I have been working on 20 Speeches That Moved a Nation Volume II for some years now, and one of the speeches I decided to include was this one, taken from the Constitutional Convention records. It was delivered by Alaoya Alonto, the Sultan Sa Ramain, convention delegate representing Lanao. By way of putting the speech in its historical context, here is an extract from a paper by Rizal G. Buendia:
In the 1934 Constitutional Convention that framed the 1935 PhilippineConstitution (used as the fundamental law of the Commonwealth and 1946 Government of the Republic of the Philippines [GRP]), several elected Muslim Constitutional delegates, led by Alauya Alonto, called upon their fellow delegates not only to cease calling Muslims Moros but also to accept Muslims as part of the Filipino nation.
This turn of events is a classic case of shifting self-definition, attaching new value and meaning to one’s identity in the prospect of advancing its political interestsand exigencies of power within the parameters of a newfound state. This is a clear case wherein ethnic identity is simply not fixed but malleable and shaped by one’s interest in preserving power and access to resources as expounded by instrumentalists Brass and Cohen.
What deepened in almost two decades from the 1950s was the ethnic self-recognition of the masses as Filipino-Muslims (foremost as a Filipino and second, as a Muslim). The legitimacy of the Philippine state to govern the Muslim areas of thecountry was neither questioned nor challenged by any of the Muslim elite. The emergence of new intellectuals and counter-elite among the Muslims and the political events that transpired in the late 1960s until the early 1970s triggered the re-invention of Muslim identity. The massacre of about 28 Muslim military trainees (called “Jabidah commandos”) on Corregidor Island in March 1968 rekindled the quest of Muslims for independence, almost 50 years after it was first clamored for inthe 1920s.
Here is the speech:
SPEECH OF MR. ALONTO ON THE PROBLEMS OF MINDANAO
(Interpreted from Moro to English by Datu Mariaga Sa Ramain Alonto)
Constitutional Convention Record, Journal No. 18, August 21, 1934.
MR. ALONTO. Being one of the elected Delegates from the Province of Lanao, which I have the honor to represent in this Convention, I appear before you in a mood of enthusiasm to present to you the problems that confront the people of Mindanao and Sulu. You are aware of the fact that I am a Mohammedan by birth and by blood, that I am one of the Delegates representing one of the provinces in the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu. The Island of Luzon and the Visayas are predominantly inhabited by Christian Filipinos, the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu are also inhabited by Christian Filipinos. Mindanao, one of the three islands, is inhabited by Mohammedan Filipinos.
Prior to the Spanish regime in the Philippines the Mohammedan Filipinos had been living a life in an independent way. They had their own activities and civilization, the so-called Mohammedan civilization. History tells us that Spaniards failed to penetrate their civilization in that part of the Philippine Islands because the Mohammedan Filipinos refused to fly the Spanish flag in their midst. The Mohammedan Filipinos fought against the Spaniards, brandishing their bolos and kampilanes. Also it is to be regretted that the people of Luzon and the Visayas had been subjugated by Spaniards, but in the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu the people resisted until the Spanish regime in the Islands was ended. Although there has been propaganda that Mohammedans are against the independence of our country, during the Spanish regime they also demonstrated their love for liberty because some of the sons of Mindanao and Sulu died for no other cause than the immortal glory of our country. Now came the American regime. You are aware of the facts of history of the Moroland under the American and Filipino governments. Due to the diplomacy and farsightedness of the American people they adopted the policy of attraction and won the confidence of the Mohammedan Filipinos. The Americans came to our shores with a promise that as soon as we are able to maintain self-government they will grant us independence. This is manifested by the approval of the Tydings-McDuffie Law which grants our cherished dream to be free and independent.
I wish to bring to the attention of the Members of this Convention as representatives of the Filipino people that the Mohammedan Filipinos have been protesting against the name “Moro”. We do not like to be called “Moro” because when we are called “Moros” we feel that we are not considered as part of the Filipino people. You also know that the name Moro was given to us by the Spaniards because Morocco had been under the rule of Spain like Mindanao and Sulu. Therefore, I would like to tell the Members of this Convention that we prefer to be called Mohammedan Filipinos, and not “Moros” because if we are called Moros we will be considered as enemies, for the name “Moro” was given to us by the Spaniards because they failed to penetrate the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu. Another fallacious theory that I would like to invite your attention to is the impression that the Moros are warlike marauding criminals branded as “juramentados”. That is not true, my friends. In the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu there are many Christian inhabitants and they can get along all right with the Mohammedan Filipinos. It is natural that even among brothers, there is a quarrel; so, how much more among people? I would like to call your attention to the fact that we expect much from the Members of this Constitutional Convention; that the customs and traditions of the Mohammedans are granted to them by the present government should not be ignored to them by the Members of this convention. Religion does not in any way bar us from joining one another, for anybody can profess any religion he wishes to. It is true that the men assembled in this historic hall are going to draft the Constitution for the future Philippine Republic and it is true that the Constitution to be drafted is not to last for only one year but for all ages; and upon us rests the serious responsibility to give to our beloved country an enduring constitutional foundation in this period of transition. The Constitution to be drafted must not only be for the satisfaction of a tribe or of a particular group of people but must be for the satisfaction of the while Filipino people.
