Message to the Convocation of MBLP Cohort 2
Ruby Andong, fellow under the MBLP's Cohort 1, shared her insights and experiences as a fellow under the program during the opening ceremony of Cohort 2's convocation. A full copy of her speech is herein provided.
Message to the Convocation of MBLP Cohort 2:
“Co-Creating Peace in Conflict-Affected Areas in Muslim Mindanao”
8:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m., 21 March 2013; Fuller Hall, Asian Institute of Management
by: Ruby A. Andong
To be part of the Mindanao Bridging Leaders Fellowship Program has been a great opportunity for learning what it takes to be a Bridging Leader especially in the context of a very complex situation, our conflict affected-areas in Muslim Mindanao. My personal experiences on the ground were my gains from the MBLP. Through them, I have learned how to best understand the importance of multi-stakeholder processes which I have personally seen are crucial in our quest for community social transformation especially in the light of new developments for the Bangsamoro. I believe I represent the transformations that my co-fellows in Cohort 1 experienced.
My self-transformation from being a non-practicing Muslim to what I am as you see me now…striving hard to become a true Muslim in all aspects of my life…is a story to which many of us, Bangsamoro Muslims, can relate. I was once like any other Bangsamoro Muslim who will strongly fight for his identity as a Muslim but lived a life very far from an ideal Muslim life.
In the past, I found it very difficult to practice Islam as a way of life. I did not follow Islamic dress code. Instead, I followed the dressing styles dictated by the Western fashion world; I pray at my own comfort without bothering myself to perform the five (5) obligatory prayers; I valued and loved to do things which were also inconsistent with my Islamic faith. With all the freedom of doing things the way I wanted to, I should have felt fulfillment and true happiness as other peace advocates would expect me to feel … but it seemed something was still lacking deep inside me….maybe because freedom without the guidance from Allah will never give you inner peace…and inner peace is the very foundation of a peaceful environment and true happiness.
My life started to change significantly when I attended study circles of women and, this time, a change with a true happiness inside and out, Alhamdulillah. I started practicing Islam as a way of life and started it by covering my “awrat” and praying obligatory and voluntary prayers. I believe, my self-transformation started with a “calling” from Allah through my friends. Alhamdulillah.
However, this transformation of mine brought me to some degree of idealism that caused me to sometimes isolate myself from other Muslims who were not really practicing Islam. I was especially critical of Muslim women who did not follow Islamic dress code. I critiqued Bangsamoro Muslims with un-Islamic lifestyles, especially our leaders, and would never want to engage with them. Alhamdulillah, another “calling” has happened and this time through “MBLP.” Thank you to the program for choosing me to be one of the fellows for the 1st Cohort of the Mindanao Bridging Leaders Program. The MBLP has let me go through another level of self-transformation. Idealism should always remain in me whatever happens but it should not hinder me from engaging with whoever it is that can help with my goal of community development…the more that I should engage with leaders who are not doing what are expected of them as Muslims …baka maka influence ako, sabi nga ni Maam Nieves.
It is my strong belief that to attain lasting peace among us, we need to go back to the teachings of Allah. For this reason that I chose to work on my change project entitled, “Promoting Community Good Governance and Peace through Values Transformation and Skills Building.” My change project aimed to contribute to achieving our vision of enlightened and productive communities working together for peace and development. I have learned a lot in the course of implementing my project which involved multi-stakeholder processes. My engagement with multi stakeholders was the biggest challenge of my BL journey. I think my co-fellows will agree that co-ownership is the most challenging portion of our journeys.
Applying the BL inputs, I really had to force myself to come out from my shell and started forming my core groups or my trust circles who gave me the strength to proceed in the most challenging moments of my journey especially my husband who was the 1st member of my Core Group (CG).
Winning the trust and support of my core group, guiding coalition, the community and other stakeholders was not that easy. But MBLP helped strengthened my self-confidence and made these difficulties easier for me… just a simple thumbs up and a simple yet very powerful and encouraging word from Mam Nieves, “kaya mo yan, Ruby!”…made the highest mountains easier to climb.
Many good things happened in me since I became a BL Fellow. I have bridged friendships to persons unlikely to become my friends, have bridged my network of support and assistance for my future projects, and have made my life very fulfilling as I have touched the lives of my project beneficiaries especially the women beneficiaries and saw their happy smiles as we planned together for their skills-based livelihood activities. My community was granted financial assistance through our joint efforts and started enjoying some source of income. My community has grown as I have grown.
Very recently, I was designated by TESDA Central Office as TESDA National Program Coordinator for Sajahatra Bangsamoro program of the President for Bangsamoro communities. A new challenge but I believe I can make it, in shaa Allah… with a lot of thumbs up backing me up...from Mam Nieves Confessor, Mam Irene Isaac of TESDA Central Office, Sir Howard Cafugauan of OPAPP, my Regional Director Datu Omar Shariff Jaafar , my Provincial Director Bajunaid P. Kamaludin, of course Mam Miren and a lot more who believe in my true intention of serving the Bangsamoro people…
Again and I will say it again and again that to attain peace, we must start peace-building within ourselves by developing our inner peace… by having a strong faith and trust in our Creator. We should bridge our gap with our Creator by having a strong faith in Him and follow the straight path of Islam as one of the Hadiths of Prophet Mohammad SAW when asked by one of His Companions (Sahabah) as to what is the best deed they can do? The Prophet answered, “Qul aamantu billahi sumastaqeem.” Have faith in Allah and follow the Straight Path to Righteousness. Bridging the gap with Allah, we need to wke up our people, guide our people to righteousness through Values Transformation and from there we can start working hard together for the SUCCESS of the Bangsamoro Government , in shaa Allah….
Thank you very much for your time…Shukran, wasallamu alaikum wa rah matullahi wabarakatuh