Molave Warriors: A New Catalyst of Peace

Lanao Del Norte – According to different international organizations, the problem in Mindanao is one of the worst ethnic conflicts in the world both in terms of its time period and cost. The struggle for freedom by the Moros is the longest in the entire history of the country and maybe in Asia. This year, the conflict has again become the center of everyone’s attention when the Mamasapano incident has raised questions about the sincerity of the Bangsamoro Peace framework signed between Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine Government.

Taking into consideration the magnitude of destruction this conflict caused the country, multi-dimensional peace efforts were revered by various political structures from in and around the country. Alongside these peace initiatives were development projects and socio-cultural programs designed for building and sustaining peace. But are we targeting the right demographics in achieving peace?

A popular song may be the answer in achieving the right peace in the southern part of the country. The song “The Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston” declares that children are our future. If we teach them the right values and enhance their self-esteem or worth, then they can definitely bring positive change that everyone is after.

Lt. Col. Leomar Jose Doctolero

Lt. Col. Leomar Jose Doctolero, Commander of 15th Infantry (Molave Warrior) Battalion, is the visionary behind the youth summit.

This is exactly the vision of Lt. Col. Leomar Jose Doctolero, Commander of the 15th Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army in Kauswagan, Lanao Del Norte. “We focus our activities in empowering the youth. We want them to become catalysts of change and instill in their young minds the value of love, peace, unity and respect,” he said.

This year’s 15th Infantry Battalion Youth Summit hosted more than 700 young individuals from different municipalities of the province with the theme “Kapayapaan Nating Minimithi, Magsisimula sa Ating Sarili.” The self-named youth summit commissioned Gaba-an Youth Lead of Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, which was also the group who facilitated last year’s summit.

“It’s our 2nd time working with the 15th IB Molave Warrior yet the excitement and professionalism they have exhibited have not dwindled a bit,” according to Dennis Caballero, founder of Gaba-an Youth Lead. He also added that Doctolero’s team is such an inspiration in helping the communities grow through the youths. Gaba-an Youth Lead is composed of students and young professionals who provide free empowerment programs around the country by volunteering their time.

Tatak #Selfie

Gaba-an Youth Lead’s Tatak #Selfie module provides a holistic approach towards knowing one’s self worth.

The 2-day youth summit featured a module that focuses on self-worth. Tatak #Selfie is designed to impact the youths’ mindset that they cann make things happen regardless of their religion, culture and financial situation. It also included fun activities such as the enduro challenge (adventure race), color me run, and several others.

According to Doctolero, the children in the hinterland municipalities rarely interact with the children in the coastal areas. “I believe this is important for the community because it serves as a venue where the youths from different municipalities of diverse culture and religion meet and eventually become friends.”

The summit has been made possible in partnership with the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Birgade, 5th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, Philippine National Police, the Province of Lanao Del Norte and its 7 participating municipalities. Several other non-government organizations have made efforts in making the event yet another success.

“15th IB is relentless in its effort to help bring peace and development in Lanao Del Norte. Expect more youth empowerment activities and more activities that will support nation building program.” Doctolero is positive that this kind of outreach will start to instigate peace when the youths become our future leaders. “It might be a small step towards attaining peace and development in Lanao but I believe that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” he added.

Revisiting Moalboal

Cebu Bonding.Moalboal has been one of the pivotal moments in my life that made me love the underwater abyss even more. With its wide-array of coral life and its amazing inhabitants, it has been the go-to destination of amateur free and scuba divers.

Located at the southwestern tip of Cebu Province, Moalboal is surrounded by the infamous Osmena’s Peak in the east and Tanon Strait in the west, which directly faces the Negros Island. About 90 kilometers (55.9 mi) from the capital city, Moalboal has become the easiest place to do just about any watersports in the whole province of Cebu, if not Region 7.

