Orlan R. Ravanera

The all-out war against the moro rebellion in Mindanao launched by then President Joseph Estrada during the onset of the 21st century  which saw the mobilization of some 75,000 soldiers to fight some 10,000 critical mass of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) North Western Mindanao Front headed by a young brave warrior then by the name of  Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo had brought to the fore the noble cause of the Muslims in the land of the brave and the free in a war described as the second longest war in the world.

Shouting “AllahuAkbar” (Allah is Great) as the war raged then in the hinterlands of sitio Korakora, Baragay Tamparan, Munai, Lanao del Norte, the outpourings of bullets had no match against determined warriors when Commander Bravo narrated to me those battles he led to counter what he described as a matter of self-defense against the many massacres suffered by his people at the start of the 70s when his father Sultan Macapaar led a countervailing force to stop those massacres.

He joined the Moro National Liberation Front in 1973 and when his father died in a battle in 1978, he became the top commander of the MILF, leading the North Western Mindanao Front with some 5 division commanders and hundreds of front commanders under his command.

Narrating to me his tactical and strategical moves during my recent visit in his turf, he exemplified the amazing mastery of the art of war that embraces three main criteria in winning battles: know thyself, know thy enemy and know the terrain, and you will never lose in any war.  Thus, despite the attacks against them by some 75,000 soldiers using high powered weapons and even war planes, he miraculously survived all the rages of battles, firmly believing that if Allah is with you, who can be against you.

What was even more amazing was his decision which got the all out support of his division and front commanders to elevate their struggle to a higher level, this time, not anymore using arms but cooperativism as their liberating force to uproot the causes of war: poverty, gross social inequities and social injustice.

I asked him: Commander Bravo, did you surrender? The answer is “NO, we did not.”  Indeed, they still have high powered guns and are still as passionate as ever. But they told me that they respected the wish of our beloved President Rodrigo Duterte to cease armed struggle and to convert their force to become a transformative cooperative for people, planet, prosperity and peace. Wow! So wonderful.

Such wonderful transformation is the offshoot of the organization of the Bangsa Moro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao where Commander Bravo is now an Honorable Member of the Parliament, the famous MP Abdullah Macapaar.

Thus, based on such strong decision, we together with Asec Penny Disimban, Admin Paisal Cali, Dir. Glen Garcia, Registration Chief Glo Barrido, and staff Maria Lovella Velasco, OIC for Project Development Betty Balaba, CDS II in charge of the area, Alvin Castro and staff braved the terrain and went there, organized the former MILF combatants into cooperative, the Sultan Macapaar Agri-Producers Cooperative. Thanks to MP Diamila Disimban Ramos for co-organizing the convergence so that the former combatants will now front the essence of cooperativism.

Munai is a very rich agricultural land where hundreds of hectares are oozing with vast coconut plantation.  Indeed, coconut industry is a billion dollar industry but why are our muslim coconut farmers poor? Because they are just selling “copra” and these are processed by capitalists into coco oil, coco water and coco sugar and sell back to us at a high price.  Enough of that exploitative economic set-up. Now as cooperative, the farmer members will now go into value chain, in so doing, generate jobs and income.

From a brave passionate warrior to liberate the oppressed people through armed struggle, Commander Bravo’s transformation into a new breed of freedom fighter should now reverberate through-out the land!

Commander Bravo, welcome to the Cooperative Family composed of some 18,700 cooperatives nation-wide with some 11 million members. We are honored to have you – kapamilya at kapuso.  Maraming salamat mahal naming Presidente Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, for the trail-blazing move of solving the war in Mindanao not anymore by launching an all-out war but through love, passionate service and care which is what cooperativism is all about in the land of the brave and the free – Mindanao.