I had spent a few hours with the Muslim orphans on the Six and Seventh day of Ramadhan in two different villages in Zamboanga City, distributing food packages.

Alhamdulillah, such a good feeling we can get from the children at the moment we hand over the packages for them. With this little help we can let our fellow smiles.

Share the mercy that has in you, many people in this part of the world in need of help. Sharing of food in the month of Ramadhan, surely receive a great blessing.

Thanks to the donor.

The third day of Ramadhan brought me back to the same village. One thing good with this month, we are used to wake up early to eat Sahur. Some Muslims get to sleep back after dawn prayer and others utilize the time to attend to their businesses. Today, was a long day for me. After sunrise, I rent a motorcycle to go back to Balicacas. This time I have to follow my schedule.

I arrived in the village when most of the adult are still sleeping. After checking the water installation, I gathered the children for pictorial in the tap area. Normally, this is part of our work before the formal turnover of the project starts. The children brought small gallon to fetch water on the tap. When I accomplished took all their photos, I formally turnover the water well to the Chieftain. 

The glittering hope I had seen in the children's faces had transferred a message to my brain that I should continue doing this project. With simple smile and laughter we can be able to start making friends. 

After the short event, I went to my Alma Mater, Western Mindanao State University. I had visited the College of Public Administration with the plan to continue my Master Degree. The young professor instructed me to get the Leave of Absence form in the Dean of Admission, since I paused for two years. If I have enough time this year, I will be going back to University on the opening of classes. 

After then, I proceeded to a review center. With the plan to learn more of the technique and enhancing skills in answering the CS examination. I am a beginner when it comes to CS examination. I never had a plan actually to take this examination. However, I come to think that I have nothing to loose if I could not pass the exam. While we are still alive it is good to explore some things happening in our milieu. The CS exam is actually an 'elite exam' if I may borrow the word used by our professor this afternoon. And I'm always asking myself if what is the reason why the government design this exam. Aside from meritocracy, I only see one thing it encourages us to review what we had learnt in  the past. 

I ended up in the Mall, and bought some food for Sahur.
I personally thanked our donor from Turkey for the Water Well exclusively donated for the villages that have no easy access to water. With this sort of project, every week I have to move from one village to the other to look if there is a demand of water in a certain place. Last year, we had implemented a total of sixteen water wells in Zamboanga City. 
This morning, I went back to Balicacas village to check the on-going project there. Before the clock hit 12:00 noon I was invited by a villager to get some rest in his house while waiting for the Friday prayer. It happened, the owner of that house is my relative. Her mother is a native of Lagasan, Sulu. Aside from making new friends, this kind of work, bring us closer to our long lost relatives. 

I prayed together with the villagers in a little Masjid donated by an Arab donor. The Khatib (preacher) tackled on the importance of Fasting. The Khutba only last for twenty minutes. After the congregational prayer, I had requested with the chieftain to take a group picture of the Jamaah (attendance of Friday prayer) right in the tap area of the water well project. This taking photo is part of the simple gesture of gratitude from the villagers to the donor. The Jamaah were cooperative.

The villagers, as I had mentioned, were mostly fishermen. Some of them have fine skill to craft a pumpboat. As I went around the village, I had noticed that most of their banca and pumpboat were docked. The time for fishing during Ramadhan, according to an old acquaintance, is at dusk when they have good catch in the morning. The fishermen only catch squid using a traditional way called hantuk. Before I went home, I bought half kilogram of under size squid for dinner.

As I went out the village together with my worker, I met three Tausug kids selling Bangbang Sug (confectionery) called Pasung and Pali Kambing. I normally eat these traditional stuff especially during Ramadhan. When I was a kid, I also sell Bangbang Sug in our village in Sandakan, Sabah back in the early 80's. 

The indigent Tausug children in the villages anywhere in Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are used to sell food in the afternoon from one house to the other. Specially when the mothers of the children know how to cook Bangbang Sug.

May the spirit of the second day of Ramadhan teach this children how to live life in accordance with their standard. Fasting is not a hindrance for a Muslim to engage in business and any kind of works. 

Dear readers:

Peace and blessing be upon you all.

It was almost two years I did not post any updates on this blog - sorry for the avid readers. This time, hopefully I can keep you up to date about my latest activities on the ground.

