(The Philippine Star) Updated August 27, 2011 12:00 AM
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I don’t think many know of Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas, a Muslim scholar who wrote a paper on “GRP-MILF as quests for identity” during the Arroyo administration. He writes that it is a mistake to look at the problem as if it were about the Muslims alone. His perspective for a solution includes non-Muslims, more so of Christians, colonized then and now.
“This paper will attempt to show that the Filipinos’ quest for identity and peace should be pursued together, for only a clear and comprehensive understanding of the Christian Filipinos’ quest for identity and the Moros’ desire to reclaim their sovereign identity separate from the rest of the Filipinos, can there be true peace in the land. And only a thorough understanding of history by all parties can bring about the needed change.”
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He then makes a difficult but logical leap. “To achieve peace in Mindanao, there must be a clamor by the population. For that to happen, the average Filipino must understand the real circumstances surrounding the issue. They must understand the motivations behind every group. And to understand the real issues, one must go back to history.”
Both Mastura and he are speaking about history but their views diverge. Mastura says the US should intervene because of their historical mistake in incorporating the Moroland to the rest of the country.
Yahya Abbas recommends reading history to understand how the Moro mess happened. Both Christians and Moros should resolve it themselves through their common bond in their fight against colonialism. He admits we have no reliable resources since our history has been written for us by Spaniards, Americans and colonial Filipinos.
“But there is hope. It is called microhistory. It is done in small scale, and does not need millions of pesos for research. It can be done in any discipline and can use various sources — even films.” Yahya Abbas says.
Microhistory is an innovative approach to history. According to History News Network microhistorians do not reject traditional investigations by social scientists but these led to “generalizations that do not hold up when tested against the concrete reality of the small-scale life they claim to explain.”
Historian Yahya Abbas thinks Filipinos should re-examine the way we look at events and personalities in the past. It is a mistake to take these for granted because of the way our history has been written.
For example he says that “Much of the “official” Philippine history is a construct of the indigenous elites of Luzon who came into political and economic leadership during the American Occupation. The biggest casualties (in terms of what I call “historical character assassination”) in this period were General Emilio Aguinaldo and his fellow Katipuneros.”
He is unhappy that “Aguinaldo, who became a cause celebre in Europe during his time for daring to fight the American power, had such a bad press in his own country.” He died in old age almost in disgrace and says why he thinks Aguinaldo should have gotten a better treatment in Philippine history and helped us in our search for identity.
“Yet Rizal wrote only two novels and Bonifacio’s Manila revolt lasted for only about a week or so. It was Aguinaldo’s army who subdued the Spaniards while the Americans looked on. It was Aguinaldo who proclaimed the Philippine Republic, whose centennial was celebrated with pomp and ceremony. And it was Aguinaldo who led the fight against two-thirds of one of the world’s strongest armies at that time.” It was also Aguinaldo who sought out the Moros as comrades-in-arms against the Americans. It is the bond of colonial struggle between Christians and Moros that needs to be unearthed and revealed as our common identity and the basis for our quest for peace.
Therefore if our quest for peace is our quest for identity, we will have to do more than follow the bidding of former colonialists in hotel rooms outside the country.