BANGSAMORO SPEAKS:  Let us continue to walk in his footsteps, take pride in the legacy he has left behind

(Speech of Lanao del Sur Governor Engr. Mamintal Alonto Adiong, Jr. during the inauguration of the new Mindanao State University Administration Building on the occasion of the university’s 59Th Founding anniversary, MSU Main Campus, Marawi City, Sept. 1, 2020)    

To name something is to identify what is important and what is worth remembering. What would otherwise be a simple structure becomes special to us when we give it a name, for the act of naming establishes a personal relationship shared among those who know the name and its importance.

The name Ahmad Domocao Alonto is a name that is close to not only our family’s heart, but to the hearts of Muslims and Bangsamoros across the Philippines as well. His presence has changed the Philippine landscape for our people, paving the way for our voices to be heard and our struggles acknowledged.

Every aspect of his life, whether it be in the halls of Philippine government or in the privacy of our own home, was lived in the hopes of making things better for our people.

Because of his commitment to the causes he advocated for and supported, our family was not just simply limited to him being a father and grandfather to us but has set our own lives, his children and grandchildren in solidarity with and in the service of the Bangsamoro people.

In the same way that he has worked hard to ensure safety in our own homes, he has worked hard to ensure the safety of our people in Mindanao and beyond, especially the most vulnerable among us. He spoke of peaceful coexistence and interfaith dialogue among Christians and Muslims, as the roots of our struggle for self-determination and meaningful autonomy deepened and spread across the region. He advocated for quality and accessible education for all, as he founded the Mindanao State University system, which now has eight autonomous campuses that serve students from all walks of life.

He dedicated his life’s work to equal rights for all, while highlighting the discrimination our people experienced and finding solutions for them. He did not ask for special treatment, nor did he ask for anything that we didn’t already rightfully own and deserved. He carried himself with a strong sense of dignity and pride, ready to work with everyone as long as his values and principles were not compromised.

And the values and principles he shared with everyone were so intricately woven and tied to Islamic values. In 1969, He organized the first Islamic mass-based movement in the Philippines called the Ansar El Islam to reinforce our understanding of our religion and to build common grounds among all the 13 ethnolinguistic Muslim tribes in the country.

He founded the Mindanao Mosque and Islamic Center. He established the first and the largest Islamic University in the Philippines called the Jamiatul Philippine Al Islamia, He sponsored the translation of the Holy Quran to the Meranao language, and he was a founding member of the World Muslim League, the Executive Council of the World Islamic Congress and the Central Council of the International Organization of Islamic Universities, while serving as the head of several Islamic organizations in the Philippines.

By untirelessly serving the cause of Islam both in domestic and in abroad, the prestigious King Faisal Award For Service To Islam was given to him in 1988 and up to this day the only Muslim Filipino recipient of such an award.

But more than these institutional involvements, he himself worked hard to deepen his understanding of Islam and authored numerous books and articles that not only explained Islam but also promoted its values among Filipinos. He was a scholar of Islam, one who was generous with his time and knowledge, and was patient in explaining the faith to anyone who was willing to listen.

The Office of the President of the Mindanao State University main campus in Marawi City and several other offices have moved to Alonto Hall, a building named after the author of the law creating the university, the late Senator Ahmad Domocao Alonto, Sr.(Contributed photo)

It is no wonder, then, that he was recognized as one of the 100 great Muslim Leaders of the 20th Century and one of the most outstanding Muslim intellectuals in the Philippines. It was through his efforts that the Muslim world rediscovered the presence of Islam and Bangsamoro Muslims in the Philippines, a collaboration he entered between himself and Egyptian President Gamal Abdelnasser after the 1955 International Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Bandung Indonesia in 1955 representing Philippines as the country’s official delegate.

His meeting with Pres. Gamal Abdelnasser created the connection between Philippines and the Muslim World and opened up for young Bangsamoro students to seek education abroad with scholarship grants to Al-Azhar University and the Egyptian Military Academy designed by Sen. Ahmad Domocao Alonto to further strengthen our ties with the Islamic world.

In fulfilling his role in the lower house as a Congressman and in the upper house as a Senator from Lanao, he devoted his life serving his constituents, authoring and sponsoring laws such as the Commission on National Integration which benefitted not only Muslims in this country but even indigenous cultural communities in gaining state support for educational upliftment for the less and the downtrodden sections in our society.

He authored the division of Lanao province into two distinct provinces, the Province of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur in order to secure proper representation for his Meranao brethren in the succeeding course of this country’s electoral processes and Chartered the Municipality of Dansalan into a City and renamed it as Marawi to ensure that our place in this country is best served by our democratically-inspired ideals.

Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong, Jr., Guest Speaker at the 59th Founding Anniversary of the Mindanao State University (MSU) on September 1, 2020, receives a plaque of appreciation from MSU system Pres. Dr. Habib Macaayong. The Alonto Hall now the Administration building, (Contributed photo)

As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1971 and subsequently as a Minority Leader in the 1986 Constitutional Commission, he made sure to uplift the lives and amplify the voices of Muslims and Bangsamoros in the Philippines by asserting the rights of Muslim Filipinos to live and exist according to their accepted beliefs and way of life under a genuine and meaningful autonomy succinctly captured the passion he bears for freedom and liberty through his translation of Dr. Jose Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios into pure and unadulterated Merano-Iranao entitled “Mori a Kapranon.”

He brought this personal commitment of his into the 1986 Constitutional Commission by working closely with then Commissioner Blas Ople for the creation of the Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao as an organic part of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

And now, here we are, naming a building and a street after a man who was larger than life itself. Naming these landmarks after him tells us that these places are important, because he himself was important to our people. MSU is an educational institution, yes, but it is also our home in more ways than one. This campus is part of our history, with so many of our people’s trials and triumphs finding its roots in MSU, and knowing that PAPA DOMIE’S works continue to direct our path as we move forward bearing his ideals and optimism in Islam and in ourselves.

Yet the decision to name places after Dr. Ahmad Domocao Alonto is but a small gesture, one that finds a deeper greater meaning in our commitment to live by his example as we live our day-to-day lives.

May his name, now bound to be an everyday encounter for those who pass by MSU’s main campus, be a constant reminder of the work that needs to be done and the future that we are yet to build.

Let us continue to walk in his footsteps, take pride in  the legacy he has left behind, and work with humility towards the future he has dreamed for our people. On behalf of my family, I extend my deepest gratitude to MSU Administration for honoring a man whom I’m privileged to call PAPA DOMIE.

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