Stories of Change

“Maling akala”: Volunteers clear community’s stigma as conflict zone

 July 28, 2017    

Story contributed by: Mohannat Cua and Pahad Abbas


Photo: A Peace Zone sign was put up in front of Combo Elementary School

Combo, Zamboanga del Sur– Visitors tend to perceive Barangay Combo as an area in a state of conflict, according to information from its own locals. Because of this, even interested groups from government and civil society would be afraid to visit the community.


An NGO worker based in Pagadian named Thadz Suiso got in touch with Mohannat Cua, a CheckMySchool volunteer, regarding the issue. Mohannat narrated, “They (Suiso’s NGO) were planning an ocular inspection of the barangay including the elementary school for a proposed project. When they called Combo Elementary School, a certain teacher told them that the area was inaccessible due to its peace and order situation.”


CheckMySchool coordinator Pahad Abbas together with CMS volunteers met with the Municipal Peace and Order Council of Barangay Combo to verify the information. The council was composed of barangay officials, police, members from the academe and other sectors. During the meeting, members of the council clarified that the school and the barangay are completely accessible and that news of ongoing conflicts were merely hearsays.


“Combo as a conflict zone is a stigma resulting from skirmishes during the Martial Law regime. Rido, or clan feuds, were occurring but always under control.” said Pahad.


For Mohannat, also a resident of Barangay Combo, some locals perpetuate this idea to prevent guests from visiting, particularly those they suspect of having unwelcome intentions for the community.



Photo: Mohannat Cua (Third from right) with some students of Combo Elementary School


After meeting with the council, Pahad, Mohannat and other CMS volunteers continued their efforts in changing the misconception regarding the school and the barangay. “We visited Combo Elementary School and engaged with the locals. Not long after, proposed projects for the community started coming in again,” said Pahad.


Written by: Brenda Pureza

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