Posted by: junjeesj | July 23, 2009



When given a chance to introduce myself to people, I would say, “I am Jun-G. I was born and raised in General Santos City.” Before Manny Pacquiao became famous, the usual reaction I get from people was in a form of a question, “Where is General Santos City?” My quick answer usually was “It’s in Mindanao, so I am a Mindanawon.” Then, the questioning stops.

It was automatic for me to say that I am a Mindanawon because Mindanao was my geographical origin. Yet, if I am asked to describe what identifies me as a Mindanawon, I would take a long pause and reflection before I could open my mouth and say something. But my summer exposure with the Institute of the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC) gave me an experience that made me rediscover my identity as a Mindanawon.

The Mindanawon is a term used not just for people who originated from Mindanao but also refers to those who made themselves one with the rest of those who are living and have lived in Mindanao. Being one means to understand, respect and embrace the diversity of the language and culture in the island.

Regarding my summer exposure, I was assigned to help in the ESSC’s water system projects in the municipalities of Upi and Datu Blah Sinsuat in Maguindanao Province. I met residents who were formerly from the Visayas and Luzon. A good number of them were Ilonggo. Some were Waray, Boholano, Cebuano and Ilocano. In Datu Blah Sinsuat, the population is predominantly Muslim tribe collectively called the Maguindanawon. In Upi on the other hand, there are substantial number of migrants called the dumagat living with the original settlers, the indigenous people, called the Teduray. In these two municipalities alone, I saw a marked diversity; a diversity found across the island. Mindanao is a melting pot of various people having a diverse cultural and religious beliefs, traditions and practices.

Unfortunately, the Mindanawons are commonly misunderstood. Their identity is clouded by the issues on land ownership, differing religious and cultural practices, ethno-centricities, marginalization, insurgencies, killings, bombings, kidnappings among others that are often highlighted by media. The biases to the Mindanawons are likened to paper wrappers that are getting thicker and thicker, concealing their true color. The real Mindanawon is deeply cloaked under non-Mindanawons’ prejudices.

Nonetheless, I saw the Mindanawon’s real identity in Barangay Matuber, Datu Blah Sinsuat. With pride, the residents consider themselves tri-people. They are the Dumagats, Tedurays and Maguindanawons who live together harmoniously. They communicate and dialogue with each other regarding their plans for development and solutions to their problems. They are proofs that Mindanawons can go beyond religion, culture and tradition. They are capable of understanding and respecting the richness of their respective culture and tradition. This is precisely the unifying identity that binds them together, seeking unity amidst their diversity.

The issues mostly highlighted by media are not really the real concerns in the island. Actually, the Mindanawons have more pressing concerns. They seek the help of the people in authority to somehow facilitate their capacity to provide for themselves their most basic needs like food, water and education. Barangays Renti, Ranao, Tubuan and many other barangays cry for clean water for drinking and cooking. The youth in Bendum, Bukidnon and many uptown villages clamor for educational opportunities. They are still combating the problem caused by greedy, wealthy and powerful who abuse their innocence.

The Mindanawons are also Filipinos who, like the rest of the country, continue to be resilient amidst the difficulty brought about by poverty. They are also hopeful. They are yearning for peace. Who says it is impossible? What I saw in Tubuan, Datu Blah Sinsuat where three disputing clans are slowly appeasing each other, and acting together in managing their newly constructed water supply system is a wonderful scene. The datu system in the area gradually integrates itself with the local government unit (barangay). This is an example for other areas to emulate. This is hope.

Finally, the Mindanawons are the stewards of Mindanao. In their hearts resides the yearning to protect the richness of their culture, language and tradition. In their hands lies the capability to restore the squandered wealth of their natural resources. In their minds dwells the wisdom to respect their dignity. My summer exposure in ESSC testifies that the Mindanawons are not fighting against each other; they are fighting with their life to protect their mother land.

– Jun-G Bargayo, SJ –



  1. “The real Mindanawon is deeply cloaked under non-Mindanawons’ prejudices. ”

    it’s embarrassing to admit but I was once one of the non-Mindanawons who had my own prejudice about Mindanao. But having been an adopted Mindanawon for a year, I learned much to know which is true and which isn’t about the most misunderstood island in our country. I know that Mindanao is more than wars, durians, orchids and bananas for export. I know too that Mindanao’s greatest treasure lies on the pure-heartedness of its people. (oo na, sige na, pauso ko lang ang word na pure-heartedness. hehe…)

    You’ve got a message to tell here, Jun-G. I’m sure other Mindanawons have already spoke about the unfair pre-judgements but it does not hurt to repeat the message so more and more people will hear it and learn the reality.

    teka, nauubos na english ko.

    ang gusto ko lang talagang sabihin eh astig ang header natin ah.

    at sayang, di namin masasaksihan ni Shaun ang concert mo. isipin mo na lang na isa kami sa mga pumalakpak sa crowd. hehe…

    God bless!

    tsong, dinugo ang ilong ko sa english mo… sige nga pauso ko rin yang pure-heartedness… sabihin ko mga bokabularyo ni Bro Utoy… hehehe…

    sayang, hindi nyo masaksihan ang debut concert ko… hehehe… at least mababawasan ang mga taong magtatapon ng kamatis sa amin pag pumalpak… pero sayang din, kulang na ang papalakpak sa amin pag naging astig ang show… 😉

    natsambahan ang header… hehehe… isasama ko nga yan sa patimpalak ng “best panakot sa daga”… tatakbo ang mga yun kasi aka nila rat killer spray ang hawak ko…

    o ba’t ka tumakbo?

  2. ays, buti nlng may tissue sa tabi ko, natuyan ako ng dugo as expected, hihihi…

    naku, guilty as charge nmn ako, isa ako sa mga nabanggit mo na nagjjudge sa mga taga mindanao, to tell you the truth, yokong pumunta dun kasi natatakot ako, baka may bomba na namang sumabog.. hehehe.. thanks for this entry brother..

    Godbless po!

    okie lang yan jorge… bawi ka nalang sa sunod… hehehe… pagnaging heswita ka, sbihin ko duon ka iaassign… hahaha…

  3. I too would like to have the same experience as yours one day. I too would like to interact with them and understand them and learn from them. I know I will learn a lot from them as you have. Sana nga magkaroon ng pagkakataon na makapunta dun para makihalubilo at makisalamuha sa kanila, at sa mumunting paraan, makapagsilbi na rin sa kanila. Sana…in time…pag may makakasama na ko, malay mo:) thanks for sharing and for continue inspiring others and opening us up to a world we still have not seen and experienced. Keep on writing, keep on testifying, keep on loving…

    opportunities will come. just be sensitive to them… pag nandyan na wag mo nang pakawalan. 😉

    • Sana rin when the opportunity comes,handa na rin ako to seize it. Para di ko mapakawalan. But on the other hand, if God were to send me there, even if i’m not ready, i know i will follow for the love of him.:-)

      that’s what we call faith, in Bisaya, Pagtu-o…

      • eh ano sa bisaya ang pag-ibig at pag-asa? (Love and Hope)

        gugma – love; paglaum – hope

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