PANTAW A MAREG: Enthronements and Commodification of ‘Grar’

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 07 October) — Enthronements in Lanao del Sur can be a mixture of celebration, jubilation, social cohesion, or controversy.

However, most often, it is a genuinely joyous occasion where clans, relatives and their affines not only commemorate the happy occasion but come together to be introduced to relatives they do not know yet. It is a form of socialization and cohesion. There are instances however when there is a slight doubt whether the person to be crowned deserves the grar or title. Old folks knowledgeable of the salsila or genealogy are consulted and asked to trace the lineage of the personality in question. There used to be a strict vetting of persons who will assume a title.

Coat of arms of  the alleged Royal House of Baloi, posted on its website.

Like in fairy tales and indeed, in other cultures, there is a so-called test who is a royalty or not or who deserves the crown or not. Remember the Princess and the Pea? Or the legend of Excalibur? In Lanao, we have similar concepts in the form of ailments.

It has been said that people not deserving of a royal title but assumes the latter will face the wrath of our ancestors through some particular sickness that shall afflict the undeserving usurper or sham who will fall ill and eventually die.

According to Padoman Paporo, from the Philippine Muslim Women Council, a deliberate transgression of the adat (customary laws) of the Meranaws will earn the transgressor(s) these afflictions: the gapun in Unayan, songkor in Masiu, bugaw in Bayabao and naas in Balo-i. In some cases, there are hallowed spaces which are fiercely protected by the locals. They would make sure that if the coronation of somebody they claim to be undeserving of the grar pushes through and cannot be stopped, at least such coronation takes place elsewhere and not at that sacred space–rendering the coronation not binding or simply a masquerade as far as they are concerned.

Things have changed, however. Nowadays, we see several known non-Meranaw personalities who are bestowed traditional or invented new titles by our fellow Meranaws. It was not long ago when then-Secretary Mar Roxas was also proclaimed a Datu. But he was somebody everybody knows.

Two days ago, the Meranaw social media world was triggered over the incoming enthronement (on October 20 at the Marawi Resort Hotel, MSU main campus) of a certain Maria Amor Torres as Sultana a Bae a Gaus, First Female Sultan and Queen of Power of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan & Ambassador of the Union of Royal Houses of Mindanao & LAMUSPROF and the Launching of the First The Kris Prestige Awards (sic).

This announcement via social media of the enthronement caused a furor among Meranaws.

The furor was not only because of the grandiosity of the title that encompasses Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan (puts to shame the simple Datu title of Mar Roxas) but because she was not known to many of us.

Amor who? What has she contributed to the Meranaws–the very least–to merit such a pompous MINSUPALA title? I think apart from Eula Valdez’s Amor Powers, we know no Amor.

Meranaws raced against one another to find out who this first Sultana a Bae a Gaus is who is not even a Meranaw, apart from being an adopted daughter. (Meranaws base their royalty by blood). More and more Meranaws are expressing their disgust how our (traditional) titles have seemed to be commodified. One netizen even referred to the granting of the grar to Maria Amor Torres as a form of livelihood.

Hamid Barra, a lawyer, and an aleem named the granting of grar to aliens as an abomination and treasonous. I shall add no more in that aspect.

What I did notice is the official (?) page of Ms. Torres who calls herself Princess Maria Amor from the Royal House of Baloi. There are a few things that I find incongruous. Unless there is another Baloi Sultanate in Dumaguete City, it seems a bit odd that the Headquarters of the Princess of Baloi is in Dumaguete. Oh well, she is a Travelling Princess. Maybe, that explains it?

Secondly, if her royalty emanates from the Sultanate of Balo-i whether as a rightful claimant or as an adopted daughter, putting this phrase “Law of 1594 by Philip II, King of Spain” as part of her logo is simply preposterous. Since when have the Meranaws acknowledged King Philip II as their sovereign? How many Meranaws have offered their lives in defiance of Spain? Now our royal houses belatedly if not comically acknowledge King Philip of Spain’s Law relative to our titles?

Our traditional titles pre-date the coming of the Spaniards to our lands.

By the way, what is that lovely dog doing in the official photo of a Meranaw princess? It seems out of place. If this were a play, Hamlet’s advice to actors to “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action” would have been instructive. That should extend to props. But, this is not a play. Unless it is, which makes it even worse.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Elin Anisha Guro is the OIC Director of the University Library of the Mindanao State University’s main campus in Marawi City)