Thursday, August 06, 2009


"Fishes live in the sea, as men do on land; the great ones eat up the little ones." - Sulu proverb

Living by the implications of the Sulu proverb has enabled Muslim Filipinos to survive over 300 years of military and political efforts by the Spaniards, Americans and Christian Filipinos to subdue them. The little fish have to be swifter and smarter than the big ones to survive.

The mighty Americans were the most frustrated at the grit and tenacity of the little fish from Mindanao. To crush the Muslim resistance, Washington sent General Leonard Wood, the Indian fighter, who defeated Geronimo and his Chiricahua Apaches, and who, with Teddy Roosevelt, founded the "Rough Riders" of the Spanish-American War.

When he took over as commanding general in Mindanao, he sternly told the sultans: "I am going to be frank with you. At present, your rights as a nation are nothing. I believe we are here forever unless some greater country comes and drives us away, and we do not know of any such country."

But General Wood changed his clenched-fist policy after years of fierce Muslim resistance. He began a softer approach which recognized Muslim laws and customs. In effect, he admitted the failure of the military approach to govern Mindanao. But the continuing attempts by the "Christian majority" to exploit and humble the Muslim minority prevail even to this day.

And perhaps, Bayani Fernando is correct in saying that infrastructure in Mindanano is the key to peace and harmony amongst Christians and Muslims. The sad news for Mr. Fernando is that the Muslims are believed not to be too fond of the color pink.

No comments: