REMEMBERING: Noralyn Mustafa, Tausug writer


ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 30 March) — “My people first, before others.”  This was what the fictional Dr. Karim said to a colleague of his in the short story “A Day in the Life of Dr. Karim” by Tausug writer Noralyn Mustafa.

If you ask who my idols in Philippine journalism and the writing community here are, I would name Nelly Sindayen and Noralyn Mustafa, both Tausug, both of whom have made their mark on the world.

To me, both women were proof that the Tausug writer could hold his or her own in the very competitive spheres of literature and journalism.

Noralyn Mustafa did more than make a name as a journalist during a time that, even in highly-urbanized Manila, was a male-dominated field. She was a literary giant mentored by national treasures NVM Gonzalez, Edilberto and Edith Tiempo, and Nick Joaquin, among others. Her keen pen was applied to both journalism and fiction — and both modes of writing became her way of documenting and bringing to the rest of the Philippines what was happening in Mindanao in a manner that caught your attention and kept it to the very end of each piece she wrote.

I remember a conversation I had years ago with a writer friend who knew Noralyn’s writing. That friend told me how she was able to write an assigned piece as if writing was her second skin.

According to a post shared on Facebook by Krip Yuson quoting writer Ricky de Ungria, “Noralyn’s journalistic career spanned over six decades, starting with a stint as a radio broadcaster, disc jockey and variety show host in Jolo during her teens. She has performed various other roles in the media industry for a number of outfits across print and broadcasting in Jolo, Zamboanga and Manila. She also served as correspondent for a number of national and foreign media outfits, and was featured on documentaries locally and abroad, on topics such as the Muslim insurgency and the peace process.

“Noralyn was also known in the 1970s as the only active female Tausug fiction writer, at a time when women writers in general were just a handful, and Muslim Mindanaoan fictionists were even rarer.”

She had contributed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “Kris-Crossing Mindanao” column and served as PDI’s Sulu correspondent from 1996.

When I spoke with Noralyn in 2011, she encouraged me to write: “We really need more writers and journalists because we have so many stories to tell, both about yesterday and today.” She underscored this, too: “The youth perspective is very important. Just keep your eyes and ears open, and your notepad ready.”

I hope that the next generation of Tausug writers, will never forget her contribution, just like Ibrahim Jubaira who made his mark in Philippine literature. Our stories and storytellers are important, especially those who bring their expertise in story-craft to the table so that the stories they tell touch the readers deeply and memorably.

Innalillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Amir Mawallil, 32, is a member of the Bangsamoro Parliament in the southern Philippines. He served as the public information director of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for seven years. Mawallil pens essays and creative non-fiction. A former journalist, he covered and wrote stories about peace and conflict in western Mindanao. His first book, “A Constant Retelling: Exploring the Bangsamoro Narratives” was published by Balangiga Press. It is a book of essays on stories about the Bangsamoro identity that Mawallil gathered from his family and his community).