Embattled Mindanao

DSC_0041Mindanao, Philippines, October 2008.

My dad was a journalist in college (maybe even post-college) in the Philippines, but he gave it up because he said it was too dangerous. He was right.

Of the top 20 most dangerous countries for journalists listed by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Philippines ranks fifth, with 38 dead since 1992. This number doesn’t include those killed in the recent Maguindanao massacre, in which more than 30 journalists died, bringing the total to 88 and earning the Philippines the unfortunate distinction of second place, right behind Iraq.

The CPJ actually now considers the Philippines the most dangerous country for media. Interestingly enough but unsurprising, most of the 38 listed on their site covered corruption.

Mindanao, the island where the massacre took place, has long been plagued by political conflicts and violent attacks from militant Islamic groups. Just recently, in July of this year, a bomb went off outside a Christian cathedral and killed 5, injuring dozens more.

My dad is from Mindanao. My mom was so terrified of it that, despite spending much of her life in the Philippines, she never set foot in Mindanao until last year, when my family and I visited (the first time my dad, sister and I had been back since we emigrated in 1992).

My friends warned me to steer clear of the island, repeating horror stories we’d heard many times before. Even though we were in the northern part of Mindanao, away from the usually targeted areas, I admit I was a bit apprehensive when we landed.

But in the few days I was there, my fears were unrealized. The people were incredibly nice. A cab driver even returned my dad’s bag carrying his laptop and wallet when he forgot it in the car. Much of it is really beautiful.

It’s a shame that amid such beauty, so much violence pervades.

DSC_0005A security guard keeps watch in the hotel lobby.

DSC_0033A student at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro.


The streets there aren’t as chaotic as Manila’s.

DSC_0064Tricycles and Jeepneys are usually in vibrant colors, often decorated to the drivers’ liking.

DSC_0204A neighborhood stand.

DSC_0210A woman surveys the streets.

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