people who live in remote areas like ours,” he added.

Johari had to stop going to school when he was in his third year in high school. The ALS Program of the MTF-RDP/2 gave him an avenue to complete his high school education.

“I thought there would be no more chances like this, especially for us combatants. But look at me now. I am a high school ALS completer,” he proudly uttered with smile.

Adapted from Community and Family Services International (7 July 2020). Lantay o Kalilintad: Link towards development.  URL: https://cfsi.ph/lantay-o-kalilintad-link-towards-development/ (accessed on 06 June 2021)