"Rebels of Mindanao" book author says it's fiction but with "a lot of truth to what's going on"

“Rebels of Mindanao” is the first novel of Tom Anthony,  who, according to the book’s website  (http://rebelsofmindanao.com/), is “a West Point Graduate (1964) and combat veteran who spent his professional civilian career living in Austria, Spain, Japan, England, and Poland” and has worked in “global business throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa.”

Interviewed in Kababayan LA18, the video clip linked to the website, Anthony was asked why he wrote the book on Mindanao when he is not Filipino. He said he wrote because “it captured my imagination. I lived in Mindanao for three years” with his wife, Emelyn whom he met when she was a babysitter for a rich Chinese family in Singapore where he was engaged in an “electronics business.” The couple has two daughters and has been based in California for the past two years.

In the television interview, he described his book as “a novel. It’s fiction. And it’s action-adventure romance but there’s a lot of truth to what’s going on.”

The book is one of 35 entries in MindaNews' annual listing of books and journals published the year just ended. (See other story)

Asked by the Filipino-American host if he was aware of “how dangerous” Mindanao is, Anthony replied, “that’s an over-generalization also. There are different parts of Mindanao. Davao is different from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao…”

The book’s synopsis, according to the website:  “Al Qaeda terrorists are spreading silently throughout the globe wreaking violence on all who oppose them. Their newest target: the Philippine island of Mindanao. On the brink of civil war, success in Mindanao would trigger a chain reaction across the Pacific threatening democracy and peace around the world. Haunted by the failure of his last mission and the lost lives of his team, Thomas Thornton had hoped to escape his former life as a military operative, seeking the calm beauty of tropical Mindanao. When two West Point friends, now high ranking officials in the government and military, ask him to run one last clandestine operation, he finds himself in the fray once more. Thornton recruits a hunter-killer team of Manobo tribesmen to begin covert actions against the insurgency. The mission: eliminate a Turkish warrior carrying millions in cash into Mindanao to finance an Islamic revolution. The deal: make the Turk and the cash disappear, no questions asked.”

MindaNews asked the author by e-mail if the book is distributed in the Philippines. The book is available in amazon.com, among others. A search in the website of the Philippines’ National BookStore yielded nothing.

Anthony, who said they lived in Davao City’s Toril district for three years, replied: “It is not distributed in the Philippines; I intend to print a soft cover edition there sometime.”

He also told MindaNews he “did not intend to write a book when I arrived there, but received interest on my blogs and e-mails reporting what I saw. I believe the world does not know about what is going on there, so I simply described images I saw, and then wrote a fictional story to tie it together,  I did not want to preach nor give my opinions so much as to report and let others form their own opinions. I think controversy is OK. Ex President Ramos was an inspiration to me, as was Freddie Aguilar and his music.” 

Two sample chapters – 10 and 11 (The Mango Tree and The Dam on Agusan, respectively) are featured in the website, with the last chapter ending with the Abu Sayyaf’s bombing of the US consulate in Davao City and the airport.

In reality, there is no US consulate in Davao City. There was a USIS (United States Information Service) until shortly after EDSA 1986.  The US Embassy in Manila, however, did set up recently a “virtual consulate,”  an internet-based consulate.

Based on the two chapters, it appears that the author used non-fictitious characters (and events such as the airport bombing) in his fiction. He refers to the terror group as Abu Sayyaf and mentions Task Force Davao as well. He also mentions Kabayan whom he describes as “the only Philippine Eagle living in the wild.” Kabayan was the name of the first Philippine Eagle returned to the wild in 2004. Kabayan, however, was electrocuted as it was not trained to avoid high-tension power lines.

The book has generated six customer reviews in amazon.com.

Thomas W. Leo of  Delaware, 1959 West Point graduate, said the book is a  “contemporary work of fiction by a 1964 graduate of West Point using fictional friends, classmates from West Point to set the stage for an Islamic revolutionary takeover and the interdiction thereof on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.”

“In the opinion of the reviewer, a book such as this, where the story, the action takes place in a continually, ever changing geographical environment, a map of the general area should be a basic requirement; here that requirement is fulfilled. I was able to constantly refer back to the geography of the Island of Mindanao with its relationship to the rest of the Philippine archipelago, containing more than 7,000 islands, and the surrounding seas which enabled me to relate the on-the-ground action to the proper geographical setting just by flipping back to the map page in the front of the book,” Leo wrote.

Another reviewer, Robert Mount of California, said, the book is an “action adventure ‘fiction’ novel wrapped around what is a very serious present day situation in the Philippines.”

Richard Puckett of Virginia wrote, “Anthony knows the Philippines and uses this knowledge to build a mosaic of threads of history, culture, and geography that provides a rich background for the story. Read it to learn about one of those other parts of the world where budding terrorists are establishing relations with Al Qaida, or read it because it reminds us of the long term partnership between the US and the Philippines, or read it because it is just a good story. But read it.”

It is not clear if Richard Puckett the reviewer is also Dick Puckett, “insurgency analyst, and CIA (Central Intelligence Authority) retired” who is quoted under “Recommendations” in the book’s website:  "Rebels of Mindanao is more than fiction. Anthony gives insight into a part of the world that most of us have ignored. While we focus on Iraq and Iran, we ignore Muslim interests in Southeast Asia. Anthony shows that seeds of discontent can grow into terrorism and revolution,” Dick Puckett wrote.

A Chris Miller wrote: “Anthony tells an absorbing story with excellent attention to dialogue and description. As a person who has studied the subject and traveled to the areas described in the book I would have to say that I am very impressed with the research and the insight Anthony provides. This is a must read for anyone wants edge of their seat entertainment while also being informed.”

C. Edman of California wrote, “a fast-paced page turner, I could not put it down. Great character development. Tom Anthony sure knows his stuff when it comes to the Philippines, I learned so much. Is there perhaps going to be a sequel? Mr. Anthony has written an excellent book. Be sure to read it.”

Midwest Book Review wrote the book is
a gripping thriller, sure to keep the reader glued from first page to last.”

Retired Brig. Gen. Ramon Ong is featured in the book’s website under “Recommendationsl.”

Ong wrote: “An exciting epic of love versus hate, duty versus friendship and idealism versus patriotism, all in a tropical setting in Southern Philippines, where insurgents have resisted government forces for the past 400 years. The author shows a remarkable mastery of Philippine geography, politics and culture as he weaves a non-stop adventure through a deadly conflict of greed, ideology and intrigue, from the first page to the last".

The book, however, is not the first fiction on Mindanao and Terrorism.

“Escape from Mindanao,” written by Russ L. Long and published by Iuniverse Inc in 2003 takes the readers to the Moro Gulf and Zamboanga.  

Here’s the book’s synopsis, according to http://shopping.yahoo.com/p:Escape%20from%20Mindanao:3001424479;_ylt=AqXFeHD63ZVS6EtivFrgyaQCyNsA:  “World Oil had experience exploring islands of the Philippines, but they had not run into the Moro Separatist who were determined to government would not allow oil production to develop in their area. It would bring law and order, making their control of Mindanao impossible. Tim McClellan and his friends had experience dealing with the kidnappers who attempted to end their fieldwork. A chase through forest of valuable hardwoods, marketed by the terrorists, led to conflicts between dhows in the Moro Gulf. They drove to Zamboanga to save Melani, daughter of a pirate, for her lover who disrupted the kidnapping.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)