Monday, August 17, 2009
Friends, here's a letter my daughter Arizza Ann Nocum, a third year student of the Philippine Scince High School, wrote to Ms Asinas, the angel who linked us up with caring friends from Australia.
Good day, Ms. Asinas!
My name is Arizza, and I am the daughter of Armand Nocum—the man who put up the A-Book-Saya group.
In behalf of him, I would like to extend my gratitude for the books you have given us.
I have just seen the Perth-Manila Book Project blog, and, personally, I congratulate you for having such an impactful campaign. Shaping civil society through books sounds like it requires utmost dedication; but I see that you have been truly successful with the assistance and support of service-oriented individuals from Manila and Perth.
Seeing what your campaign is achieving now, I am sure that you know the value of books, out of all people.
I am 14 years old; and eight or so years ago, the first Harry Potter book came out. My dad bought me the book in order to introduce me to the wonderful world of children’s fiction. True enough, I became engulfed in a world I never thought had existed; but I did not only learn that words and sentences could offer so much to my imagination, I also learned some principles, like how much the youth can do in the name of bravery and selflessness.
If that much can be learned from a single book, you can imagine the positive impact dozens of the books you have donated could make on a child.
Furthermore: with every book you gave us that a child may one day open, we issue a message of thanks. With the possibility that one of the many children who visit our library may someday turn to a principled world of science or math—that he did not know existed—instead of the world of war that right in front of his eyes, you understand that we are indebted to your support for helping us realize our goal.
Last April 6, you may have heard that we celebrated the soft opening of the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library (KRIS). It was such a delight to see the multitude of Christian and Muslim children at the library that day. They were eagerly checking out the books and tinkering with the computers—in fact, some of them claim to have used a computer for the first time.
In order to sustain that many children in our library the whole summer, we decided to facilitate computer lessons which 120 children have signed up for already. In addition, we promised scholarship grants to 50 children who will be visiting the library at least 25 times. Specifically, we will only be paying for the enrolment fee which is about P500. For those kids who visit less frequently, we will be rewarding them with school materials and older books.
However, about a hundred have promised to visit frequently to get the grant, and we really are in need of assistance.
That is why, in conclusion, we thank you again so much for the books you have given and are planning to give.
May we someday see our efforts into fruition! God Bless, Ms. Asinas!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Dear friends, here’s a letter I recently wrote to our friends at the Rotary Club of Pasig. I hope you would find it helpful in getting updates re our advocacy to save the Mindanao children from the jaws of crime and terrorism.
Rafael Garcia (c/o Ducky Paredes)
Executive Vice President and COO
Mega Group of Companies
The recent Cotabato church bombing is only one of the many reports of atrocities by leftist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf and MNLF. Kidnappings, massacres, beheadings, and even the recruitment of child soldiers as young as 7 have also been widely broadcasted in the news.
While the government is trying to solve this problem by sending the military, we, the A-Book-Saya Group (ABSG) have decided not to fight guns with guns, but to fight guns with books in order to save Mindanao and its children from the effects of warfare and crime.
Since 2008, we have been active in soliciting books and giving them to needy Christian and Muslim children in Mindanao with hopes that when they are made to choose to pick up the life of banditry and terrorism their fathers have had, they will instead turn away from it and choose a life of peace and profession.
In order to further our campaign, the Kristiyano-Islam (KRIS) Peace Library was built in Barangay Manicahan, Zamboanga City. Since its opening on April 6, the KRIS Library has been the center of activity in its area.
Particularly, during the summer, an average of almost a hundred children from near and far poured in to spend their time more productively by reading books and learning about the computer day by day.
Our offered programs have been very successful as well: 120 kids are now skilled in the use of the computer with the facilitation of the free computer lessons; and 60 kids are now proud scholars of the KRIS library they visited frequently during the summer.
However, the advent of the school year has magnified the needs of our library. More kids have been visiting to attend to their assignments and research works, and it is a must to keep the library in its top shape.