MOALBOAL, CEBU – TRAVEL GUIDE

DCIM100GOPROGOPR5912.Aside from amazing Scuba Diving Packages (will write a separate article for this), they also offer a more tourist-friendly activity that will take you to nearby Pescador Island, Sardines Sanctuary and Sea Turtles’ Way. This will only cost you PhP 2,500 for a maximum of 10 people.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR5818.The tour is more about snorkeling and seeing schools of fish in the wild and both Pescador Island and Sardines Sanctuary offer that. However, if you are adventurous enough and really itching to witness sea turtles in the wild, you should be prepared to swim along with a guide. This is a chase-and-witness activity, much like dolphin or whale watching but you just need to swim (life jackets for those who can’t keep up are provided).

Note: I highly recommend bringing your own Mask and Snorkel. If you have your own life vest, better bring it with you.

You can contact Osting for more information: +63 (905) 660-3015.

I know that renting a room can be really expensive, especially when you are traveling with a bunch of people. A good way to spend the night and create lasting memories is to camp out. So, whether or not you are planning to check in a hotel/hostel, make sure to pack your tent with you all the time. It’s always good to be ready. Otherwise, a good hammock is also recommended.

Overnight stay at the Moalboal shorelines will cost you PhP 100 per tent while the actual government environmental fee (Barangay Fee) will cost you PhP 10 per person.

If you are traveling with less-adventurous people or family member, you can opt to renting a whole house in a compound. Big Sand Camp Site can offer you a huge house good for 12 people for only PhP 3,500 per night, which can be extended until 2:00PM especially if you have good negotiation skills.

Room Inclusions:

  • 2 floors
  • 6 beds/mattresses
  • A/C unit
  • Tall fridge
  • Unlimited water
  • Hammock use
  • Secured compound
  • Grilling area

They also have some common items for sale like canned goods, noodles, coal, beer, and others. Big Sand Camp Site is situated beside a more expensive Serena Beach Resort and is about 15 minutes away from Basdaku’s infamous sandbar.

You can contact Jaime for more information: +63 (933) 301-4931.

Leave your comments below if you have any other things in mind!

The 5 most common travel mistakes – and how to avoid them

The 5 most common travel mistakes – and how to avoid them

by Christopher Elliot

shutterstock_128088629The secrets to a hassle-free summer vacation seem simple enough: Keep a checklist. Read the rules, especially if you’re flying. Take photos of your rental car. Don’t make assumptions about your hotel. And remember your paperwork when you’re traveling overseas.

But simple as that sounds, in practice it’s not always that easy.

Let me say right from the outset that I hardly started out as the world’s smartest traveler. But over the past decade and more, I’ve learned, from my own wide-ranging travels and from the many problems I’ve helped resolve for readers, what not to do when you’re on the road.

So what are the most common mistakes that travelers make? And, more important, how do you avoid them? How, in other words, can you vacation like the world’s smartest traveler?

1. Be prepared

Bob McCullough, a sales representative for a cheese company in Hainesport, N.J., admits that he’s a serial procrastinator, so he decided to start packing for a recent trip a full week in advance. He even booked a flight leaving Philadelphia on a Sunday to avoid the Monday crush of business travelers.

“I got to the airport two hours before my flight, found the parking garage pleasantly unpacked, and parked in a spot I had never dreamed of finding on a weekday,” he says. “I opened the trunk and reached in to grab my suitcase — which wasn’t there. I realized then, in shock with a cold sweat building, that I had left my suitcase in its normal pre-staging area of my laundry room.”

The smartest travelers plan ahead, like McCullough, but they also have a fondness for checklists. Did you pack the right clothes? Remember all the power cords? Is your luggage in the trunk of your car? Lists are your friends. Smart travelers know when to wing it and when not to. Sure, your friends and family might poke fun at you for keeping a list for everything, but they’ll thank you when you’re the only one with a power adapter in France. Travelers who keep lists are far less likely to get into trouble on the road.

2. Read those airline rules

Airline policies can be counterintuitive, even bizarre. For example, a one-way ticket can sometimes cost more than a round-trip ticket on the same plane. A change fee can exceed the actual value of a ticket. Also, “non-refundable” means non-refundable, except when it doesn’t.