Since I moved to Zamboanga City, my schedule has had focused in finding means for the daily survival. Alhamdulillah, my recent advocacy with Erth Ul Mustafa Philippines have make my life quite busy in implementing projects in the villages in Zamboanga, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

Today, I am starting my first day of Ramadhan in Balicacas Village, Zamboanga City. A fishermen village where most of its dwellers are Muslims and belong to ethnic Tausug. I know, I should have spend the first day of Ramadhan at home, as it is the the practice or living tradition of the Tausug old-folks. In my case, I should break that tradition; because the fund for the project is ready plus the people in the village is in need of water. I feel like to continue work for the whole month of Ramadhan.

When we are in a village other than ours, we can enjoy a lot of things particularly making new friends and observing the way of living of the villagers. For me, to be active at work during Ramadhan is not a problem. What is important, we will keep our hearts always connected to Allah SWT through constant remembrance and observing do's and don'ts in fasting.

Be also constant to do good to our fellow regardless of their faith, because that is one of the best practices that a Muslim must do during his or her temporary stay on this planet.

Stay up to date.

In the early 70’s, people of Sulu, Mindanao and Palawan formed the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The purpose was to resist the maltreatment of the Philippine government against Muslims happened during the Jabidah Massacre in the Corrigedor Island, Philippines. The incident happened when a group of Tausug trainees massacred by the Philippine military in that Island as they refuse to invade Sabah under the special project named “Operation Merdeka”. The political science professor Nurrullaji Misuari reacted violently. As a result, he and some concern Muslims scholars from Sulu and Mindanao went to the ground to recruit the civilians and brilliant students to join the call for defensive Jihad against the republic. The qualified recruits then sent to the Middle East and Malaysia for military training. Prior to the MNLF, the Muslim rebels had already formed the group called Ansarul Islam. Most members of Ansarul Islam were becoming part of the MNLF later.

When the war broke up in the early 70’s, MNLF did get the support of Tun Mustapha back then he was the chief minister of Sabah. The Kampung Moro was opened as a temporary shelter for the families of the MNLF fighters and to receive wounded combatants from Sulu and Mindanao. Later on, the camp Jampiras followed also served as a camp of the MNLF and receiver of any assistance from the Middle East, and other purposes. From the start up to the end, Jampiras had served the purpose of the MNLF in Sabah. Moreover, the first batch of refugees arrived to Sabah starts during this period.

When the war in Sulu and Mindanao become intense, more displaced persons arrived in Sabah, most of them were relatives of the MNLF. In Sandakan, the displaced persons dwelling in some communities like Kampung BDC, Ramai-Ramai, Kampung Gelam and others. Others moved to Kota Kinabalu, Semporna, Lahad Datu, Tawau and Labuan. When the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) came in in coordination with the State government the resettlement areas for the refugees opened in Sandakan and other parts of Sabah. Those refugees living in different communities transferred to their new homes.

The life of the refugees in the resettlement areas was quite tough at the outset. They were forced to adapt to the new environment. Later on, the refugees had learned to live in Sabah and adopt the way of life of the Malaysian.

Without depending from the support of UNHCR the refugees survive through selling food in the market, working in the plantations, constructions, restaurants, and other businesses. The refugee children allowed to get an education from the primary government schools even without birth certificate. The chieftain of the refugee community provided its subjects with “Surat Sumpah” (Letter of Oath) used as required to enrol in government school. The refugee children enjoyed some benefits in school provided by the state government as the Malaysian pupils. Back then, the Yayasan Sabah provided free notebook, pencil, shoes, and milk for all pupils in the government schools. This subsidy is part of the foundation’s  objective “providing education and educational facilities for all Malaysians in Sabah; creating opportunities for a more equitable distribution of economic wealth among the people in Sabah; and providing aids to charitable institutions and victims of natural disasters.” (http://www.yayasansabahgroup.org.my/, 2016).
School named after the refugee community in Sandakan. This school have had
served the children of the Muslim refugees since early 80's up to now.