Even amidst the value of the books we keep in the library; it is unavoidable for some of the pages to get damaged due to frequent use by the children. Recommendations for a Xerox machine have been made but, right now, we lack the resources for this type of expensive machine.
The problem of lack of sanitation is also evident because the proposed comfort room in the first floor has not been constructed due to lack of funds. Without a proper comfort room, the kids have been using the bamboo trees behind the library to do their business.
The second floor which will contain the sleeping quarters for visiting volunteers and teachers, a comfort room for them, and a seminar area—the venue for livelihood projects for the poverty-stricken parents of the children—is also yet to be completed.
With all this in mind, we ask for your generosity so that we may be able to improve our facilities. Help us save these children from a life of poverty and war. Help us help them uplift education; help us help them become doctors, lawyers and engineers in the future.
Dear friend, we hope for your kindness in any way. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated by these war-torn children. Your wholeheartedness, in any form, will make us indebted to you.
May God bless you!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Zamboanga City – Hundreds of Muslim students whose studies were disrupted by the kidnappings in Zamboanga City are coping up with their lessons by reading and meeting up with their teachers in a library built for them this summer.
Following the soft opening of the Kristiyano-Islam (Kris) Peace Library in Barangay Manicahan here last April 6, kids from Manicahan and Sacol Island have been converging at the library to read up and learn basic computer lessons.
Teachers in Sacol Island have refused to return to the island after three of their colleagues were abducted by suspected Abu Sayyaf men on January 23. The three public school teachers remain in captivity.
“We miss school and we miss our teachers but we are happy to see them and catch up with schooling in the Kris library,” said Sitti Abdulwahid, 8.
The Kris Library was put up by a Christian and Muslim couple, Armand and Annora Sahi Nocum, through the A-Book-Saya Group (ABSG) book-donation project. The ABSG advocacy is aimed at flooding Mindanao with books to counter the gun culture; and to give Muslim children in perceived Abu Sayyaf lairs the option to pursue peaceful career over kidnappings and banditry.
To entice poor Muslims and Christian students to visit the library regularly, ABSG had offered free computer lessons; the free use of its computers; and dangled scholarships to 50 students who will visit the library at least 25 times this summer. Those visiting less frequently will receive old used books, school supplies, and other educational materials.
But the enticement was so effective that over 200 students have signed up to take computer lessons and who visit the library regularly to read up, play with educational materials and meet up with their teachers, some of whom are themselves regular patrons of the library.
With the increasing number of poor students visiting the Kris Library, the Nocums have appealed to people in Metro Manila to donate more books, school supplies, toys, and old but usable computers and printers.
Donors may drop donations at the Satti Grill House in SM Fairview or call 7992745, 3393732, 09175208013, 09195897879, or check out their blog at: www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
By Arizza Ann Nocum
So many Muslim and Christian children discovered a new place to spend their summer in last April 6, 2009.
The Kristiyano-Islam (Kris) Peace Library in Barangay Manicahan, Zamboanga City celebrated its soft opening with the presence of more than 300 people. Teachers, the local school superintendent, three principals, Barangay council members, parents, and—most especially—their children came to check out the library. The blessing was officiated by both a local priest and a Muslim Imam.
That day, Muslim and Christian kids from Manicahan and surrounding barangays started reading the books in the library. They also tried out the computers—some of them having done so for the first time since they may only have learned from cardboard drawings in their school beforehand.
To encourage kids to visit the library, basic computer lessons are now being offered. Furthermore, those who visit at least 25 times this summer are qualified to be one of the 50 to be given a scholarship grant. Those visiting less frequently will receive old used books, school supplies, and other educational materials.
The problem, however, lies in the fact that 200 children, as of now, have promised to visit the library everyday. Not only do they want to get a scholarship grant, but they are also encouraged by their parents to go there in order to have a more productive summer. Parents of Muslim children, meanwhile, fear that their kids may be lured by their older male counterparts into a life led by guns.
The construction of the Kris Library is still ongoing; only the first floor was completed and arranged for the soft opening. The second floor is still being built.
