How a basketball court changed Talipao villagers’ lives

Posted on Thursday, September 5th, 2013 and is filed under Community, Feature, PhilSouth Villages. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

To more than seven thousand villagers in the conflict-affected area of Lumapid in Talipao, Sulu, having a basketball court is a real big thing.  The village has for many years been the traversing site of lawless armed groups, the bigger and more regular among which was later on identified as the Abu Sayyaf Groups led by Idang Susukan and Sibih Pisi.

The Lumapid Basketball Court is a collaborative effort of the villagers in Lumapid, Talipao, Sulu, and the Marine Battalion Landing Team 2. In photo during the inauguration are the Marine officers, 1Lt. Jozen Banatao, MBLT2 Commander Lt. Col. Romulo Quemado II. JM

After weeks of careful study on how to address the security issues in this part of the economically-challenged province, officers and personnel of the 32nd Marine Company of the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) 2 conceptualized a sports-driven program, with basketball as the primary sports activity.

“This was a carefully assessed activity that we had to do, considering the initial trust issues also among the residents with the Philippine armed forces. But after frequent consultations with the barangay officials, and even the residents in various sitios (community sections), we finally agreed on putting up a basketball court,” said Marine 1Lt. Jozen Banatao in an interview in the 32nd Marine Company Headquarters in Kuta Kabayanihan, Sitio Bato-habah in Matatal, Maimbung, Sulu.

Done in the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan, the Lumapid basketball court began construction in late February till its final completion in late May this year. “The basketball court in Lumapid is an inter-agency effort,” Banatao stressed.  “It is not the sole activity of the Marines.  We could not do it without our civilian partners and the local government units and offices that supported the project,” he added.

Residents of Lumapid and nearby villages now use the basketball court for inter-community sports competitions. JM

In a separate interview, Marine 2Lt. Roceli Famulag said the raw materials used in the construction were contributed by 2M Construction and Enterprises through Engr. Dan Ruiz, the Barangay Local Government Unit of Mabahay, where Sitio Lumapid is located, and the MBLT2.  Mabahay Chairman Radjili Kani, speaking in Tausug, was more than thankful when the project came to be realized as his constituents became more engaged with basketball than belonging and supporting lawless armed groups. He thought that those who were once members of the Sayyaf group eventually abandoned lawlessness and got themselves so involved with the sports activities, and found themselves playing even with some soldiers.

Tony Radjili, another resident, likened the basketball game to a boxing game where sports icon Manny Pacquiao would play—and hold the Filipino nation in awe for an hour, in breathless anticipation for his victory.

“The Provincial Engineer’s Office lent some of their equipment.  The Barangay Chairmen of Upper and Lower Talipao, Jamhari Limpasan and Tasnin Mashoud (respectively), and Chairman Rusdin Julhari of Barangay Talipao Proper, also extended their support,” Famulag said.

“The first basketball games in the Lumapid Basketball Court changed the lives of the residents,” said Marine Lt. Col. Romulo Quemado II, commanding officer of the MBLT2 based in Talipao. “The games brought them together to bond in the name of sports.  Through basketball, they are developing the spirit of sportsmanship.  From the standpoint of the Marines based in the area, this is part of our efforts to foster and eventually strengthen genuine community relations.  We believe that this is a vital ingredient in resolving trust issues and sustaining peace,” he added.

An incident that was thwarted on May 23 this year turned to be a significant benchmark in addressing the peace in Talipao.  “Concerned barangay officials of different barangays and some concerned civilians were separately expressing their warnings with the working troops of the 32nd Marine Company of a planned ambush by Idang Susukan’s Sayyaf group.  This was at a particular vicinity where there were residents so  the Marines along with the civilians cleared off the route and found traces of occupation by the Sayyaf,” 32nd Marine Company commander 1Lt. Jozen Banatao recalled.

“This prevented further casualty from both civilian and military groups.  We took this action and engagement of the residents as a clear manifestation of their trust for the Marines in the area, and this further heightened the morale of the soldiers.  This is important to us, because the desire for peace and stable security has become the residents’ primary concern, and they are seeing us as their partners.  This I believe is life-changing for them and for us, and when we look back and how it all started, we can only point it back to our relentless socio-civic activities and the Lumapid basketball court.  The construction of the Marines of that sports and recreation facility turned out to be a big thing to them, and they themselves worked with us to show force to the Sayyaf to vacate the area,” Banatao said.

MBLT2’s Civil-Military Operations Officer 1Lt. Romelito Macaraig explained further that “community-based activities are necessary in the growth and understanding of a community.”

“The basketball court serves as connector to the people within Lumapid and its neighboring barangays for the recreation and diversion from lawlessness through sports,” Macaraig said. (Frencie Carreon/The PhilSouth Angle)

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