Confused yet? If it’s any consolation, even airline employees sometimes get mixed up about their own rules. Don’t laugh, I’ve seen it.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt remembers seeing an unbeatable deal for a flight from Los Angeles to Tampa, Fla. But when she arrived at the airport, she noticed her itinerary. “The plane landed in Phoenix, Dallas, Houston and New Orleans before finally arriving in Tampa,” remembers the writer from Santa Monica, Calif. “I still groan when I think of how stupid I was.”

Based on the cases I’ve mediated, my best advice is to familiarize yourself with the always-changing, often Byzantine rules developed by the airline industry — rules that are often created for the sole purpose of “protecting” an airline’s revenue or, to put it in terms that everyone else can understand, to separate you from your money.

They may make about as much sense as a coast-to-coast flight with four stops, but you — and you alone — are responsible for knowing the rules.

3. Take photos of your rental car

Anna Arreglado didn’t do that when she recently rented a car in Bardonia, N.Y. “My mistake,” says Arreglado, who works for a pharmaceutical company in Ridgefield, Conn. Sure enough, the car rental company came after her, insisting that she’d damaged the vehicle. She couldn’t prove that she’d returned the car unharmed. It was her word against the company’s.

Fortunately, Arreglado reads this column and knew how to fight back. She disputed the claim in writing and copied her state attorney general on the correspondence. “Within an hour of sending my e-mail, I got the case dropped,” she says.

Listen up, campers: Take pictures of your cars before and after your rental. Some customers allege that car rental companies have built a profitable business around charging you big bucks for small damage, and the only way to avoid a repair bill is to show an “after” image of your undented car. That, and maybe having the e-mail address of your attorney general.

Actually, the takeaway from Arreglado’s story applies to more than rental cars. Sometimes, a brief, polite e-mail to any travel company will get the resolution you want — if you copy the right people.

4. Assume nothing about your hotel

No segment of the travel industry — except perhaps the airlines — profits more from our collective ignorance than hotels. They would like you to think that they’re the only lodging option in town, but they’re not. Today’s accommodations cover the spectrum, from glamping to vacation rentals. Don’t lock yourself into a traditional hotel or resort, at least not without first shopping around. You might be able to find a bargain on Airbnb.com with a better location and fewer hassles.

Travelers make other assumptions about their accommodations that aren’t necessarily true, too. For example, you’d imagine that the room rate you’re quoted is the room rate you’ll actually pay, maybe not including sales taxes.

But when Tom Alderman recently tried to book a room at his favorite casino hotel in Las Vegas, he was broadsided by a mandatory $14-per-night “resort” fee, which supposedly covered in-room wireless Internet access, use of the fitness center and “printing of boarding passes.” He was particularly outraged because the resort had repeatedly promised on its Web site to “never” charge a resort fee, like other Vegas resorts. “I’ll never stay there again,” says Alderman, a retired documentary filmmaker.

Resort fees are normally disclosed just before you push the “book” button, so don’t thoughtlessly click through. If you see a fee you don’t like, stop what you’re doing and look elsewhere for a room.

5. Don’t forget the paperwork

Having the right visas and permits and an updated passport is your responsibility, no two ways about it. That’s a difficult message for many travelers to hear. They rely on the advice of a travel agent or what’s posted on a Web site and believe (incorrectly) that those third parties should reimburse them when something goes wrong. This is especially common in the case of cruises, where a birth certificate, instead of a passport, is often enough to board a ship.

The consequences can be heartbreaking. A worried mom from Sacramento recently contacted me because her daughter and son-in-law, en route to their honeymoon in St. Lucia, had been stopped at the airport and denied boarding. The reason? The bride’s passport was due to expire soon — too soon for her to be allowed into the country. Some countries require your passport to be valid for six months from the date of your entry. An alert travel agent might have caught the problem, but now it was too late. And without travel insurance, the entire trip would be lost. “Can this trip be salvaged?” the mom wrote to me, with only hours before the vacation was to have begun. Sadly, it couldn’t be.

Point is, the most common travel mistakes are easily avoided with a little planning and by taking common-sense precautions. It looks easy, and sometimes it is easy. But the truth is, in many cases, there’s often a lot more to it, and questions arise.

And that’s what this column and I are here for.

You can also view this article by Christopher Elliot here.