Saturday, May 21, 2016

Holidaying on Samal Island, Philippines

"I am embarrassed to be a Muslim. They shame us all when they cut people's heads off. Like the kidnappers, I am from Jolo Island. I am a Tausug and speak Tausug just like they do. But we are not like them and want nothing to do with them."
"They say they do this because of our religion but that is only the opinion of Abu Sayyaf. They are only criminals."
"Duterte's first privilege will be to stop these kidnappings."
Abdur Racman, Davao, Samal Island, Philippines

"Abu Sayyaf are bad people. That is what we Muslims think. Like us, Duterte [newly-elected president-elect Rodrigo Duterte] doesn't like Abu Sayyaf, too. We are hoping that he can protect us from them."
Sahara Teves, 25, Davao

"Contaminated [police generals facing corruption charges should] get out now [before the president-elect takes office]."
"And if you are taken hostage there, say your Our Fathers because I will never, never pay anything to retrieve  you."
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines
A screengrab from a video obtained by extremist monitoring organization SITE purportedly shows three hostages held by Abu Sayyaf.
A screengrab from a video obtained by extremist monitoring organization SITE purportedly shows three hostages held by Abu Sayyaf.

Rodrigo Duterte whose reputation as a hard-nosed, blunt-spoken enemy of the criminal element in the Philippines and whose recent electoral victory will have him shortly assuming the presidency, has informed the prospective new military head, Army Lt.-Gen.Ricardo Visaya that it is his intention that the military troops of the Philippines must be dispatched to destroy the Abu Sayyaf Islamist militia that has sworn allegiance to Islamic State.

The Islamist jihadis whose kidnapping exploits have convinced Filipinos that they are common criminals unaligned with Islam whose only interest in portraying themselves as an offshoot of Islamic State is to instill fear in prospective abductees, have recently beheaded a Canadian man whom they abducted with three others from the Oceanview Marina Resort when the ransom demanded was not handed over to them.

From left: Kjartan Sekkingstad, John Ridsel, Robert Hall, and Marithes "Tess" Flor

More recently another threat to behead the remaining of the two Canadians has been issued via a video with Robert Hall begging for the Canadian and Philippine governments to pay the $16.6-million ransom being demanded for his life. Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Marites Flor, abducted with the two Canadians are also awaiting rescue. The marina from which the four were abducted is now under heightened security; the 11 masked gunmen who succeeded in kidnapping the four would find it far more difficult to repeat their exploit.

There is a new watchtower built on the breakwater to the marina entry point and a coast guard vessel is moored inside the harbour, protected now by a double boom designed to prevent unwelcome vessels from entry to the area. That very same marina remains packed with small vessels on their trans-Pacific trips from the Philippine archipelago to Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The island Paradise that had attracted the four people abducted remains a magnificent landscape.

"I don't know why so many white men still go there, but there certainly is a lot more security", observed Mac Mac Cansatsut, who spoke of the mood having changed since the attack last year, with locals being cautioned to remain away from Oceanview Resort, a message that is obviously not getting through to tourists. Other resorts on the island have had visitors sign waivers to absolve them of any responsibility for their welfare before permission is received to go to the beach.

Relations between Christians and Muslims on Samal Island remain strained. At the waterfront slum in Davao a makeshift mosque is where the local Muslim population go to pray and to deplore Abu Sayyaf's agenda, denying that it has anything to do with the Islam they revere and have such a deep and abiding faith in.


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