Once done, the second floor will have a room for planned livelihood training seminars, toilets, and even sleeping quarters for teachers who volunteer to help in the near future.
In the light of these demands, more help is needed in order to finish the construction, supply the programs with educational materials, and increase the number of scholarship grants that may be given.
With more of these resources, more children will surely be saved from a life of terrorism and ignorance.
Ashia Sahi Nocum, the country's only Filipino-Muslim international junior golf competitor, scored her fourth hole-in-one in a practice round Friday for the qualifying tournament of the 2009 Callaway Junior Golf Championships at the Manila Southwoods golf course in Cavite.
The eight-year-old Nocum used a pitching wedge to drive the ball straight into the 7th hole of The Legends course, 70 yards from the tee off area which was adjusted for junior golf players participating in the three-day first leg of the Callaway event. Winners of the event will represent the country in the Callaway Junior World Golf Tournament in the US.
The ace by the incoming 3rd grader of the School of the Holy Spirit-Quezon City was witnessed by fellow jungolfers and siblings Luigi, Enzo and Annika Castro; and their coach Felix Fernando. Nocum is currently being trained by golf coach Juanito Pagunsan, father of Juvic.
Nocum, then 6, made her first ace during the practice round of the 2007 Callaway Junior World Golf Championships in Colina Golf Park Course in San Diego, California. Nocum landed 5th place in the world tournament.
Seven months later, Nocum aced the fourth hole at the Riviera Golf and Country Club Executive Course. She then used a three-wood when her ball hit the pin and landed straight into the par 105-yard hole.
About a month later on March 9, 2008, Nocum again aced Riviera’s Hole No. 4 during the Champions for the Future golf tournament. It was then that friends started calling her the “Muslim Ace”, a title she was proud of.
Ashia, who represents Zamboanga City and Sulu, has started showing interest in golf in her diapers at two years old; started hitting the driving range at four; and played in the fairways at five.
Nocum is the daughter of Armand Dean Nocum and Annora Sahi Nocum, a former reporter of the Philippine Inquirer and a Muslim entrepreneur, respectively.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Dearest Friends of Kris,
We are back in Manila and happy that we have all fulfilled our collective desire to do something for hundreds of poor kids in Mindanao.
Last April 6, we celebrated the soft-opening of the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library or Kris. About 300 teachers led by the local school superintendent, three school principals, the barangay council; and children and their parents attended the opening ceremonies.
To ensure that our library will have meaning and significance to the lives of poor kids, we have offered to give basic computer lessons and as of today, about 120 kids have already registered to take the lessons.
To ensure that they do go and read in the library this summer, we also promised to give scholarship to 50 elementary and high school kids who will visit the library for at least 25 times this summer. The idea is to inculcate in them the habit of going to the library regularly and for them to embrace Kris as a place not only of knowledge but fun and games.
However, as of today, about 200 kids have already signified their intentions to visit the library daily, egged on by parents who worry that they while away their summer vacation riding carabaos, watching television, swimming in rivers and seas; or getting into drugs. For Muslim mothers, there are fears the older males in the family will teach their kids the quick way of making money in these parts – banditry and kidnappings (this usually result in their kids being unwilling to return to school anymore, thinking guns are the only tools they need to survive.
Also, we put up a program where those who go to the library for lesser days will get some of the used books you gave us, school supplies and other education materials.
While there, we saw signs of hope to remind us that we are on the right track in what were doing. We learned, for example, that in the local public school, three Muslim kids have graduated as class valedictorians for several years now. This shows that given the support from us who have something to give, we can really make the difference of transforming the lives of poor Muslims and stopping the rise of kidnappings and banditry.
In this light, we appeal for your continued help for us to complete the second floor of the library where we’ll hold livelihood training seminars; toilets for boys and girls; and sleeping quarters for teacher-volunteers who come from nearby islands.
We’ll also welcome your help in giving us school supplies and footing the bill for some of the scholars so we can increase the beneficiaries to about 100 (we’ll only shoulder the enrolment cost of about P500 per students).
