It has been a long week. A week full of new places, new people, new sights and new smells. Sunday evening found me flying into Davao International Airport around 5:30pm, sky was overcast but the mountains were still visible from where I was sitting in the middle of the Boeing 747-400, such a large aircraft for a short flight. At the airport, after having collected my bags (and not a little anxious about having them somehow be left behind in Manila), I made my way outside where I saw a group full of friendly faces waving a banner that said: “Hello Adam”
This was the beginning to an overwhelming week, a simple, friendly beginning.
Monday, I went on a tour of Davao City, it ended up being a good day for a tour, as the transport unions in the Philippines chose that day to strike, protesting the 10PHP hike in diesel prices since President Aquino’s election in June. My bosses and tour guides (InPeace staff) knew the union leaders very well and we stopped for lunch for me to be introduced and to listen to the struggles of the Jeepeny worker, a transport driver that only makes about 120 PHP for a full day’s work from 4am to 8pm. (less than $2.79)
The drivers in Davao City are more fortunate than those in Manila as food is less expensive here on average, but commodities and manufactured items are the same price as they are in the U.S, and how do these people provide for their families?
Around 1pm, there was a press conference followed by a march to the local department of energy. I was only allowed to stay for the conference, we had places to be, but I did get some nice photos of student activists.
Wednesday I attended the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform forum, where various religious leaders spoke to participants about the ongoing peace initiatives in Mindanao, and how religious organizations can make their presences be felt. A remembrance service was also held for the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre on November 16, 2004.
Thursday I started a 4 day Inpeace implemented, but European Union funded ‘Advance Human Rights Documentation & Paralegal Work’ training to be prepared for my work with InPeace as a human rights defender.
Friday, we held a memorial service for the political victims and their families and journalists who were massacred in the Maguindanao Massacre in November of 2009.
It is in the face of these obscene violations of human rights that my week ends. It took only 5 days. 5 short days for me to appreciate in the most basic sense the violations of international law that are ongoing, everyday occurrences here on the oft forgotten island of Mindanao, an island branded as a terrorist hotbed, teeming with Bin Laden imitators, but really just an island with full of good, peaceful and hopsitable people. An island struggling to survive in the aftermath of 9/11 and the global economic depression. A people struggling to survive.