Saturday, September 09, 2006

Prologue to “Mindanao Jottings” by Jay de Leon

I grew up most of my young life as a city boy in metro Manila, Philippines with many vacation trips to my dad’s hometown in Binmaley, Pangasinan and to another grandfather’s house in Jungle Town, Baguio City, Mountain Province. In 1971, I was a young executive at American pharmaceutical giant MeadJohnson, Phil., in the financial district of Makati, in metro Manila.

All of these locations are in the island of Luzon.

When I got the chance to work in Cotabato, in Mindanao, I jumped at it. I went from shirt and tie and executive board room meetings to denims and t-shirt and rebel-infested areas in Cotabato.

Cotabato was right in the middle of the Christian and Moslem (also spelled as Muslim in the Philippines) conflict in Mindanao. There were arguably more dangerous areas in Mindanao like Lanao and Zamboanga, but Cotabato was dangerous enough, as you will read in the book.

I was there a year before President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, and a year afterwards.

Right from the start, I kept a diary of events in Cotabato and Davao. I wrote down names, events, thoughts and sundry details in a spiral steno notebook that somehow has survived all my moves and relocation, including immigrating to the United States. I titled the notebook then “Mindanao Jottings” and I have decided to keep that title for this book.

All of the stories, characters, places, and events in the book are factual. I have tried to recount the details as accurately as an old man’s memory will let him. Some of the names of the characters are fictitious, to protect both the innocent and the guilty. God knows there were a few guilty ones in Cotabato, including me.

This book is not an epic about the Muslim-Christian hostilities in the south of the Philippines, set against the backdrop of exciting road construction in the wilds of Cotabato. It is neither a glorification nor an expose’ of the violence and graft and corruption during that time. It is not an indictment of people caught up in the bloodlust and turmoil there. I just wanted to memorialize my own personal experiences of the humanity and spirit of those times in Cotabato.

I was fortunate to experience many things some people only read about. I dedicate this book to all my friends, lovers and employees in Cotabato and Davao who helped me survive, and actually even enjoy, my time in Mindanao.

I encourage you to familiarize yourself with this sad chapter in Philippine history, the Christian versus Muslim conflict in Mindanao. There are many good historical books and academic treatises about it. And the even sadder part of all this is that the same situation, problems and misery still exist today in that part of the country.

There are no pictures to go with the book. The few pictures I had during this period did get lost in my many moves and relocations. The only thing that survives now is my notebook and now this compendium of short stories called “Mindanao Jottings.”

One day I hope to take a sentimental journey to Cotabato and finally take that ride on that fully cemented highway to Davao I never got to take. You might have to wait a while for that film documentary.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading my stories as much I enjoyed putting them on paper, occasionally reminiscing as old men are wont to do.

The e-book “Mindanao Jottings” by Jay de Leon is now available at the online store at


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