MSU-Maguindanao FPE 101 Students Engage in Transformative Learning Visit at Camp Abubakar

The Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao, together with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension, the Office of MP Atty. Suharto “Teng” Ambolodto, and the Bangsamoro Youth Commission, spearheaded a Learning Visit at Camp Abubakar on May 25, 2024. A total of 46 students enrolled in Fundamentals of Peace Education (FPE101) participated in the Camp Transformation Project Visit, a Community Dialogue with decommissioned MILF combatants and their families, and a visit to the residence of Ustadz Salamat Hashim.

The first part of the learning visit showcased projects initiated by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU), the Joint Task Force on Camps Transformation (JTFCT), MSU-Maguindanao, and the EU-UNDP. These projects included S&T Climate-Based Vegetable Production and Fish Condo Units. Gawad Kalinga Farmers Cooperative and Calagan Pamana Marketing Cooperative participated in these projects and served as resource speakers and tour facilitators for the FPE101 students. Babu Laida, the secretary of the Gawad Kalinga Cooperative, competently handled around 10 students from the College of Agriculture and the College of Public Affairs and Governance. She answered their questions in detail, reflecting the lessons learned from their greenhouse gardening training and actual farming. Some students were delighted to see strawberries for the first time at Camp Abubakar.

During a ceremony held at Abubakar Siddique Elementary School, a school led by Ms. Cathelyn Hakim who is very supportive of MSU-Maguindanao’s programs, Vice Chancellor Raquel Santiago-Arenas discussed the MILF Camps Transformation Program and its significance in sustaining the gains of the Bangsamoro Peace Process. She highlighted the concepts of shared responsibility and collaboration. IPDM Director Grant Warren Lu emphasized the importance of experiential learning: “Naniniwala po kami sa MSU [Maguindanao] na when we teach peace to our students, hindi dapat nasa four corners of the classroom o yung pag-ga-grado ay base sa paper and pen assessment results, dapat tumatagos sa puso ng mga estudyante, dapat sila mismo ang may first-hand experience at makatuklas sa role na meron sila in sustaining the gains of the peace process. (At MSU Maguindanao, we believe that teaching peace to our students shouldn’t just happen within the four walls of a classroom or be based on paper and pen assessments. It needs to touch their hearts. They should have firsthand experiences and discover the role they play in sustaining the progress of the peace process).”

Mr. Alex Sulay, the Camp Abubakar Coordinator from the JTFCT, expressed his appreciation for the learning visit and provided insight into Camp Abubakar’s history. He shared his experiences during the all-out war and emphasized the importance of their current roles to prevent such nightmares from recurring. Ms. Aira Hazna Ampatuan of the Bangsamoro Youth Commission, representing Commissioner Nasserudin Dunding, shared a message with the Bangsamoro youth, urging them to engage in the peace process and avoid apathy. She encouraged the youth to find and share meaningful stories within their communities.

At the end of the activity, Bai Naima Marindig and Maimana Marindig delivered inspiring messages based on their experiences working on the Camps Transformation projects. Bai Naima proudly stated, Dati marites lang yung ginagawa namin sa aming mga bakuran. Ngayon marites pa rin pero nag-ga-gardening na at kumikita na rin kami. Sobrang laki ng aming pinagbago, natuto kami sa pagtatanim at pagsasalita sa harap ng mga tao, mahalaga to para sa amin. (We used to just gossip in our yards. Now, we still gossip, but we’re also gardening and making money. We’ve changed a lot—we’ve learned how to plant and speak in front of people. This is really important to us.)”

After the community dialogue, the students, led by 1st Marine Brigade Captain Jan Marc Rojas, visited the residence of Ustadz Salamat Hashim. Sir Alex Sulay provided a tour and discussion on the significant life of Ustadz Salamat Hashim and the construction of his home. He emphasized the role of the students in preserving Bangsamoro narratives to further fuel their desire to sustain the peace process.

During the debriefing sessions, Mohamad, an FPE101 student, shared, “Pwede natin i-share sa kanila (community) na pwede din yung mga asawa nila (combatants in their community), hindi puro hawak na lang ng baril at marites. Pwede din silang magtrabaho. Or habang nagma-marites, nagtatrabaho para maganda yung pag-uusapan kasi pag mag tanim ka, meron ka talagang aanihin. Tapos makakatulong din yun sa pamumuhay nila. Katulad nung mga nakausap namin kanina sa vegetable farm, pwede na rin silang gumawa ng cooperative para makahingi din ng tulong sa gobyerno. (We can share with the community that their spouses (combatants in their community) don’t just have to hold guns and gossip. They can also work. Or while gossiping, they can work so they have something good to talk about because if you plant, you’ll really reap something. Plus, it can help improve their lives. Like those we talked to earlier at the vegetable farm, they can also form a cooperative to ask for government assistance.)

Lyka, another FPE101 student, shared her insights: Dati, curious kami sa bahay po ni Ustadz Salamat. Ngayon, since napuntahan na po namin, finally, may sagot na po sa mga questions namin. Marami kasi kaming naririnig na haka-haka lang. Pero kanina, sa explanation ni Sir Alex, napatunayan po namin na yung mga sinasabi ng mga tao ay totoo. (Before, we were curious about Ustadz Salamat’s house. Now that we’ve been there, we finally have answers to our questions. We used to hear a lot of rumors. But earlier, with Sir Alex’s explanation, we confirmed that what people were saying is true.)”

This learning visit was conducted with the support of MP Atty. Suharto “Teng” Ambolodto, who fully supports academic programs that enhance students’ appreciation of the history of the Bangsamoro Peace Process. Chancellor Limbona’s administration has been effective in promoting peace through agriculture and fisheries and in involving all university stakeholders, especially students, in these peace programs.

Authors: Mr. Grant Warren Lu, Mr. Alvin Lois Pembarat, Ms. Nor Ann Abdilla