Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Finding hope and peace in the Mindanao Peace Games

Mindanao State University (Marawi) students Roel Otero and Frances Tecson and MSU coach Jimmy Yanoyan

Finding hope and peace in the Mindanao Peace Games
by rick olivares

Mindanao State University of Marawi was supposed to participate in the ongoing Mindanao Peace Games; the third staging being held at the Ateneo de Davao University campus. The armed conflict that devastated this bustling city of close to 200,000 people has suspended the school’s participation for obvious reasons.

Yet MSU still elected to send three representatives to the ongoing games “to bring back ideas of hope” said coach Jimmy Yanoyan who once more had to leave his city behind.

Yanoyan isn’t even from Marawi. He hails from Pagadian in Zamboanga del Sur which is roughly three hours and 30 minutes away. But he did go to MSU in Marawi and since called it home.

He was in town when the siege began. “When we heard the first sounds of gunfire we thought that it was just something that would end in a few minutes,” related Yanoyan in Tagalog. “Except it didn’t end. And it got louder and louder until we had to leave our home.”

The trauma, according to Yanoyan, is with his child. He’s afraid that the sounds of war and death may have affected his child. During the conflict, his family like most residents, were forced to leave. And for the second time in the last three-plus months, he left. This time, not as a refugee but this time, “as an ambassador.”

“We (together with MSU-Marawi students Frances Honey Tecson and Roel Otero) are the representatives of our school to the Mindanao Peace Games,” said Yanoyan.

The Mindanao Peace Games or MPG for short is a project of the three Ateneo schools based in Mindanao – Cagayan De Oro, Davao, and Zamboanga and is overseen by convenor Emmanuel “Noli” Ayo where female student-athletes and coaches engage not only in five-days of competition and a series of fora designed to enrich their collective knowledge and outlook on life as well as their profession. This third staging of the event is currently being held at the Ateneo de Davao University campus from October 24-29.

“The MPG has three key goals – women empowerment as all the participating athletes are women, peace and community building, and transformational leadership. We believe that sports should be more than a field of competition. Here, we can aspire not only to be the best in athletic competition but to be the best persons we can be for our families, schools, communities, and to the nation.”

Otero himself feels changed by the MPG. “Before this, I would help officiate some basketball games,” he related. “I would get verbally abused by the Muslim athletes; some of which was very degrading that I wanted to get even. The MPG has people from different walks of life and religions working together for something. They say that the children are the future and it is happening right here. My anger burned away, touched by what we are trying to achieve here as learn from each other and try to come up with lasting changes.”

Like Yanoyan, Tecson wasn’t in the city during the siege. Coming home and seeing the devastation has upset her. “How do you rebuild,” she asked herself. “I don’t know where to start.”

Instead, she also turned to the MPG not only to soothe her soul but to also pick up hope. “When you’re upset, you surround yourself with positive people because that will carry you through the tough times.”

During the opening ceremony at the Ateneo de Davao, the school’s students performed Muslim dances and tribal music. I learned that the Muslim students greatly appreciate that their Christian counterparts have taken the time to learn their culture. In doing so, they too have a greater appreciation for their Christian brethren. It’s a first step for the young in a region constantly wracked by war.

Over a sumptuous Italian dinner hosted by Ateneo de Davao President Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J. at La Toscana, Datu Ahmed Paglas, President of Datu Ibrahim Paglas Memorial College in Maguindanao who himself is a former athlete waxed excited no end about the promise of the MPG. “You know, I was in a car accident in Manila three years ago,” he related. “I was nearly paralyzed and to date, still cannot use my right arm. I feel as if I have been given a second chance at life. I think it is the same for the MPG. It is unique because the program is more than sports. There are key areas that make this very meaningful and a learning experience for all – the female empowerment, the initiatives for peace, the inspiring stories, and the teachings on the values of transformational leadership. This is like another chance and from a different point of view. We like to think we can teach the young. But they too can teach us something.”

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