Istambay sa Mindanao

Personal blog of MindaNews' Walter I. Balane. Visit for more news, views and information on Mindanao.

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Location: Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

I'm Walter Balane. I am a journalist based in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Philippines. I initiated the group called Atong Press ( for press freedom and responsibility and media education in Bukidnon.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Updates: A day in search for Mindanao stories in “national newspapers”

(Mindanews photo by Froilan Gallardo)

I always feel disgusted when the stories I hear and read about Mindanao is only the bad side of the story. Worst, if the stories from Mindanao are not written or are not used at all.

I must confess, I claim part of the errors in the past for writing bad news at times and for not presenting the complete picture. Rest assured, being a part now of a news organization exerting efforts to help improve coverage on Mindanao and help prevent these lapses.

Randomly, if you are from Mindanao and you want to read about what’s going on in Mindanao, don’t expect so much. You’ll never find it in national newspapers.

I took the stories today (June 28) as a sampler. Of the 72 stories or photos featured on the front page of seven of the country’s “national newspapers”, only five are on Mindanao.

The Philippine Star featured a piece on Mindanao entitled: “25 killed in tribal war in Bukidnon". The report situated the supposed tribal war "in a remote village in Bukidnon”. Where in Bukidnon? It did not tell.

It reported about “a fierce gun battle” between “Lumad” and “Muslim” tribes as a result of land disputes between “mountain dwelling Lumad tribe” and a “Muslim farming community.”

The story by Roel Pareño cited the parties of the supposed tribal war as “Ubaan Lumad tribesmen”, “Lumino Lumad tribesmen”, “Lumad Amoran” and "Muslim Diamla tribesmen” in the vicinity nearby “Barangay Lapoc”. The clashes were reported to be "long standing". Does the number (25) of deaths cited in the report include only the recent victims or that of the "long standing" conflict?

The story continued: “Several residents of Barangay Talakag fled their homes to escape the clan war, AFP Southcom chief Maj. General Gabriel Habacon said in a statement”.

Of course there are a lot of loopholes in the story. It did not specify the location of the clashes. The names of the tribe also sound “new” to me (if they are really “tribes” inside Bukidnon). Are they family names or tribal groups? The location of the clashes also is vague. My guess is that it happened along the borders of the Municipality of Talakag (in Bukidnon) and another town in Lanao del Sur. But which barangay? The area is known for clashes on land and natural resources like logging. In 2004, I reported about a clash on logging utilization between two groups of indigenous peoples and upland farmers there with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources earning a tiff with the Provincial Government of Bukidnon and a pro-environment NGO.

I recognize that I don’t know all the tribes in Mindanao, but I really want to know more about the tribal groups cited in the report. How did the ambiguities escape the paper's editors?

This brings to three areas in Bukidnon that are in national newspapers due to peace and order problems: The first two: A barangay in San Fernando (tagged by the National Security Adviser as venue of mass NPA gravesites), Brgy. Zamboanguita/ Brgy St. Peter (now another one, in Brgy. Kulaman as PNA reported on june 28), Malaybalay City (where there are on-going military operations against NPA rebels).

The Star issue also featured a photo of Bukidnon 2nd district Rep. Teofisto Guingona III with his father former Vice President Teofisto Guingona after filing his impeachment petition vs. President Arroyo. That could be a Mindanao photo, the Guingonas being from Bukidnon and Gingoog City. But do people assciate the Guingonas as from Mindanao or as "politicians"?

Business Mirror featured a story of small miners’ groups in Diwalwal urging the government to open the rich gold deposits in the deeper levels in the mine fields of Mt. Diwata in Monkayo, Compostela Valley. The main source of the story, Franco Tito, Diwalwal’s barangay captain, asked the government whether its heart is with small scale miners or the big scale miners now that the Supreme Court declared the 729-hectare area of mountain slopes and valley under full government jurisdiction and voiding all private claims either for exploration or ownership of concession.

Some people are afraid that this mining field would go to foreign mining firms leaving the small miners displaced.

