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ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/01 August) — The history of Tarzan may abound with similar tales of how vine-swinging is never a forgotten skill to be outgrown, although Tarzan can also be tamed and taught how to use the fork and spoon but nothing maybe as nostalgic as the tale of the Lion Kambing.

So there is this little lion who was so loved by his mother and was suckled and nurtured to become the greatest hunter of his age. Mother lioness had dreamed how her cub would grow up just like her, fierce and fearless, and how he would steal the thunder and shake the entire forest-floor just from the stomp of his paws and swing of his mane. But even before he could have the chance to perfect his roar and shed off his soft furs, he got waylaid and was soon adopted into a pack of domesticated goats. And there, he learned how to bleat and to chew grass, and like every nervous kid in the flock, sprinted away in every direction at the slightest of touch.

But the Mother Lion, who had spent every single day searching, finally found her simba with the docile sisters ungracefully grazing. As she so loved him, she wooed and took him to her trust again. We can’t tell now how this could happen, but to make it short, the Mother Lion was able to win back her heir-apparent. For many days, she trained him to dislike the taste of greens, and to remember the thirst for blood and hunger for flesh again. He must be taught, thought she, of how ugly the throaty goaty cry sounded and to feel proud with the roar that sent shivers down into the roots of every feather and fur as it echoed deep and far. And so not long enough the shy lion-kambing then became beastdom’s king again. And thus with the balance of nature restored, the forest creatures lived happily ever after again.

If every conflict and chaos can only be so easy to resolve as the lion-kambing’s dilemma, life wouldn’t have to be so harsh. Yet complex as it may seem, today’s most complicated and worst of problems can actually be salved with the simplest act of remembering where we started, and just by returning to the roots of things.

It may sound rhetorical, but it is not if you think of the gravity of things faced by the people of Sulu archipelago, and the prospects laid out before them especially in this crucial times in the face of the changing Palace Guardian and the rate that lesser guards are being shelved into the cabinet supposedly to institute ‘Change’ for the country including the island-us. But I won’t be talking here of the what-nots and wherewithal of politics but only of how it has maneuvered a turn-around of the Suluan culture.

I recently had a pernicious, which I also mean seditious, conversation with one of entertainment world’s best-loved young artists who I just came to appreciate is also a passionate patriot, a cultural activist and ambassador of feel-good dialogues. It was perniciously seditious, as it made me mentally declare a rebellion in my head of my non-allegiance to a ‘name’ that somewhat agitated me. A refusal to believe in a body of water just recently invented to be existing as a sea within the Sulu Sea is seditious as the rest of my diagnoses of the malady and my suggested cures of what ails Sulu society. Yet overall, it was delicious, as all conversations are food for the hungry to be heard.

Our main course was naturally of culture and arts that made me recall this fable of the lion-hearts.

This story emphasizes how people change by way of conditioning. It makes it obvious how it is necessary to deconstruct the present state of our waylaid culture.

One friend [in earlier coffee-talks] left a vivid message doodled over coffee-stained placemat: that “much of our cultural life”, she wrote, “has become dictated by politics of the center [i.e. democratic state]”. That is, most of the time, culture in the mainstream is as alien to the masses as the routine exercises for the past 50 years of having to vote for an obscure leader who would dwell in equally obscure place called Malacanang. Alien is it to let someone who would have nothing to do with your life rule it, let alone make you decide ‘yes’ or ‘no’ whether you agree to be named ‘Bangsamoro’ for the rest of your days. To this official culture is likewise a counter-culture shaped by ideology that many doubt to have been brought over into our shores from the outside.

“Because of politics and ideologies constructing and defining things in how we create and reproduce knowledge, our classical arts and music, folk crafts and artifacts have become severed and estranged from the soul of their original inspirations – our hearts”, concluded this friend.

So that now that we clamor for change, shouldn’t there be need for this ‘change’ to be of hearts as well?

Like the lion-kambing, we can actually reverse the moral decay and cultural degeneration by making ourselves relearn again to REMEMBER of who we are in the beginning.

But the return to the glory days of tradition is not to be a jurassification movement. The remembering will not happen without the nurturing guidance of pillars of tradition that keep holding on to the memory. The Mother Lion is a necessary catalyst. And who are the mother lions in our midst if not the traditional leaders and elders — the tau maas , and our kaguruhan – the religious and learned, as well as the spiritual masters of the ilmuh kamaasan [traditional wisdom] that were taught in ancient schools?

So unless our Mother Lions are themselves lost, their soul must continue to hurt and bleed. They must not stop searching for their litter and urging them to return to the wilderness of their hearts. They should keep nursing the wounds in the broken souls of the lost, forgotten and abandoned lion-kambing who are waiting to be brought back home to Sulu again.
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Hadji Al, 45, is a young Tausug entrepreneur, partly owning and managing a famous café and watering hole Dennis Coffee Garden in Zamboanga City. He is an active member of the Jama’ah Tableegh and considers himself a jester in the court of Bangsamoro politics.

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