According to Fr. Bert Alejo, SJ in an interview regarding the war in Mindanao, “For almost three decades now, the war had cost the economy some ten billion pesos per year.” He added that the rebellion had killed at least at least 50,000 people, driven 2 million people out of their homes, destroyed more than 500 mosques, 200 schools and 35 cities and towns.
In Mindanao, “bakwit” is a popular word. It refers to displaced residents who are caught in the cross-fire between the “lawless elements” and the military and have no choice but to flee from their homes to avoid being sandwiched in the battle.
Since the start of the military operations against the “lawless elements” last October 15 in Talaib, Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay, many of my parishioners opted to leave their homes. I was moved by the story of Lolo Jose (not his real name) who narrated to me their journey to the Poblacion for refuge: “ang among gisakyan nga bangka nga naay 21 ka sako sa bugas ug 1 sa baboy nakulob. Ang tanan namong dala nabasa, among kaldero wala na makit-an.” (our boat capsized, together with the 21 sacks of rice and 1 pig. All our belongings are now wet, our kettle already lost).
Today, there are 35 families totaling 115 pax who are “bakwits” in the municipal gym. But that is not all. Many other ‘bakwits” sought refuge in the houses of their relatives. I know there are also “bakwits” who are staying at the WMSU classrooms. A good number of “bakwits” are also in our formation center in the parish convent of Parokya San Miguel.
Please do include us in your prayers. It will still be a looooong journey for us. We literally live each day according to the grace and mercy of God. Tomorrow is uncertain, but our faith feeds us with hope that in the end, the good always triumphs against evil. God bless us+