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.
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.
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.