Our story tells of a tribe more ancient than all the peoples who call these islands home. They have set their holdings in the south, creating a Thalassocracy extending down to the shores of Java. These locals were bound by one creed, and in the ages to come, no conqueror from the West could bring them down to their knees. Towns get burned and lives, slaughtered. But they return with resolve to stand their ground and protect their God-forsaken homelands.
The American Imperialists know this, and have left them largely untouched. The Spaniards won, but a strip of land we now call Zamboanga. In the three centuries they evangelized the Indios, never were they able to bring the cross to the Moros. And so Uncle Joe used the art of persuasion, and money to pacify the Maranaos, Badjaos, and eventually the Tausugs, who have paid the price during the butchery at Bud Dajo.
When the Americans left, very little would be heard of this tribe, except that they are to be feared. Restive and weary of outsiders, only one leader had the madness to recruit their warriors to be trained, and used against Sabah. They were to occupy the state in behalf of the Sultanate, and when this didn't go well with the trainees, they too were slaughtered in what is now known as the Jabidah Massacre.
The First insurrection took place soon after, with the torching of Jolo setting the fires of a larger armed struggle. Entire generations caught in the crossfire would hardly know of peace. To this day, the Moro Homelands remain a patchwork of local feifdoms propped by the Malacanan, and towns under control of the rebels.
The idea of a sovereign republic exists only in parchment.
I tell of this tragedy, for its connection to the recent carnage in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Forty four police officers died in the hands of the MILF after the failed arrest of a foreign terrorist left them at the mercy of bandits and rebels. Three days have already passed and only scant reports trickle down the media. Whispers tell of mutilations: of the dead being paraded in the streets like skinned trophies, of the outsiders being mounted on spikes to serve as warning to those who would cross the line. There was even a video clip going rounds on social media showing the fallen with their heads cracked open, bodies peppered with bullets, and missing body parts scattered on the ground.
Such is the handiwork of the beasts.
Much as I would like to lend my voice for the end of the Bangsamoro peace process, and blame the MILF for the mass slaughter, history is a painful memory of how time and again, we refuse to listen to their story. I recall some years past, I came across a sari-sari store at the edge of the Pasig River. Its storekeeper telling not to venture into neighborhoods where Muslims dwell. I heeded the warning without asking the consequence of my transgression and I returned home unharmed. The MILF said they were never given advisory that a police operation will take place near their camp; that over 300 men armed with rifles will hunt down a fugitive wanted by the same masters who were responsible for the genocide at Bud Dajo.
And so before pointing the blame to people and demanding their blood, try to imagine spending a lifetime with a gun as companion. Put yourself in the shoes of someone, whose mind is constantly fucked up by the everlasting prospects of war.
Then realize that some armed band showed up one night, violating the very land your ancestors fought so you can lay claim to it.
How would you respond - even punish the trespassers who had the gall to shoot bullets when you thought peace was at hand?
Ask, should this happen to your tattered home.
Would you show no mercy?