As part of the new members of Society in Sabah, the state government issued documents to the refugees. These are the so called BANCI (Pasukan Petugas Khas), UPJKM or Burung-Burung and DAFTAR (Unit Penempatan di Jabatan Ketua Menteri)EXPO (Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara)KAD POLIS (Polis Di Raja Malaysia), and SPECIAL PASS (Jabatan Imigresen). Later on, these documents changed to IMM13 or Social Visit Pass issued by the Immigration Department of Malaysia specifically to the refugees arrived in Sabah in the early 80’s. This IMM13 is renewable every year for 90.00 Malaysian Ringgit. The holder of this document can travel and work around Sabah and Labuan.

After decades, staying in Sabah some IMM13 holders managed to change their status of refugees to Permanent Resident through the legal way sanctioned by Malaysian constitution. Moreover, some IMM13 holders still have hope that someday they could change their status.

When the Final Peace agreement (FPA) between the MNLF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines signed in 1996, the refugees had high hoped that their fate would be changed. But, the situation happened to the FPA had somewhat broke the hearts of the refugees in Sabah. Until now, the refugees are not stopping to hope that someday they would be going home most likely when peace and development already stable.

Among the Tausug artists I love to listen to their songs are brother Asree Elaji and Julfekar. They are both Tausug Malaysian. Asree Elaji aka Asree Moro is an author of the book entitled Tausug and the Sulu Sultanate. He is a cartoonist based in west Malaysia. In his free time he mix music in laptop using some apps. Brother Asree is a good friend whom I salute.

Brother Julfekar is a renowned Music producer in Malaysia. His recent song hit most radio stations in the Philippines is entitled Tibuuka na. The artists sang this song are Malaysian and Filipino, Min Yasmin and Nikki Bacolod. The lyric of this song was written by Nelson Dino also a Malaysian-Tausug writer.

There are few people in the modern era who would support the call for martial law. As there would be many human rights violations than eliminating, the criminals, most likely if the target criminals are not specified. Yes, the purpose of martial law is to totally halt the existence of the organized crime groups and the rest, but ensure that there will be no civilians affected. 

In the latest deployment of 10 battalions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Sulu shows the frustration of the Aquino administration to stop the kidnapping in the ZamBaSulTa (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) areas. Why? It is obvious that the outgoing Chief of Staff has failed in its campaign to stop the Kidnapping for Ransom (KFR) gang from its root. However, this challenge would clearly transfer to the incoming Iron-Fist President Elect Rodrigo Duterte. Though President Duterte has been famous in its campaign against the criminals in Davao, for the KFR problem we cannot say yet whether he will be able to stop this inhumane activity or not. 

As a Tausug, I simply say KFR activity has no basis in Islam and in the culture of the good people of this race – therefore it must erase. As an ordinary citizen, I just would like to add some insights related to the development of conflict in Sulu from Martial law era up to now.

President Marcos has a good motive, as a President of the Republic, in declaring martial law in Sulu and Mindanao, because as a President, he had in mind that the development in the Philippines would not happen if he cannot stop the rise of Muslim insurgents in the south. However, he failed to realize that the level of awareness of the Muslims in Mindanao towards other citizens of the Philippines back then were very poor. Additionally, the Muslims in Mindanao did not feel that they were part of the republic. Therefore, to fight the Philippine Military back then considered as a duty of the Muslims, and the MNLF propagandist promoted this. The worst was, when the MNLF propagandist said to the people that the Christian from Luzon are coming to erase the religion Islam in Mindanao. Many Muslims ate the bait. They had in mind, when they die on the battlefield they will admit to the Garden of Eden without an account. In short. it was because of the martial law that’s the problem in Mindanao exacerbated. The cause of the Muslims for Hula’, Bangsa, Agama (State, Race and Religion) born as a reason to push the Muslims to fight against the government. From MNLF, the MILF was created and later the Abu Sayyaf, which in the early phase this extreme group had claimed to continue the cause for Hula’-Bangsa-Agama.

The KFR is quite organized recently, they have a wide network as far as Sabah, Malaysia. Sulu has become a drop-center of the kidnap victims from surrounding places. The latest hostage taking was in Sabah-Philippines border where 14 Indonesian crews and 4 Malaysian citizens taken as hostage by unidentified gang. The sad scenario happened recently when Robert Hall, a Canadian, slaughtered by the Abu Sayyaf in the island of Sulu. This is one of the reasons of the recent administration deployed thousands of the Armed Forces to Sulu.  

