Friday, March 27, 2009

USEC. MON: Caring ‘til the End

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

Zamboanga's First Christian - Muslim Peace Library Rising

Dear Friends,

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
A-Book-Saya Group