In a region once marred by the echoes of gunfire and tremors of conflict, Zokria Abas stands as a resilient mother with an earnest wish: “Sana wala nang gyera,” [may there be no more war] – uttered with boldness yet brimming with emotion.
Zokria, a mother of four, found herself confronted with the harsh reality of war at the age of 37 when her husband lost his life in an isolated encounter between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Builok, Pikit town, back in 2014.
Her story, a poignant narrative of loss, survival, and unwavering hope, echoes the sentiments of countless others in this region once labeled a battleground.
As she recounts the times when peace seemed like a distant dream, memories resurface of a region entrenched with ferocious conflicts between government forces and members of the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
“Naranasan ko po ang sobrang hirap na dala ng gyera, kaya ang hiling ko para sa mga anak ko at sa susunod pang henerasyon, sana wala nang gyera” Zokria shared, her voice carrying the weight of personal tragedy and a mother’s unyielding love.[I have experienced the extreme hardship brought about by war, so my wish for my children and the next generations is, may there be no more war.]
Similar to others who lived and fought for the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination, Zokria and her husband’s experience is just a fraction in the collective anecdotes of a region scarred by conflict. Considering all the atrocities that occurred in the region, a lengthy list of narratives is certain to unfold.
The tales of hardships endured as a widow and as internally displaced persons, known as ‘bakwit,’ resonate deeply as Zokria reflects on the instability it brought to their lives. Yet, even in the face of adversity, the flame of resistance burned brightly.
“Being a bakwit, constantly moving with full of uncertainties from one place to another, was never easy. It ruined the stability of our lives and the education of my children. But this never ceased our perseverance in joining the armed struggle,” she shared.
Recuperating from the catastrophes she endured, Zokria never lost her faith that everything will settle on its course and that peace will reign. Amidst the chaos and uncertainties, one thing remains constant: her unwavering love for her children.
To provide for her children, she managed various jobs such as farming and vending, and eventually, she secured a position as a barangay kagawad.
“Praise be to Allah, one of my children is now working in the government after graduating from college, and the other three are also striving to finish their schooling,” she happily shared.
Moving forward, in September 14, 2023, Zokria, now aged 46, received a ray of hope in the form of a P50,000 cash assistance from the Bangsamoro Government, an initiative led by Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim.
The Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG) spearheaded the payout held in Barangay Manarapan, Carmen. The financial aid, extended to 200 widows of war, is the government’s gesture of appreciation for those who sacrificed their lives in pursuit of the Bangsamoro’s legitimate right to self-determination— a right explicitly recognized by the United Nations.
Just like every Bangsamoro mother who yearns to provide a safe and peaceful environment for her children, Zokria incessantly desires a peaceful and harmonious community. And now with the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), she finds herself content beyond measure.
As peace took root in the form of the BARMM, Zokria witnessed positive transformations in her community. Infrastructures such as barangay halls, public markets, rural health units, and road networks with solar streetlights emerged, signifying a government actively working for the welfare of its people.
“With these developments, it only shows that there is a government looking after our welfare,” Zokria affirms, her words echoing the tangible impact of peace-building efforts.
Zokria’s wish for a peaceful and harmonious community reflects the collective aspirations of Bangsamoro mothers. In the establishment of BARMM, she finds solace, witnessing the fruits of peace blossom in her surroundings.
Her story serves as a profound testament to a mother’s unconditional love and dedication, urging us all to embrace our collective responsibility in shaping a world where every child can flourish under the guiding light of a mother’s wish for peace. (Abdullah Matucan/BIO)