COMMENT: Nagíng* ‘Nagging Customary’

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 May)— In our last two-article COMMENT (Impact Overrated, MindaNews April 10 and 14, 2014), we noted the misperception about peace and economic development in Mindanao as shown in the April 1 editorial of Philippine Daily Inquirer. By this misperception, we noted further, the overrated impact of the just signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on the Mindanao economy as perceived in the editorial which cited national and foreign authorities.

We shared our thoughts with retired History Professor Rudy B. Rodil, whom we consider as a distinguished Mindanao historian and socio-political ethnic scholar. His thoughts are most enlightening. As a sequel to our COMMENT we are sharing with our readers Professor Rodil’s observations unexpurgated.

My own observations:

  1. I agree with everything that you raised, Sir Pat, and your attempt to introduce corrections. I am impressed by your patience putting together your data and your own observations in your trips. Incidentally, it is not only the Inquirer that commits erratic readings. I include other writers from other newspapers, and radio and TV presentations, here and abroad. I also include politicians and educators, soldiers and police officers, usually from Luzon and the Visayas. Let me list some common readings. We are up against a climate of accumulated perceptions that have become unquestioned “truth”.
  2. “Mindanao” is often referred as if it is one ethnic unit; the community is Muslim. No reference to the plurality of ethnicity of the population.
  3. “Mindanao” is equated with “Mindanao conflict”, “Mindanao ASG”, even single events like that in Basilan.
  4. The name Mindanao originated from Maguindanao as announced in documents by the Spaniards and later evolved into and popularized by the Spaniards as Mindanao. No explanation, just nagging customary. Sulu was recognized as distinct. In my education, until I was in high school and college, these were known customary as Mindanao-Sulu. Or, Mindanao and Sulu, apparently in acknowledgement of the “political” origin as of the two sultanates.
  5. It was the Spaniards which popularized the name Moro as Moros Piratas, a heritage from Moro-Spanish wars, where Pinoy Christians were used as warriors against the Moros. Moros and Mindanao were then visualized as “one.”
  6. This explains why by the American colonizers, as part of the census of 1903, there were only two peoples in the Philippines, Christians and non-Christians, also known as civilized and uncivilized. The latter were made of Moros and Wild tribes. One of the first political acts was to establish the Moro Province, composed of the five districts Davao, Cotabato, Lanao, Zamboanga and Sulu, roughly the equivalent of the combined sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao and the Pat a Pongampong ko Ranaw.

Note that Surigao, Agusan, Bukidnon and Misamis were set apart. Agusan composed of Agusan and Bukidnon was for the “Wild Tribes”, and Misamis and Surigao were for the Christianized (also colonized) during the Spanish period.

Despite the political institutions of the region into regular provinces, the name stuck as Mindanao-Sulu.

  1. When Moro, earlier a hated name, was adopted by the MNLF as their revolutionary identity, e.g. Moro National Liberation Front, it became a symbol of their fight for self-determination and a source of pride. The dream was the establishment of the Bangsamoro Republik from the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan ancestral homeland.   This led to the adoption and popularization of Mindanao from the previous Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan.
  2. Where the usage of “Mindanao as the Moro domain” has become what it has become, I do not know exactly. What I know is that it is not correct and the way to correct is to popularize the correct. One way is what you did, Sir Pat. What I have done myself is to popularize the use of maps to show the multiplicity of Mindanao-Sulu peoples and their corresponding geography. If we combine your data and the historic maps alone, we can illustrate what we mean by what is correct reading of Mindanao-Sulu with historic depth over time.

[NOTE: When we sent our articles to Professor Rodil on April 14, he was then on his way to Zamboanga del Sur to give a talk to the Subanens about the CAB. He sent us his response by the end of April. Unfortunately, our computer bogged down and could not be back to service until last Monday, May 19. He has two more observations together with the slides he used in his talk with the Subanens. We will take this up later in a separate article. – ppd.]


Historically, Mindanao has become misunderstood because the powers-that-be have wanted it misunderstood. As Professor Rodil said, the “misunderstanding”, the “misperception” has “No explanation, just nagging customary”. *(Our title is not a play of words. “Nagíng” is the Tagalog word for “has become”. The misperception has become “customary” – not just that but also “nagging”. ) This started with the Spaniards, on with the Americans, and perpetuated by the Filipinos of the Republic.

This “customary” and “nagging” misperception has resulted in a misdirected Mindanao policy. The Moros and the Lumads have been mired in political, social and economic problems peculiar to their state as a people. They need special policy. But the Mindanao policy is for all that, in reality, benefits most the Christian majority to the utter neglect of the Moros and the Lumads.

The Bangsamoro peace negotiation is the glaring example. When the negotiation started in 1997, MILF presented one talking point: “How to solve the Bangsamoro Problem.” But Manila and the Christian majority do not see the special Moro problem. The negotiation must also consider the interests of the Christian majority. So the talking point has become: “How to solve the problems on the Bangsamoro Problem.” The Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro must satisfy the interests of all.

This “customary” and “nagging” misperception can imperil the Basic Bangsamoro Law. While the Congress and the President are willing to amend the 1987 Constitution to attract foreign capital to exploit most advantageously our natural resources, they are unwilling to amend the Constitution to accommodate the just solutions to the Bangsamoro Problem. The BBL must fit into the present text and context of the 1987 Constitution and existing laws.

Just see how the BBL goes through the mill. Let’s talk more about this later. [“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You may e-mail your comments to [email protected]]

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