TRANSFIGURATION OF MINDANAO: Compelling Reading | MindaNews
(Welcome address and keynote address by Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, President of Ateneo de Davao University)
On behalf of Ateneo de Davao University, I welcome you to this launch of the 788-page volume, Transfiguring Mindanao: A Reader, edited by Jose Jowel Canuday and Joselito Sescon and published this year by Ateneo de Manila Press. It’s good to finally have a book that focuses on Mindanao not just as a subject of academic research, but as a complex reality in need of transfiguration.
Part of the genesis of this book has to do with a bit of Jesuit history.
In 1814, the Society of Jesus was officially restored by Pope Pius VII after its suppression by Pope Clement XIV in 1773. In 2014, Jesuits and partner communities all over the world celebrated the bicentenary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus. Its celebration in the Philippines allowed us to remember the return of the Jesuits to the Philippines in 1859 – 45 years after the restoration. It is important for us to note this today: the original mandate of the returning Jesuits was to evangelize Mindanao. Unfortunately, their intention to fulfill this mandate was upset by the Spanish colonial government in Manila who insisted that the Jesuits stay in Manila and get involved in education. One of the main results of this decision was the Ateneo de Manila University.
In the Philippine celebration of this Bicentenary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus led by the Provincial Superior of Mindanaoan, Fr. Antonio Moreno, SJ, this original mandate in Mindanao was part of the mandate given to Jesuits in the Philippines during the last decade to rethink their ministries and ultimately recommit as a whole province to the mission of the Church in Mindanao. The other mandate was Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines in 2013. During this visit, 40 Jesuits had the privilege of meeting him despite his busy schedule. It was in a sala at the nuncio’s residence in Manila. I was there, delighted to meet this charismatic witness to the joy of the Gospel. When Fr. Moreno asked the Pope, to whom we Jesuits have a special vow of obedience, what he wanted from us, he replied: “Go to the peripheries. Go to the poor. For us, it was an invitation to renewal. And to our future as a Province of Jesuits in the Philippines.
Suddenly all the Jesuits in the Philippines were focused on Mindanao. For was it not appropriate that they recover the original mandate of the Jesuits to work in the missions of Mindanao? And didn’t Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, actually send us a mission to Mindanao, where there were no more peripheral people in the Philippines than in Mindanao? And where there were no poorer people than in Mindanao?
It is in this context that the Jesuits and the lay collaborators met from December 26 to 28, 2013 in the Finster auditorium of this university for the Conversations in Mindanao, an opportunity to reflect on the impulses that could frame a reorientation of the Province of the Philippines towards Mindanao. They were many: the need to fight against the worst poverty in the Philippines, the relentless war in Mindanao, the various calls for independence or self-determination by Filipino Muslim communities and movements, the historical injustices committed by the Spanish colonizers and the Philippine state on the Muslims of Mindanao, the injustice done to the Mindanaoans through the homesteading and resettlement programs under the Americans, the colonial government and under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, by which Muslims and Lumads were driven from their land to accommodate Filipino settlers from the north, the alienation of Mindanao’s economy from the peoples of Mindanao to further the national economy or the private interests of actors benefiting the national economy, the destruction of the once vast forest resources of Mindanao, the major new threats to the Mindanao ecology presented by open pit mining rt on a large scale.
The impulses from the Mindanao Conversations were further discussed by a Mindanao Conversations Implementation Committee which ultimately formulated a proposed Philippine roadmap for Mindanao.
A first proposed roadmap for Mindanao formulated in 2015 states in the context of a general commitment to the new evangelization, the fight against poverty and inequality and the protection of the environment:
“The compelling vision emerging from this Kairos moment would be to respond with the whole Province with boldness and creativity to the immediate and pressing apostolic challenges of Mindanao, always as a whole on the periphery of the Philippines. This includes the ongoing resolution of conflicts and wars in Mindanao due to injustice towards Moro identity, Moro political sovereignty and integral Moro development in the impending Bangsamoro, exploitation and displacement of indigenous peoples for l political and economic interest of others, pressure for basic education, especially of Moro peoples in the Bangsamoro territories and indigenous peoples of Mindanao (Lumad), need for religious education for Christian populations in a plural society , the need for life-long dialogue on the ground with the communities of Muslims and Lumads, the need for inter-religious and intra-religious dialogue in Mindanao, the need to use the faculties and facilities of commerce, computing, engineering, scientific and technical and professional to create wealth through trade, the use of trade and business strengthen international dialogue rcultural and civil structures of dialogue and peace, for the promotion of an economy which does not exclude, for the promotion of a culture between cultures which respects and protects the environment, etc.
