BULUAN, Maguindanao—Revisiting history and tradition is essential to “correcting historical injustices on the Bangsamoro,” which is a prominent line in President Rodrigo Duterte’s speeches when it comes to the so-called Moro issue.
Political officials and traditional leaders, mostly Maguindanaons, witnessed Wednesday the ascension to the throne of Sultan Mohamad Kuso Kanibpal Mangudadatu as Sultan Tambilawan II sa Buayan. Tambilawan is the name of the 19th century Sultan of Kudarangan in Cotabato Upriver Valley, the great grandfather of Sultan Mangudadatu.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, great grandson of the first Tambilawan, said one laudable trait of the old Moro nobles was being friendly to people of other nations, religions and tribes.
The current Sultan and his nephew, Governor Mangudadatu, both said that “in the face of religious-based bigotry generated by the emergence of extremism, the old Moro character of being friendly to the Christians should be emulated by the young generation of the Moro people.”
Not quite clear to many, the oft-repeated Duterte line “correcting the historical injustices done to the Bangsamoro” is a quote from the letter sent by Ustadz Hashim Salamat, then Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to the government of the United States of America under the George W. Bush presidency, on Jan. 20, 2003.
Colonel Dickson Hermoso, Deputy Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, had said the traditional leadership of the sultanates was supposed to have a representational seat in the Expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). But the government apparently failed to identify one who would have carried a unified voice from the traditional leadership sector.
Sultan Tambilawan I was the son of 18th century Sultan Mohammad Bayao of Kudarangan in Cotabato Upriver Valley, a traditional old kingdom known as Buayan. National hero Dr. Jose Rizal spelled the sultanate’s dominion as “Buhayen” in his annotation of Antonio Morga’s book “Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas” (Events in the Philippine Islands).
An historical evidence that early Moros — unlike today’s extremists — were friendly to Christians is that the first Sultan Tambilawan named the third of his 15 children as Tato Fernandez, to honor his friendship with Jesuit priest Jose Fernandez Cuevas, whom he met in 1860.
Among his other children were daughter Bai Dayang, who was married to the Mangudadatu ancestor, and a son named Osi-a Kanibpal. The two forbears were the great-grandparents of Sultan Mohamad Kuso Kanibpal Mangudadatu.
It was said that Padre Fernandez was looking for space to build a learning center as a “gift” to the Sultan’s people from the Queen of Spain. However, Sultan Mohamad Bayao declined Fernandez’s offer to buy a portion of the Kabalukan Hills, which was variably known then as Lakungan, Tinungkup or Didagen.
But just the same, in official Spanish colonial maps, Fernandez geographically referred to the hill as “Reina Regente” (Queen’s Regent or Representative).
Padre Fernandez then talked to the sultan’s heir-apparent son, Tambilawan, who instead gave him a portion of Kudarangan, which was subsequently considered in Spanish maps as a ceded territory.
The Americans assumed ownership of all territories ceded to Spain, including Kudaragan, which the US colonial government made into an agricultural colony with a landmark school of agriculture, as the first Western learning center in Upriver Cotabato, and the other in Salunayan as main military camp.
In 1902, the American scholar Najeeb Saleeby became the first non-Muslim to decode narratives of the Tarsilan (Royal Genealogy) from Urdu-Arabic Maguindanaon texts into English.
Governor Mangudadatu said he hoped the revival of the name “Tambilawan” in recognition of his uncle would not leave traditionalists in a quandary.