Monday, November 7, 2011

JP Rizal and the "Moros"

We do not know the Philippine national hero as deeply as the chairman of Ateneo's history department, Facebook friend/columnist/history lecturer with a very large fan base, JP Rizal authority Ambeth R Ocampo; hence, whatever we write here is subject to his critical appreciation, which we will most welcome.

Front cover of the satirical weekly Lipang Kalabaw issue of 28 Dec 1907. It says "Rizal healing Moro boys in Dapitan."

We combed through JP Rizal's notes and letters regarding his stay in Dapitan to see if he hinted at giving medical attention to "Moro" children even if he was not a pediatrician but we found none.  He did run some kind of 'boarding school' for boys though, who we take to be the sons of Christian families in the town.

We know that the "Moros" did not figure in the Noli and Fili. The only Rizal work we found where they were major characters was his poem The Battle:  Urbiztondo, the Terror of Jolo that he penned when he was a young Ateneo Municipal de Manila student.  Here he celebrated how Governor-General Antonio de Urbiztundo vanquished the "Moros" of Jolo.

Could the publisher, writers and illustrators of Lipang Kalabaw of the early 1900s, and may be most of our countrymen at that time, thought of Mindanao as largely Moroland, and hence the cover of the December 1907 issue (probably the Rizal Day commemorative number) had JP Rizal "healing the Moro boys in Dapitan"?

Probably still etched in their collective memory were tales of "Moro" pirates, reason why there were watch towers in some coastal towns.  They could also have been thinking of the "Moro Province" comprising Zamboanga, Sulu, Lanao, Davao and Cotabato that the Philippine Commission created in 1903, alongside their demarcation of the Filipinos into Christians and non-Christians.

There were no "Moros" among the indios bravos in the propaganda movement, nor were they part of the revolution instigated by the Magdiwangs and Magdalos against Spanish rule.  It took some more years for the "Moros" to be represented in government and their plight included in the national agenda.

This editorial cartoon of The Independent was reprinted in the December 1926 issue of the monthly magazine Philippine Republic published in Washington DC.

By 1926, when the US Congress was arguing on the Bacon Bill, the Filipinos have already assimilated the "Moros" into the national consciousness.  The Independent, a Philippine newspaper at that time, took up the cause of opposing the bill.  It's editorial cartoon showed how Bacon proposed to "take the Moro provinces containing vast tracts of rubber land away from the Philippine government and administer them as a separate government under the United States."

The cartoon depicted JP Rizal asking his countrymen what they're doing about Bacon's intent.  History tells us that there were mass protests against the bill, and Senate President Manuel Quezon, Speaker Manuel Roxas and Minority Leader Claro Recto went to Washington to convey to the US Congress their country's opposition to it.

This graphic illustration reminds us of the creation of the Autonomous Region of  Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1987 as a result of an accord between the Philippine government and  the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).  But despite this, peace has yet to prevail in the southern Philippines.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) came around with a different political agenda. New peace negotiations were initiated.  Recently, its officially recognized head secretly met with President Benigno Aquino III in Japan about the possibility of creating a sub-state.  But this idea was met with critical opposition in the public media, and in social networks.  Tragically, talks about the resumption of the peace negotiations had been disrupted by violent encounters between the Philippine armed forces and supposedly break-away MILF groups or lawless Abu Sayyaf elements.  Aquino's response to these recent developments is not to make war but "all-out justice."

Would waging "all-out justice" result in a Moro sub-state?  Is this Aquino's Bacon Bill? 



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