The first mission taken on by PIME in Mindanao was Siocon. Fr.Egidio Biffi arrived there in July 1969, followed by Frs. Santo Di Guardo (March 1970) and Angelo Biancat (April 1971). On January 21, 1970, Fr. Biffi wrote:
“This district of Siocon extends along the western coast of the Sulu sea for about 150 km, with villages on or near the coast. There are no roads, except a few built by the logging companies. Travel is by motorboat. The distances are great, since we travel only by sea, which is not always so calm. In the whole district there are little more than 30.000 souls, including the Muslims, a few Protestants and some animists (Subanen). I’m not sure about the exact number of Catholics, but certaintly they are over 10.000”
The missioner noted that in this remote corner of the Philippines, because the loneliness of the area, the Catholics seemed closed in on themselves rather than opening up to others, to the indigenous people and muslims. Fr.Biffi instituted a new line of apostolate based up on catechesis and assistance to the poor but he soon faced some resistance from the conservative groups of the parish more incline to popular religiosity and fiestas then social activities. He left Siocon and went to Sibuco, but in mid 1972 he fell ill and moved to Zamboanga where he took on the parish of Ayala and established there the PIME Procure. Fr.Biancat went to Siocon and Fr.Di Guardo to Sirawai.
Martial Law, which began in September 1972, created much tension in the area, which degenerated into reciprocal violence between Christians and Muslims, and many refugees came down from the villages of the surrounding mountains. The military ordered the handover of arms. The Christians obeyed immediately, feeling to be protected by the “christian Government” of Ferdinad Marcos, but the Muslims handed over only old and ruined arms. Soon the Islamic revolt began to spread. Between January and March of 1973, the Muslims camp in the village of Santa Maria was bombed three times from the air and the sea. In the district of Siocon, 80% of the villages were destroyed. Massacres and abuses were perpetrated by both sides. The people began to flee toward Zamboanga City and into the jungles of the interior where the Islamic guerrillas had their bases.
Three PIME missionaries arrived in the South during these difficult years: Frs.Vincenzo Bruno and Sandro Bauducci in 1972 anf Fr. Raymond Ridolfi in 1974. The first two went to Siocon, while Ridolfi joined Biffi in Ayala. In 1975 there was a tragedy. On September 24, Fr.Santo Di Guardo died in Manila of an intestinal blockage end peritonitis contracted while he was alone on the mountains of Sirawai. He was a priest well received by the local people, he left a real void. He was the first to work among the Muslims after having learned their language and his example stirred others missioners to follow his vision.
Ayala is situated about 15 km from Zamboanga City, one of the biggest in Mindanao, and important specially for its port facilities and its dialect, the “chavacano”, related to the spanish language. PIME had planned, in the 70’s, to take on a mission in Jolo, the southernmost point of the Philippines, near Malasya and Indonesia. This plan was not carried out due to the death of Fr. Di Guardo and the deportation of Frs. Alessi and Cocquio. PIME stayed in Ayala from 1975 to 1980, and various missionaries worked there, exchanging places with confreres in Siocon, Sirawai end Sibuco: Sandro Bauducci, Luciano Ghezzi, Peter Geremia, Fausto Tentorio and Sandro Brambilla. In Ayala and the surrounding area PIME started a new way to operate the parish by establishing few small christian communities. Moreover, some missioners, started to visit and assist the people living in the nearby squatter area, then the miners who where living in poor condition near the copper mines in the interior and muslim refugees. This new way of working looked strange and difficul to accept by the local clergy. Fr.Geremia, in a meeting with bishop and clergy, suggested the possibility to begin a social apostolate, beginning with the muslim refugees coming from the south (they moved to Zamboanga City after the biggest battle of the war between Army and Moro rebels which happened at the beginning of 1974 in Sulu), but it was impossible to involve the Diocese. The proposal could have been right on time considering the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and the general cease fire of 1977 with the Proclamation 1628 declaring autonomy in 13 provinces of Mindanao-Sulu, but pocket wars and skirmishes never really ceased between Christians and Muslims, Army and Moro rebels. Years later, however, the Diocese allowed the establishment of two different programs regarding Muslim-Christian dialogue: the Silsilah Movement, founded by Fr.Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME, and the Zamboanga Peace Advocate (now Zabida) of Fr,Angel Calvo, Claretian.