Ramadan takes on a new meaning for Barangay Kilangan
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar. Throughout this month, Muslims fast during the daylight hours and in the evening, eat small meals and visit friends and family. It is a time of worship and contemplation, of cleansing, enlightenment and hope, and of strengthening of family and community ties.
Ramadan this year starts on September 23.
It will be special for Barangay Kilangan in Pagalungan, Maguindanao, a village of more than 1,000 families at the border of Maridagao River (part of Rio Grande de Mindanao), 20 kilometers from the paved highway just across the boundary between Pagalungan, Maguindanao and Carmen, North Cotabato, and accessible only through a graveled irrigation road on a 4x4 vehicle, a Kubota or a habal-habal or by crossing the river from Pikit, North Cotabato to the barangay.
From a community living in the throes of war between the government and the MILF and bereft of the most basic necessities such as electricity, potable water and health facilities, for which Ramadan used to be a desperate plea for help, Kilangan is now celebrating Ramadan with prayers of thanksgiving for the blessings of peace, electricity, better education, and an empowered community association.
From chaos to progress
Ali Dimalungan recounts how his family was nearly wiped out when fierce fighting between the MILF and military troops erupted in Kilangan nine years ago. The most recent evacuation experienced by the villagers happened in October 13, 1997. For weeks, they lived in evacuation camps along the highway of Pagalungan, but eagerly went back home as soon as the fighting settled. They were soon motivated by the entry of development agencies that helped them rise from the ashes.
“It is good that peace has come at last to our place. We love this place and we will work together for peace and strive to develop the land,” Ali says.
Last year, the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) program came to Kilangan to bring light and hope to the village.
Ali heads the village association organized by AMORE, called the Barangay Renewable Energy and Community Development Association (BRECDA). As part of his job in BRECDA, he administers the energy systems installed in the community, about 30 households in all, where each home owns photovoltaic systems. Specifically, he oversees the operation and maintenance of the panels and is steering the association into becoming a mini-electric cooperative. The association has accumulated almost Php100,000 from its collection of monthly user fees from its members and plans to “spread the light” by buying additional solar systems that they will sell to the other villagers on a lease-to-own basis.
From light, the BRECDA is moving on to other development projects. All its members do their share of hard work and voluntarily contribute their hard-earned money to fund the association’s activities. Their very first undertaking was to build the BRECDA office, in which all the building materials were bought using contributions from all the members. Everyone pitched in with the construction of the building and all took pride in how the office turned out. That became their first lesson in unity and cooperation.
Every month, the association gathers at the BRECDA office for a meeting, during which, among other agenda, the treasurer presents their financial report and Ali, as the chairman, facilitates their monthly planning, glad to apply the skills he acquired from the training programs provided by AMORE.
The BRECDA is becoming Kilangan’s development champion. It has initiated bayanihan activities to improve the road going to the barangay’s sitios. It also regularly conducts barangay clean-ups in cooperation with the local government unit. A week before Ramadan, the BRECDA members cleaned and repainted the three mosques in the barangay.
Better education for a better future
Kilangan’s community members are demonstrating the tenacity and vigilance needed to uplift their lives and build a better future for their children. The elementary and high schools of the barangay have been touted as two of the cleanest and most well-groomed schools in the municipality. This was achieved through the efforts of the teachers and the members of the Parent-Teacher Community Association (PTCA), who are working together to improve the school facilities, which has greatly encouraged the children to study.
Zaiton Abdulkarim, principal of Kilangan High School, is very thankful for the unwavering cooperation of the parents. This has motivated him and other teachers in the school to do their best to bring quality education to the children of Kilangan. This is also why Principal Zaiton, along with Leonila Abas, elementary school principal, was profusely grateful when AMORE, in partnership with Real World Alliance, for choosing their schools to become the beneficiaries of the distance education project for improved English instruction.
Last summer, twenty-two (22) from Kalingan were trained in preparation for the 2006 school opening. The English proficiency module for elementary level was introduced to teachers and were also taught to use the audio-based improved English teaching materials that will benefit 1,300 students.
On September 25, AMORE will install the solar photovoltaic system in each of the schools, which will be capable of powering lamps, cassette corders and a CD player. Simultaneously, teachers will also be trained to manage the electricity load provided by AMORE and ensure the maintenance of the systems.
Following the installations, the teachers will give a teaching demonstration with their students using their new audio-based English teaching materials. Equally important, the parents will be taught how to monitor the use of the system, and collect fees to be used in maintaining and operating the system.
Of course, the BRECDA will also be on hand to talk about their further dreams, hopes and plans for Kilangan, and how this Ramadan, they will finally be living the real meaning of Islam, which is “peace.”