Making the invisible visible (1) | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Making the invisible visible (1)

/ 05:03 AM November 14, 2023

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — This is the title of a presentation that forms a significant part of a forum that launches the results of a research project on masculinities, gender equality, and peace building taking place tomorrow, Nov. 15, at the Grand Summit Hotel here in this city famous as the “tuna capital” of the country.

The complete title of the presentation is “Making the invisible visible: the future of integrating women, peace and security agenda in higher education curriculum,” to be presented by one of the members of a small team of young, dynamic, and creative professors at the Mindanao State University-General Santos City. The team carried out a two-year research project that delved into the complicated nature of gender identities and dynamics, especially on masculinities as they are manifested in different contexts of violent conflict in selected areas in the Bangsamoro region.

One key finding of the research is the complexity and ever-evolving manifestations of masculinities, even in highly patriarchal contexts that characterize dominant social relations in the Bangsamoro region. And the ways these evolving characteristics of masculinities are played out could either be beneficial or detrimental to women and their sense of security. But most of all, they are being manifested in ways that many times defy simple, stereotypical, and usually binary arrangements of roles of individuals in society. But this is getting ahead.

Research projects like these are quite challenging to conduct, given the challenging lived realities of communities in the Bangsamoro. These realities include being exposed to high levels of vulnerability to intermittent experiences of violent conflicts that have spanned more than four decades, up to the present.

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The research project on masculinities and gender equality and peacebuilding is part of a two-country, three-locality study funded through a generous grant from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) based in Tokyo, Japan. The two other localities in the study are Aceh and Maluku, in Indonesia. The third area is Mindanao, specifically in three provinces in the Bangsamoro autonomous region—Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, and Lanao del Sur.

Key officials of the SPF are visiting General Santos to take part in this forum. No less than foundation executive director Itsu Adachi and peace-building program manager Maho Nakayama-Sato are participating. Japanese Consul General to the Philippines Yoshihisha Ishikawa will also be gracing the event and, as of this writing, chief executive of the local government of General Santos, Lorelie Geronimo-Pacquiao, will be there personally to welcome international guests.

In conducting this research, this team of young researchers had to consider several sensitivities, not only in terms of gender and cultural dynamics, but even in delving into some intimate private spheres of community members’ daily lives, or some painful past experiences, like having experienced trauma during periods of violent conflict. It required a certain level of fieldwork experience, creativity, and sensitivity, but most of all, a basic understanding of various factors that shape how individuals construct and behave in the social realities they are exposed to on a daily basis. This is the result of having experienced doing fieldwork in “critical” areas, locations of violent incidents in both the past and the present, contexts that are not for the faint of heart.

And this is exactly what the team members have. For almost a decade, these young scholars have been exposed to this type of fieldwork localities, where many times, they are confronted with having to make quick decisions on whether to go on with the fieldwork when they can distinctively hear gunshots being exchanged in a nearby barangay. This has happened several times in the research careers of this young and quite adventurous team. In one field visit in Lanao del Norte, members of the team passed by a highway in Lanao del Sur and were stopped somewhere because two groups engaged in “rido” (vengeance fighting) were exchanging gunshots nearby. With the help of local guides, they were able to leave the site, unscathed.

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The team is led by Dr. Jovanie C. Espesor, a young political science professor who dabbles in security issues in peace and conflict contexts, both in Indonesia and Mindanao. The two other key presentations will be on how experiences of trauma from a violent past can affect women and men’s sense of insecurity and their ways of coping, to be presented by Dr. Lolymar Jacinto-Reyes, a trained psychologist; and the one on making women, peace, and security issues visible through embedding them in higher education curriculum, by a young educator, Dr. Jovar Pantao.

(More next week)

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TAGS: gender equality, Kris-Crossing Mindanao, masculinities, peace building

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