MANILA, Philippines—With the standoff in the disputed Sabah still unresolved, the country’s mission in Kuala Lumpur is hoping to put Mindanao in a positive light on the Malaysian stage.
The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur this week mounted an exhibit in Malaysia featuring Mindanao’s unique traditions, scenery and people in visual masterpieces by local artists.
Titled Glimpses of Mindanao: Peace in the Land of Promise, the exhibit showcased 30 paintings by Mindanao-based artists Saudi Ahmad, Chester Mato and Nicholas Aca, Jr. this week at the Kuala Lumpur Convention center
“Mindanao has been in the headlines lately in the Philippines and also in Malaysia and other places, but for unflattering reasons. This art exhibit hopefully will help in rectifying this and bring about a balanced, broader perspective about the place,” Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Ed Malaya told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Thursday.
Jointly staged by the embassy and the Philippine National Commission on Culture and the Arts, the exhibit “wishes to present and share the very best of Filipino Muslim culture and the arts, and also celebrate the similarities and affinities between Philippine and Malaysian cultures,” Malaya said.
Running until Friday, the exhibit opened Monday in an event that gathered members of the diplomatic corps in Malaysia as well as Malaysia’s officials and members of the Filipino community, the mission said in a statement.
“The artworks that are on display illustrate scenery, way of life, culture, hopes and dreams of the so-called Land of Promise. We hope that through the artists’ eyes, all of us can perceive the beautiful land that is Mindanao,” Malaya said in remarks at the exhibit’s opening on Monday.
The exhibit ran amid calming tensions between the Philippines and Malaysia with the quiet yet still unresolved standoff between Malaysian government forces and Sulu fighters in Sabah, a Malaysia-controlled state to which the Philippines has a dormant claim.
In a recent interview, Malaysian Ambassador Dato Mohd Zamri Bin Mohd Kassim said his country has been pursuing friendly ties with the Philippines and working towards resolving the standoff, now going into its third month.
“The thrust of our foreign policy is peace… We have good relations with everybody, irrespective of ideology,” Zamri told reporters Tuesday on the sidelines of the celebration of Europe Day in Makati City, which gathered diplomats from foreign posts here.
“In any interstate relations, there might be some small [issues]. We believe in negotiations. We believe in consultation. That’s what the Philippines does too. This is the thrust of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). So we should build on that for mutual good,” he said, adding that Malaysia was a peace-loving nation.
Zamri has been Malaysia’s point man in Manila since the standoff began in February, when followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III sailed to Lahad Datu, Sabah to assert the sultanate’s claim to what they consider ancestral territory.
The Kirams said their family initiated the action after having been left out of the Malaysia-brokered peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which achieved strides following 2012’s signing of a framework agreement towards the establishment of a Bangsamoro juridical entity.
Heavy fighting ensued, resulting in casualties on both sides and becoming an irritant between the Asean neighbors. Concerns also arose over the possible impact of the clashes on the peace process.