Category Archives: Moroland

Independence Day…for the Bangsa Moro?

 Through the Years   America is back in Mindanao – right smack in the middle of a war against a Mranao family, the Mautes and the full force of the Philippine Armed forces. Ostensibly, the Americans are providing intelligence and surveillance planes. The Philippine government used all its might to bomb Marawi City to kingdom… Read More Independence Day…for the Bangsa Moro?

Teach Not the Bangsa Moro history, yet

Last year, there was a lot of hullabaloo about the proposal that Bangsa Moro history be taught to Filipino high school students. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Department of Education spearheaded the proposal. There was applause everywhere, including among the Moros. Some Moros were happy and even… Read More Teach Not the Bangsa Moro history, yet

The Lords of the Lake

In 1639, the Spanish conquistadors together with their Indio (now called Filipino) subjects, attacked the Maguindanao sultanate and gave their all to stop once-and-for-all the great Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Qudarat. Qudarat gave another mighty defense but due to the strong Spanish-Indio forces, he made a strategic retreat to his in-laws and cousins, the Iranuns and… Read More The Lords of the Lake


Sometime in 1991 or earlier, Mr. Alfonso Felix, Jr. obtained copies of two historical documents from the Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid  written in 1755. He promptly translated the two texts entitled “The Siege of Palumpong” and “The Battle of Iligan.” The Society of Jesus printed the original Spanish texts in 1755 in Manila. The English… Read More BANGSA MORO HISTORY and the (NON-MORO) FILIPINOS

What is PeNoy’s quid for Najib’s quo?

When Filipinos commit murder in foreign countries, the Philippine government go on bended knees asking foreign countries to spare the lives of these Filipinos. When the Sultan’s relatives went to Sabah, which was the home of the Tausugs for centuries, they were immediately threatened and humiliated by the Philippine President. (The Sultan’s and Rajah Muda’s […]

When will the Sabah Standoff end?

  On March 1, 2013, Friday 2 pm, the Malaysian and Philippine governments announced that the Lahad Datu Standoff had ended with the surrender of 10 men of the ragtag “Royal Sulu Forces”. Two days later, the Rajah Muda (Crown Prince) and his 200 or so men are still in Lahad Datu while the Philippine President […]

Sabah Fighting Begins

from ALLVOICES.COM Firefight at Lahad Datu begins by Jamal Ashley Firefight broke out between the Malaysian forces and the forces of Datu Agbimuddin Kiram, the Rajah Muda (Crown Prince) of the Sultanate of Sulu in Southern Philippines around 10:00 am Friday, according to media interviews with the Rajah Muda in Lahad Datu and the Sultan […]

Marcos “legalized” Philippine claim to Sabah

Below is a 1968 report from New York Times about the new Philippine law declaring Sabah as part of the Philippines. Has that law been repealed?   Manila Asserts Rights to Sabah New Law Declares State is Part of Philippines Special to The New York Times MANILA, Sept 18 – President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed […]

Who Owns Sabah?

 Senators fear Sabah standoff may affect peace talks The Sabah standoff: Revolt left out sultanate’s heirsThe Philippine, and I suppose the Malaysian, media are abuzz with what’s going on in Lahad Datu, Sabah. I have just  been interviewed by the anchorperson of the radio station DWBL. I was asked about the Sabah issue.Perhaps it […]

The “Muhammad” Movie: Respecting the Other’s Sensibilities

I have refrained from writing a full length article on Moro issues for quite a while now because it is quite easier to just do micro-blogging on Facebook and Twitter. But I guess I’m now forced to do so because I was interviewed for a banner article on The Manila Times and I’m afraid the reporter misunderstood my […]



FEDERALISM: Many Nations – One State

Datu Jamal Ashley Abbas
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 February 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, 120 Maranao datus signed a manifesto, known as the Dansalan Declaration, and submitted it to the US President. The datus 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.
Today, the social reality constructed by the Filipino leaders since the Commonwealth, supported by the vast resources of the government, has now been fairly entrenched such that the word Colonization or Occupation of Mindanao seems out of place.
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 media constantly reinforces this narrative. In “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao”(Q.C.:2000), top journalists Vitug and Gloria says:  “Mindanao was part of the Philippines ever since the Spanish colonizers came and created boundaries in what were formerly trading networks” 

