martin san diego
filipino documentary photographer

Youth of the Nation Within / Seeds of Insurgency (2018 – )

Youth of the Nation Within is an ongoing personal project that explores and visualizes the role of identity among Filipino-Muslim youth in Mindanao, Southern Philippines, amid years of armed conflict and the lingering shadow of militancy.

400 years of resisting colonizers followed by 40 years of an armed struggle against the Philippine government itself, have given birth to a generation of youth slowly rising to take their place in the world.

Despite carrying trauma from several years of conflict, these young Moros continue to work tirelessly for others, dedicating themselves wholeheartedly for their nation.

A deep sense of patriotism for the Bangsamoro — the term coined for their identity and homeland in Mindanao — emanates vividly in the way they speak about and work on advocacies they believe in. Unfortunately, the same patriotism — compounded with a shared frustration for historical injustices done onto their people — is being capitalized on by violent extremists like Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to widen foothold in the region.

Through intimate portraits and conversations taken over the course of several years, Youth of the Nation Within documents the lives of the Moro youth, and investigates the invisible forces, be in it in militancy or diplomacy, that continue to shape their future.

Publications:
Rappler.com | Seeds of insurgency: The youth of Marawi
Rappler.com | A new jihad: Helping Marawi
Rappler.com | The Doctor Healing the Wounds of War in Basilan
GRID Magazine | Interview: 30 MINUTES WITH MARTIN SAN DIEGO
GRID Magazine | What we Talk About When We Talk About Mindanao

A young boy in Marawi City during the Eid’l Fitr on Wednesday, June 5, 2019.
The city was heavily destroyed when local armed group Maute took over the city on May 23, 2017. The Maute previously pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2014.
Many of the fighters that came were young Filipino-Muslims aged 18 to 27 years old.

Residents of villages in Marawi City came home to almost nothing five months after the city’s liberation, on April 7, 2018.
A large part of Marawi still lay in ruins two years after the Siege, sparking fears for the growing frustration among residents.

Displaced youth play at a temporary settlement site outside Marawi City.
“The longer people remain displaced, the more they are becoming vulnerable, not only to violent extremism but to other crimes (as well),” said Tirmizzy Abdullah of the Mindanao State University Institute of Peace and Development.

Zaldy, 20, stands inside a bullet-ridden government office in Marawi City. He was on his way to join his friends in the Siege in 2017, on the 23rd of May. By heart he knew he wanted to be part of it, “I want to be a Mujahideen. Because as they promise, paradise is assured when you die.”
He was not able to join his friends as the city was locked down by security forces.

Youth walk home after Islamic classes in the village of West Calocan in Marawi City.
The region of Lanao del Sur which covers Marawi is listed as the poorest in the Philippines, where 74.3 percent of the population lived under the poverty threshold in 2015, according to a report released by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Students and their parents at a school event in Butig Municipality, 50 kilometers south of Marawi City, on September 23, 2018. The town and its people were witness to a prelude to the Marawi Siege, when local armed group Maute clashed with government forces in 2016, sparking a 6-day battle. The Maute previously pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2014.

Displaced youth play at a temporary settlement site outside Marawi City.
“The longer people remain displaced, the more they are becoming vulnerable, not only to violent extremism but to other crimes (as well),” said Tirmizzy Abdullah of the Mindanao State University Institute of Peace and Development.

Residents of villages in Marawi City came home to almost nothing five months after the city’s liberation, on April 7, 2018.
A large part of Marawi still lay in ruins two years after the Siege, sparking fears for the growing frustration among residents.

Youth on break between Islamic classes in the village of West Calocan in Marawi City.
The region of Lanao del Sur which covers Marawi is listed as the poorest in the Philippines, where 74.3 percent of the population lived under the poverty threshold in 2015, according to a report released by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

A displaced child plays on a tablet inside a stranger’s home in the Municipality of Poona Bayabao, 30 kilometers south of Marawi City. His family walked 10 hours to escape when the Marawi Siege broke in 2017.
“And the threat is not because of the distorted Islamic ideology of violent extremism was there, it was actually a child of the endemic poverty” said Acram Latiph, a conflict expert at the Mindanao State University.
The region of Lanao del Sur which covers Marawi is listed as the poorest in the Philippines, where 74.3 percent of the population lived under the poverty threshold in 2015, according to a report released by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

A teenager takes part in a farming livelihood initiative just outside Marawi City.
The region of Lanao del Sur which covers Marawi is listed as the poorest in the Philippines, where 74.3 percent of the population lived under the poverty threshold in 2015, according to a report released by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The Bangsamoro region itself is the poorest region in the country with at least 59 percent of the population living below the poverty level, according to the same report.
As of 2016, there have been at least four armed-groups operating in the region.

Commuters wait in Marawi City, Mindanao.

Youth in Marawi City, Mindanao.

“My heart and mind still can’t digest why they had to resort to such.” Two of Miriam’s closest female friends joined ISIS fighters in the Marawi Siege in 2017.

A displaced teenager from Marawi looks outside the window of a stranger’s home in the Municipality of Poona Bayabao, 30 kilometers south of Marawi City.

Students flock to a remittance center in Marawi City where they widthraw tuition money and allowance sent by thier parents from other parts of Southern Philippines.
The Islamic City was the perfect breeding ground for ISIS in the Philippines — brilliant youth, mostly poor, from all over Southern Philippines come over to study at the main campus of Mindanao State University, where they meet other individuals who share the same experiences and frustrations with them.

A portrait of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte hangs inside a school building in Maguindanao, Southern Philippines. Classes in Maguindanao are often cancelled as the area is witness to an ongoing armed conflict between government forces and ISIS-affiliated group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom

The threat of ISIS still looms over the ruins of Marawi City over two years after the five-month siege that destroyed a large part of the city.

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