Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Muslim child warriors are on the rise!

Weeks ago, the military showed video footages of the MILF training young kids for war.

Last Monday, several peace advocates were kidnapped in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan and the police claim it was the handiwork of 10 ``minors’’ believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

``What is alarming is that there were young boys, as young as around 12 years old. They (victims) estimated their ages as between 12 and 19, or teenagers,’’ Philippine Navy Spokesperson Lt. Edgardo Arevalo said of the incident.

Unfortunately, me and my wife Annora, a Tausug Muslim, no longer find the matter ``alarming.’’ You grow up with guns, what do you become? You grow up with the culture of hatred, violence, distrust and ignorance, what do you become?

So, what do we do to children who grew up thinking that the future depends on how they handle their guns? What do we do to children of war who grew up with guns and not books and better education? Kill them all?

For those of us who have teenage children, this is a very hard question to answer. For me and my wife, this piece of depressing development in Basilan only emboldened us even more to step up our efforts to flood Mindanao with books through our ``A-Book-Saya-Group’’ book donation project.

Please help make our ABSG fight the righteous fight not only against the ASG but the MILF, the MNLF and Christian vigilantes groups as well. Help us expose poor children in war-torn Mindanao to books in the hope that they grow up to be professionals and peace-makers.

Please be part of our ``group'' and help us disseminate our ASG project to the public through your newspaper column or through your E-Groups in the Internet. Please pass this message to as many people as you could.

Initially, we have designated our Satti Grill House outlets in SM Fairview Food Court and at the corner of MH del Pilar and Padre Faura as drop-off points for the books. Later, we hope to tie up with newspapers and private firms to help take in the books.

Thank you for taking time to read our letter of appeal.

Armand and Ann Nocum
Concerned parents of 2 Christian-Muslim children

Donors may contact us through Nos. 7992745/3393732 or 09175208013/09195897879 or at and

(By the way, the picture above is that of my 13-year-old daughter Arizza Ann. She was the first Christian-Muslim to graduate valedictorian at the School of the Holy Spirit, Quezon City. She's now studying at the Philippine Science High School.)


I’ve had this dream of wanting to start a book donation program for years now. Actually, several years ago, I had brought books donated by Sen. Loren Legarda to Zamboanga City and gave them to a school in a mix Christian-Community. You know this is something you can do only when you have the luxury of time and resources.
But last April, this idea came back to me when the Zamboanga Cathedral was bombed and so I started emailing friends a letter of appeal to end the bias towards Muslims and for us to flood Mindanao with books.
Then the MILF-MOA issue literally exploded with bombs and bullets in Mindanao and that was when I resumed my book-donation initiatives. I then started drumbeating that appeal in a local paper and the national columnists.
But yesterday, something I read convinced me that I should no longer just put off this advocacy to a part-time work and that I should sacrifice more of my time to make it a full-time initiative.
The reality check came in the form of news that 12-16 year-old child warriors were believed to be behind the kidnapping of several peace advocates belonging to an NGO group headed by Fr, Angel Calvo, who belongs to the Claretian missionary order. I am a Claretian ex-seminarian and Fr. Calvo was the one who officiated the marriage of me and my wife.
The issue of child warriors definitely hit closer to home this time.
Thus, I am doubling up my effort to reach out to as many people as possible for them to support my dream to flood Mindanao with books, education and goodwill, instead of guns, hatred and ignorance.
Here’s a letter I’ve been sending out recently and I hope you can help me distribute it via email to all your friends and loved ones. Thanks a lot.


Assalamu Alaykum (Peace be with You)

I am Armand N. Nocum, a former reporter of the Inquirer...

...the recent outbreak of war in Mindanao has shown us
that we should do more than offer Muslim food here.

This is the reason why we decided to start our Books-4-Guns
project. We plan to flood Mindanao with used and new books, magazines,
and all kinds of reading materials to open up the eyes of young
Christians and Muslims there to the reality that they have a better
future picking up a book than a gun.

Although I'm a Christian and my wife is a Muslim who grew up
in Zamboanga City and Sulu, respectively, we had a common experience
of having many guns in our childhood but remembering books to be very
rare. Old newspapers can only be read as they are brought home wrapped
in dried fish bought from the city.

We call our small project A-book-Saya Group (ASG). Of course
it is a play on the word Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) because we want to
show how the giving of books could help stop one more potential
terrorist or rebel from picking up guns or bombs. We'll find
fulfillment even if in our lifetime, our books could help stop only
one or two potential terrorists from bombing civilians.

