I was called “Moro” by the Spaniards as well as my Muslim brethren in Southeast Asia like Manila, Aceh, Melaka and Brunei. I find this term both unflattering and derogatory. To Spaniards who first coined the word, it meant, “pirates,” “traitors,” “juramentado,” “enslavers,” “cruel” and “uncivilized.”
Later they used this same term to refer to the people of Mindanao, Palawan, and Sulu collectively. At first I objected it, but after years of resistance, I got tired and accepted it. I even allowed its use in reference to my nation. Until today I am still using it and in fact I am now very proud of it. Is it right to continue using it? my friends ask me sometimes. Why don’t I use the geographical names Mindanao and Sulu archipelago to refer to my nation? Why should I accept the term Bangsamoro Nation? My friends tell me it sounds awkward too, because it literally means a “Nation of Moro Nation”.
I tell them that my Muslim brother Salah Jubair in his widely distributed book, “Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny”, already dropped the word “nation” in the book’s second edition “for brevity and more importantly to do away with the technical confusion arising out of it. Bangsamoro is literally translated into "Moro nation" and therefore to retain it is redundant”.
He even emphasized, “Alas! This was a monumental error; for the name Moro symbolizes national identity, power and belief in one true God. Today this error is being set right.” To set it right, the Moro or Bangsamoro would be governed by the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be established and executed by the Bangsamoro Government. That government, which awkwardly means “Nation of Moro Government” if translated literally, will be set up very soon.
My Muslim brother Salah Jubair, whom I am extremely proud of, continues, “A nation is reborn in the Moro. Though centuries older than the Filipino nation in the North, it is long-lost in the debris and fame of the past. It last reasserted its identity decades after the entry of America. But it was not to claim past glory, rather, it was to unshackle the gory image put on it by colonialism. That the Moro is a nation under endless tyranny is a premise that his book tries to narrate and explain - and hopefully will prove.”
“All the monikers assigned to the natives, Indio, Moro, and Filipino were given by the Spaniards. History should credit them for giving us all these names, either out of hatred or by reason of similarities, or by force of circumstances, or by all of the above.” In short Brother Jubair is asking us to embrace the word Moro, adopt it as our own and build an identity around it, regardless of the painful history and meaning behind it.
This is an issue, which is crucial to many of us now, because the Philippine Government is almost close to sealing a deal with my brethren, the people of Mindanao and Sulu. They call it Bangsamoro Framework Agreement as you must already know. They say it is uncertain if this agreement will indeed pave the way for peace or bring in more conflicts instead.
Fr. Jun Mercado, a cardinal and peace advocate in Mindanao, in an article published in gmanetwork.com on February 19, 2014, listed ten crucial issues regarding the above agreement. The first one relates to the term “Bangsamoro”.
“The first understanding that needs to be put in the ‘right place’ is the very use of the word - ‘Bangsamoro’.” Fr. Mercado explains. “The FAB and its Annexes use the word Bangsamoro in three levels: Bangsamoro as Identity; Bangsamoro as Territory; and Bangsamoro as Government. All the three levels are NOT merely historical or romantic concepts. They are all political and sensitive concepts or political constructs. If these are NOT handled properly, they can be the proverbial ‘kink’ in the whole peace agreement.”
Why Bangsamoro? Now they have to come up with some definition of the term, because everyone knows this as a Spanish construct.
Prof. Dr. Clem Bascar, the author of the book, “Sulu Sultanate: The Unconquered Kingdom” in his article, “Moro sub-state - An American concept”, explained that “the term Moro has no indigenous dialectal or linguistic roots. In short, it’s entirely a Spanish lingual invention, used to refer to all the inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu when they first set their foreign feet on the shores of these two ancient monarchial territories to conquer, colonize, and Christianize as early as 1578. As a matter of historical truth, before the coming of the Spaniards, there was no Moro inhabitant to speak of in Mindanao and Sulu.”
I wonder what Brother Jubiar has to say. I am curious about what he thinks. He might launch a new edition of his book, and I wonder if he will continue to use Bangsamoro. The title seems to speak of things to come. “Bangsamoro: Under Endless Tyranny”. A friend of mine asked, “How can a nation free itself of endless tyranny if the name it continually bears is tyrannical in the first place?” I’ll wait for Brother Jubair’s response.
By the way, the name Salah Jubair could mean either “advise to pray” or “good guidance” in Arabic. Salah means righteousness, goodness, peace, bowing, homage, worship and prayer. Jubair means “counsels”.
The free online dictionary defines counsels as “the act of exchanging opinions and ideas; consultation and advice or guidance, especially as solicited from a knowledgeable person.” Brother Salah Jubair is a knowledgeable person whom every one of us shall solicit advice from regarding the good ends of the cause for self-determination and freedom.
Now as a Tausug, I revere the elders and respect the wisdom of those that came before me. I advise everyone to stop asking and just follow what esteemed Brother Salah Jubair says. Never mind if in the Malay language, the word “Salah” means wrong or mistake.
I don’t want to do anything wrong or commit a mistake though, so ahead, let me say this: Forgive me Ya Allah. Forgive us all for the mistakes we made and are about to make.