Our stories, our struggles, our hopes | SunStar

Our stories, our struggles, our hopes

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Our stories, our struggles, our hopes

Sunday, June 04, 2017

DAVAO. Ateneo President Fr. Joel Tabora SJ leads the roster of guests who were given their copies of the book, Mindanao Muslim History. Behind them is the Mindanao Timeline. (AR Villarba)

THE release of books on Mindanao is always welcome, considering the dearth of publications about our island, especially about its history. Most welcome is about Mindanao Muslims, which come very few and far between.

This book launching dubbed "Our stories, our struggles, our hopes" by Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) Publication Office last Wednesday could yet be the most welcome as it presents in one handy volume "Documentary sources from the advent of Islam to the 1800s". The book, "Mindanao Muslim History" is compiled and edited by John Harvey Gamas, Mansoor Limba, Anderson Villa, Janor Balo, Maria Janua Cunanan, Heidi Gloria, and Ramon Belero III.

As Beleno said during the launch at Finster Auditorium Wednesday night, it took them two and a half years to make and made for very uncomfortable encounters with AdDU president Fr. Joel E. Tabora S.J. along the university corridors because it was taking such a long time to be finished. It was through the prodding of Fr. Tabora that the book was made.

"Charting the University's course towards an active engagement in the peace process, he asked our team of historians, political scientists, Asian and Islamic studies specialists to compile primary sources dealing with the history of Muslims in Mindanao," the book's introduction read.

The book comes in three parts: the first tells how the unique culture and history of the Mindanao Muslims evolved from local traditions that were further enriched by Islam; the second gathers the stories about how the Spaniards tried to conquer Mindanao and the resistance put up by the Moro people, and; third, the colonial gains of the Spaniards and the decline of the Sultanates.

It gives us a glimpse of documentary evidence that long before the Spaniards came, Mindanao was already trading with China and families were already writing their genealogies. They were not the savages and pagans that the Spaniards painted the Mindanao people to be, and the book fills in the humongous knowledge gap about these islands that has further reinforced the historical neglect this part of the country has been suffering from then on.

"During election campaigns, candidates aspiring for national positions court voters with promises of economic solutions for Mindanao. Not only are these promises unfulfilled, they miss the non-material reasons which continue to fuel animosity between the Muslims and other group," the introduction read. "The marginalization of Moro identity and the disregard for their historic agency fostered prejudices and biases that have alienated the Mindanao Muslims from the rest of the country."

It doesn't necessarily paint the Moro people as infallible heroes of the past, however, as documented as well were infractions and crimes of pirates. After all, those too were part of history.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," Bro. Karl Gaspar CSsR quoted poet-philosopher George Santayana in his foreword for the book. "Indeed, how can we even remember the past, if we have not heard or learned about what the past in Mindanao was?”

This is the crux of all this talk about historical injustices, neglect, disregard, and everything else in between that has made Filipinos in general look down on Mindanao and Mindanaoans as if the island group remains in the prehistoric times and the people are not worthy of their company; worse, not worthy of crafting their own peace and development.

The book launch has a powerhouse cast of attendees led by Fr. Tabora, Davao Archdiocese Archbishop Fernando Capalla, Jose Allan Arellano, executive director of the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines along with its director for plans and programs Mary Ann Cruz, Department of Education-Soccsksargen officer-in-charge ARD Evelyn Fetalvero, and Bangsamoro Transition Commission Commissioner Mussolini Lidasan, and among many others.

What made the book launch different from all other book launches so far is that it was held at night, after the breaking of the fast in deference to the month of Ramadan.

Before the book launch, the Mindanao-Sulu Timeline by the Mindanao Peace and Education History Project of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, in partnership with the World Bank was also launched.

The timeline, aimed to support the peace process highlights covering Political, Cultural, Economic and Ecological strands in history that provide a multi-dimensional context for understanding that the “Legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, historical injustice, human rights violations, and marginalization through land dispossession” are “the consequences of three mutually reinforcing phenomena: deep neglect by the State (and lack of a vision for the common good), violence (including systematic socioeconomic, political and cultural exclusion, and disproportionate use of direct violence), supported by a deeply embedded (nationwide culture and practice of) impunity”, the root cause of which “lies in the imposition of a monolithic Filipino identity and Philippine State by force on multiple ethnic groups in Mindanao and Sulu that saw themselves as already preexisting nations and nation-states”, as the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) says.

It starts from the Upper Cretacious Period somewhere between 145- to 65-million years ago to 320 AD during which the villages of Butuan were said to have been sailing for global trade, off to April 21, 900, the date indicated in the Laguna Copperplate granting perpetual pardon to a certain Lord Namwaan and his descendants by Lord Minister of Dewata (now Butuan), the Islamization of Mindanao starting year 1200 until 2016.

It being Ramadan, after dinner and the timeline launching there was a break for the Tarawee prayer. Tarawih refers to extra prayers performed by Sunni Muslims at night in the month of Ramadhan. The break took some 20 minutes as the Muslims in the audience went to Rooms 711 and 712 for their prayer.

Here at last, in one book and in one timeline are the evidences that Mindanao was an autonomous and burgeoning trade center long before the Spaniards came and relegated it to the back burner.

This early, there are encouragements for a second volume and then the lumad history.

Copies of the book are available at the Ateneo de Davao University Publications Office for only P350.00 at the 8th Floor Community Center of the First Companions, Ateneo de Davao University, Roxas Avenue, Davao City. Landline is (082) 221-24-11 local 8213 and email is publications@addu.edu.ph.

Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on June 05, 2017.

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