We hope you could be part of our ``group'' and help us disseminate our
ASG project to the public. Initially, we have designated our Satti
Grill House outlets in SM Fairview Food Court and at the corner of MH
del Pilar and Padre Faura as drop-off points for the books. Later, we
hope to tie up with newspapers, private and government firms to help
take in the books.

Donors may contact us through Nos. 7992745/3393732 or 09175208013/
09195897879 or at and

Mucho y mas gracias

Monday, September 8, 2008

Humor in Times of Horror

Times are indeed hard, what with bombs raining down my hometown with the regularity of my mom’s calls and text messages of panic and alarm. Recently, she asked whether it was advisable to wipe out her pocket garden of orchids to dig a fox hole where they could take cover in case the MILF attacks our place.
Before that, she was texting me no end about text messages making the rounds of Zamboanga warning people to withdraw their money from banks because the MILF will burn them. That resulted in a bank ran but the attack did not happen, not yet.
So, bombarded by my mom’s texts, I thought of making a press release to make light of what is happening there and at the same time push for my pet advocacy, the A-book-Saya book donation project.
Unfortunately, the newspapers did not pick it up because they might not have found it amusing that I was reducing the horrors in the South into a comedy. Either that or I may be speck of dust in the big cosmic world of Philippine press.
Anyway, I’m now sharing what I wrote to all of you folks who take time out to read my blog.

PRESS RELEASE Reference: Armand/Ann Nocum
August 17, 2008 09195897879/0917520801317 Tel. 7992745


A Christian and Muslim couple yesterday dared the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leadership and the GRP panel to resolve their differences through a “satti challenge’’ – the gulfing of a spicy Malaysian food loved both by Christians and Muslims in Zamboanga City in less than three minutes.
In making the challenge, couple Armand and Annora Sahi Nocum, a Christian and Muslim, respectively, said they just wanted to diffuse the tensions and accentuate the need for the warring groups to recognize what make them similar, like being Filipinos, sharing a slightly related religion, culture and culinary traditions.
“Why do have to fight over what differentiates us? Why don’t we just celebrate the similarities between Christians and Muslims in the country?’’ said the Nocums, who had put up a Halal food business to introduce Muslim food to the metro palate.
“They say food is the best way to a man’s heart, we believe Muslim food can also serve to break down bias, mistrust and misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims. Eating Muslim food is a good start in having better appreciation and respect of their culture. We have no choice. We have to accept and love each other as Filipinos; there are just not enough bullets in the arsenals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the MILF for us to successfully wipe each other out.” said Armand Nocum, who left his job as reporter to put up the satti business.
Satti is the local version of the Satay or Sate foods that are popular in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. This exotic food is eaten with grilled chicken or beef – along with rice cooked in coconut leaves – being dipped into a bowl of hot and spicy satti soup.
“It’s so spicy that it cannot be eaten in less than three or five minutes. It’s spicier than the Malaysian version and I challenge the Malaysian officials brokering the deal to join the satti challenge as well,” said Mrs. Nocum, a Tausug who used to work as a nurse in Kuwait.
The Nocums directed their challenge to the government panel led by Secretary Rodolfo Garcia and Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and the MILF officials to include MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar and MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu.
The couple also said they would like to see sitting in one table other protagonists in the issue of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, including Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Pinol, Sen. Mar Roxas II, former Sen. Franklin Drilon, UNO spokesperson Adel Tamano, Zamboang City Mayor Celso Lobregat, Zamboanga City Reps. Maria Isabelle Climaco Erico B. Fabian; and even US Ambassador Kristie Kenny.
The Nocums said they are willing to host a ``sattihan’’ breakfast for this group in their Satti Grill House outlets in SM Fairview Food Court or at the MH del Pilar corner Padre Faura outlet.
Nocum also asked other Christian-Muslim couples all over the country to make their voices heard for the sake of peace.
“We may be the minority, but all of us have successfully shown that Christians and Muslims can live under one roof without shooting each other,’’ said Armand Nocum, who joked that his Tausug wife is more adept than him in handling .45 caliber pistols.


(The picture above is that of my daughter Ashia Marie, age 8. In 2007, she brought honor to the country by landing Top 5 in the Callaway Junior World Golf Tournament. Thus far, she has three holes-in-one under her belt, earning the name ''Muslim Ace'' from fellow junior golfers)