I hope the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will be implemented otherwise history might repeat itself. Not all the children are like us who opted to finish our education. If the agreement will not be implemented, I fear that some children will also follow the path that their fathers took.
Amina Aban is the daughter of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander and a 27-year-old volunteer at the Bangsamoro Development Agency. She is a member of the Kalibugan tribe and one of 22 female survivors of the Mindanao conflict interviewed by our partners. Here is her powerful testimony.
I am the daughter of Commander Agila of the MILF. My mother said father joined the movement because he saw how our grandfather was butchered by the military. My father died as a martyr in Camp Salman during the All-Out War in the year 2000.
We grew up without him by our side. In fact, I only met him three times in my life. He was cutting down bamboos when I first met him and he was joking about how bamboo cutting brought good money. I was very shy and felt awkward but mother kept on pushing me to approach him.
Despite his physical absence, he has always been there for us. He constantly wrote us letters, which my siblings and I took turns to read to our mother. As the years went by, we learned to skip the bad news so as to keep mother smiling and happy.
One thing that father never failed to remind us in his letters was for us to always study hard and earn a degree so we could make him proud. We would send him copies of our excellent grade cards and he would send us back grilled prawns or native chickens as prizes. He certainly had his ways of making it up to us.
Being the children of a known MILF commander was difficult. We had to endure a lot of hardships. We were not spared from the abuses of men in uniform. I remember being cornered at school and collared by the military as they interrogated us to ask where my father was. In the year 2000, the military cut down all of the coconut trees on our small farm. We reported it to the local government but it was never acted upon. In 2012, my brother was abducted by the military and ended up in prison and is still now facing charges he never committed. The worst part is that we felt helpless and had no one on our side.
We were robbed of our childhood as we took on mature responsibilities. We learned the hard way to stand on our own. It would have been easier for us to take up arms; however, we choose to honour our father by keeping our promise to live a peaceful and normal life.
Alhamdulillah, we all finished our education except for my brother who is still in jail. As difficult as it may seem, we need to move forward. Forgiveness and acceptance is never easy when you have been through a lot. For example, my work with BDA requires me to deal with the military. It was difficult but I had to learn to set aside my personal angst.
I still keep letters from my father. I still remember him every time I see bamboos. I still cry buckets of tears everytime I think about all the things my family and I have been through. I can only wish my father lived to see the people we have become. I hope we made him proud.