A drastic change

Arch. Sitti Maryam Misah Amirul

On one balmy afternoon, somewhere on the outskirts of our small town of Jolo in the province of Sulu, it was quite a busy day yet significant and remarkable to me. Together with my team, we trekked through the green expanse of the forest in Patikul, Sulu, anticipating reaching the site of one of our projects for a scheduled ocular inspection  It was one of the many site inspections we habituated in our daily grind since our sphere of competence is inclined to the engineering industry and committed to delivering quality infrastructure means and services effectively to the public. It was somewhat arduous traversing the area but we undoubtedly enjoyed the tour. It was mainly because of the ravishing scenery we came to observe along the way. The stretching leaves of huge tall trees are like a vast canopy covering us from above as if protecting us from the sun’s scorching heat. Beyond those trees is a wide panorama of the azure cloudless sky complementing the aerial view of the town in its kaleidoscopic landscape spread across the broad horizon. I tend to indulge in the serenity and quietude of the place as the wind somehow blows a caressing whisper as if to ensure me of a peaceful haven I can be in at the moment. I could feel the cold breeze touching my face which became even colder as tears rolled down my eyes at the spur of the moment. I could not contain my feelings. There was a pang of bizarre emotion engulfing my senses upon seeing in proximity remnants of the past, depicting testaments of past wars and conflicts that transpired in this very place. I felt a mixture of sorrow, remorse, and longing that consumed the entirety of me. Albeit we are seeing changes throughout, the old familiar fear we felt and the tormenting chaos we witnessed that displaced many residents and gravely destroyed communities still lingered in the abyss of our memories and never will be unremembered.

In the distant past, the province of Sulu was once a battleground that generated a bad impression across the country. This very ground where I am standing is just a part of the many areas here in Sulu that were deemed a no man’s land as it was deserted and neglected many years back making it a perilous place. Hence, Sulu is stereotyped as the breeding ground of the unruly and dubbed as a scary place to visit which has sadly become a historical prejudice. Verily, it was disheartening. My heart bleeds for my beloved hometown. And I felt the urge to redeem its glory. I wiped those tears that I couldn’t help falling and went on.

As we reached the peak of what seemed to be a slightly steep terrain, I was in awe at the sight of an old abandoned structure that appeared to be a primary school building built in the early 90s and was wrecked at the height of conflicts in which bullet holes were still visible on the concrete panels of its wall. This hit on the core so hard. A once notable institution was torn asunder and left to oblivion. The terror of war has not only destroyed the community. It took away the hopes and dreams of the generation. I could feel my knees starting to shiver and my heart pounded ceaselessly as if I was in agitation. There is a question running in my head that demands at once an answer. Thus, I ask myself with conviction. What does it take to be a true public servant? How far should one’s service go to be conceded as a true public service?

It is at this moment that I come to see the real meaning of public works. To revive a lifeless body of land and cultivate it with one’s blood, sweat, and tears to come to life again is something beyond service. And to set foot in those dangerous areas to transform them into a beaming community once again thereby furnishing quality service is no easy task. It takes considerable courage, strong will, hard work, and perseverance to begin and pave the way. On this premise, I realized that great leadership with utmost dedication, integrity, and commitment can serve as dynamic forces to genuine public service. Such leadership is a true catalyst for change. I now discern that to be a better public servant, take what possesses these strengths and virtues with a heart that truly cares for the people, the community, and the entire nation.

Perhaps, this was the calling I was destined to be after the doors of opportunity opened for me in the Bangsamoro bureaucracy. And yes, I belong to this Bangsa(nation), the Bangsa Sug in particular. I believe that taking part in this great endeavor will plant seeds of hope to humanity and bring lasting peace and development to the community. And to be part of this dedicated workforce is my humble attempt to be of better service. Public works being at the forefront of excellence in peace-keeping and nation-building, is certainly a true public service. Being part of this, I consider myself duty-bound to uphold its virtue.

At the approach of the night, we already exited the site and were navigating through the newly constructed road which our team had previously accomplished. The dazzling bright luminescence coming from the newly installed solar paneled lights above a six-metered height metallic post hued in stripes gave a clear vision of the surroundings and extensively lit our direction. Following the emergence of infrastructure developments in this locality, many crime-related activities were diminished and the peace and order situation in the vicinage was enhanced. On that account, many tourists were no longer afraid to visit Sulu and were astonished by the many beautiful scenic spots here especially when they get to experience the many attractive beaches on white powdery sand underneath the tall coconut trees, and the tranquility they get to feel upon the exquisite view of clear turquoise waters swashing around the vista. It is truly a sight to behold. This is an indication that tourism is also booming in the province. Sulu is flourishing and manifesting a gleam of hope. I found myself grinning at the thought of it. Indeed, my native land has withstood the tests of time and truly made a drastic transformation. It has metamorphosed radically from being a battleground into (I must say) a playground where children are free to explore the vicinity without the fear of getting trapped in the strings of chaos.