We hope you’ll never get tired of helping us. As it is, we’re already so much grateful for all your help.
Armand & Ann Nocum
Kris Peace Library
Friday, March 27, 2009
One of DPWH Undersecretary Ramon “Mon’’ Aquino’s last acts of kindness was to help build a Christian-Muslim Peace Library in Zamboanga City. Usec. Mon lived for others in his very last days.
Usec. Mon was one of those who immediately saw the importance of our advocacy to educate poor Christians and Muslims in Mindanao so they may pick books instead of guns; peace over war.
“Maganda ‘yan pare, tulungan natin sila at baka magiging future DPWH engineers pa sila,” Usec. Mon said upon learning that the Kristiyano-Islam (KrIs) Peace Library is situated at a suspected Abu Sayyaf lair in Barangay Manicahan, Zamboanga City.
In honor of Usec. Mon, we are naming a portion of the two-story library the “Undersecretary Ramon Aquino Corner’’ where we will be placing engineering, architecture and infrastructure books.
In doing so, we hope that generations of Mindanaoans who decide to lay down guns to work as engineers and architects or builders here and abroad will be inspired by the kindness and generosity of a man who had them in mind in his final days.
Under our A-Book-Saya Group (ASG) book-donation project, we will also use all the means of communication to trumpet the good news that in a department much misunderstood by the public, there are many good people like Usec. Aquino who never hesitate to help total strangers in far Mindanao.
Indeed, Usec. Aquino personifies the true DPWH public servant—who not only builds physical bridges that connect lands, but bridges that connect hearts and minds from across the seas; and among cultural and religious diversities.
Bullets did not kill Usec. Mon; he is still alive and will live on in the hearts and minds of every Jose, Ali and Abdullah who – after exposing themselves to books – will decide not to be a rebel or terrorist but to be builders of bridges and roads in Mindanao.
May Allah bless you Usec. Mon.
(This is a tribute I wrote for the family of my friend DPWH Undersecretary Ramon Aquino. I have also included a picture of the proposed Kris Peace Library now under construction in Zamboanga City)
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Assalamu Alaykum (Peace Be With You)!
As you can see in the picture, the library you inspired us to build is now in full construction swing. It is projected to be half-completed by the end of this month, just in time for the scheduled April 6 soft opening.
By then, it would be an unpainted, incomplete, largely bare yet a proud building and a repository of the dreams and hopes of our poor Christians and Muslims brethren down South.
In this regard, we are inviting you to join us for the soft opening ceremony in Manicahan, a barrio 24 kilometers East of Zamboanga City. Please confirm your intention to join us for the blessing of the Kristiyano-Islam (Kris) Peace Library. This blessing will be officiated by a local priest and a Muslim Imam.
Other activities include a computer lecture and the testing out of the computers by children who will probably do so for the first time in their lives—just imagine the surge of emotions as we see their faces light when they this thing called computer for the first time in their lives!
There will also be a book-reading session with Abu Sayyaf kids and the giving of books, toys and slightly used school supplies to children who will be visiting the library for the first time. In this regard, we hope you could help us source out those toys or other stuff that you think will help entice the children to visit the library regularly this summer.
We are trying to arrange for a press conference but this early we doubt if this is possible given the fact that many reporters would then be out for their Holy Week vacation.
Due to limited resources, we can only provide you with transport to and from the airport and accommodation in our humble ancestral home in Manicahan, which is relatively peaceful. We’ll also accompany you to ensure your safety should you want to stay in the city longer.
We hope you understand our limited resources, given the fact that even if half completed, the library would already cost about P350,000. As of today, donors–mostly friends and clients of our public relations and litigation PR firm—have only given us a total of P158,000. Well, you can easily guess where the rest of the construction cost is coming from.
We now realize that it may have been foolhardy for us to rush into building a library so fast without first putting up a formal foundation or getting donors to produce the money first. But we have no regrets, we’ll just have to bite the bullet and count on God/Allah to bless our businesses so we can see through the completion of the library.
