Sunday Mar, 03 2024 01:25:47 PM

Aged bikers join Maguindanao's Sagayan bike event for sake of peace

 • 23:46 PM Mon Feb 8, 2016
John Unson
Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu huddles with aged sportsmen Agustin Posas, Sr. (3rd from left) and Jose Nusillas (right), who both joined Sunday's mountain bike challenge in Buluan town.(John Unson)

BULUAN, Maguindanao - Two 80-year old mountain bikers advocating for Muslim-Christian solidarity, having experienced the bloody Mindanao conflict in the 1970s, became instant celebrities during Sunday’s start of the yearly provincial Sagayan Festival.Even Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who is overseeing the week-long Sagayan festivities, got fascinated with the dedication of the two sportsmen, Agustin Posas, Sr. and Jose Nusillas, in promoting co-existence among Central Mindanao folks.Posas a resident of Tampakan town in South Cotabato, and Nusillas, who resides in Lutayan, Sultan Kudarat, were born on August 28, 1935 and October 8 in the same year, respectively.Sunday’s mountain bike challenge,” one of the highlights of the Sagayan Festival, was meant to bring in Muslim, Christian and lumad bikers from across Southern Mindanao for interfaith fellowships and disprove misconceptions on the security situation in Maguindanao. There is peace now in Maguindanao and conflicts here are just isolated incidents. We would not come over to join this mountain bike competition if it is dangerous to be in Maguindanao,” Nusillas said in Filipino, in heavy Ilonggo accent.Posas said he has regularly been participating in the yearly mountain bike competition during the Sagayan season in support of Mangudadatu’s peace advocacy thrusts. Conflicts will not bring us any good. It can only cause poverty. I am an outsider but I want to help the provincial government of Maguindanao foster peace in the province,” Posas said.Nusillas and Posas both said they detest armed conflicts and use of guns in seeking redress. I hate to even just imagine a return to the situation we had in the 1970s when Muslims and Christians were hostile to each other as an offshoot of machinations by powerful people out there,” said Posas, whose roots are in Leyte in Visayas, but grew up in South Cotabato since elementary.Nusillas, a witness to the brutality of the Ilaga, a fanatical group founded in the 1970s by President Ferdinand Marcos and the now defunct Philippine Constabulary to fight Moro insurgents, has been dedicating the remaining years of his life to engagements meant to foster unity among Southern Muslim and Christian communities.Ilaga is a generic Visayan term for rat.Nusillas said he and his family in Lutayan town were repeatedly displaced by armed conflicts in the 1970s. Whenever conflicts erupt, people start all over again and recovery is always a difficult process,” he said in Filipino.Nusillas, an Ilonggo, said he would continue to bike for peace” in Maguindanao province to show solidarity with people in the province.Among the more than 700 sportsmen who joined Sunday’s mountain bike contest in Buluan, the new capital of Maguindanao, were soldiers led by Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog of the Army’s 33rdInfantry Battalion.Army bikers from the 601stBrigade in Tacurong City and the 6thInfantry Division in Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, also in Maguindanao also participated in the event.Bunayog said Army units in Maguindanao also support the peace advocacy programs of the provincial government, particularly the propagation of interfaith solidarity among the Muslims, Christians and lumad sectors in all of the 36 towns in the province. While we in the 33rdIB are ready to quell security threats via tactical procedures, we are also most ready to first reach out and do everything to solve security problems in the most diplomatic means, as long as there are still avenues for it because we support the Mindanao peace process,” Bunayog said.The Sagayan Festival was pioneered by Mangudadatu in 2011 to promote the unique socio-cultural settings in the province and the ethnicity of the local Maguindanaon, Christian and the non-Moro T’duray and T’duray-Lambingan folks in Maguindanao.Sagayan is a centuries-old ethnic Maguindanaon war dance depicting the love of ancient folks for homeland and their readiness to sacrifice even their own lives in defense of people, land and religion.

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