The Single Story of Muslim Filipinos
Muslim. Black. Halal. Terrorist. Bomb. Vendor. Mindanao.
I showed a photo of a veiled woman and a bearded man in our pilot workshop with high school students and asked them words on top of their heads. These are their words and unfortunately, they are not the only ones. In the minds of Filipinos, these words have subconsciously become synonymous with each other.
The stories of the Muslim Filipinos have not evolved positively in the last two decades.
In a 2005 study, 39% of Filipinos have a bias towards Muslims even though 86% of them have never met or directly interacted with one. The same study highlighted that the prejudice and stigma are largely attributed to multiple factors. This includes the media’s portrayal of the Muslim Filipino identity, limited inclusion and discussion in our educational system and weak understanding of Islam and its diversity, in the end perpetuating bias and eventually Islamophobia. The entrenchment of Islamophobia has led to the Muslim Filipino’s exclusion from jobs, education, housing and business opportunities inspiring some to take refuge in extremism. New research has been started in 2018 to update this data factoring in the recent conflicts such as the Zamboanga Siege, the Mamasapano Encounter and the Battle of Marawi.
In May 2017, I was invited by the US State Department together with other young people in the Philippines for a TechCamp in Thailand. This TechCamp focused on promoting peace and dialogue and we have to build a technology solution to this dilemma. My work has always revolved around using technology in the development of communities and that opportunity has greatly impacted me.
Ironically, five days after we went home, the Marawi Siege started and one of our co-delegates was trapped in the city. He has survived that battle but continues to live the single story of Muslim Filipinos. The event became a personal motivation for us to continue working on our solution that is now, Qapwa.
Qapwa is a digital storytelling platform that showcases the narratives of everyday Filipinos to challenge the bias and stereotypes towards their community. To begin, we traveled all over the Philippines from Manila to Tawi-Tawi in search of 1000 stories of Muslim Filipinos and publish them online. The journey showed us the importance of taking campaigns offline and sharing our skills. That inspired us to start training young storytellers in Mindanao teaching them interviewing, basic photography, story writing and interact in their Muslim neighborhoods. At least 60% of our 84 trained storytellers are non-Muslims and some of them have never set foot in our partner Muslim neighborhoods.
Engage and Support
Support Qapwa by buying our PeaceCards (Php100 for a set of 5). You may visit and message us at facebook.com/qapwaph or www.qapwa.com. Your help will support our digital storytelling workshops and peace education initiatives.
Partnership for Peace
Today, we continue to partner with our allies in peacebuilding to begin training storytellers beyond Mindanao and publish stories both online and offline. In celebration of the Conflict Resolution Day, the Qapwa team is delighted to start this collaboration with the Daily Guardian’s Initiative to share our stories to your homes every week.
It is my hope that our stories will help you address long-held biases and stereotypes so we can all create a kinder and more peaceful Philippines.