With all that’s happening to Zamboanga these days, I want to go back to the days when all is still and at peace.
I remember the day when we visited the inhabited Pink Beach at Sta. Cruz Island, far south of Zamboanga. I remember the pink coraline sand, the color of which comes from the pulverized red corals mixed with the white sand. I remember our kind marine escort who would warn us not to wander far away from his sight for not far ahead is the island of Basilan said to be a staging-ground for Moro raids on Zamboanga, the Visayas and even Luzon, and as a temporary repository of the plunder from these raids. Now I understand the apprehensions printed on his face when he found us at the other side of the island. Too late, it maybe, I’m sorry for what we have caused you.
I remember Aling Salma, Aling Trining and the other folks we have encountered in all their kindness and meekness. I remember the smile and the laughter over a simple joke and words of gratefulness and appreciation from a lost tourist. I can feel the giggle as they see us struggle as we try to maneuver the weaver and eat that sumptous meal they prepared for us. Despite the laughter I can still see through their eyes the quest for a very elusive peace. I still can hear them wishing for the “war” to stop. I wonder where they are now. Are they still alive or have they perished in the burning houses and buildings or were they among the victims of stray bullets from an unkind arm? Were their homes or the hotel where we stayed among those burned?
I remember the kids who would jump off their bancas to search for those meager coins that people throw off their purse. To see them striving to live in such manner puts me to shame when I complain over a heavy traffic situation, a misplaced order in a restaurant or a latecomer to an appointment. I wonder where these kids are now. Have they also become unwilling victims to this crisis or have they crossed the lines and joined the other force to be among the fugitive and the hunted?
In all these musings, I pray for peace not only in Zamboanga or Mindanao but the whole of the Philippines. Our children, our people deserve a better world.