martin san diego
filipino documentary photographer

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

Youth of the Nation Within explores Moro identity amidst the shadow of militancy in Mindanao, southern Philippines.

Moros or Filipino-Muslims were thriving and ruling over the Philippine islands before the Spaniards came in the 1500s. But it took five centuries of massive land dispossessions brought by colonial powers and even fellow Filipinos themselves, and its subsequent bloody armed rebellions before they had meaningful autonomy again. Of the 100,000 to 150,000 lives lost in the rebellion since 1970, over 70 percent are rebels and civilians

Behind this were generations of youth who lived bearing the aspirations and grievances of their slain forefathers. This grew into a strong sense of patriotism for their identity and homeland – both called the Bangsamoro or Nation of Moros – which emanates vividly in the way young Moros live to this day.

In 2017, this very patriotism became their greatest vulnerability. Hundreds joined ISIS in occupying Marawi City in what became the longest and deadliest urban battle in the modern history of the Philippines. Their patriotism, compounded by a shared grievance on injustices they have gone through as a people, is what extremists capitalize on to widen foothold in the region.

Yet the same seed still bears Moro youth now working peacefully for their newly established government. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was established in 2019, hoped to be the culmination of the Moro rebellion.

But uncertainties worsened by the coronavirus pandemic remain, and militancy looms just a call away.

With intimate portraits, conversations, and embeddings, this work traces the lives of Moro youth, and investigates what shapes their paths. It is also a challenge to the westernized view of extremism and radicalization which gravely ignores roots. A view that effectively normalizes misleading stereotypes of Islamic communities and systematically perpetuates a cycle of violence within and well beyond the Philippines.
Publications: | Seeds of insurgency: The youth of Marawi | A new jihad: Helping Marawi | The Doctor Healing the Wounds of War in Basilan
GRID Magazine | What we Talk About When We Talk About Mindanao
The Wildcast | Martin San Diego: Telling the Stories of Moro Philippines

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