The Struggle of the Moro People

Top row: bodyguard - parasol carrier - bodyguard - bodyguard Center row: Datu, Datu's father, advisor Bottom row: bodyguard - tobacco carrier - beetle-nut box carrier - buyo leaf carrier - bodyguard (Photos from National Archives)

It would be easy to blame the recent events in Maguindanao to the so called violent “nature” of Islam and the Muslim people, but it’s best to understand and examine history and ask why.

The Christians Won

In the past 400 years, the Moro has been fighting the same fight. The fight for religion, culture, land and opportunity. The colonization of the Philippines by Spain was a push for wealth and the conversion of the native population to Christianity. After Magellan’s defeat in Mactan, Legaspi approached colonization as a business venture when he started trading with the Raja’s of Manila through goods trade and land purchases. The small Spanish colony grew from a small settlement, to a mighty citadel (Intramuros), to the complete control of the Archipelago for the next 300 years. Slowly, the Muslim population of the “Philippines” dwindled in numbers, pushed down to the south as colonization spreads. This started a 300-year culture of distrust of authority among the Moro.

The Liberators

When the Americans came as liberators, the approach was to impose assimilation as a way to civilize and educate the native population. The Benevolent Assimilation proclamation by US President William McKinley was designed to Westernize the Filipinos as a way of saying, “we are equal, as long as you look and act like us”. It was implemented forcefully to those who opposed it.

To the Moros in the south, who managed to keep their culture and religion during the 300 years of Spanish occupation, America’s occupation extended the fight for survival.

Little Brown Brothers’ St. Louis Blues: The Philippine Exposition, 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair (Moro Village Living Exhibit)

The Fight Goes On

The Spanish and American ruler’s descendants became the ruling class that’s still in power today. The failed policies, corruption, politicking, lack of representation of the Moros grievances continues to be a side note in Filipino politics. As we’ve seen in recent events in Europe, Middle East, America and particularly Palestine, people that are oppressed in their own native land often result to violence to voice their grievances. If the tables have turned and the Christians become the minority, and they are not included or clearly represented in government, the Christians would also turn to armed struggle.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro

Bangsamoro is a great start. The disarmament of the of the MILFs armed wing is key to ending the violence and fighting, but the government also needs to back down on its military operations. Both parties should adhere and enforce these agreements, it’s the only way to prevent violence from happening again.