History is “the act of selecting, analyzing and writing about the past. It is something that is done, that is constructed.” (Davidson and Lytle 1982) 
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


Throughout the Spanish rule in the Philippines, the term Filipino was reserved for pureblood Spaniards, differentiated only as peninsulares (those born in the Spanish Peninsula) and insulares (those born in the Islands). The Christianized natives were never called Filipinos. They were referred to as indios or naturales. Even the mestizos (half-breeds) were not called Filipinos.

 In the latter part of the 19th century, Governor-General Clavecilla ordered all indios (except Manila’s local nobility, i.e., descendants of Rajah Suleiman and Lakandula) to adopt Spanish names in pain of punishment if they refused to do so. Thus, present-day Filipinos bear Spanish names. Having a Spanish name does not make one a Spaniard.

When the Aguinaldo government appropriated the term Filipino for the indios, the 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).

This is a grave malady. By appropriating the name Filipino, the present-day Filipinos think that the Filipinos referred to in history indicate them and not the Spaniards. This makes them identify with the Spanish, forgetting that under Spain, their forefathers were virtual slaves – mandated to do forced labor and were considered eternal minors.

Leon Ma. Guerrero, one of the elites who constructed the “imaginary nation” called Filipino nation, had a hard time translating Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere. In the novel, Rizal used the word Filipino to mean Spaniards in the Philippines which was incomprehensible to most readers in the 1950s who were brought up to believe that the term Filipino meant them, i.e. Christianized natives. Benedict Anderson (1994) wrote : 

“…young Filipinos would at once see, in any straight translation from the Spanish, that they do not exist within the novel’s pages. Filipinas, of course appear, but they are exactly what today’s Filipinas are not: ‘pure-blood’ Spanish Creoles.” 

Guerrero, in his attempt to fit the Noli into the elites’ “nation-state project”, effectively revised history. The Filipinos in Guerrero’s translation considered both Spain and Philippines as homes, worshiped European-looking deities, spoke foreign languages, alluded to Greco-Roman classical mythology and fell in love with Caucasian ladies. References to colonial abuse were rendered bland and ineffective. And since the modern-day Filipinos believe that they (or their forefathers) were the ones referred to in the book, it is but natural for them to imbibe the thoughts and beliefs of the Noli’s characters. In effect, Guerrero re-wrote the Noli. Jose Rizal must have turned in his grave when the translation was published and made required reading for Filipino students.

And so the confusion of the modern-day Filipinos’ identity continues. The historical narrative continues as such:

In 1896, Bonifacio and the Katipunan revolted against the Spanish. In 1898, with the assistance of Commodore Dewey, Aguinaldo defeated the Spaniards and proclaimed Independence. Soon after, the Philippine-American War erupted and by 1902, it was officially over. Philippines became an American territory.

New Filipino leaders – Quezon, Osmena, Roxas, etc. – emerged. America bestowed democracy to the Philippines. America pacified Mindanao. Quezon et al worked for Independence. America declared a Commonwealth and gave Filipinos self-government. World War II came and Filipinos fought side by side with Americans against Japanese. After WWII, America granted Philippine Independence. And the Philippines is now a democratic republican nation with a homogeneous people and culture, thanks to Mother America

