Righting History: Mindanao portrayed as war zone in children’s textbooks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 September)  — What are we teaching our children?

There is little mention of Mindanao in the Social Studies/Sibika textbooks from the first grade in elementary to fourth year in high school — a total of ten year levels — but aside from glaring errors in fact like Maguindanaoans are from Davao del Sur, Maranaos are from Sulu and Tawi-tawi or Bukidnon is in Lanao,  what students nationwide learn about Mindanao is that it is a “war zone,” a “ land inhabited only by Muslims,” a “land of conflict and war,” and an island with no heroes, no natural resources and tourist spots and no significant contribution to the Philippine economy or the protest movement under martial law, initial findings from content analysis of these textbooks and focus group discussions, showed.


The FGDs and content analysis reports,  presented Saturday and Sunday at the High Ponds Resort here, are part of the project titled “Righting History: Development of Modules on Mindanao History and Culture with Peace and Development Perspectives.”


The project was initiated by the Ateneo de Zamboanga in cooperation with Ateneo de Davao University, Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro and Notre Dame University in Cotabato City.


Lack of sensitivity on the part of the textbook authors, most of them Manila-based, is also evident such as the use of  “baboy” (pig) as an example for letter “B,” according to a report on an FGD of parents. Pig is taboo for Muslims who constitute 18.5% of  Mindanao’s 21 million population. Settlers comprise 72.5% of the population while Lumads (indigenous peoples) account for 8.9%.


Apart from the textbooks, at least two posters containing illustrations and photographs of Mga Pambansang Sagisag (Philippine National Symbols) include “litson” (roasted pig) as national food.


One of the textbooks analyzed described the Yakans of Basilan as “maliit lamang sila, singkit ang mga mata, at maitim ang buhok na parang taga-Borneo.”


There is no mention that Mindanao has 13 Moro and18 Lumad ethnolinguistic groups.


The project to develop basic education modules on Mindanao History and Culture started early this year. A training for FGD facilitators and documentors was conducted in April followed by an orientation for researchers and content analysts in May in Davao City and a training for module writers in August in Zamboanga City.


The project is a brainchild of Fr. Albert Alejo, a social anthropologist previously based in Ateneo de Davao but now based in Ateneo de Zamboanga. Alejo was project director of Konsult Mindanaw and Dialogue Mindanaw consultations on the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace process.


The  project is headed by Dr. Teresita Montano, head of the Ateneo Peace Center of the Ateneo de Zamboanga, with the core team composed of Perla Ledesma, Robert Panaguiton and Jackie Lou Balilihan.


The project’s concept paper notes that as a result of many consultations, conferences, researches and dialogues,  “it has become clear that much of the conflict in Mindanao continues because of the lack of understanding of the different cultures, histories, problems, and aspirations of the diverse groups in Mindanao, and the persistence of mindsets that maintain colonial biases and discriminatory practices to a large extent committed by the Christian majority against the Muslim and indigenous peoples.”


It said Catholic schools play a crucial role in shaping the minds and hearts of the young but their formation program, academic instruction, research, and extension “may wittingly or unwittingly maintain the ‘historical baggage.’”


The “comprehensive modules” that will be produced are expected to “fairly integrate Mindanao History and Culture as well as peace and development perspectives” and serve as “supplemental and  enrichment instructional materials in the teaching and learning of Mindanao History and Culture to the young learners to help lessen the perpetuation of  biases and discrimination between and among cultural groups,  and to be able to achieve the peace that everyone so desires.”


Alejo told MindaNews that the modules “can be used side by side with any textbook.”
But what about the errors in the textbooks?  “The modules will provide appendices. Publishers and future textbook writers will hopefully be challenged and enriched,” he replied.
The project will develop eight modules for  Grades 1 to 3; Grades 4 to 6; 1st and 2nd year High School and 3rd and 4th year High School; Grade School teachers; High School Teachers; Grade School principals and High School principals.
FGDs were conducted in the Davao, Cagayan, Cotabato and Zamboanga clusters of the project, with Grade School teachers, High School teachers, Grade School students, High School students, Parents and Multisectoral groups.


The FGDs were asked how Mindanao was portrayed in the textbooks, what were emphasized and least emphasized, what they can recommend to align future textbooks to include Mindanao history and culture with peace and development perspectives.


The content analysis was conducted by each cluster examining the textbooks used in their respective areas.  Dr. Bienvenido Gregorio of the Universidad de Zamboanga, the content analyst for the Zamboanga cluster, examined 58 textbooks from different publications.


Alejo said the results of the content analysis and FGDs will be used to “come up with guidelines for researchers, what are we going to ask researchers to focus on. The work of the research group will then be in the service of writing the modules” that will take into account the three “S” guidelines: substance, (learning) strategies and sensitivity.


There have been several attempts to rewrite Mindanao history from the standpoint of Mindanao. In the last decade, majority of the books on Mindanao were on history and peace-building.


In July 2002, the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (Mincode) launched the project, “Mindanao History: charting the future of Mindanao back to our roots.” It was supposed to be the first comprehensive book on Mindanao’s history written by a team of Mindanawon researchers and historians but only two books out of nine segments were completed: Rudy Rodil’s “A Story of Mindanao and Sulu in Question and Answer” which came out in 2004 and Macario Tiu’s “Davao: Reconstructing History from Text and Memory” which was published in 2005.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)