Anyway, as many of you have probably experienced already, giving is not really giving until it hurts. We are just beginning to experience this now but it’s all worth it. But should you not be able to join us in the soft opening, there is still time for you all to catch up in July when we shall have formally completed the library.
By then, we plan to hold a medical and dental mission, display and sale of unique Muslim arts and craft done by the kids and their parents; and other activities to help bring smiles into the faces of war-torn children in Zamboanga City.
Regards and God Bless.
Armand and Annora Nocum
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Here's a letter I wrote to friends whose help I am soliciting to build Zamboanga's first Christian-Muslim Peace Library. Do read it and pleace also pass it on to your relatives, friends and loved ones.Abu
Manila kids are lucky. They only worry about grades, tutorials, concerts and where to go for vacation this summer. The growth of a pimple is magnified to the level of cancer.
However, strife-torn kids in Zamboanga City, Basilan and Sulu worry and pray that they at least get one meal a day; and that the kidnapping and military operations will stop so their schools will open.
Christian children worry about being kidnapped on the way to school. Their Muslims classmates, who are suspected to be children of Abu Sayyaf, pray that they not be abducted by Christians to force their fathers into releasing their victims.
This situation will worsen as extreme poverty drives more people into criminality. Kidnapping there is so common that ransom money is down to P9,000.
Seeing my mixed Christian - Muslim community turn into an Abu Sayyaf lair, I’ve decided to help stop Abu Sayyaf kids from taking after their fathers’ criminal activities.
For seven years now, I have been bringing books and holding medical missions in Barangay Manicahan, Zamboanga City. Manicahan is about a mile away from Sacol Island, where three teachers were kidnapped recently.
The only effective way to stop war and kidnapping is to provide poor Mindanao kids with good education so they will grow up to become productive citizens.
Thus, I enjoin you to help me build the first Kristiyano-Islam (KrIs) Peace Library to give poor students a place to read; learn the use of computers; undergo tutorials; and arm themselves with basic livelihood skills.
For inquiries regarding your donations, please contact me at cell. phone numbers 09195897879/ 09178127932 or at Tele-Fax numbers 3393732/ 7992745. Please check out our book-donation program at my blog: www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com.
Armand Dean Nocum
Dean & Kings Legal PR
(The picture above is that of my youngest daughter Ashia Mari Nocum, a Grade 2 student at the School of the Holy Spirit. She's a member of the Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines).
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Reputation, that for which many die to protect, is now just a click away from destruction. Our privacy, which keeps our individuality and sanity intact, is now just a blue-tooth beam away from obliteration. Our future, the vast expanse of space for us to conquer, is now just 2.5 mega pixels away from permanent shame and scandal.
Looking at your young, vibrant – and yes – beautiful faces today gives me a sense of foreboding for your future in the hands of click-happy maniacs who will misuse technology to expose your very private person and intimate moments to the whole world via the internet.
At the same time, your presence here today inspires me even more to continue my fight against the wanton use of technology – especially the now very ubiquitous mobile phones – to capture and spread people’s private sexual acts or their physical private parts.
Yes, by now most of you – especially the boys here – have seen, exchanged through blue-tooth, infra-red or emails the now very common sex scandal or video scandal flicks. We even got reports that now, you no longer have to buy pirated CDs or DVDs from Quiapo, but you can just have people there beam into your mobile phone sex video flicks for a price.
Although a criminal act, what is lamentable is that this form of technological abuse is now very pervasive and people find it ``normal’’ and acceptable. People are no longer offended or find the showing of sexual acts of girls as young as their kids or sisters making love revolting. Many even look forward to buying new pirated disc showing newer sets of victims who grow younger by the month.
Alas, the showing of such video scandal is as common and acceptable as the singing of videokes. The playing of sex video scandals has become part of the things that man do when they get together for a drink.
Local actresses even cause the spread of such indecent film clips to boost their careers. Unfortunately, many of them get away with such publicity gimmick without anyone getting jailed or anybody bothering to seek justice. This is now accepted as part of life here in the Philippines.
