Arnold “Aji “Garbanzos
When our leaders decided in 1949 to make Iligan a City, Iligan lack the land area requirements to be created – at 14,000 hectares plus only. The requirement then was 50,000 hectares. They therefore approach the leaders of the Mandulog District (who were mostly Maranaos and Lumads) requesting them to make the Mandulog (Hinterland) District a part of Iligan with the assurance that should they do so progress will soon reach the Hinterlands and their families.
Mandulog District is 60,000 plus hectares- comprising 80% of the land area of present day Iligan.
At first the leaders of the Mandulog District (who were mostly Meranao and Lumad Datus) were very reluctant and many were vehemently opposed to the merger. Representative Ali Dimaporo (the author of the Bill creating Iligan as a City) had a very hard time convincing them. No amount of assurance would assuage their fears and apprehensions-that Iligan (being a predominantly Christian dominated City) would forget them being the minorities of the community.
It was only the timely intervention of then Senator Tomas L. Cabili, the Sultan Dimasangkay of Ranao, who convinced them that there is no need to fear and that their apprehensions are unfounded.
The Datus of the Mountains knew how close the late Senator was to the national leadership and could surely bring the progress that they needed for them and their children. And based on their past dealings with him he always honored his word-to fulfill and to accomplish what he said. He was a man of his word.
The brothers of the Mountains had a very high regard for Senator Cabili because they knew he was a man of integrity and honor and will fulfill what he has promise them. That is how highly regarded he was among our Hinterland brothers.
If not for the agreement of our Hinterland brothers during that time there would be no Iligan City today.
Alas after sixty nine years and after the death of the principal authors of the creation of Iligan as a City- the promise of progress reaching the Hinterlands remains largely unfulfilled, much to the frustration of our Hinterland brothers. The Mountains have no hotels, hospitals, universities nor major trade. It is largely unexplored and can be the abode of rebels and illegal activities-mining, drugs and deforestation.
Leadership is a matter of the heart and sadly the present day leadership of Iligan (from the 1960s up to the present) do not have the same heart as the late Senator Cabili-a Christian leader who had a heart for the Maranaos and Lumads of the Mountains.
For how long will our Hinterland brothers suffer? For how long will their children remain uneducated and exploited?
A promise based on honor and trust has been released by our leaders. It is up to the present leadership to fulfill it or not. The leaders of the Mountains fulfilled their part of the deal, it is sad that the leaders of the City today do not honor the legacy and promise made by our good leaders of the past.
This only goes to show that Iligan has failed in the “Tomas Cabili standard”-we have not learned to uplift the weakest members of our society. It is no wonder that we have not built a solid relationship with our Muslim and Lumad brothers of our Mountains.
This matter can be verified through facts and figures. Except for the creation of the IPMR in our City Council (which is by the way a local law imposed upon us by a national law) no other major legislation has been made to affect our Hinterland brothers to improve their lot.
The creation of the office of the IPMR was necessitated because of the MOA AD in 2008-which drove our City to act on the matter with much haste-for fear of losing the 8 Barangays of the Mandulog District. But other than that there is no other impetus to improve their lot. No City Planning, no major tourism strategy, no major City vision to improve their quality of life. The office of the IPMR was created out of fear in losing a territory to the MOA AD or the Bangsamoro -that was its only reason for being.
(continued next issue)