ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: Pamalandong sa libro ni Patricio Abinales tungkol sa Mindanao

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 16 Sep) – Pamalandong sa libro ni Dr. Patricio Abinales. Sa totoo book review ko mahigit dalawampung taon na. Ingles pa. Ngayon ilang buwan ng matagal na pagkapreso sa bahay, bunga ng COVID-19. Tsk-tsk. Isip-isip, anong pag-uusapan para maayos ang natitirang problema sa rehiyon. Mainam kung mag-balik-tanaw sa Mindanao-Sulu. Tahanan natin ito. Naghalungkat ako sa kompyuter ko at heto po ang natagpuan ko.

Patricio N. Abinales. 2000. Making Mindanao: Cotabato and Davao in the Formation of the Philippine Nation-State. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. 235p

I need not explain why I read this book. Each time I hear about a new output on Mindanao, I have this almost instinctive attraction to read it. When I heard that Abinales’ book was out in the bookstores, I could not wait to lay my hands on it.

Being a Mindanao historian, my perspective is bound to be historical. Reading through Patricio Abinales’ work, though, was like catching two birds with one hand. I learned to appreciate the discipline of the political scientists (which is a new experience for me) at the same time that I discovered many historical details of immense interest about Mindanao. It took me a whole week to read the book – not because I am a slow reader but because I had to do it in between my other obligations. Yet despite the interruptions, I did not miss the continuity from where I stopped each time and picked up from there. My feeling when I reached the last page of the text was “Whew.” “Nice.” “Okay.” “Hurray, Jojo,” the name by which I have always known the author.

Clinical and systematic at the start, like the teacher that I am, I started first with the table of contents, then the bibliography, then the notes in each chapter. Then, I did a quick scan of each chapter and was relieved to see conclusions at the end of each chapter, and finally the concluding chapter.

In the next round, I looked for the purpose of the study. It is on p. 2, an excellent guide for any reader. Better still, there is a one-paragraph summary of the entire book on p. 16.

Chapters 2 and 3 provide a quick historical overview, very necessary to the organizational structure of the whole book, of how the Moros and the Lumad indigenous communities became transformed into Filipinos within the Philippine administrative structure. I am already familiar with this so I flipped pages after pages in quick succession. But starting with Chapter 4 down to Chapter 8, I slowed down to an analytical pace, like a historian-researcher looking for little gems of data. The four chapters took me several days, and frankly, I enjoyed every moment of it.

At certain points in Chapters 4, 5 and 6, I would notice myself sometimes nodding, sometimes smiling, sometimes frowning, sometimes weighed with sadness, and sometimes burning with restrained exasperation. These three chapters tell the story of how the settler population and corporate interests crept into Mindanao, first slowly, then as the pace picked up, the creeping became leaps and bounds. Or, if one were to use water as a figure of speech, the first settlers came in trickles, then in streams, then in continuous floods. In the end, the settler population became the overwhelming majority in all the provinces of Mindanao, except Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi where the Moro Muslims remained dominant. The Lumad communities for their part remained the majority in only eight municipalities, one in Agusan del Sur, four in Bukidnon, two in Davao del Sur, and one in Zamboanga del Sur. In 1970, which is more or less the cut-off date of this book, the demographic picture of Mindanao stood roughly at 75 percent settlers, 20 percent Muslims and 5 percent Lumad. The entire process of migration (the indigenous prefer to call it displacement) was generally legal, covered by the laws of the land. There were traditional leaders, among them Salipada Pendatun of Cotabato, who were directly instrumental in the bringing in of more migrants and seeing to it that these were properly settled. This detail enabled me to put in proper perspective the information I recently received from a Maguindanao friend that back in the early years of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), young Moro leaders confronted Pendatun for his role in the settlement process. In effect they were blaming him for his part in bringing about the very situation which gave birth to the MNLF. It is also the story of how the indigenous peoples became integrated into the Philippine political system. Or, put another way, it is likewise the story of how they were dis-empowered in their own land.

Chapters 7 and 8 narrate graphically how two strong men rose to and fell from power in their attempt to prop themselves up as leaders of their own people at the same time that they were playing the big game of national politics. The story of Almendras and Pendatun can both be a story of glory or a tale of woe, depending on one’s perspective. But one has to read the story to really appreciate the full details. I am tempted to suggest to other Mindanawons, if Dr. Abinales has not thought of it yet, that he pursue the same line of research for the other provinces of Mindanao and build a lifetime career out of it. Assuming he spends about three years for each of the eight undivided provinces of Mindanao, namely, Agusan, Bukidnon, Cotabato, Davao, Lanao, Sulu, Surigao, and Zamboanga (include Basilan here), he can keep himself busy for about a quarter of a century.

I had a special interest in the story of Pendatun because I practically grew up within the same general universe in which he lived. I knew he was a brother-in-law of Datu Udtog Matalam but I did not know about his falling out with him. The Sinsuats were familiar names in Cotabato politics, even in my own hometown of Upi (Maguindanao) but I was never aware of their political rivalry with Pendatun. I also did not realize how he interacted with other Christian leaders both in the province of Cotabato and in the national scene. These and other details are very revealing. I have never really met the Moro leader in person (the nearest I got to him was about twenty feet away when I listened to him once give a talk in a seminar where I was participant). But even from the little that I knew about him, he certainly cut an impressive figure: commanding personality, deep booming voice, minced no words in his commentaries about government inaction in his province. More than any part of the book, I noticed myself nodding (muttering “I see”) most often in Chapter 7 and 8.

I only heard about Alejandro Almendras but if my impression is accurate, a similar study of other settler-dominated provinces in Mindanao as in Davao would bring up similar patterns of political interaction as lived by Almendras.

I would like to close this review with some deep impressions of the book: it is well-researched and it is the first of its kind. If one wishes to study how he may contribute concretely to the peace and development of Mindanao from hereon, he will not regret reading this book.

The history of Mindanao is a complex web of the blending of populations (indigenous and settler) and the fusing of political systems (again, indigenous and government). It is good to bear in mind that the process was never a one way street. The indigenous peoples, both Muslims and Lumad, were “Filipinized,” not solely by the effort of government, in many instances, it was also with the full consent and cooperation of many traditional leaders.

[Si Prof. Rudy Buhay Rodil ay aktibong historyan ng Mindanao, tagapasulong ng kalinaw (Bisaya sa kapayapaan). Kilala siyang espesyalista sa paghusay ng mga gusot sa Mindanao-Sulu. Naging Komisyoner noon ng Regional Consultative Commision sa siyang nagbuo ng draft organic law ng Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao noong 1988. Dalawang beses siyang naging miyembro ng GRP Peace Negotiating Panel. 1993-1996, pakikipag-usap sa Moro National Liberation (MNLF), at noong 2004-2008 sa pakikipag-negosasyon sa Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Naging visiting propesor sa Hiroshima University, Oktubre-Disyembre 2011. Nagretiro noong Oktubre 2007.]

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