I also demand the permanent and final solution of the so-called “Moro problem” which has been confronting the Filipino people time and again, and if we fail to solve this problem it will be interpreted that we are incapable of managing our local affairs. We also demand that the Mohammedan Filipinos be given equal rights in the Constitution, because, as it is now, we are not given equal rights. We can count by the tip of the fingers the Mohammedan Filipinos who are thinking whether or not—now that our independence is being given—we shall be given more rights by our Christian brothers. It is a fact that in Luzon and the Visayas, you have good roads, good hospitals, good schools, etc., but in the Islands of Mindana and Sulu, my friends, there are no good roads, no good schools and hospitals. A beautiful Manila will not make a beautiful Philippines if Mindanao and Sulu are behind in improvements. To be frank with you, there was a time when not even a soul among the Mohammedan Filipinos was for the independence of our country. I was the only one who worked for the independence of our country, sacrificing everything, and I have never turned traitor to my country, because I believe that through independence the higher destinies of our people can be attained.
The Government has not been expending much money on the islands of Mindanao and Sulu, but if the Government will spend money on these islands, the returns will be great, because you are aware of the fact that the natural resources of Mindanao have not been developed; and if these natural resources are developed, they will be sufficient to support the whole Philippine Islands.
I am also, in behalf of Mindanao and Sulu, inviting our Christian brothers in Luzon and the Visayas to migrate to Mindanao and Sulu, if they have no lands of their own. In these most trying days in our history, we must advocate national unity among the Christian and the Mohammedan Filipinos, especially during the transition period, because if there is going to be trouble, that will be interpreted in America that we are not yet capable of independent existence.
However, I have faith and confidence in the Members of this Convention, because I know and I am certain that you will not ignore our rights, customs, practices and traditions. I know that you will work for the welfare not only of the Christian Filipinos, but also of the Mohammedan of Mindanao and Sulu.
I appeal to the Members of this Convention that if there is something to be incorporated in our proposed Constitution, like the customs, practices, rights and traditions of the Mohammedan Filipinos, I believe that we should be asked with respect to any changes regarding them.
Last week, my co-Delegate, Mr. Cabili, spoke about the extension of suffrage to Mindanao and Sulu. With respect to that, I think the Delegates representing Mindanao and Sulu should be asked as to whether complete suffrage should be extended to the people of Mindanao and Sulu.
You are aware of the fact that polygamy has been existing among the Mohammedan Filipinos because it has been sanctioned by our religion; that is, each man is allowed to marry four during abnormal times. I think when something is to be done with regards to the practice of polygamy among the Mohammedan Filipinos, i.e., if you are going to stop it, that needs and should be given serious deliberation by the Members of this Convention. I am also a Mohammedan like them, but allow me to tell you that I have only one wife, and if there is a way to abolish polygamy without encountering the contrary opinion of those people, I will be the first man to do it; but, my friends, we have to be patient and so we have to do it in a gradual way, step by step, because if we are going to surprise them by abolishing polygamy immediately, I am sure that there will be trouble among the Mohammedan Filipinos. Although there is nothing wrong with polygamy because, if polygamy is to be practiced as provided in the holy Koran of the Mohammedan Filipinos, it should only be permitted during abnormal conditions. Take for granted in time of war when there are so many women and so many men die, it is natural for a woman to crave for a companion. It is also a fact that although my Christian brothers do not practice polygamy, they have what they call the querida system and yet the law does not say anything about the querida system; hence, my friends, the law must not be sentimental. A Mohammedan can have four wives legally in accordance with Mohammedan rights but polygamy is only sanctioned by the Koran under certain conditions in the life of a man, as for example, a man marries a woman and she turns out to be not capable of bearing him a child. With the Mohammedans a man having a family without a child is like a man in the grave, and so it is natural for a man to marry another woman who will bear him such child.
Mr. President and Members of this Convention, I appeal to you again to reiterate once more that the final and permanent solution of the Moro problem must be made at last. More appropriations should be given to Mindanao and Sulu in order that they may have more schools to educate their children and that they may have good roads so that there will be easy transportation, and so that the Mohammedan Filipinos may go to Luzon and the Visayas and exchange ideas with their Christian brothers.
What we often forget is how relatively unpopulated the Philippines was at the time the Sultan Sa Ramain made his speech: 14 million (see historical demographical data of the whole country). tis is why he could invite Christians to settle in Mindanao and why tensions would reach crisis proportions in the 1960s, by which time the population was 31 million.
I’d like to propose that you consider the following maps.
The first is an ethnographic map, available at Virtual-Museum.com, based on the research of Ferdinand Blumentritt, the great and good friend of Rizal. It’s an ethnographic map, and note the distribution of the Moro population, marked in green (Christians are marked in pink; mixed Christian and Pagan populations, that is, areas with Christians but also the area inhabited by what we call Indigenous Peoples today, are marked in yellow.
Since the MILF agreement with the government basically establishes the end of the Spanish era and the American conquest as the timeline for defining the ancestral homeland of Filipino Muslims, it’s interesting to compare the Blumentritt map, with the proposed territorial expansion of the present ARMM.
As the Inquirer color-coded version of the official agreement map (below) shows, you must consider the maximum aims of the MILF to comprise three objectives:
First, the present ARMM (in red) as the nucleus of the BJE;
Second, the annexation, by means of plebiscite, of the areas marked in green, within 12 months or by August, 2009;
Third, the annexation, after suitable investments have been made by the national government, of the areas marked in yellow, within 25 years.
If I knew how to do overlays it would be interesting how the proposed BJE and what was mapped as Muslim territory in 1890 coincide or diverge -as well as the areas defined by the Supreme Court as IP areas.
Finally, here is a a map of ethnic groups per province, from Wikipedia, to compare to the 1890 Blumentritt map and the BJE map. You will see, immediately, why tensions have been caused by the proposed BJE.