19th Sultan of Rajah Buayan enthroned in rites
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas () - February 4, 2006 - 12:00am
After more than a hundred years of silence, the Rajah Buayan Sultanate of Kudarangan, Rajah Buayan sa Buayan, Cotabato, Mindanao, sprang to life with the proclamation and installation of the 19th Sultan of Rajah Buayan this past weekend. Amid pomp and pageantry, Sultan Haji Mohamad Amir Blao Nandang Bin Tambilawan Bayao II received the crown, sash, belt and kris that symbolized his reign as Sultan of Rajah Buayan Sultanate of Mindanao Darrussalam.

The sultan, a quiet man of 65 years, received those symbols from sultans belonging to other sultanates – each garbed in shimmering yellow and red costume. Starting on that eventful morning, Sultan Haji Mohamad Amir was declared ruler of seven areas - North Cotabato, Dasawaw of Datu Piang in Maguindanao, Datu Paglas of Maguindanao, Bukidnon Province, Davao Provinces, Caraga Region, and all areas going west from Midsayap, Cotabato.

Venue of his enthronement was the gymnasium of Southern Christian College in Midsayap, two hours away by land from Cotabato City. Guests were other sultans, Muslim leaders and women, government dignitaries, Christian missionaries, and NGO representatives.

The 18th Sultan, Sultan Amir’s great grandfather, Sultan Mohammad Tambilawan Bayao ruled the Rajah Buayan Sultanate from 1899 to 1910. The late Muslim historian, Cesar Adib Majul, wrote the history of the sultanate in a publication for the Asian Center and published by the University of the Philippines Press. Other historians confirmed Majul’s research on the sultanates, and pointed to the rule of the 18th Sultan Moh. Tambilawan Bayao. None of his successors ruled after him in view of political and social disorders during the last decades.

In his royal address, the newly enthroned Sultan Amir vowed that his mission and vision "is to have peace and unity among people of different tribes and religions." He cited laws and statues of the United Nations Charter which guarantee the principle of self-determination of colonized nations and states similar to the once-sovereign Rajah Buayan.

He also mentioned the International Covenant on Economics, Social, Cultural and Political Rights which obligates states to promote the realization of people’s aspirations toward self-determination. The Sultan said it is "to the interest of the Rajah Buayan people, the Philippine government, and the global community to explore the sultanate as "a dynamic institution for building a more national and sustainable peace in this part of the world."

He declared his commitment "to the creative restoration of the rules, edicts and prerogatives of the sultanate "without radically uprooting the present regime and in accordance with the Philippine Constitution, and law, order and propriety, not to mention the noble precepts of Islam."

Toward those ends, he promised that the sultanate would act as "a catalyst of peace" and to serve as "the voice of the underprivileged people, and to advocate redistributive justice."

The importance of the occasion was defined by the guest of honor and speaker, Saeed A. Daof, director general of the Center for the Promotion of Peace and Development in Mindanao (CPPDM). A keen advocate of "culture of peace," and in ending the war in Mindanao, Daof called upon the Sultan and his constituents "to unite and exert every effort in focusing their attention towards socio-economic development and education of the people irrespective of creed, color and religion, and use Your Highness’ suasive influence in attaining a lasting peace that could lead to speedy development, progress, and prosperity not only of the Sultanate of Rajah Buayan, but the whole MINSUPALA region, and the country in general."

He also advised Sultan Amir "to support the early conclusion and signing of a GRP-MILF peace agreement, and speedy completion of the implementation of the GRP-MNLF accord of 1996." He also impressed upon the full-packed gymnasium with audience to support the government and Sultan Amir in their separate, but similar war against poverty.

At a meeting after the proclamation, Sultan Amir issued a formal statement approving the recommendations of Daof, with the request that the documents be submitted in person to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and that the Sultan of Maguindanao, Sultan of Kabuntalan, Sultan of Lanao, and Sultan of Sulu be furnished a copy each of the historic document.

Daof said the Sultan "could be a strong catalyst towards the promotion of peace and development on the grass roots level of our society, particularly in Mindanao. His people adore him as they look up to him for guidance and advice. This is very important in promoting better understanding and relations between Muslims and Christians, and it jibes with CPPDM’s project called ‘Journey to Peace.’ He is receptive and listens intently to suggestions for the good of his people, especially on matters involving development and reconstruction of his Sultanate. His adherence to practicing a culture of peace is consistent with the teachings of Islam. His recognition of the Philippine Constitution could tremendously help the peace process, and in attracting more development assistance in that part of the country."

Sultan Amir was born in 1940 and has lived nearly all his life in Bual, Midsayap. He is a farmer, owning, along with his older brother, tracts of land in Nabalawang, grown mostly to sugarcane, and to some mangoes. The brother, Datu Alano, relinquished his right to the sultanate in favor of Sultan Emir because he prefers to live a quiet life.

The sultan has six children. A son and a daughter are working as nurses in London. Two sons are taking up nursing in Davao. The youngest is finishing a computer science course. The one most likely to succeed Sultan Amir is his second son, Khadafy Blao, 29, a commerce graduate of Southern Christian College. Khadafy has the makings of a good leader; he is articulate, and aware of the political and economic conditions in Muslim Mindanao.

Khadafy told me at a dinner hosted by Al Senturias, director of the Institute of Global Education and International Relations of SCC and leader of the Peoples Peace Movement in Mindanao, and his wife, Dr. Erlinda Senturias, president of SCC, that the decision to activate the 19th Sultan is based on the family’s decision that the sultanate should not be relegated to oblivion. "It’s time that the government, too, realize that our lineage is intact, that the Sultan Emir is a qualified leader of our people."

I also spoke with the sultan’s wife, Bai Miriam, an active, decisive woman in her early 50s. Miriam said her husband’s program of development includes improving the public elementary school in Kudarangan, some 20 kilometers away from Midsayap, and asking the municipal government to put up stone markers bearing the names of her husband and Sultan Amitum, Sultan Bayao, and Sultan Tambulayan.

As for her own dream, Miriam said she would like to raise funds to put up livelihood projects for women. It would be good to have equipment that would enable them to make value-added products from sugar cane and coconut.
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My e-mail: dominimt2000@yahoo.com

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