Inspiring excellence, community empowerment

Marjana Tuttuh
Marjana TuttuhContributed photo
“My greatest fuel is not only because I wanted to excel for myself but because I have hopes and dreams for my community - the Bangsamoro.” 
Marjana Tuttuh

ONLY a few possess the dedication and determination to rise above adversities and pave a path of excellence not just for themselves but also for their community. Marjana Tuttuh is one of them. 

She graduated as a valedictorian from elementary through senior high school and is now a candidate for Latin honors at Ateneo de Davao University. Her story transcends circumstances, showcasing triumph through spirit and perseverance.

Marjana's journey began in Maimbung, Sulu, where life's harsh realities confronted her at the tender age of four.

“I hailed from the far-away municipality of Maimbung, Sulu which is more than 500 miles away from Davao with wild stories of fights for the Moro community that started centuries ago.”

Despite childhood challenges, her indomitable spirit propelled her forward. Orphaned by her father at a young age, she embarked on a quest for knowledge and empowerment.

"Our family is just like a typical family who wanted change. Led by my great grandfather, Hadji Bensali Tuttuh, a business tycoon in Sulu, we evacuated empty-handed, with a bombed house, gasoline stations, and trading businesses," Marjana recalls. "But we faced these struggles with patience because our desire to change the status of Moros outweighed our desire to maintain our current living conditions."

She adds, “I didn't view it as a tale of loss but as an inspiring story of selfless community love. While I lack the resources of the past, my aspiration remains to advocate for my community.”

Marjana Tuttuh
Marjana TuttuhContributed photo

Pursuit of excellence

Driven by a thirst for knowledge and a passion for uplifting the Bangsamoro community, Marjana excelled academically, defying the odds at every turn. 

Her academic prowess led her to Ateneo de Davao University, where she pursued AB English Language, distinguishing herself as a stellar student, compassionate leader, and advocate for Moro representation.

Marjana said, “I pursued my studies with a dedication to contribute academic insights about Moros. That is why I took an extra leap of faith to write my undergraduate thesis, which I have successfully defended, entitled, “Uncovering Social Realities of the ‘Legendary King of Moro Songs’.”

Her thesis is a qualitative study that delves into the social realities depicted in the songs of Datu Johnson Ampatuan, recognized as the "Legendary King of Moro Songs," employing New Historicism. Through thematic analysis, it revealed prevalent themes and significant social dynamics, providing insights into the cultural and historical context of the Bangsamoro community.

She found her thesis to be both motivating and inspiring. In her research, she encountered a gap in available contemporary texts from the 1980s to 1990s about the Moros, which highlighted the need for her study.

“When I saw the limitation, I saw the power," she exclaimed.

Following her successful thesis defense, her work was recommended for Ateneo's annual Research Forum, aligning with the university's research agenda. She received 3rd place for Best Paper Presentation, a testament to her dedication and scholarly acumen.

Marjana's aspirations extend beyond academia. Recognizing literature's power in shaping perceptions and preserving cultural identity, she aims to produce academic texts that challenge stereotypes and amplify marginalized voices. Her undergraduate thesis on Moro discrimination earned recognition, fueling her ambition to inspire future generations.

Marjana Tuttuh
Marjana TuttuhContributed photo

Beyond the academe

Marjana's aspirations extend beyond the confines of academia. Recognizing the power of literature in shaping perceptions and preserving cultural identity, she embarked on a quest to produce academic texts that challenge stereotypes and amplify marginalized voices. 

Her undergraduate thesis on Moro discrimination earned recognition, fueling her ambition to continue her studies and inspire future generations.

She asserts, “As an enthusiast of academic texts, I have seen the need for paper warriors. I truly believe that defending a community does not only limit how fast one can dodge a bullet but also enriches bodies of texts that maneuver perceptions and motivations.”

As internal vice-president of Salam The Ateneo Muslim Society, she championed her community's cause with unwavering dedication.

"It’s overwhelming when you represent a community; what you say matters, every single word you say will matter, will be a concern, will have a certain weight on you, to the community, and the bigger scale of things," she shared.

Her role and experiences in the Salam organization were her avenues of strengthening her commitment to Moro representation. 

In an interview, Marjana encouraged fellow Moros not to underestimate literature's importance, despite societal pressure.

Despite personal and societal challenges, Marjana remains committed to effecting positive change.

Marjana Tuttuh
Marjana TuttuhContributed photo

As she looks towards the future, Marjana's resolve remains unshakable. 

After graduation, she plans to pursue a Master’s degree, aiming to empower and produce Moro-centered academic texts.

For her, success is not merely personal but collective. "Success to me is the ability to never separate yourself from where you come from," she affirms. "My definition of success is to be able to progress, not alone, but with your community. And carry your identity with you wherever you go."

The inner drive and passion Marjana possesses, developed through her roles as a student leader, writer, advocate, scholar, and volunteer, are fueled by the encouragement she receives from acquaintances and friends in her humble hometown. 

Knowing that she inspires others to dream big, despite their background of historical struggles, provides her with immense motivation. While this might not seem extraordinary from a big city perspective, for Marjana, it is deeply meaningful to inspire others to aspire beyond their circumstances.

She embodies resilience, determination, and an unwavering commitment to uplifting others. Her ongoing journey serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for future generations of the Moro community as she continues to pave her path forward. Piola Mari M. Abarintos, Addu Intern


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