It is in this context that Fr. Roberto Yap, current President of ADMU (Ateneo de Manila University) and Past President of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro, writes in the foreword to our book:
“In 2016, the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus made a conscious decision to focus its apostolic mission, energy and resources in Mindanao. It was an acknowledgment and a response to the sad reality of the region: the persistent poverty of its inhabitants, in particular the Muslim and Lumad communities, the violence and armed conflict that has lasted for decades between the government and the rebel groups, as well as the uncontrolled exploitation and degradation of its natural resources and environment, which are integral to the maintenance of the cultures and lives of its indigenous peoples” (xi).
He further states, “The urgency of addressing Mindanao’s problems cannot be overstated.”
Indeed, the publishers recognize that thanks to a grant from the CHED (Commission de l’enseignement supérieur), “a conference bringing together a selection of historians, economists, political scientists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists was organized at the Ateneo de Davao University to discuss the state of the art in Mindanao Studies on September 12-13, 2018. The study conference forged the idea of producing a reader from Mindanao, with a vision of expanding beyond academia to include practitioners, advocates and other knowledge carriers consonant with the transdisciplinary principle of dissolving the boundaries between conventional academic disciplines and more understanding and real-world concerns.Thanks to Christian Pasion, Kevin Bano, and Frederic Cruz of the Joint Ateneo Institute for Mindanao Economics [JAIME, headed pro bono by Prof. Germelino “Boying” Bautista of the ADMU] to Ateneo de Davao University for graciously hosting the conference. Mildred Estanda and Ritchell Abordo, both authors of this reader, were instrumental on behalf of the Economics Department of the Ateneo de Davao and in collaboration with JAIME to ensure the success of this crucial September 2018 conference.” C It was following the Mindanao Conversations of 2013 that Professor Boying Bautista began his important thematic study of Mindanao’s economy through JAIME.
I will not attempt to present the structure and content of this player. There will be opportunity for this in the presentations of this launch by the editors and a selection of distinguished contributors. Allow me, however, to express my personal satisfaction that among the 41 authors who have contributed to this reader are Ma. Ritchel Abordo, Mildred Estanda, Gail Ilagan, Mansoor Limba, Neil Ryan Pancho, Albert Santos, all of the Ateneo de Davao. Also brother. Karl Gaspar, CSSR, whom we recognize as one of our own thanks to the ongoing partnership between the ADDU Faculty of Theology and the Saint Alphonse Theological and Missionary Institute (SATMI). I am also delighted to find here important contributions to the understanding of Muslim reality in Mindanao by dialogue partners such as Sheikh Mahir Gustahan, Yusuf Roque Morales, Darwin Absari and, of course, our Mansoor Limba.
Allow me, however, to conclude by saying that I know of no other collection of studies which could better situate the serious person wishing to understand, study and engage Mindanao that this one. For a university like ADDU which partially understands its identify to be a Filipino “in the service of Mindanao” and its assignment To engage the Bangsamoro people and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and the indigenous peoples of Mindanao (Lumad), this volume should be required reading for its treatment of the reality of Mindanao, which its editors and authors recognize as complex and resistant to intellectual reflection. systematization. Indeed, it should be a reader that enables scholars, politicians and change agents to engage Mindanao, participate in its “transfiguration” and produce other such readers.
For me, it is also a drive to help Jesuits and their collaborators who have embarked on the road to Mindanao to stay the course no matter the pandemic and changes in the political landscape. The mission in Mindanao must be discerned not in the decisions of superiors 163 years ago or even in the decision seven years ago to send Filipino Jesuits to Mindanao, but in today’s complex realities of religious and cultural diversity, social injustice, historical injustice perpetrated by the state, if not also by the Church, against the Muslim peoples of Mindanao, environmental exploitation and continued alienation of Mindanao vis-à-vis the Mindanaoans who are discussed in this book. Pope Francis’ mission to “go to the peripheries. Go to the poor” remains convincing.
In effect, Transfiguring Mindanao is convincing.