“Welcome, BOLOS!” as we in Marawi would say. There are 33 festivals in Mindanao, and the Iligan City Diandi Festival is one of them and which is ongoing. In the land of waterfalls, the Mindanao Business Conference was convened at the Iligan Institute of Technology (IIT) Gymnasium, Mindanao State University (MSU).
Before this, we had started an effort to bring Marawi goods, especially by evacuees, closer to the malls through Robinsons Iligan City. On September 9-10 along with volunteers and a private school principal, the aggressive humanitarian Anita Cipriano, we with the support of The Asia Foundation, Nature Spring, Max, TESDA 10 and others made one dream come into reality – to bring the small, home-based entrepreneur to the mall.
In what I call Small to Mall through a hashtag #buyMindaNOW, foreigners got to see ancient carvings draw life in the treasure chests, knives and drums of the Maranaos. Because there were no malls in Marawi City, they are usually sold in limited numbers and even produced by order. One buyer in Robinsons was interested in the giant chest worth 35,000. These were brought in from Tugaya town, Lanao del Sur, a UNESCO heritage site.
A weaver demonstrated the intricate designs that produced a malong; that is why it is expensive because it takes time. Every design takes time. Women brought their crochet and handicrafts. Former Mindanao State University professors brought organic food. It was a lively bazaar with a fashion show of Moro designs incorporated in blouses and the bohemian blouses of ZIYA (SM MOA, Ayala Centrio, Cagayan de Oro etc). It was inspiring to hear the young executive of MSU Marawi City say that he has been able to oversee 20,000 orders for the langkit (an accent that can be sewn on blouses, jeans, bags, made into ID holders etc).
At the Mindanao Business Conference held yesterday, September 13, I met executives of various chambers, such as the Davao City Chamber and the Philippine Chamber for Commerce and Industry, who flew all the way to attend this grand event of stakeholders. Students were in attendance, and a lively bazaar lined up outside the gymnasium.
During the Open Forum, we urged investment in interconnectivity because it is not as expensive as road networks and airports which need more time. With interconnectivity, governance processes can be fast-tracked, communications facilitated, tourism can expand, relationships and thus peacebuilding enhanced. A shout-out to GLOBE, SMART, and other providers to take interest in BARMM. Indeed, public-private partnership must look into this.
Because the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is in transition, the lull or time-in-between now and the elections in 2022 (especially since 6,000-or-so employees will have to vacate their positions) have to be provided with opportunities lest disgruntlement lead the frustrated to crime and even terrorism.
Peacebuilding was acknowledged as one program intervention. It is basic because the perception of instability from peace and order drives away visitation and investment which is necessary for industries to be set up here. In one slide of Mindanao Development Authoritiy’s presentation, it said 5.2 million jobs were needed in Mindanao in the next 6 years with 46 % finding a job in the informal economy (Source: World Bank). We reminded the need for the more able cities and companies to hand-hold the BARMM so there indeed is partnership, bayanihan (through mentoring, among other mechanisms).
In another presentation, Laguindingan Airport, which caters to Northern Mindanao and Lanao areas, and where I frequent as my take-off destination looks forward to expansion with the presentation of the Aboitiz group. It is in the hands of government particularly the Department of Transport and Railways to take serious action. Davao airport in fact is already servicing passengers into direct flights from Davao City to Hong Kong, China and Qatar and vice versa.
We are invited anew to display indigenous products especially from Marawi at the FAME Expo, World Trade Center on October 17-18. A “village” will be set aside for Maranao internally displaced persons (IDPs). Thanks to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) partner Shey Muhammad for inviting us.
Again bolos (welcome) partnerships, urging continuing support for the IDPs.