But is it? Should we allow it to go on like this?
My answer there is “No!”
It is for this reason that I have filed a bill criminalizing the recording of ``private act or acts and other violations of the privacy of an individual’’ by means of mobile phones or video cameras.
House Bill 4315, entitled ``An Act To Prohibit and Penalize the Recording of Private Act or Acts and Other Provisions of the Privacy of An Individual, And for Other Purposes”, sets a penalty of up to six years imprisonment and a fine of up to P500,000 for those doing peep-show clips or those engaging in audio-visual kiss-and-tell.
This bill, which I co-authored, Buhay Party-List Reps. Rene M. Velarde and Ma. Carissa O. Coscolluela -- also penalizes those in possession of such offensive ``video tape, disc record’’ and ``replay’’ or ``share, relay or exhibit the contents thereof in any form.’’
Under the bill, ``consent’’ of one or both parties involved in the sexual act cannot be used as valid ground or excuse for the taking or showing of the obscene film clip.
In my bill’s explanatory note, I have expressed disgust over the fact that ``these recordings are caused by or with authority of lovers or partners. Whether it is triggered by a lover’s revenge or just cheap publicity stunt, the same is against morality and ethics.’’
My bill penalizes the ``mere act of recording or any attempt of recording the private act or acts, including but not limited to sexual act, and other violations of the privacy of an individual which would cause public ridicule, without consent of the parties…’’
In my bill, I have stressed that this form of technological abuse ``is considered the highest form of invasion to the privacy of the offended party. Such violation is condemnable and needs to be penalized in its highest degree.’’
My bill, now commonly known as the “Anti-Cyber Boso” was approved by the House of Representative’s committee on Justice on Feb 3, 2008. This will be scheduled for 2nd reading at the plenary hall of Congress.
I am happy to report that my colleagues in Congress are quite supportive of this bill, with many of them offering to co-author this significant and timely measure.
Thus, as I face your beautiful faces today, I will not only impart to you the important facets of the bill but also pick out your brilliant minds on how we your representatives in Congress can improve on this measure.
We will be happy to get inputs and suggestions from you because you are clearly more techno-savvy than many of us in Congress. Verily, the future of technology – good or bad – rests in your hands.
It just ironical that the technology that is connecting Filipinos is also the same technology that is robbing the innocence and debasing our youth who are being exposed as sex objects via mobile phones.
So today, I ask you to join me in my crusade to stop the abuse of technology and preserve our individual reputation, privacy and future from those out to destroy it with one merciless and reckless click.
(This was a speech delivered by my PR client and friend Buhay Party-List Rep. Irwin Tieng during a consultation/dialogue regarding Tieng’s House Bill 4315, which is commonly known as the “anti-cyber boso’’ bill)
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Taking the Flack for Muslim Kids
My friend Charlie Agatep – the recognized modern-day Dean of Public Relations – has gifted our A-Book-Saya Group (ASG) five used computers to be made available to poor Christian and Muslim kids in Zamboanga City.
For his generous gesture, the chair of the Euro RSCG and president of the Agatep Associates Inc. – the country’s premier advertising, marketing and PR firms – recently found himself under fire for from those who resented him using “Abu Sayyaf lair” to describe the areas where the computers and books will be brought to.
Unfortunately, it was I who made the caption in question and which appeared in the Manila Bulleting, Malaya, Business World, Business Mirror and the Manila Times.
And one of those who queried Charlie on the word was my kababayan David Santos. So here’s the email I sent to David to explain my choice of words. Do read on because it says much about what is happening in that troubled city of mine.
It’s an honor to be communicating with you because I only see you on television reporting out of my beloved hometown Zamboanga City.
As to your query relative to the phrase “Abu Sayyaf lair,” that came from me as CSR Guru Charlie Agatep correctly pointed out.