Martial Law is considered as a panacea to end the KFR activity in Sulu and Mindanao, however, there are various issues that need to consider prior to decide for all- out-war. First, why the KFR still exists even the war against this bandit have had initiated by the previous administrations? Second, what factors which really motivate the bandits to undertake this inhumane activity? Obviously, it is because of ransom money, however, does the local government deliver their responsibility to the people? Third, are not the KFR members, particularly in Sulu, the children of those who were killed during and after the martial law? Fourth, are the KFR real fights for ideological issue or economic reason? Do the government has the best plan to disarm the civilians, and the private armies of the politicians in the Philippines?

The Martial law can be a viable solution, only, if the government has done its best to satisfy the needs of the people. Also, has an option to confiscate the weapons and close the gun manufacturers in the country. If not, I am afraid; it would only bring the republic to another episode of the dark history. 

In the case of Sulu, martial law is not an ideal solution for now, so to speak. The KFR can be halted by using all the resources, including technology that has with the government. The Governor, Mayor and the Barangay officials must cooperate fully with the men in uniform to fight the bandits. Unluckily, LGUs in this area did not maximize their role as public servants and protect the rights of the people.

The incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, I believe, is wise enough to design an effective solution before he resort to the all-out-war. Let the criminals face their wrongdoings through effective and efficient way and save the lives of the innocent civilians. Ineffective decision would create more enemies while the target enemies are safe in their haven.

As a victim of the Martial law in the 70's I beseech to Almighty Allah, may peace reign in this part of the world. It is time, Muslim and non-Muslim to work together and compete to do good deeds. No one wins the war all are losers. 

I am a son of a refugee who fled to Sabah in the 70's and 80's.  We thanked the previous leaders of Malaysia for giving our people a place to stay, to work and the rest. 

Last few days, there was a chieftain of a refugees community in Sabah chatted with me in the messenger. Honestly, he and hundreds of refugees who holds IMM13 documents are willingly to go back home once incoming President Rodrigo Duterte installed peace and development in the Philippines. We already missed home, he said. 

The letter below was posted in facebook. Hopefully, it had reached the incoming President attention.
Dear President Rody Duterte​,

In behalf of the Tausug and other tribes who fled to Sabah Malaysia from Southern Philippines in the 70's and early 80's I would like to bring this issue to your attention as our President and as our fellow Mindanaons. We still believe someday there shall be a leader of our country who can save us from the situation we are currently facing. In addition, we are hopeful that the said leader is you.

We are living for decades in Sabah. There are many Presidents come and go in our country, unfortunately no body taking care of our plight. No effective solutions yet been undertaken by our government to solve the reasons why we are here. Yes, most of us are victims of Martial Law and corruption. 

We are still hoping that there shall be a leader with full of courage and sympathy to bring us back to our homeland. If you cannot afford to do so, please just save our children from illiteracy. Let them feel that they have a country and leader that would really take care of their plight. Let them experience how it feels to be at school.

In this video, you can see the children of the refugees living in some parts of Sabah. 

May the Almighty give you more power to realize your vision for the better future of the Filipino people

I was not very excited for the first time I visited West Malaysia. But I really loved to explore myself this modern and developed capital city in South East Asia, Kuala Lumpur . Home of the Malay and land where tolerance and respect to others is highly promoted. The Malaysian society is composed of Malay, Chinese, India and others. Islam is the religion of the land, followed by Christianity and other religions. 

My first trip to Malaysia was in February 2016. I was attended the "Spiritual Seeker's Retreat" conducted at the Angullia Beach Resort in Marang, Terengganu. A five hour land travel from the capital city. Students and professional from Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Denmark and Belgium were among the participants in the retreat. Organized by an active Singaporean Islamic propagator, Sheikh Imran Angullia, Al-Hafiz. 

Terengganu is one of the beautiful cities in Malaysia. Kuala Terengganu is its capital, a place where you can lavishly eat "Lekor", a street food made of Tamban fish. I noticed there are two places in Terengganu that perhaps have connection with the people of the Sulu Archipelago - Marang and Dungun. 

My short stay in Marang Terengganu was honestly full of spiritual experience. Thanks to the organizer of the retreat for the invitation.

University Technology MARA