|7 Something Happened On
My Way To School
In September 1995, something did happen.
The Parents-Teachers Association of the
Philippine School in Jeddah, re-established in early 1994 after nearly a decade of
silence, pushed hard with its demand for lower tuition fees, quality education, more
transparent management and better facilities. It also clamored for the election of parents
into a proposed governing school board. It helped that during the summer of 1995, the
Philippine Education Secretary, The Honorable Ricardo Gloria, visited Jeddah and dangled
before the parents the hope of developing PSJ into a science high school.
On September 15, the day of the school
board election that consulate officials aborted late in the afternoon of the previous day,
one of our colleagues in the association got mauled by some overzealous members of the
school staff. The maulers, we were later told, were honestly fearful that we were going to
drive them out of their livelihood if we won our way into the board.
Our injured colleague, Mrs. Carmelita
Shahwan, a lady with a big heart and a sharp tongue, used to be a Christian from Manila
who married a Muslim Egyptian and is now a Muslim convert. Our PTA President, Dr. Ibrahim
Bahjin, is Muslim. Other members of the PTA and the teachers who sympathized with us are
mostly Christians. I, who was running for one of the school board seats, am Muslim. The
consulate and school officials were a mix of Muslims and Christians. The maulers were
mostly Muslims. They had Christian active backers and sympathizers on their sides.
The claim by some that the conflict was
about Muslim school officials and their relatives lording it over the school while the
more plentiful Christians were being subjugated into silent submission did not hold water
in that miserable hotchpotch. Some claimed it was a tribal rivalry among the fierce Moros,
Muslims from the Philippines, but they could not quite reconcile how the Christian
elements fit into the scene. Some claimed it was a subterfuge by Christians to grab power
in the school.
The PTA President was accused of being
anti-Muslim. I was not as much vocal or as confrontational as the PTA President, but
considering that I was also out there at the frontline, trying to live up to my words, I
knew I was receiving my own share of abuse.
Now you understand what is going on in
Mindanao. Or are you more confused than before?
In retrospect, I now realize how people
could get into a war and still feel fully gratified that they were doing the best for