Meanwhile, the Business Mirror used a feature story “Is the tourism boom finally happening?” written by Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo, a contributor in the paper’s Perspective section. The story is about RP hotels gearing up for visitor influx, but only cited hotels in Manila, Luzon and the Visayas, specifically Bohol and Cebu.

It only mentioned “Mindanao” once in the story, as a reference where Cebu is (that is in the group of islands between Luzon and “Mindanao”. Thanks to geography, Mindanao was mentioned.)

The missing Mindanao angle in the tourism report on RP hotels impressed, in my opinion, that Mindanao is not at the receiving end of the tourism boom. Or that there is no tourism to talk about in Mindanao? The story also did not tell that, but well what's not said might say a lot more.

Malaya also featured a story on “2 Indonesian bomb experts on the lose (in Maguindanao). This might be the same story as that of the Manila Standard Today’s page 3 story on “Al Qaeda rebels, allies training in Mindanao”. The story kept on referring to the “training” and the suspects at large to be in the “vast marshlands of Mindanao.”

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, which runs a Mindanao bureau, did not have a story on Mindanao in the front page. But on page A7, they used the story on "2 MILF commanders eyed on bomb attack on (Magundanao) governor". Does this paint a picture that could blur the peace process between the government and the MILF?

Are the reports representing the real situation in Mindanao?

The good thing is that Manila Bulletin used a story entitled “ARMM business forum opens trade opportunities” at the bottom of its front page, which could at least tell that there are also business opportunities in Mindanao today. The ARMM business forum is held in Lamitan, Basilan, which is featured as having an on-going transformation from being the “playground” of the Abu Sayyaf group into a province back “on its feet”.

The report cited that the forum participants issued a Declaration of Policy and Program of Action submitted to the ARMM governor, which calls to push for the creation of an industry development for rubber, seaweeds, among others.

There are many good stories in Mindanao. They go side by side with the bad ones, it is just that they don’t get published. What's even more disgusting is when these few stories on Mindanao gets through editors with all the ambiguities, lack of details and perspectives, thus affecting public understanding on the subject. That adds to the distortions on what’s really happening or not happening around Mindanao.

This reminds me of our one big dream in MindaNews: One day, when we have the resources, we will publish a Mindanao-based, Mindanao-owned and Mindanao-focus, "daily newspaper of national circulation" or at least a magazine.

Well, as one friend reminded me: "Dream and your dreams will fall short."


Blogger Waltzib said...

Thanks to Mark B. of Miarayon, Talakag, Bukidnon for the help in supplying data from the field. Thanks!

9:45 PM  
Blogger Waltzib said...

From Ma. Stella Arnaldo of Business Mirror (sent to

Hi. I read your blog as it fell under my blogspot watchlist. Anyway, just to tell you, I did talk tourism officials and hoteliers there, and they confirmed that there is no tourism "boom" in Mindanao (yet), even in Davao (where I really love going to). Which is why I didn't include it in my report. Unfortunately, the negative publicity on the region will continue to keep the tourists at bay.

Cheers to you and your blogspot.
Kind regards,
Stella Arnaldo

(another email)
By the way, I have a feature on Davao in the upcoming issue of Asian Spirit's inflight magazine and in Business Mirror's travel page. My little contribution to give Mindanao a boost. :-)


My reply:

Thanks Ma'am Stella for dropping by for some words.

Tourism boom (or at least an increase in influx) was among the promises of Sec. Ace Durano and the Davao organizers of the ASEAN Tourism Forum.

The tourism prospects were upbeat about Mindanao, or at least Davao, which made me think these things are really "on the way". Pardon if I opined that it made an impression, but like what you said, there really is no "boom" here. Perhaps that would mean more work to do, not only tourism wise but also in related aspects such as security, economics, etc.

Thank you for your info. that its the tourism officials and hoteliers who confirmed that there is no boom in Mindanao and even in Davao indeed. Whether the "no boom" also means the opposite direction (decrease in influx that is) or just that the levels are steady or static,I really want to know.

By the way, I really appreciate your reaction and yes, thanks for writing about Davao.

Thank you.


Walter I. Balane

1:21 PM  

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