BANGSAMORO SPEAKS:  Their rightful places in the pantheon of Moro heroes and freedom fighters

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 15 August) — The last time I saw Uncle Dimas Pundatu was on the eve of the formal signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in Malacañang in October 2012.

He hugged me so hard like a long lost younger brother when I met him. We had coffee together with Ka Alver ‘Boy’ Alonto (also MNLF ‘90’ and our first cousin, now deceased too) in Makati. Frankly, I had to control the tears in my eyes out of gladness when I saw him.

As I was a senior member of the MILF Negotiating Panel then, Uncle Dimas requested me to ‘explain’ to him and Ka Alver, for their own better understanding, the salient features of the FAB, which I did. He was then, if memory recalls, a USec in the OPAPP.

Our intimate ‘over-a-cup-of-coffee’ table talk turned out to be a revisit of our underground experiences together during the MNLF-led struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. We recalled our derring-do trip back from the jungles of Sabah aboard an MNLF Volvo seacraft in the middle of the war and the Marcos counter-offensive against the MNLF in 1974 wherein we ended up in post-Battle of Jolo (to fetch MNLF Commanders Al Caluang et al, also ‘90’, at Kambing, and bring them to the mainland), and from there to Sibuco (the camp of MNLF North Zambo Chair Hadji Yacob, MNLF ‘300’) where we were bombarded by the Philippine Navy, and to Sacol Island where the big battle occurred followed by the agonizing ‘long march’ across Zamboanga Peninsula to Ka Awing’s (MNLF 90) camp and the precarious pumpboat ride to Alicia (the base of Sali Wali, MNLF ‘90’) and finally more nocturnal pumpboat rides over a raging sea to Ibus Island, Malabang.

He talked about our family’s deep involvement in the Moro struggle, particularly my late father’s ‘anonymous’ and untold role in the formation of the Moro liberation movement. Uncle Dimas always had a special affection for my late father.

We enjoyed our coffee as much as we enjoyed regaling ourselves with our experiences as Moro guerrillas in the 70s. I was always the ‘young kid’ or ‘the son of Bapa Masi’ to them. He told me, too, as parting words to convey his personal congratulations to the MILF leadership, particularly to Bro. Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF Chair (MNLF ‘300’), for having achieved the FAB. And lastly, he expressed his profound appreciation to me for my involvement in the peace negotiations that resulted in the FAB. He said my father’s and their ‘impossible dream’ was finally being fulfilled.

That was my last moment with Uncle Dimas.

Uncle Dimas and Ka Boy, as well as Ka Abul, Sheikh Salamat, Aleem Aziz, Ronnie Malaguiok (90), Datu Ali ‘Clay’ Sansaluna (90), George (90), Manny (90), Ibs Sema (300), Utto Salahudin (90), Karl Misuari (Bro. Nur Misuari’s younger brother who was martyred in the Battle of Jolo), Kamar ‘Kem’ Riga (90), Bomber Lucman (90, first battle martyr of the MNLF ‘90’), Datu sa Ramain Amil Fro Alonto (90 and commander of the MNLF Black Ramadhan commandos), Commander Zapata, Bapa Saplad (90 and my mother’s cousin) and all other familiar and unfamiliar faces to us in the Moro struggle, may now ‘belong to the ages’ but they have also found their rightful places in the pantheon of Moro heroes and freedom fighters for which they will always be remembered as such.

They were mortals, imperfect human beings no doubt; yet, for all their ‘human frailties’, they did more than what other mortals could have done by responding to the Call of the Times: They walked their talk. They saw and believed in the ‘Red Apple’ – the Aspiration – to which they, in their own way, sacrificed part and even the whole of their lives.

We shall always grieve over their passing, we shall miss their company and presence among the living, but we will also forever celebrate their unforgettable historic roles in the struggle for liberation and the right to self-determination of our oppressed people.

No physical monuments have been erected in their honor, but their monuments are ensconced in the hearts of our people who remember what they did, who witnessed their sacrifices. Indeed, they deserve the Bangsamoro nation’s salute and the gratitude of the new Moro generations!

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Bangsamoro Speaks’ is open to any Bangsamoro who wants to speak up on any issue affecting the Bangsamoro people. Robert Maulana Marohombsar Alonto was a member of the peace panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that negotiated the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro signed in 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in 2014. He was also a member of the Bangsamoro Transition. Commission that drafted the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that the Aquino administration did not pass. This piece was first published in his FB page.  MindaNews was granted permission to share this).