KIDAPAWAN, Philippines, September 15 (UNHCR)

The question is simple: “Where are you from?” But in this rice-milling community in southern Mindanao, the answers are never straightforward.

“My parents are from Indonesia. My mother escaped forced marriage and came to the Philippines. My father came to work. I was born in the Philippines,” said Merlyn Mandak, a 48-year-old who lives in a mixed community alongside Filipinos in Kidapawan, Cotabato province.

“It’s better to be a bird because at least they have their own nest,” said her neighbour Roger Mandak (no relation), 58, lamenting the struggles faced since his parents came to the Philippines in the 1930s. Roger and Merlyn are people of Indonesian descent. Their ancestors moved here generations ago and left a legacy no one wants or deserves – statelessness. 

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