Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Military exhibits: a rationale

Opening the camp to the public is a way to make the people understand and support their military. We, in the military, owe it to the people to explain what we are doing. In the first place, they have mandated our existence and have paid in taxes for our service. This rationale guided the holding of the 3-day camp exhibit culminating with the 9th Founding Anniversary celebration of the 104th Infantry (Sultan) Brigade last 26 of October.

Related posts in Mindanao Examiner’s official website and blog entitled “Philippine Army Winning the Hearts and Minds in Mindanao.” Also, in PIA Website (by Breezy Jimenez): "Makamandag battalion maintains peace, order stance."

The camp exhibits showcased the brigade’s role, its capabilities, and accomplishments in pictures. The combat units under the brigade, the Philippine National Police, and the US military in the area joined the exhibits. Also, commercial outlets, and other institutions together with the Provincial Government of Lanao del Norte and the City Government of Iligan erected their stalls to promote tourism and their local products. At that time, the visitors freely interacted with the soldiers, took pictures, and even handled the available military hardware. The various weapons on display and the armored vehicles were the all-time crowd drawers.

Group tours, particularly for visiting schools and other entities, were guided by soldiers and local volunteer Tourism Students on practicum. Consistent with the brigade’s Muslim-inspired moniker as “Sultan,” the camp grounds were elaborately decorated with colorful Maranao traditional flags such as the “sambulayan” and “pasandalan.” Martial march music and the sound of the “kulintang” accented the festive spirit. The last day even featured the world-acclaimed Kalimulan Dance Troupe of the Mindanao State University (MSU-IIT) performing cultural dances.

The camp exhibit—hailed to be the first time ever, in the area—attracted 4,270 curious visitors on record coming from the various sectors even as far as beyond the brigade area of responsibility. Considering the turnout of guests, mostly students, similar exhibits will be held in more publicly accessible places as in schools.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pagari Park: the brigade porch

Since my assumption, I have openly invited acquaintances to drop on my porch either to have coffee or exchange thoughts with me. My porch then was a shaded and fenced area next to my temporary lodging and furnished with native furniture. The increasing number of visiting friends afterward required for a bigger space; hence, the Pagari Park. "Pagari" means friendship in Maranao.

A related article with pictures entitled "Army Sultan's shot for unity in Mindanao" at Mindanao Examiner and at Blogger; also in PIA Website (by Breezy Jimenez) as "Sultan Brigade Opens Pagari Park."

The park is a newly developed garden, transformed from a former dump of volcanic rocks, at the heart of the Sultan Brigade camp. This was officially opened during the 9th Founding Anniversary of the Army's Sultan Brigade last 26 October. Former Lanao del Norte Governor Imelda "Angging" Quibranza-Dimaporo—a Christian married to a Muslim and a strong advocate for cultural harmony and eco-tourism—graced the inauguration of the park. Also, Iligan Diocese Catholic Bishop Elenito Galido, Islam Aleem Elias Macarandas, and Lumad Datu Rolando Soong came for the interfaith joint consecration.

A fountain and ornamental plants under the trees beautifully complemented the rocks—some of which serve as natural tables and chairs. The park features three corners representing the major Philippine Muslim cultures—Maguindanao, Maranao, and Tausug—have inspired the brigade moniker of "Sultan." During the inauguration of the park, guests had the chance to have a glimpse of the different traditional wear of each ethnic group and sample their respective delicacies.

"Pagari Park has a strong good vibes," comments a theosophist echoing the observations of other guests. This encouraging remark is a wonderful incentive for the park to serve as the brigade porch in fostering unity and harmony.

Pagari Park was realized with the support and contributions of those who shared the thought of promoting peace. My personal gratitude to my wife, Belle, and her "committee of three" (Eza, Jeffrey & Nhor) for assisting me in realizing this concept; and to TSG Francisco Saladaga for his passionate commitment to this endeavor. Also, I acknowledge the invaluable support of the following: Hon. Jaber Azis, Michelle Daniel, Hon. Maminta Dimakuta, Robert Estroga Landscaping Services, Eza Galvez, Jeffrey Rufo Galvez, Norcaya Maquiling, Hon. Mastura Manangolo, Hon. Elias Montod, Alexis Natividad, Hon. Haironi Omar, Engr. Marivel Frances Ong, Engr. Hilal Sangcopan, Hon. Hadji Yusop Saripada, Engr. Roger Suyang, and other personnel of the brigade.