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REPORTING MINDANAO: Telling Mindanao stories with the heart of a Mindanawon

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 26 May) — What kind of journalists would leave their jobs as correspondents of national dailies to report stories about Mindanao based on the perspective of Mindanao people?

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We did 19 years ago, on My 25, 2001. We pooled together our meager resources to organize a cooperative to be the media platform of that dream. We provided news about Mindanao online ahead of the other national dailies, long before news pages on the internet and Facebook became in vogue.

We treaded on new grounds and along with it our sacrifices. We did not have any salaries or money to cover the news in Mindanao but a little help from our friends and believers made the difference.

Journalist Froilan Gallardo flashes the Peace sign on July 21, 2017 in Marawi City. Photo posted on Gallardo’s FB page by MERLYN MANOS

Friends from the Associated Press took me as their stringer in time for the arrival of the US Green Berets in  Basilan in early 2002.  After the 9-11 2001 terror attacks in the United States, the US launched a global war on terror and  President Bush described the Philippines as the its “second front  in the global war against terrorism.”

A friend lent me his laptop so I can cover the 2003 Buliok War in Maguindanao-North Cotabato.

MindaNews reporters including myself had to fight for the right to cover major press events and military operations, arguing with government and military sources that Mindanao community journalists have the same rights as our counterparts from Manila and abroad.

Slowly we earned the respect of our sources and military leaders who admired our tenacity for truth and fairness.

But telling Mindanao stories with the heart of a Mindanawon has its rewards. We can go directly to ordinary people and let them tell their stories through us.

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In effect, we have empowered the voiceless.

While visiting an evacuation center for displaced Marawi residents in 2017, MindaNews’ Froilan Gallardo (L) chanced upon this evacuee from Marawi who had Gallardo’s photograph printed out and posted on a wall in the evacuation center..”That’s my home,” the evacuee told Gallardo. He found out what had happened to his house through Gallardo’s photograph. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

We were also rewarded with numerous scholarships abroad and a grant to buy a service vehicle for MindaNews, which we fondly call “Mindawind”

Nineteen years later, we have achieved many of our dreams. We have earned the respect of our peers which no detractor can sully.

We are still a small and poor news organization 19 years after we dispatched our first story. We became weepy and emotional when we lost our friends and colleagues:  our photo editor Gene Boyd Lumawag who was shot and killed in Jolo in 2004, his father Rene who passed away in 2019 and Pat Diaz also in 2019.

Trust us that we will persevere. We will deliver the news, for what is Mindanao without MindaNews?

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   (Based in Cagayan de Oro, Froilan Gallardo has covered all the major armed conflicts in Mindanao in the last three decades, sending stories and photographs to MindaNews since 2001 while reporting for international wire agencies. Gallardo does not just report from the battlefields, he also goes to evacuation centers to write about the plight of civilians displaced by the war. In peaceful times, he reports on various topics) 

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