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FEATURE STORY

Voice of Conflict: Abdul Wahab Dagundol's Story in the Philippines

November 1, 2016

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Captain of Upper Campo Islam, Wahab M. Dagundol, performs ablutions before evening prayer at his local mosque. Ablutions are the Islamic ritual of washing and purifying parts of the body (hands, mouth, nostrils, arms, head, feet) before prayer. In Upper Campo Islam, water is held in deep wells at each mosque and is considered clean enough for washing, but not  drinking.

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg

Abdul Wahab Dagundol became a Black Shirt—an armed militia group that was a precursor to the Moro National Liberation Front—when he was 16 years old. Like hundreds of others, he joined what would become a decades-long fight for self-determination for Muslim people (also called Moro or Bangsamoro) in southern Philippines.

Wahab didn’t physically fight for long, however. Deflated by the loss of lives, of Filipinos killing fellow Filipinos, he turned to agriculture. Eventually he entered public office, motivated to inspire his children and community to invest in education, not violence. He has been Barangay Chairman (village head) of Upper Campo Islam, a small community in southern Mindanao, for nine years. At 52, this year will be his final term before retirement.

“I am Abdul Wahab Dagundol, Barangay Chairman of Upper Campo Islam. I am blessed with seven children and I am the head of the family. I joined the struggle for Bangsamoro to have its own identity through autonomy. But I saw no good impact, just suffering, because we were fighting against fellow Filipinos.”

“Being a rebel gives you life lessons. I learned two things. First, killing our fellow men--it was a case of kill or be killed. And second, you are not good in the eyes of the government.”

“In 1976 I decided to stop. I realized there is no sense fighting the government because we don’t have power. I stopped because there is no impact in our lives and there is no good future we can gain. I stopped but I did not surrender.”


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Captain of the barangay, Wahab M. Dagundol (fourth from right) prays in his local mosque during Ramadan, Upper Campo Islam, southern Mindanao. The clocks on the wall display times where the local Muslim community must pray during Islam's holiest month. Some pray throughout the night, only catching sleep in blocks of four hours at a time.

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg

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Mr. Wahab M. Dagundol (left) and his wife in their kitchen at home in Upper Campo Islam, southern Mindanao. Like all residents with private access to potable water, Mr. Dagundol must pay a monthly fee to the People's Organization for the privilege. Private faucets are the third phase of a water supply project in municipality, support by World Bank through Mindanao Trust Fund, facilitated by Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA).

© World Bank / Alana Holmberg

“From then on, I decided to continue farming as it is my only source of income. I was not able to get a proper education during my childhood, so I was challenged to do better. I tried my best to raise my children differently because I do not want them to be like me.

I became Barangay Chairman (village head) in 2007 and this is my last term. I wish that the people in my community have good lives and that we all will continue to live in peace.

Before our community had a hard time getting water. Until 2011, we would have to go to Pagadian [a nearby city] just to buy water.

The water system brought big changes in Upper Campo Islam. Misunderstandings between Christians and Muslims eased and the people are now happy. The water is clean. No one in the community has any bad stories or experiences about water.

What I am proud of in our community is that, compared to the other barangays (villages), Upper Campo Islam no longer needs a water project from the government, because we already have one. Other barangays buy water from us because it is very clean.”

The remaining challenges are more jobs and projects for the improvement of our community.”



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