WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Reconstructing History the Macario Tiu Way

History books records Flavius Josephus' account of the siege of Jerusalem
not as a triumph of Roman military tactics, but as the result of the
fortuitous weather conditions that turned the tide of battle against the
defenders. This account, sensitive to the Jewish fatalist psyche, worked to
encourage the Jews to accept their subjugation and to live agreeably under
the yoke of the Roman conquerors.

As in the case above, it's not always true that the victors write the story.
Sometimes, the account of those they co-opted comes to be more true to the
political intentions of the victors such that those are allowed to survive
for posterity. More true perhaps in the Philippines when eager Filipino
hands took up the pen and wrote for the cause of the conquerors, persuading
many among our people to believe it is our destiny to be second class
citizens in our own land. The subjugated willingly remain subdued.
Consequently, our nation's history has been constructed on the basis of what
Ernest Renan called great rememberings and great forgettings.

The way the co-opted – and there are many – tell our collective story preach
to our young that salvation came to these islands in the form of the white
man and that there was nothing here of consequence before the white man
claimed us for his own. The white man granted us religion and the key to
eternal life. He gave us government, education, and a connection to the rest
of the world. These would earn for us a ticket out of our abject life
conditions, turn us into somebody we can respect, and perhaps make us worthy
to stand in the presence of the white man and serve him.

The co-opted teach that the white man's way is so much better. As a
corollary, they teach that our ways are undesirable. We should not wonder
why we hold each other in such contempt and why we dream of the day when we
could be out of here. We believe our destiny is to be an OFW so we won't be
anymore like those we will leave behind, still wishing for a master long
after the yoke has come off for it makes sense that where the master has
gone the slave should follow.

The Search for Mindanawon Identity

But who are these people to whom history has been unkind?

Earlier history books on the peoples of Mindanao – or on the peoples of the
Philippines, for that matter – have often been written from the outside
looking in, which perhaps account for the fact that even to our eyes we see
ourselves as the exotic, incomprehensible, and oftentimes despicable other.
It has been only in the last generation that the search for the true
Mindanawon identity became a topic worthy of attention.

Beginning in the early 1980s, the movement for peace advocacy and cultural
dialogue in Mindanao created the need to demystify the workings of the
politics of identity. And as more and more Mindanawon came to be aware of
the island's prominent role in the life of nation, there developed increased
attempts to reconstruct Mindanao history and make it more congruent with the
evolution of the island and its people. This was a challenge, as the
founding of much of Mindanao's settlements only documented the story from
the point of view of the colonizers and their co-opted administrators. Still,
local historians proved they were up to this formidable task of
reconstructing history, although they generally kept faithful to the
documentary evidence.

In 2003, however, the University of the Philippines Center for Integrative
Studies (UP-CIDS) published Macario D. Tiu's Davao 1890-1910: Conquest and
Resistance in the Garden of the Gods which, according to MSU's Rudy B.
Rodil, used a relatively new brand of historiography. Unlike traditional
historical research, the account given by this literature professor of the
Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) filtered events in local history through
the collective memory of survivors, legitimizing with that publication his
version of our people's experience for which extant documents are
parsimonious on detail. With this book, Tiu elevated the obscure Mangulayon,
the Bagobo chief who assassinated Edward Bolton, to the pantheon of the
heroes we should celebrate. Tiu also made a case for the reprehensible
conduct by the Americans of juez de cuchillo (literally, judgment of the
knife) and biological warfare in these islands. The book was a finalist in
the 2003 National Book Awards.

Late last year, the ADDU's Research and Publication Office published the
author's second installment of his continuing research into local history.
Davao: Reconstructing History from Text and Memory earned for Tiu the
unanimous nod from the prestigious Manila Critic Circle jurors. It was
proclaimed the most outstanding book on history during the 2005 National
Book Award held in the World Trade Center on 31 August 2006.

Text and memory here should be construed to mean marrying documentary
evidence with oral recollections. Davao: Reconstructing History from Text
and Memory provides a comprehensive discussion of the Davao tribes, their
myths and legends, along with a theory of their migration. In addition, the
publication gives the background to the 1848 conquest of Davao by the Basque
adventurer Jose Oyanguren. Well aware of the power of heroism to forge a
people's identification with the community, Tiu also sought out and featured
Davao's heroes.

