Dr. and Aleem Mahid Mutilan died a tragic death after meeting a car accident on the way to Cagayan de Oro (CDO) in December 6 speeding to catch an early morning flight, after praying the Subuh (four in the morning) in Marawi (two hours away from CDO airport).
Every year, my Eid celebrations in Marawi would be special with congregational sermons laced with Bapa (Uncle) Mahid's jokes and moniker laughs. Listening to his Arabic was like romancing the unknown. I could only appreciate the glory of the Holy Qur'an's message with his Maranao anecdotes and fiery quotes.
This year, Muslims will be celebrating Eidul Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice) tomorrow without Mahid, the president of the Ulama League of the Philippines and co-convenor of the Bishop-Ulama Conference of the Philippines.
I realized how important he was even to foreign guests when I was organizing the Environmental Conference on Lake Lanao in Marawi City last year with my group, the Philippine Muslim Women Council (PMWC) . This was to be the first Marawi visit for US Ambassador Kristie Kenney. His staff always reminded us to invite Mahid Mutilan.
During the First Southeast Asian Forum on Islam and Democracy at the Manila Hotel on December 10, former President Fidel Ramos asked the delegates for a minute of silence to remember Mahid. Last week, Marawi hosted national leaders who paid their respects to Mahid. Secretary Jesus Dureza, former Senator Santanina Rasul and former ARMM Governor Parouk Hussin were in unison that the country had lost a national figure, who bridged Muslims and Christians.
When his body arrived aboard a chopper flown from Cagayan de Oro at the Campo Ranao in Marawi, a mourning crowd from Lanao's 39 towns had gathered to see his body wrapped in white (in Islam, the body is buried in white, symbolic of man returning to his natural state). Calls from Sulu and as far as the Middle East, where an estimated million Maranaos are working, were calling to inquire his time of burial.
As a reporter and a niece, I was able to see his body up close held by his male relatives and major ulama brought to its final resting place at 2:15 in the afternoon in his crowded residence at Mapandi, Marawi City.
Just a day before, he had called on all Muslim leaders to support the Mindanao Week of Peace with caravans and gatherings. Last month, he had distributed sacks of rice to the poor for the Eidul Fitr celebrations. And when gun shots were fired nearby, it was to remember a man who had a heart for the poor.
Nobody can fill the shoes a man just a little over five feet left behind. He had an aura that made him larger than life with his gift for gab. Although he was a busy man usually entertaining clerics in his house here, he provided specific time for his wives (after an Egyptian wife, he had married the Maranao wives at different times) and inspired the brood to study hard. My cousins who were accountants and medical doctors finished their degrees with his support.
He was an orphan from far-flung Tamparan, Lanao del Sur, who obtained a scholarship to study English and Islam at the world's most prestigious Islamic academic institution in Egypt, the Al-Azhar University. He is the only Muslim to have a doctorate in Islamic theology and masters diploma in Education .
According to www.ranaw.com, Mahid finished his primary schooling at Central Elementary Pilot School in Marawi City. He then took and finished his intermediate schooling at Gata Elementary School at Gata, Poona Bayabao, one of the far-flung municipalities of the province of Lanao del Sur. He was able to finish his Ibtidai (Elementary level) at Madrasah Kamilol (now Ma'had Kamilol Islam) in Marawi City in 1956. He trekked to and fro Poona Bayabao, a place which is far apart from Marawi.
Thereafter, Mahid continued his study and finished his secondary education at Kamilol Islam Institute (now Jamiatul Philippine al_Islamiah) in 1960 in Marawi City. The Institute was later renamed Kamilol Islam College where he successfully finished his Associate in Arts in 1962. One year after, he finished his Thanawi (secondary level) at Ma'had Mindanao al Arabi Agama Islam Society, also in the city.
A prolific speaker in Nihonggo, Arabic and English, he organized the Muslim Filipino students in Egypt to recognize the Bangsamoro struggle. Elected president of the multi-tribal Philippine Students in the Middle East, Mahid assisted many students who came to Cairo for study. Many students were able to enroll and seek scholarship grants in various educational centers abroad through his assistance.
His influence was further felt in serving Japan for 19 years as a Muslim missionary. He helped built hundreds of Islamic schools in the secular society.
But he is best remembered as a politician and ulama. When Lanao politics was dominated by the traditional elites with large clans in the 1980s, Mahid was a nobody from Middle East. He organized the Ompia (Reform) party in 1986, the first Islamic populist party, that banked on the growing Islamization by ulama of the Maranao public in the 1980s. Ompia helped him to become three-term mayor of Marawi, three-term governor of Lanao del Sur and even vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and concurrently held the controversial post as Secretary of Department of Education (DepEd), when teachers demanded their GSIS remittances.
As a political leader, Mahid was appointed as Secretary of the Committee on Preamble and National Identity at the Philippine Constitutional Convention in Manila; he assisted in drafting the constitution. In this present GRP-MILF talks, Mahid is supposedly assisting the Moro leadership in convincing the government of its demands.
Former Congressman Michael Mastura said Mahid tried to balance secularist politics with dialogue in peace with religion. UNESCO Commissioner Taha Basman said his legacy for peace advocacy/interfaith dialogue will remain with us for a very long time.
(My, My, My Marawi is Samira Gutoc-Tomawis' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Samira describes herself as a "freelance writer, peace advocate, artist-wannabe, co-convenor of the Young Moro Professionals Network, currently writing a book on militarism in the Philippines and also MindaNews' correspondent in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur." You can reach her at [email protected])