A Sojourn in Jolo

August 9, 2008 § Leave a comment


I want a shave!

I want a shave!

I remember one meeting I had with a Tausug sometime in 2000. As a television reporter, I was assigned to that war-torn province to cover the Sipadan Hostage crisis. During a lull, I decided to go to the port of Jolo and make a features report. 


As I was walking there, looking at some interesting things to write, I bumped into a teenager. He’s working as a porter. He’s about eleven or twelve years of age. And he’s supposed to be going to school.

I asked him why he’s working when he’s supposed to be studying. And I got a learned answer.

” There’s no need for me to study,” the boy told me. 

” Why? Are you not interested in knowing how the world works?”

“No,” he said nonchalantly and continued doing his work. ” I hope you don’t mind, but why? Why have you lost all interest about studies.”

” Well…let me tell you. Will being a learned man give me food? Will it change my lot in this life? Will it ever change the land of Jolo? No.”

” Our country is being occupied by invaders of an unknown culture. Before, my parents say, Jolo used to be a thriving trading center. When Marcos made Zamboanga as the hub of trading, Jolo suddenly became irrelevant. Our town slowly disintegrated. Now, we are left with crumbs. We have nothing to do. We have nothing to eat except these salty fish which we, ourselves, get from the sea. Those who gave our freedoms are learned men. Now, do I want to be like them? I’ll cut my head and stab my heart if I become like them.”

I was stunned. This boy knows an alternate history that even I, a journalist, did’nt know. He was actually telling the truth. That is the history of his town. 

When others like him shout it to the world, the world says “its extremism”, “its terrorist message.” Why? Is telling it like it is, being rebels?


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