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COMMENTARY: I never learned Mindanaoan history from a Philippine History class (Part 2)

USING techniques of narrative history in retelling historical accounts, interlaced with vignettes and ethnography, based on interviews conducted in and oral ethnohistory on Mindanao, archival researches in the United States and Spain, among others, Paredes cites the histories of the south of “las dychas islas” (literally, the aforementioned islands) later named Filipinas after Spain’s King Phillip II, and the rivalry between the Recoletos (Order of Augustinian Recollects) and the Jesuits (Society of Jesus).

The historical figures from northern Mindanao she mentions, which deserve their space in history textbooks, include Datu Salangsang who led the Kagayanon Lumad conversion to Christianity upon the entry of the Recoletos in 1622. Thus, breaking ties with Sultan Kudarat (“Corralat” in Spanish) of the Maguindanao sultanate, the Kagayanon’s former allies. Backed up with archival research from the Recoletos private archives in Marcilla and the Escuela de Estudios Hispanoamericanos in Sevilla, both in Spain, Paredes provides a counternarrative against the more dominant historical version championed by Jesuit historian Francis Madigan, SJ’s “The Early History of Cagayan de Oro” (1963) published in the journal Philippine Studies.

In the nearby Tagoloán River lived another historical figure Apu Pabulusen, the chieftain of the Lumad settlement before 1744. Pabulusen, whose descendants were spread throughout the Misamis Province all the way to Sinakungan (present-day Agusan del Sur) was believed to be the biological, not mythical, ancestor of the Higaunon, Bukidnon, and Manobo people. Further east, a Karaga Lumad woman in the name of María Campan gained her special attention not because of her crimes (her participation to the unsuccessful 1631 Karaga revolt was only minimal), but because she was a woman. This showed a stark contrast of worldview in terms of gender between the colonizers who were scandalized and those of the Lumad.

Paredes, a widely-published scholar with a specialization in Higaunon ethnohistory and editorial board member of Kinaadman: A Journal of the Southern Philippines, the flagship publication of Xavier University Press, also credits whom she calls the “often iconoclastic” scholars of Mindanao Studies who came before her, i.e. Rudy Buhay Rodil, Edvilla Talaroc, Bro. Karl Gaspar CSsR, Linda Montilla-Burton, Macario Tiu, Fr. Albert Alejo SJ, among others. She wrote the book I exactly needed when I was still learning local history, while most history professors, born and raised here, took Zaide and Agoncillo without questioning the dominant “national” narrative that affords only cursory attention to Mindanao. (To be fair, one of my favorite teachers, Sir Pete, was from the history department.)

In the essay “Imagining Regions,” Resil B. Mojares, one of the only two living national artists for literature that makes sense (the other one being Bienvenido Lumbera), reflects on “our pallid constructs of the nation-state.” Mojares adds, “What harkens to the regional is then perceived to be… for believers in ‘official’ nationalism… divisive and subversive.” To the sycophantic follower bereft of multiculturalism and multilingualism, anything outside the ultranationalist Tagalog-as-Filipino creed, is deemed rebellious. But if the (non-violent) rebellion of working outside the system, of questioning, of refusal, of unbecoming, is what it takes to be given attention, then, rebel we will: a kind of rebellion that does get recorded on any Philippine history textbook.

That, or we write our own. (J Sam Pantoja Young has been involved with international nonprofits concerned with the Bangsamoro peace process and Lumad sovereignty in Mindanao. She divides her time between the suburbs of Cagayan de Oro and the beaches of Baler.)

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