The Word Warrior

Tiu, 60, is a mild-mannered academic whose pleasant smile belies an incisive
mind and a colorful past, the formidable weight of which is now distilled to
fuel his passion for telling the story from the people's perspective.

"This is my position," he explains. "If there ever is a contradiction
between what the colonizers said and what the people say, I will side with
the people."

Gifted with a way with words, Tiu took up the pen in the turbulent 70s and
began raking in awards for his poems, essays, and short stories during his
student days at the ADDU. He had a lot of stories he wanted to tell. Reading
others held little interest for him. In fact, he read his first novel when
he was already in third year highschool. He made the time to read
Steinbeck's East of Eden only four years ago, and only because Oprah Winfrey
said it is the greatest novel of all time.

Never burdened by hero worship for any celebrated writer who came before,
Tiu turned out pieces that demonstrated the integrity of his own experience
and the valuable lessons from it that he found worth telling.

Of course, at that time, Tiu was also using his pen to write propaganda for
the underground movement. The military eventually caught up with him, and it
was years before he could find the words to tell that story. He exorcised it
from tortured memory – told through the blunting edge of time and differing
circumstance – and finally laid it to rest on the pages of Turning Rage into
Courage: Mindanao Under Martial Law, a MindaNews publication to mark the
30th anniversary of the declaration of PD 1081.

Four years in detention, and after that you could say Mac Tiu grew up. He
went back to school and did not stop until he got the right to be called
Doctor. He taught. He lectured. He wrote. He raked in literary awards, the
recent ones conferred by the prestigious Philippine Graphic Fiction Awards
(Nanking Store, 2000) and the Carlos Palanca Awards (Ang Batang Dili
Matulog, 2001; Balyan, 2005).

But he did not forget his progressive leanings, changing times and changing
circumstance notwithstanding. He found that he could express activism in
more legitimate ways. He networked and linked with civil society groups,
influencing their direction toward relevant and culturally sensitive
development work. The popularity of alternative music, for example, owes
much in part to the efforts of Development Educational Media Services (DEMS)
which he headed. In the 1980s, DEMS produced the very first Joey Ayala album
and a commercial recording of Mandaya chants.

His writings became increasingly colored with championing the cause of
society's oppressed – the children, the women, and the Lumads. Over the
years, his authoritative voice featured in the popular discourse on such
topics as the right to self-determination, peacebuilding, ethnokinship
theory, and the contentious issue on the medium of instruction in Philippine
schools.

Now tempered with the right to claim "Been there, done that", Tiu tries to
be selective of the engagements to involve himself. He sabotages himself
however as he is always quick to pitch in for a worthy cause. As a result,
he still maintains a heavy schedule, juggling diverse interests such as the
Davao Writers Guild, Davao Museum Foundation, Hugpong Kinaiyahan Foundation,
Tinubdan, MindaNews Cooperative, Tripeople Concern for Peace, Progress and
Development of Mindanao (TRICOM), Tambara University Journal, and the
Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue.

The Jealous Mistress

For Mac Tiu, writing is a jealous mistress. It's all he wants to do. For two
years now, he had been trying to gracefully disengage from commitments that
take up much of his time away from his pen. But by his own admission, he is
a mature adult, and there is always a need for one like that in the
organizations he is involved with at the moment.

Never one to be taken in by his celebrity, Tiu takes the public recognition
in stride. Media practitioners who came in the last week to interview him in
the wake of the 2005 National Book Award recognition had to work around the
fact that he quietly refused to pose for their camera. Even his publishers
had to be content with a file photo for the press release.

Then, too, most of Tiu's awards do not show up in his official curriculum
vitae – perhaps because there are just too many that he could not remember
them all. Rex Rola, a former associate editor of the Tambara, has an
interesting story to tell about how Tiu treats his tokens of recognition.
Once, in search of Tiu's first Palanca certificate, Rola found it crammed
carelessly and hopelessly crumpled in the bottom drawer of his desk at work.
If this was the age of the wood stove, Rola suspects that the certificate
would have long turned to kindling.

Macario Tiu obviously could not care less. He's too busy rewriting history
and repairing the damage wrought by colonial legacy on our cultural
integrity. He's on a mission to bring back to us our dignity as a people.
(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion
section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology,
Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University
where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to
[email protected] com. "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)

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