I know that such phrase will kick up storm in Zamboanga City as it desperately tries to project a veneer of peace and stability. But I am willing to risk condemnation if only to help my parent, brothers and sister and other relatives in Manicahan and Sacol Island sleep better at night.
You see as far back as I can remember, Sacol Island – which is about 10-minute boat ride away from Manicahan – has been considered as “MNLF country.” I should know because in my younger years at the Manicahan Elementary School, we would jump into fox holes under the house when we see the now vintage Tora-Tora planes circling over Sacol and dropping bombs.
As we grew up, we learned to adjust to the sight and sound of planes flying and bombs going off and the ground shaking that we actually cheered when that happens because that would mean the dismissal of classes.
Back then, there was relative peace in Manicahan with suspected MNLF families living in Manicahan Poblacion and Sacol Island respecting our peace. My late dad Armando Nunez Nocum – Manicahan’s longest serving barangay captain – earned the respect from Muslims both in Sacol and Poblacion. Although he and his CAFGUs sometimes have to exchange fires with truant MNLF rebels, they generally left us in peace.
Then the Abu Sayyaf came to town. Their rise brought fear into the hearts of everyone in Manicahan – both Christians and Muslims. Suddenly there was what we called “love letters’’ from suspected ASG commanders asking some of my relatives to pay up or face the prospect of kidnapping. Even retired teachers or affluent Muslims were not spared.
Suddenly there were numerous talks of kidnap victims being brought to Sacol Island. Terror hit home when one of my uncles – you may ask my cousin Councilor Elong Nativida for his name – was kidnapped and brought to Sacol Island.
Then a former principal from nearby Cabaluay was also kidnapped and she too was brought to Sacol where reports said she was raped night and day by teenage members of the Abu Sayyaf.
Teachers in Manicahan Poblacion, including my sister, were terrorized by children who were open about the fact that their fathers and relatives are ASG members. These children would threaten their teachers who are strict to them. Pretty soon, Christian students started leaving the Poblacion Elementary School which is now exclusively serving Muslim students.
Two years ago, talks were ripe about kidnap victims seeing the PLDT tower in Poblacion while in captivity. This meant that kidnappers have become so brazen that they no longer see the need to take the victims out to Sacol Island but were keeping them right in Manicahan.
My mother confirmed this because some of the suspected ASG members were her students. She lamented that many of them were smart. How depressing.
So, for years now, people in Manicahan have been living in constant fear. And if you have relatives having been kidnapped and living in fear, what would you do? Certainly you would throw verbal niceties out the window and call Sacol and Manicahan for what it really is – an Abu Sayyaf lair. The kidnapping of the three teachers only confirmed this.
But how many more will have to be kidnapped, raped and killed for us to finally face the reality that we have a serious peace and order problem in Zamboanga City’s East Coast? Should we start doing so only when members of the Lobregat, Santos, Fabian, Velasco, Enriquez or other prominent families get kidnapped in Manicahan, Sacol, Sangali, Bolong or Cabaluay?
In the face of this harsh reality in my barangay, I did not cry wolf and condemned the kids of the ASG. In my view, they are as much victims as we are of government neglect and indifference. Please bring your television crew to the Manicahan-Poblacion Elementary School for you to see how the neglected school serves as a breeding grown of disgruntled future terrorists.
Instead of acting as an alarmist, I worked hard to bring books and other stuff to both Christian and Muslim children in Manicahan and Sacol Island. I have been doing this for about seven years now without fanfare and without announcing my deed to the local media, many of whom are my friends. After all, I am just an ordinary Chavacano who happens to be married to a Muslim.
However, my low-key effort to build the first Kristiyano-Islam (Kris) Peace Library finally got attention this time because my friend and generous benefactor Mr. Agatep came into the picture. However, I don’t mind the criticism heaped upon me and Mr. Agatep as long as the on-line discussions serve to bring attention to the peace problem in the East Coast.
I hope our compoblanos will turn criticism to actual support for my dream to show ASG kids that there is a better way out of poverty than the barrel of a gun. What we do now may not have an immediate effect, but at least we are doing something to intervene and change the young minds of our poor Muslim and Christian’s children into seeing education as the most effective way out of poverty.
