Narrated by Anisa, the chairman called her to go to Manila for an activity that she barely knows.
“That time, according to her, we can only follow orders, no question or complaint”, Anisa told.
In obedience, she packed her things and get the plane ticket provided and was ready to board for the task given to her together with a colleague in the organization.
She recalls that it was month of January 2000, months before the all-out-war that year, broke out between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Upon arrival in Manila, Anisa immediately dialed the phone number given to her, then someone fetched them from the airport.
They reached the hotel where they stayed for the activity, which they later knew was about a meeting or consultation with women of MILF and MNLF organized by the government.
Today, Anisa is telling this story to the young and present staff of Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) to share them narratives of how the agency and its people worked despite the uncertainties and lack of resources.
BDA now BDA Inc. (as non-government organization) was established in 2002 as development arm of the MILF primarily mandated to lead, manage and determine relief and rehabilitation in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.
Anisa is one of the senior employees and volunteers of BDA Inc. and remain a dedicated and committed Bangsamoro woman worker up until today.
“I joined BDA in 2004 when we were informed that the MILF is calling for volunteers to work for the agency. I was then a member of the secretariat of the late Hashim Salamat (MILF Founding Chairman).
She recalls that it was in 2004 when BDA volunteers worked together for the development of the Values Transformation Training (VTT) along with other modules that guided the agency during its early years.
Anisa was among those who worked together during the early days of BDA, that time with very limited resources and recognition of partners and stakeholders due to its peculiar identity; not a government organization nor non-government organization.
“Our life then at the agency was purely driven by volunteerism”, Anisa shared.
According to her, there was no specified salary or allowance for all the workers. Everyone was aware and understood that the services rendered for the agency were part of the Bangsamoro struggle and the hard work and efforts were all counted and be rewarded hereafter.
Anisa is the eldest of four children; three girls and one boy. The family is from Kurintem, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao. The mother managed a small coffee shop serving local dishes with native brewed coffee, where she earns a living for the family aside from farming.
The father passed away when Anisa and her siblings were still young.
“In fact, I cannot remember him, because maybe I was too young that time. What I know is that, our mother was three-month pregnant with our youngest when Ama (father) left us in this world.
As one of pioneering volunteers of the BDA, Anisa is known as the “Ate ng Lahat” (big sister to all). She is the most frank, furious, courageous yet honest and generous friend, fellow and a sister to everyone she works with.
“Tatalakan ka nya ng todo-todo, pero pag marinig na nya ang kwento mo, sasabihin nya na lang “aday mambu/ kawawa ka naman. (She would scold you intensely, but later when she hears your story, she would say “how poor you situation” with sympathy”),” a friend describes Anisa.
As a Moro woman, she learned about Bangsamoro struggle when she was in elementary school and has become active at the age of fifteen (15).
“We were told to join the training for the Medical Team of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). That time, no MILF yet”, Anisa said.
As youth, she was aware of her being active in community activities and joining and responding to the call and recruitment at the community level seemed natural for her.
“No one was ordering me to join, it was really me who voluntarily involving myself”, she told.
Then when there was MILF, Anisa became part of the Social Welfare Committee (SWC), the women wing of the organization. She joined the organizing of the committee at the community level, going to municipalities in various provinces of then Kutawato Empire.
That time, Anisa had to stop schooling for two years since they have to travel from mainland to Island provinces.
It was after two years when she decided to pursue her studies through the Alternative Learning System (ALS).
Anisa got a degree of Bachelor of Science in Commerce major in Management in Shariff Kabunsuan College (SKC) in Cotabato City. Away from family in DOS, Maguindanao, she lived by a relative in Cotabato City with the hard work of her mother who was solely sustaining her needs as student.
Growing personally and professionally at the BDA, Anisa remains loyal to the agency whose marking its nineteen years of service this year 2021.
“I stay here at BDA because I consider this as the legacy of the late MILF Chairman. I cannot forget his words saying ‘working at BDA is a form of jihad, help the Bangsamoro, the community in whatever effort you can without expecting salary because jihad has no equivalent benefit in this world’.
With the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Anisa shares the joy for her fellow Bangsamoro for the significant progress in the history of the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“Of course, I feel happy about the BARMM. For me it is a fruit of peace process, but not of the jihad (struggle). Because the fruit of jihad is only at the hereafter, in heaven”, Anisa stated.
At present, Anisa is working as cashier at the BDA where she helps to the overall financial management of the agency.
She possesses the history of BDA that is relevant as she takes the role of managing the resources of the agency in a transparent, flexible and policy- driven manner.
“We say that there is dynamics at the BDA. We came from a revolutionary organization, the MILF, so we tell our partners ever since that there is difference in our context. So, we have to agree on the policies and regulations on the use of funds, not only according the global standards but to consider the local context”, Anisa told.
Over the years, BDA has been determined in developing and strengthening its capacity as an organization looking into various aspects such as project management, administrative and financial management, community organizing and mobilizing, linking and networking, others.
Throughout these efforts, all actions were driven by the core values of the agency guided by the principle of “change must begin with one’s self”.
Anisa is gratified by the accomplishments of BDA knowing its humble and peculiar beginning as an organization.
“Yes, I am happy because BDA was able to excel and did not fall down”, she told.
Looking ahead, she hopes that BDA can sustain its best practice on equipping its staff to become more dedicated through the VTT and study circles.