In short, the Moros and Christian Filipinos were colonized by the Spaniards and Americans and they share the same colonial history. The only difference is that the Moros were mostly bandits and so had to be punished (Spanish “punitive expeditions”) every so often, as the grand narrative goes.
And since Philippine history books recounting events from 1521- 1886 were about the Spaniards in the Philippines including Philippine literature like Noli Me Tangere, the Filipinos identify with the Spaniards. 
The Christianized Filipinos’ (or Indios’) historical experience with the Moros was fret with horrors. Caught between the Moros and the Spaniards, the Indios suffered terribly from both parties. Forced to side with the Spaniards, they bore the brunt of Moro retaliatory raids in their communities. And to ensure their cooperation against the Moros, the Spaniards demonized the Moros in their literature, church sermons and stage plays like the moro-moro where the Muslim is always the villain.
When America gave Moroland to the Filipinos in 1946, the Indios (now called Filipinos) found themselves, at least theoretically, masters of the Islands. The Colonization of Mindanao was pursued vigorously with slogans like “Mindanao, Land of Promise” to entice the Indios to settle in Mindanao. Finally, the Indios became colonizers.
Filipino leaders promoted the slogan, “Go South, Young Man!” imitating the slogan “Go West, Young Man” which the Americans used to promote the colonization of the Western United States which belonged to the American Indians. And to make the analogy even stonger, the Indios referred to the Moros as Tribes just like the Navajo or the Iroquois.
In constructing the “Filipino nation”, the Grand Narrative of the Christian Filipinos and the government is embodied in the “One-Nation Theory.”
One-Nation One-History Syndrome

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”.
The official historical view claims that 350 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines included Moroland. Spanish attacks against the Moros were called “punitive expeditions against rebellions.” Moro victories over the Spanish were denied or ignored. Moro raids on the Christian natives were called pirate attacks.
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.)
There is a preponderance of evidence against this myth. While the Indios were under Spanish colonial rule, the Moro sultanates thrived. The Moros were considered sovereigns by European powers, including Spain, as proven by treaties between them. Even the US signed the Bates Treaty with Sulu thus proving that the Treaty of Paris was not sufficient or even valid in the case of Sulu. Primary sources abound in the archives not only in Manila but also in Madrid, London, and Amsterdam.
BANGSA MORO (Moro Nation)
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.
Graeme Turner (1993) says that “implicit in every culture is a ‘theory of reality’ which motivates its ordering of that reality into good and bad, right and wrong, them and us, and so on.”(p.133) The belief system produced by this ‘theory of reality’ is called ideology. 
Ideology and history are both social constructs. Turner says, “Ideology works to obscure the process of history so that it appears natural, a process we cannot control and which it seems churlish to question.” (Turner, Graeme (1993) Film as Social Practice London: Routledge)
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)
In the Mindanao Conflict – two constructs are fighting – the “Filipino nation” construct as created by successive Philippine governments and the Bangsa Moro construct exemplified by the MNLF and MILF.
On the one hand, there is the “one-nation narrative” that asserts the indivisibility of the “Filipino nation”, proud of its Christian religion and Western heritage and identifies with the Spaniards of historical texts. This group believes in “democracy” defined as rule of the majority.
On the other hand is the Bangsa Moro narrative that gives prime importance to the Islamic religion and Moros’ historical fight against Westerners. Believers in this narrative hope to get back their former territory and freedom.
With two diverging social constructs, it would be very difficult to find a middle ground. A million dialogues will not accomplish anything if the premises of both groups are clearly divergent.
With number and over-all resources on its side, the Christian Filipino would not easily give in to any demands of the other party. The logical thing to do would be to convince the other party of the soundness of the “one-nation” principle and debunk the Bangsa Moro or Moro nation theory by emphasizing on the divisions of the Moro nation.
Appdurai (1996) says: “Through ‘print capitalism’ (Benedict Anderson 1991) and ‘electronic capitalism’ such as films and TV (Warner 1992, Lee 1993), citizens imagine themselves to belong to a national society. The modern nation-state in this view grows less out of natural facts – such as language, blood, soil and race – and more out of a quintessential cultural product, a product of the collective imagination.” With all resources at its command, the government can simply reinvigorate its construction of the reality of “One Filipino nation”.
The dominant group will insure that the received reality prevents an examination of the non-viability of present situation (one-nation principle).
The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF was junked and the latest MILF-GPH talks were stalled because the dominant group refuses to consider that the status quo is not viable. In the Filipino grand narrative, there is only One Constitution for ALL citizens just as there is one “national language, one national anthem, one national dress, etc.” There is only one government, one security force, etc.
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 it’s “memory” be re-investigated. Philippine history does not need re-construction. It merely needs re-discovery.
Using new approaches like microhistory, forgetting the grand narratives and keeping an open mind, Moros and Indios might find that they have many commonalities and that in many ways, they do have a shared history and be better off with a shared future, where power is equitably distributed and shared.
We don’t have to belong to One Nation. But we can belong to One State. There can be MANY NATIONS in ONE STATE or MANY STATES in ONE NATION-STATE. There can be many nations in a Bangsa Moro (Moro Nation) and many more in the Filipino nation just as there are many nations in a British or German nation and much more in a European Nation.
The dissolution of the USSR, Yugoslavia and other nation-states born after WWII as well as the many problems experienced by many other nation-states like Thailand, Myanmar, Iraq, Philippines, the Middle Eastern countries, etc. means that the “nation-state” project of the Western world has failed. A new system may be the way of the future: nations-state like the European Union – many nations in one state.