In doing so, we are also showing them that they are still part of the Philippine Republic and there are Christians and Muslims in Manila and the city proper of Zamboanga who still care for them.
I hope I could count on your help. I also appreciate you not exposing this letter or my relatives in the local press so as not to further endanger them. I feel my kindness towards Muslims in Manicahan and Sacol Island and the fact that I’m married to a Tausug are among the reasons why they have not yet kidnap any member of my immediate family.
Gracias mi amigo David.
Armand Dean Natividad Nocum
President and CEO
Dean & Kings Legal Public Relations Firm
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The horror of war and kidnapping came to me early in childhood. Then and now, I know fear by one name: Sacol Island.
Now notorious for the recent kidnapping of three public school teachers, Sacol Island is just half a mile away from my hometown Barangay Manicahan in Zamboanga City.
In my elementary school years, war came to us in the form of vintage T-28 Trojan dive bombers – commonly known as Tora-Tora planes – raining bombs and hellfire into the island located east of Zamboanga City. Sacol was then known as a Moro National Liberation Front lair.
The rumbling and shaking of the ground beneath us signal the dismissal of classes. It also triggers panic as our parents pack up clothes, foods, flashlights and other provisions as we jump into fox holes to hide from the fire fight between the army and the MNLF.
Some 35 years hence, things have not changed. They only worsened. Now the Abu Sayyaf Group has made Sacol Island their home. To escape military attacks, some ASG families also settled down in a sitio in Manicahan known as Aplaya.
The horror of kidnapping became close and personal. Recently, a farmer-uncle was kidnapped in Aplaya; and my mother’s colleague in a religious organization was kidnapped and gang-raped by teenage ASG members in Sacol Island.
Truly, poverty and illiteracy has driven many in Aplaya and Sacol Island to see kidnapping as the only effective means of earning a living. Kidnap for ransom activity has turned into a kind of cottage industry.
It is for this reason that through our A-Book-Saya Group (ABSG) book-donation project, we have targeted children in Aplaya and Sacol Island as beneficiaries of less than 700 books we collected through our Satti Grill House outlet in SM-Fairview last year.
Although it is too late to change the minds of their gun-totting elders, we hope that with books we could still reach out to the children of suspected ASG members for them to take the path of peace.
However, we realized that to really get ASG kids into seeing education and not guns as viable means out of poverty, we have to take a pro-active means to initiate an early intervention in their troubled childhood.
Thus, we are embarking on a mission to build the first Kristiyano-Islam (Kris) Peace Library to teach Christian and Muslim children living in Manicahan and Sacol Island that there are other means of livelihood other than kidnapping and banditry.
The Kris Peace Library would be a place for Christians and Muslim kids to get together to read, train in the use of computers, undergo reading sessions, watch inspiring documentaries; and a place for them and their parents to learn some form of livelihood.
As of now, we already have about 90 boxes of books and five used computers donated by Former Senate President Jovito Salonga, PR Guru Charlie Agatep, the International School of Manila, Diether Ocampo’s KIDS Foundation, Ahon Foundation of Filway Marketing Inc, Quota International-Manila, Solar Sport’s Willie Tieng, and Philippine Star columnist Jarious Bondoc, among others.
But the biggest challenge is the building of the simple, two-storey library. It is in this connection that we are asking for your help to project our advocacy in media through your newspaper columns, blogs or e-groups for us to reach out to potential donors.
Potential donors can call us at 7992745, 3393732 and 09175208013. You can email us at email@example.com or check us out at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com.
Those who want to give books, educational toys and school supplies can drop these off at the Satti Grill House outlet in SM-Fairview Food Court or at the Dean and Kings Legal Public Relations Firm located at Suite 300, Kimvi Realty and Development Building, 1191 Maria Orosa St., Ermita Manila (fronting the Court of Appeals).
Armand Dean Nocum
Dean & Kings Legal PR Firm