A Muslim interpretation of Philippine history
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2019 - 12:00am

Every Independence Day the themes revolve around how Filipinos declared their independence from Spain and became the first constitutional republic in Asia. But who were the Filipinos?

We have taken for granted that by Filipinos we mean people who lived and worked in the region and would more correctly described as traders and migrants.     

In his article, Jamal Ashley writes Federalism for All: Chance for Lasting Peace  He thinks it is a mistake to use such terms as Christian Filipinos and worse Muslim Filipinos. We forget that these migrants and traders were neither Christians and Muslims. For this I am grateful to Jamal Ashley who has continued to press for a different approach. It is what we should work for. Jamal Ashley Abbas is a Muslim scholar  who preferred to write our independence as his own independence story as a Muslim.

“Ashley says the Mindanao problem is ultimately a POWER problem – the power of one group over another. It is a problem of colonization. The fact that there was a law called the Legislative Act 4197 or Quirino-Recto Colonization of Mindanao Act, which was enacted on 12 Feb. 1935 is very telling. The Commonwealth considered the Act as a lasting solution to Mindanao colony. The law enabled a massive exodus of settlers from Luzon and Visayas to Mindanao, with complete government support.”

Partly in response to the Act, on 18 March 1935, 150 Maranao datus and sultans signed a manifesto, known as the Dansalan Declaration, and submitted it to the US President. The datus and sultans opposed the annexation of Mindanao to Luzon and Visayas.

A year and a half later, Commonwealth President Quezon signed into law Commonwealth Act 141 which classified all Moro lands as Public Lands, thus making all the Moros squatters in their own homeland.

The Philippine narrative that is the bedrock of the imagined Philippine nation goes something like this: 

The Philippines is one country and until recently, the only Christian nation in Asia. It has minorities, who are also citizens of this nation-state. The citizens are called Filipinos. They belong to one race, one culture, one psychology, one destiny, one history. Those who do not think they should be a part of this nation-state have no choice because there is only one country, the Philippines. The fundamental law of the land is its Constitution.”

The grand historical narrative is this:

The Archipelago is nothing but a bunch of barangays ruled by datus. “Mother Spain” came to the Philippines and gave the natives Christianity and civilization – education, language, the arts, architecture and even cuisine.

For 350 years, the Spanish nurtured the people and protected them from the murderous raids of the Moros – the pirates.

When the Aguinaldo government appropriated the term Filipino for the indios, the  Europeanized Indios  identification with the Spanish masters became complete. In one semantic stroke, the history of the Philippines became the history of the indios (the present-day Christian Filipinos) and not of the Spaniards (the original Filipinos).  Demonized the Moros in their literature, church sermons and stage plays like the moro-moro where the Muslim is always the villain.

The Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao were established ca. 1400’s. According to “official” Philippine history, the Philippines (Luzon, Visayas, Palawan and Mindanao) was discovered by Fernando Magallanes in 1521. However, historical accounts say that Mindanao and Palawan were already known to the rest of the world way before that time.

If one were to visit the Malacañang Museum, a guide would point out a 16th century map that he/she would describe as the oldest map that shows the Philippines. A closer look at it would reveal that the map indicates only Mindanao and Palawan. Luzon and Visayas were not yet “discovered”.

This is what can be called “the one-nation one-history syndrome”. This syndrome propagates the myth that the present-day Philippines has always been one nation sharing one history. It is alleged that the only difference between the Moros and the Christianized natives (indios) was that the Moros continually resisted while the indios resisted only intermittently (Dagohoy Rebellion, Diego Silang rebellion, etc.)

In the late 1960s, the Moro Young Turks led by Abbas, Jr., Misuari et al, supported by their elders proposed another narrative: the Bangsa Moro nation as distinct from the Filipino nation.

This Bangsa Moro nation concept is steeped in history, with the Moros unconquered by colonizers and as great defenders of Islam.

A nation’s collective memory is complex and in continuous flux. “It is basically made up of stories: the myriad stories which people tell each other; and, more significantly, the mass mediated narratives of a nation’s ‘official’ history, told in books and other cultural artifacts like television and feature films.” (Ituralde 1995)

The BBL of Pres. Duterte also falls short of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by MILF and the Philippine government.

While the “Filipino nation” has been continually constructed since the Commonwealth, the “Moro Nation” concept came up only in the late 1960s. And because of lack of mass media and other resources, such concept has not yet taken root as much as the Filipino nation.

Also, for centuries, the Moro groups have been keenly aware of their own history individually – Sultanates of Sulu, Maguindanao and Buayan and the Pat a Pangampong ko Ranao. These were virtual nation-states and acted independently of fellow Moro states. Thus, many Moros are still not comfortable with the notion of one Moro nation.

Both sides must examine their theories, assumptions, axioms, etc.

History is a construct. History is used as the “memory” of another socially and culturally constructed concept, the nation. But what is constructed can be re-constructed. For the Filipino nation to find its identity and be at peace with the Moros, it is high time that its “memory” be re-investigated. Philippine history does not need re-construction. It merely needs re-discovery.

In a federal Philippine nation-state, we can have several autonomous states like the Tagalog State, the Ilocano State, the Bicol State, the Ilonggo State, the Cebuano/Binisaya State in the Visayas, the Binisaya State in Mindanao,etc. And we could have a Maranao State, a Tausug State (or Sultanate of Sulu) and a Maguindanao/Buayan State.

The Christian Filipinos do not have to begrudge the Moros having an autonomous region or a sub-state because they, too, will have their own federal states!!!”

INDEPENDENCE DAY MUSLIMS
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