From Mon Sep 15 08:00:27 2003
From: Le Monde diplomatique <>
To: Le Monde diplomatique <>
Subject: Mindanao : a miniature history
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2003 12:06:40 +0200 (CEST)

Mindanao: a miniature history

By Carmen A Abubaker, Le Monde diplomatique, September 2003

THE Mindanao conflict dates from the 16th century, when the Spanish sent military expeditions from Manila to subjugate the Muslims—whom they called Moros, after the Moors of Spain—and convert them to Christianity.

The Moros' war of resistance against the Spanish colonisers lasted 300 years and was often bloody. Kudarat, Sultan of Maguindanao, understood what was at stake when he made a famous speech in the town of Lanao, urging the Moros to maintain their resistance. It was their only hope, he said, of retaining their freedom, without which they would become miserable slaves.

During this period the sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao were sovereign independent states, with their own clear borders, and culture and religion. The Sulu sultanate had existed since 1450; Maguindanao had been set up in the early 16th century. Both had resisted vigorously the Spanish forces who invaded their territory to enslave their people.

In 1898 Spain signed the Treaty of Paris with the US, ending the Spanish-American war. The Philippines were handed over to the US, including the Moro areas, over which the Spanish had little control. This brought the war into a new and brutal phase, which claimed up to 600,000 lives and lasted until the US granted the Philippines their independence in 1946.

The Moros were integrated into this new political entity by force, which led to great resentment and alienation. The Maranaos (1) called the central government a government of foreigners (gobierno as sarwang a tao).

These wars defined relations between the Moros and the colonials and, later, between the Moros and the Christianised Indians, who had become the Filipinos. Allies and enemies were defined according to religion. Christians became the colonials' friends and allies, and non-Christians their enemies.

These categorisations created a religious and cultural divide in Philippines society that has not yet been mended.

(1) One of the three main groupings of Moros, the Maranaos are based in the Lac Lanao area.