A Gentle Introduction

My name is Khalil. I am from Mindanao. I was born in Mindanao, and have lived here all my life.

This blog is a result of finally starting what I’ve put off for a long time; the enjoinment of a friend.

Mindanao is an island of contrasts. She is both a victor and a victim. She is a rich cultural melting pot and a fiery social crucible. Her children are constantly in search. In search of identity, of identification, of self-determination. She is struggle. She is life.

Every square meter is rich in history; every footpath, hill, and valley ripe with stories. Without setting expectations at too high a bar, I will do my best to tell the stories I can. I am myself still in the process of discovering Mindanao; such is her nature; full of nuance. And on a more mundane level, I am in the process of settling into a blog, familiarising myself with its controls.

Here’s how it will go: Every blog post will feature a single photo. Most likely in black and white, of something of and from Mindanao which I’ve personally encountered. I may be posting a photo from a few years back, a photo I’ve already uploaded to my other social media accounts, or something I’ve recently come across. In keeping with the long-held photography trope of a thousand words an image, every photo has an accompanying story, hopefully about an aspect known only to locals, about something that gets glossed over or missed altogether. I might have a subsequent post featuring a related photo but a different story and angle as I see fit. I’ll try not to ramble. I might even sneak in a poem or two.

Oh and one more thing, this will not be a travel blog. I’ll make that clear. There’ll be a minimum of how-to-get-there-tips, and of touristy places. But like any good photoblog, I’ll try my best to deliver on visuals. In essence, this will be more of a personal journal, a documentation of my insights, a burst of storytelling. And I might just make that extra reach to travel.

And for my first photo, that of the river in my local village, swollen and in full torrent after a full afternoon shower. A swollen river is quite a sight; the raw power of the water manifesting itself unashamedly, and quite terrifying to contemplate falling into.


Some did. Like Manong Mauro. It was back in the 90s, before the concrete bridge existed. He was on his way home astride his carabao, and, clouded by inebriation, decided to cross regardless. Only his carabao made it to the opposite bank. His body was found several kilometres downstream, bones broken and skin stripped by being smashed and scraped against the river’s boulders.

It was as strong a lesson on death and on the power of nature one could get as a child, as I watched the group of men carry his broken body the next morning through the village, wrapped and in a makeshift hammock. No one else from the village suffered the same after that. Not even the severely drunk who lived on the opposite bank. We were reminded that day of why the river was named Malasila, from the Cebuano “malas sila” (they were unlucky). Too true. Like any other living river, those who respect it are given life, and the foolhardy and irreverent are punished.


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