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.

           Study history – Moro, Indio, Filipino, Islamic, World history

       Practice critical thinking – do not believe books or teachers unless their arguments are backed by proofs – documents and logic.

         Look for points of convergence, commonalities

    Disseminate what you have learned or concluded through whatever media – the internet (blogs, websites, social media network), printed materials like magazines, papers, journals, TV, radio, speaking engagements, etc.

     Look for alternatives to the grand narratives and help create a new one that would embrace all.

A Peaceful Philippines is a Prosperous Philippines.

MOROLAND — Land of the Bangsa Moro

This was posted in The Setting Sun on April 16, 2007. This was posted in my previous (now defunct) and present websites much earlier.

Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan comprised the Land of the Moros since the 13th century. The lands north of it like the Kingdom of Manila were invaded and colonized by Spain. The Moro sultanates — Sulu, Maguindanao, Buayan and the Maranao confederacy — however fought and maintained their independence until the coming of the Americans in the beginning of the 20th century.

The 16th century European map below proves that Mindanao was already known to the world even before the so-called “discovery” of the Philippines by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

When Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu in 1521, an island north of Mindanao, he met with the Cebu King, Rajah Humabon. The Spaniard immediately introduced his religion, Roman Catholicism to the natives, and planted a wooden cross to commemorate the arrival of Christianity in Asia. This angered the Muslim religious leader Cali Pulacu (known to the Filipinos as Lapu-Lapu), who protested the presence of the foreigners. Magellan, in typical European arrogance, led his men to the neighboring island, Mactan, where the Cali (meaning judge) lived. Magellan met his death at the hands of the Muslim Cali, thus depriving him the honor of being the first man to circumnavigate the globe. However, his flagship, the Trinidad, was the first ship to circumnavigate the globe (at least according to Western documents).

In 1571, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in Manila, in Luzon Island, north of Cebu. Manila at the time was ruled by Muslim Malays from Borneo. Rajah Matanda ruled Manila together with his teenage nephew, Rajah Suleiman, the Rajah Muda. Suleiman’s elders, including his other uncle, Lakan-Dula of Tondo welcomed the foreigners. But the young prince realized that Legazpi had devious intentions. He declared war against the Spanish. Without the help of his elders, Rajah Suleiman fell in battle. Rajah Muda literally means Young King but Malay sultanates use this title to denote Crown Prince. But the Filipinos celebrate Rajah Suleiman as the last king of Manila.

The Spanish conquistadors could not believe their eyes. It was not too long ago when they revolted and drove away the Moros (Moors) from Spain. And now, halfway around the globe, they met them again.

The Spanish differentiated the two natives of the archipelago into Moros (Muslim Malays) and Indios (pagan Malays). They then formulated their simple policy regarding the natives — convert the Indios to Christianity and kill the Moros.

And so, for about three hundred and fifty years, the Spaniards tried their best to Christianize the Indios and annihilate the Moros. They succeeded in the former but failed in the latter.

In 1898, the Spanish left and the Americans came. Again the Moros fought. In 1946, the Indios became masters of the Philippine Islands. In 1972, the Moros resumed their fight.