MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/11 July) — Are we a race that really loves to celebrate defeat and surrender? The country’s continuing remembrance of April 9 as a holiday suggests that this is so. It is now called “Araw ng Kagitingan” (Day of Bravery). In our younger years, it had a more candid name: “Fall of Bataan” to mark the day in World War II the combined American and Filipino forces surrendered to the Japanese and were made to suffer the horrors of the Death March to a prison camp in Capas, Tarlac, after their commander, General Douglas MacArthur, escaped to Australia.
Malaybalay City’s leaders seem to have inherited this malady of celebrating defeat and surrender and giving it a distorted interpretation maybe to lend glamor to an inglorious act. Or maybe to justify the huge sum that goes with it. The “it” refers to the P6-million Ereccion del Pueblo monument at the Rizal Plaza here which was unveiled on June 30 in time for the assumption of this city’s new set of elected officials.
Officials and other people involved in the project said the monument serves to depict the founding of Malaybalay as described in a Spanish account. The event was actually an encounter between Spanish officials and native leaders who thought it was to their best interest to end the resistance against the colonizers and accept Spain’s sovereignty.
At the unveiling ceremony, Vicente Barreto, a project consultant, quoted at length from that account:
“In the mountain settlement of Malaybalay, fifteen hours interior south of Tagoloan, on the fifteenth of June 1877, is held this meeting with the following: Senor Colonel of the Cavalry, the governor of the 2nd District of the civic/military District in Mindanao, Don Jose Gallego Paras; the Parish Priest of the said village, Fr. Mateo Bernard de San Miguel of the Augustinian Discaled Order; 1st Lt. Don Felipe Martinez, exercising the function of Gobernadorcillo suspended the rules of their authority; aided by the Governor’s Secretary, the undersigned, Don Abelardo Cardenal Cuesta; in which appeared the magnates of the said village, Datto Manpalon (Datu Mampaalong,) Sugola, Minlaguin, Apang and Bansag; Prefaced by an exhortation, the said Parish Priest in behalf of the Second District Offered the free advantages and benefits brought about by a constituted settlement to all the residents of the village; under the protection of the flag of Spain according to the sovereignty of the nation, those who accept the protection of its laws and observe the applicable and relevant obligations; in exchange for their protection necessitated in the hardships received by the Government we profoundly grant a free and spontaneous pledge of support to all of you and your neighbors out of your submission and that of your constituency composed of four hundred fifty three souls, as well as your descendants…”
Barreto cited the event as proof of the native rulers’ skills in negotiation. Yet based on the wording of the account itself it would appear that the word “negotiation” is misplaced. A careful reading [of the account] reveals that it was surrender plain and simple through which the area’s original inhabitants placed themselves under the power and mercy of Spain, an act witnessed by representatives of both the Cross and Sword.
Note some of the operative words and phrases: 1] constituted settlement — the colonial equivalent of a military tactic called “hamletting” used by the Americans in Vietnam and by the Philippine armed forces during martial law to control the movement and activities of people in a particular area; 2] under the protection of the flag of Spain; 3] accept the protection of its laws and observe the applicable and relevant obligations; 4] your submission and that of your constituency. [emphasis mine]
The account further stressed that it was an act of surrender:
“In the name of His Majesty, Don Alfonso XII the King of Spain and its domains, and His Excellency Governor General Don Domingo Moriones y Murillo, who actually represents him in the entire Islands, the submission of these rulers and their 453 subjects and descendants in the offered maintenance of good order in this settlement is accepted in the form and under the offered conditions;, so as to maintain good order and harmony in the village while remaining faithful and submissive to their pledges and so that this act shall be commemorated, this village shall now be established under the name of Oroquieta…”
One interesting revelation in the preceding paragraph is the absence of unity among the local tribes against a common enemy called colonialism as implied in the phrase “to boost the protection and necessary support against their enemies”. It means the group led by Datu Mampaalong was forced to surrender because it was battling other enemies and it considered the alliance with (or vassalage under?) the Spaniards as their greatest protection. Torn by petty conflicts and bereft of a sense of nationhood, the natives made it easy for Spain to subdue their resistance.
Datu Mampaalong and his followers could not be blamed for doing what they did. Their primary concern then was survival, and their consciousness told them surrender was the best option. Perhaps they were afraid that what happened in 1850 might happen again. Accounts said that in 1850, the Spaniards attacked Kalasungay, a village near the present-day poblacion, killed all male adults and took the women and children as hostages. It is said that this was the natives’ final act of resistance against Spain before bowing down to colonialism in an event called Ereccion del Pueblo.
But is this really how Malaybalay came into being? Can local historians not go back farther in time and rediscover the real roots of this lovely city? Maybe somewhere in the remote past we can find real acts of heroism by the forgotten fathers and mothers of this place. True, colonialism is a fact in our history. Bur it isn’t the element that should define the greatness of the origins of things in this country. Look at how the First Mass issue has consumed the historians of Butuan City. As if Butuan would cease to exist if the First Mass, a precursor of subjugation, did not take place there.
The lesson is this: Our history did not begin with colonialism, in particular with our ancestors’ submission to it. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)