Roa: What we must do-A A +A
Monday, October 22, 2012
LAST week, I watched on TV with great awe at the historic signing of the framework peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that took place in Malacañang Palace by the Pasig River in Manila.
Why my emphasis on the Pasig river in Manila? It is because unknown to many, in the late 1500s when the Spaniards arrived in Maynila (Manila), it was a Muslim kingdom by the Pasig river.
I frequently read the book of eminent historian, William Henry Scott titled, “Barangay: 16th Century Philippine Culture and Society “(Ateneo de Manila University Press 1994) where he wrote that in 1570, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi sent a gift addressed to the King of Luzon – he was known as Rajah Matanda, the ruler of Manila and the grandson of Sultan Bulkeiah of Brunei, he was the Saripara whom Pigafetta (Ferdinand Magellan’s chronicler) met there 50 years earlier. That in Brunei folk history identifies Bulkeiah as Nakhoda Ragam, the reputed conqueror of the Philippines, and tradition even named the cannon with which he was said to have taken Manila as “Si Gantar Alam” or the Earthshaking Thunderer (p. 191).
Rajah Matanda or the old rajah was also known as Ladyang Matanda and Ache. He met the Spaniards in Brunei in 1521 where he was to command a naval task force for his grandfather, the sultan and to marry a cousin. But was captured by the survivors of the Magellan expedition. He was later released after paying a huge ransom.
When the Spaniards, led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, arrived in Luzon from Cebu, they discovered that Manila, Mindoro, the Batangas coast and the Betis Valley in Pampanga were Muslims though the Spaniards reported that the personal practice was limited to not eating of pork flesh. But in Balayan, Franciscan friars met persons who were determined to make a pilgrimage in Mecca. Furthermore, the royal family of Manila obviously had a better understanding of the Islamic faith. Their hunters tried to reach the game before the dogs tore the flesh because of the ritual requirement that meat be bled before butchering (p.195).
Agustin Legazpi, grandnephew of Rajah Lakandula and adopted son of Rajah Soliman, married the daughter of Sultan Bulkeiah’s uncle, Salalila. However, he was converted to the Catholic faith and was baptized with the Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi as his sponsor. However, in 1585, Agustin was deposed and jailed by the colonial government, together with his brothers and relatives, for having given his mother a Muslim burial. The following year, he headed an abortive uprising against the Spaniards and was executed. He was the last Manila ruler to hold a royal office (p.192 -193).
I am very sure that these historical facts about old Manila and parts of Luzon astonished you the same way I did years ago. Let me add further that before the advent of the Spaniards, the Muslims peacefully co-existed with the rest of the inhabitants of the archipelago.
Yesterday, I read that Msgr. Antonio Ledesma of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro is strongly batting for the support of the framework peace agreement. For the record, I fully support this, too. But I am painfully aware of the fact that we, Christian Filipinos, need to take off our blinders and must know the real history of our Muslim brethren so we can understand them better and work together for peace. It is a sad fact that for decades, our Philippine history books are tainted with prejudices and misconceptions about the Moros or Muslims. This is a product of the lingering malaise known as the colonial mentality that was birthed and carefully nurtured during the Spanish colonial period.
During the American occupation, the cultural divide between the Filipino Muslims and Christians widened considerably. By then, the differences did not only center on religion but on practically everything – from physical appearance and speech to different customs and traditions.
One of the things that we must do is to review how Philippine history was written especially with regards to the Muslims for we are used to seeing them through the prejudiced eyes of the Spanish colonialists who tried but repeatedly failed to subjugate them. While they have the distinction of not being colonized for they consistently fought foreign domination so that they will always be free to live according to their religious faith and convictions.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 22, 2012.