Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Sultanate and Sabah

"I agree. If there is going to be a referendum vote in Sabah, I am sure the majority of the population there would either go for complete autonomy or go for Malaysian government to govern them. There is no way the people of Sabah will go for Philippine government to govern them."

Jude Fawley
Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 21, 2013

Indanan, Jolo Island
Sulu Province, Bangsamoro, Philippines

I wake up every morning not knowing how my sari-sari store will run. Bandits hiding in the jungle show up from time to time demanding cash and supplies from people who got no money. The presence of marines from base camp drives neighbors back to their homes. Even with their road blocks in place, we never find safe haven when they are on patrol.

The pervading sense of lawlessness runs deep in my head. It warps into nightmares when I go to sleep, and weft into panic spells when I hear gunshots fired in the distance. At times, I thought of moving to Zamboanga to set up shop. But I distrust the Christians who back stabs when you're not around. My cousin in Davao had these people for neighbors. They were nice to them; they greet him every day. But in the company of other Christians, his neighbors refer to my cousin as Bin Laden's "goat."

Last week, the entire town had no power. The electric cooperative wasn't able to pay the grid. Some medical supplies were stolen at the health clinic and a teacher tended his resignation to work in a school in Marawi. Meanwhile, the Maranaos enjoy the attention of the president. The MILF were given health benefits and other social security packages early this month. I would like to think we're on to something. That at long last, we are being noticed. But my brother who works for Misuari said we were sold off in exchange for peace.


I wonder how can there be one in my homeland, when kids as young as five look up to Abu Sayaff as heroes? How can we have peace when our leaders are divided and our cousins in Manila don't give a fuck?

And how can there be peace when all I feel is abandonment; when hard working men are shoved in the ditch and royal families kill each other for attention they don't deserve?

It doesn't come as a surprise that some Tausūgs went to Lahad Datu in the name of its sultan. If they only knew their time spent occupying a land that is no longer ours was for Kiram's pleasure alone and not theirs. There is no promise of homeland in Malaysia, or a victor's welcome waiting upon their return to Simunul. They will be seen as good-for-nothing troublemakers: A big shame to everyone for causing our border crossing to Sabah more difficult.    

Given a choice, or had my grandfather didn't join that wretched armed struggle that never won our freedom, I would love to settle in Sabah.

I would rather be a Malaysian citizen.

There, I'd find peace of mind. I'd work alongside Muslims like me. The leaders I'd put into office were the ones I have chosen. Not by some birthright from days forgotten, or by some special anointment stamped by those in power in Malacanan.

It's getting dark now, and none of my wares have been sold. Not even the instant noodles I bought all the way from Jolo. It's been a month since I made profit, and no longer do I know when the promised progress will reach this corner. This charade will go on long after my grandchildren have their families.

We are used to this life.

So I don't really understand why those people up north talk of Sabah like the land is their possession, when they can't even provide our basic needs.

The gall they look past and beyond their borders when those of us here wished we belonged elsewhere and not in this place.

Lahad Datu, Sabah versus Bongao, Tawi-Tawi

No comments: