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No Nation called “Moro”


“When the Spaniards found Mohammedans in the Philippine Islands, they called them Moros simply out of painful memory of the Mohammedan Moors they had fought in Spain.”- Florence Horn, Orphans of the Pacific, Copyright 1941, Chapter 8.

In pre-colonial history, there was no state or nation called Bangsamoro in Mindanao and Sulu. Historical accounts however, confirmed the fact that there were two major sultanates that attained de facto and de jure status as manorchial states recognized  and known internationally, the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, which succeeded in defending their respective statehood and independence from the more than three hundred years of Spanish attempts at conquest, colonization, and Christianization.

The absence of a Moro nation before the arrival of the Spaniards is confirmed by a distinguished Muslim author, Salah Jubair on page 14 of his book entitled “Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny, qouted as follows:

“By confluence of circumstances the Spaniards were correct as far as the issue of religious identification is concerned. But on the aspect of nationality, they probably erred, for there was no Moro Nation to speak at that time...there were only people of the same racial group, the Indo-Malayan race who happened to inhabit certain parts of the archipelago claimed for the King of Spain.”

There is also no native or indigenous  tribe called “Moro” in Mindanao and Sulu because according to authors and historians, this term was only a monicker given by the Spaniards to the native inhabitants of these two ancient kingdoms on account of similarities in faith and other characteristics with the inhabitants of the ancient Kingdom of Mauritania, the Moors of North Africa who invaded Spain in the 8th century and placed it under Muslim rule for eight hundred years.

It is however, popularly known and a widely-documented fact that there are two major liberation fronts in Mindanao and Sulu which use the term  Moro as the initial word of the names of their organizations, namely; the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The origin of its first use as a revolutionary organization, is credited to a former Muslim Congressman as narrated by Salah Jubair  on pages 151-52 of his book entitled, Bangsamoro A Nation Under Endless Tyranny, as follows:

“In 1970, Cong. Rashid Lucman organized the Bangsa Moro Liberation Front (BMLO). It was designed to function as an umbrella organization under and from which all other liberation forces must radiate. In 1984, it was renamed Bangsa Muslimin Liberation Organization, it frowned upon the use of the term Moro which was given by the enemies of Islam, and in its stead Muslimin was chosen.” -SALAH JUBAIR, BANGSAMORO A NATION UNDER ENDLESS TYRANNY, Copyright 1999, pages 151-152.

Another prominent Muslim leader who was elected as a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1934, Mr. Alaoya Alonto, the Sultan Sa Ramain delivered a speech on the Moro problems of Mindanao. Part of his speech relative to the term “Moro” is quoted to wit:

“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 don’t like to be called “Moro” because when we are called Moros, we feel that we are not  considered as part of the Filipino people. 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.”

To avoid being branded again as a charlatan or a peddler of historical lies, let me quote another distinguished  author and former highest   educational leader of our country to support the truthfulness of my  assertion that Mindanao and Sulu Sultanates were not conquered by Spain and not allies of the First Philippine Republic establsihed by Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo  ,  as follows:

“The Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu were not part of the revolution against Spain. Indeed, the Muslims had been engaged in war, not rebellion, against Spain since the latter years of the  sixteenth century. The outbreak of the revolution in Luzon forced the Spanish regime to pull out its regiments from Mindanao and Sulu, leaving only the outpost of Zamboanga. In this way the Muslims benefited from  the Christian revolution in Luzon and became freed, forever, of the Spanish presence. It is not correct , strictly speaking, to see the revolution as having spread and progressed in Mindanao and Sulu.”  DR. ONOFRE D. CORPUS, former Minister of Education and Culture.

As I had many times in the past explained, discussed, and asserted that the Sultanates of  Sulu and Maguindanao  existed as independent and sovereign states, distinct and separate from each other hundreds of years ahead of the Spanish Colonial Government of the Las Islas Filipinas, the Federal System of the United States of Government, and the First Philippne Republic of Gen.  Emilio F. Aguinaldo which was not recognized by Spain and even by the very ally  responsible for bringing him back to the Philippines, the United States of America which declared war with Spain in April 1898. Without the presence of the American forces in the PHilippines, it would have been impossible for Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo to declare independence  on June 12, 1898 and establish the short-lived First Philippine Republic on June 23, 1898 because he was exiled together with his trusted officers to Hong Kong after he surrendered to the Spanish  Governor-General Fernando Primo de  Rivera  with all his revolutionary forces under the terms of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato concluded on December 15, 1897.

