Four decades and 120,000 dead. A regional economy in tatters. Generations displaced, families broken apart and the Philippines left in a permanent state of uncertainty. There has been no shortage of damage done during the low-intensity civil conflict with Islamist militants on the island of Mindanao.
Over the years, quiet negotiations - punctuated by occasional loud breakdowns - have sought to end the conflict. Still, President Benigno Aquino's announcement of a peace deal yesterday came as a surprise. The agreement is still in the preliminary stages - but if it "paves the way for a final and enduring peace in Mindanao", as Mr Aquino says, it will be a historic turn of events indeed.
Just as important as the popular president's leadership on the issue is that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has been fighting Manila since the 1960s, issued a strong statement of support. A MILF spokesman went so far as to thank Mr Aquino for the deal.
The plan hinges on the creation of a Muslim autonomous zone on Mindanao to be called Bangsamoro. It is not exactly a new idea. An autonomous zone in the region was first proposed in the 1970s, and formally established in 1989. It remains to be seen how Bangsamoro will better answer local concerns, and address the grievances that have kept the southern secessionist movements alive for so many decades.
In recent years, the MILF rebellion has hardly been the worst of the disputes in the country's south-east. Abu Sayyaf is the best known, and historically most bloodthirsty, of the extremist separatist groups. The worst violence on Mindanao in recent years, however, was the Maguindanao massacre when 58 people, including many journalists, were killed in 2009. A powerful political clan, the Ampatuans, carried out those murders targeting an elections rival.
In Mindanao's stew of clan politics, patronage networks, and class and religious cleavages, this peace deal could easily come apart. Having spent considerable political capital to have come so far, Mr Aquino clearly recognises there is hard work to be done.
Another deal on the region's right of self-determination was killed in 2008 by a Supreme Court veto. More violence ensued. This new agreement, which is expected to be signed next Monday, will take at least four years to implement. There is plenty of time for another derailment. It will take all of Mr Aquino's leadership, and the determination of the residents of the new Bangsamoro, to follow this road map to a better conclusion.