It was a quite slow start for me in 2019. Nothing much happened on the first few weeks in my proximate coverage area. As a photojournalist, you always seek to capture action and dramatic pictures. But I believe that you don’t have to chase for the moment, you just have to be patient and wait for the right moment to come.
I kicked off my major coverage with the much anticipated plebiscite in the Cotabato City on January 21 for its inclusion to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). I wasn’t expecting any violent incident because I was quite confident that “everyone would cooperate.” Although tension erupted in some parts of the city amid the stance of the city mayor on the inclusion of the city to the then newly-crafted BARMM.
Overall, the plebiscite in the city was peaceful as security units were on top of the situation.
At the end of the day, ‘Yes’ vote prevailed and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) wish to include Cotabato City, which they considered ‘crown jewel,’ to be part of the BARMM. On the same day, BARRM residents also voted for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
On February 6, residents of 63 of 67 barangays from seven towns of Cotabato Province agreed to join BARMM after participating in the plebiscite. Pikit had the most number of barangays that eventually joined BARMM as ‘Yes’ votes prevailed in 22 (23 participated) of its 42 barangays.
The plebiscite was perhaps one of the most defining moments in the history of the Bangsamoro struggle. In my previous interview with a top MILF official, autonomy wasn’t they had originally envisioned, but vowed that what they have achieved in the almost two decades of peace negotiations, is something they could start to work on to be able to address the needs of their people.
On the first quarter of the year, hundreds of cocaine bricks had been recovered floating off the coasts on the eastern part of Luzon down to Visayas and Mindanao.
In what is supposed to be designed to address the scarcity of water supply in rice farms this dry season, a P19 million-worth of state-of-the-art technology may have failed to serve its purpose in three project areas. Check out my multimedia story here.
But as the dry spell was wreaking havoc in many farms, some farmers were able find means to survive. Read my story “Surviving El Niño: contrasting tales of Alamada farmers.”
Perhaps, I was lucky to have witnessed the finale of a legendary coach from Barotac Nuevo: Domingo Subo. He holds the record for most number of championships in Palarong Pambansa secondary football with five titles in 11 appearances. Read my piece “A glorious farewell game.”
The warship, which one of the most technologically advanced ships of the US Navy, is in the city for a three-day visit in the city.
The community is known as “Isla Verde,”where thousands of informal settlers live in shanties made of light materials. According to locals, they could no longer remember how many times their village was razed to the ground. The area is mostly occupied by different Muslim tribes coming from different parts of Mindanao. Many of them sought shelter here to avoid the wars in their places of origin.
Reports show that forest fires in Indonesian archipelago have been blamed for the haze that spread in some parts of Southeast Asia.
The epicenter of this temblor was in the neighboring town of Tulunan, North Cotabato.
Two days later, Magntitude 6.5 earthquake struck Makilala and neighboring areas anew and forced thousands of villagers to evacuate the to safer grounds. The tremor triggered landslides in several villages of Makilala and left at least eight persons remain missing as of this posting.
The earthquake left a trail of destruction in Makilala, where at least 20,000 houses were destroyed and affected over 100,000 people. [More photos here ]
Just as the earthquake-hit communities were still reeling from impact of the series of earthquakes last October, a Magnitude 6.9
temblor jolted Davao del Sur and neighboring areas on December 15. Perhaps this was the strongest earthquake to have hit Mindanao since 1976. According to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, it was the first time in recent history that a succession of above-magnitude 6 earthquakes hit within a short time and in close proximity to each other.
The epicenter of the powerful tremor was in the neighboring town of Matanao, also in Davao del Sur. But media’s attention focused in Padada due to this collapsed establishment. Several establishment’s in Padada’s public market also sustained damages prompting authorities to cordon the area for safety reasons.
The reservoir sustained major damage on its foundation after the Magnitude 6.6 earthquake last October 29. Thus, the local government ordered the demolition of the structure. According to the residents living near the reservoir, the demolition started on Sunday morning( December 15). The villagers quoted the local officials reportedly urging the contractor to demolish the structure as soon as possible before another earthquake would hit.
Unfortunately, the powerful temblor struck at 2:11pm and the water reservoir collapsed leaving seven workers badly injured.
While we were in Gov. Geneoroso town in Davao Oriental for a family trip, news circulated around this town that an alleged image of Jesus Christ’s face appeared on a concrete wall located in a fishing village. According to locals, the image appeared on December 19 and has been attracting Catholic devotees and even curious tourists.
Local church has yet to issue an official statement saying that they yet to investigate the matter. But many villagers believe that the appearance of Christ’s image could be sending a message amid the series of disasters that hit not just Mindanao but as well as in other parts of the country. [Read my story here]