There is an overwhelming probability that only very few of our present generation know the historical fact that it was the Americans who convinced General Aguinaldo to go back to the Philippines to continue his revolutinary struggle against the Spanish Crown and to help them win the war against Spain with all sorts of generous offers. He boarded the American battleship, McCulough on May 17, 1898 which in effect marked the disbandment of the Hong Kong junta he organized while in exile and the second phase of the Filipino revolutionary movement against Spain

With due recognition, acknowledgment, and appreciation, Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo indeed heroically fought two wars; one against Spain and the other against the United States. Tragically, however, his revolution against Spain ended in his surrender to Spanish Governor-General Fernando  Primo de Rivera under the Pact of Biak-na- Bato on December 15, 1897 after receiving FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P400,000.00) which was half the amount promised by Spain for his surrender and all his revolutionary forces; and his war against the United States resulted in his capture by the American forces led by Gen. Frederick Funston in his mountain hide-out in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901.

It is educationally imperative for our present generation to know and understand that the proclamation of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 was in its truest sense ,  no more than a declaration of the continuation of General Aguinaldo’s revolutionary struggle against Spain for at that time, almost the entire Philippine Islands was still under the control of the Spanish colonial government. While there was the playing of the National Anthem (Marcha National Filipina) and the waving of the Philippine flag, there was no actual or de facto turn- over of Spanish sovereignty,  no formal lowering of Spanish flag and the hoisting of the Philippine flag, and no surrender of the highest Spanish colonial officer of the Philippine Islands for the last Spanish Governor-General Diego de los Rios surrendered to Gen. Vicente Solis Alvares, the commander of the Zamboanga Revolutionary  Army following the capture of Fort Pillar on May 18, 1899.

The irrefutable truth is: General Aguinaldo  did not win the war against Spain. He was still bound by the terms of his surrender under the Pact of Biyak-na-Bato when he declared independence on June 12, 1898. Such declaration of independence is no different from the declaration of independence  made by MNLF Chairman and Founder, Nur P. Misuari in Davao City several years ago... purely symbolic and aspirational. Virtually, we are  celebrating independence from the Spanish colonial  government on the 12th day of June annually for a military victory which General  Aguinaldo and his revolutionary forces did not win, and only because of Republic Act 4166 which changed the date of Philippines Independence from July 4, 1946 to June 12, 1898 hastily signed into law by then President Diosdado Macapagal in 1964.

At this point, let me reiterate with emphasis the fact that Mindanao and Sulu were not part of the revolutionary struggles of the Filipinos for these two Sultanates had waged a war of resistance against Spanish conquest, colonization, and Christianization from the first time the conquistadores made their initial attempt in 1598. Unlike the Filipinos, these Sultanates never accepted nor submitted to Spanish sovereignty although some areas fell under the latter’s control which eventually were recaptured by the Sultanate forces leading to the full recovery of their sovereignty and statehood when all Spanish regiments were withdrawn from Mindanao and Sulu to suppress the Filipino  revolution in Luzon and to face a more formidable military threat when  United States declared war against Spain on April 25, 1898. THis occurred before the sneak arrival of the American forces in Jolo on May 19, 1899.

On the other hand, the war that the Katipuneros and revolutionary forces of General Aguinaldo fought was insurrection and only started with the “Cry of Pugad Lawin” led by the KKK Supremo  Andres Bonifacio on August 23, 1896. It took a span of about 365 years of acceptance and submission to the Spanish colonial government before the outbreak of the Spanish-Filipino war which unfortunately only culminated in the surrender of General Aguinaldo and his revolutionary forces  under the terms of the Pact of Biyak-na-Bato on December 15, 1897 and immediately thereafter,  his exile together with his loyal and trusted officers to Hong Kong on board a steamship contracted for such purpose.

One thing that should be made very clear was the fact that the Sultanates of Mindanao and Sulu as sovereign and independent monarchial states, were never involved in the revolutionary struggle of the Filipinos in Luzon and Visayas and were not allies of General Emilio F. Aguinaldo’s First Philippine Republic which declared war with the United States on Febraury 4, 1899. Of greater political and military significance and pride, these two ancient monarchial states were not conquered, colonized, and Christianized by Spain which make them until now illegal components of the Republic of the Philippines if the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris was the only basic diplomatic document used by the framers of the 1935 Constitution in  defining the national territory of the Republic of the Philippines.

In recapitulation, there is no native tribe or nation called “Moro” in Mindanao and Sulu because this was the generic term used by the Spaniards to refer to all the inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu. In other words, originally the native inhabitants comprising all the ethnolinguistic or indigenous tribes of Mindanao and Sulu including those who already embraced the Islam faith, were all called “Moros” by the Spaniards. This term was also adopted by the Americans when they took possession of Mindanao and Sulu based on the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris wherein Mindanao and Sulu were furtively sold and ceded by Spain to the United States as part of the Spanish colony called Philippines Islands which is the root-cause of the outbreak of the armed struggle for liberation or self-determination in Mindanao and Sulu.     (By Clem M. Bascar)

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