The Moro

Mucha-Shim Quiling Arquiza

The emergence of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which was founded by Nur Misuari in 1969, has brought new spirit for the Moro to gain their independent. Moro refers to 13 ethnic groups in southern Philippines (Mindanao Island, Sulu Island, Palawan, Basilan, and so on). MNLF organises armed rebellion against the Philippines government, demanding economic equality and independence as sovereign state.


Stereotype as an insurgent has created different reactions towards the repressive regime. Hostility, frustration, and primordial chauvinism are recorded into collective memories and have become legacy through generations. Those memories and legacies manifest in not only physical resistance but also visual art, graphic art, and oral narrative.


Mucha-Shim Quiling Arquiza, a doctoral candidate in ICRS (joint program of UGM, UIN Sunan Kalijaga, and UKDW), discusses the conflict using this perspective in her research organised by SEPHIS (South Exchange Program for the Research of History of Social Change). On Wednesday, December 21, 2011, the Wednesday Forum invited Mucha as the speaker and she presented her paper entitled “Timpu Masa Aktibis: Social Narratives of Home, Selfhood, and Faith in Arts of Memory”.


Mucha named Rameer Tawasil, a well-known painter from Sulu, as the “other voice” in the middle of mainstream voice (violence) perpetrated by politician and Moro’s militants. The battle between MLNF and the army in his hometown (Jolo) in 1974 has imprinted in his memory and left his hometown devastated. Conflict only creates sorrow and misery. Through his masterpieces, Tawasil wishes to bring peace for Mindanao.


During presentation, Mucha, who received her Master in communication from Ateneo de Manila University, showed photo of a graffiti painted with blood saying “In kami parrangsabil by Talib. Nagbaugbug kami sin hulah, bangsa iban agama” (We are “parrangsabil” by Talib. We are defending the homeland, self-identity and faith-Islam). The photo was taken by Neldy Jolo, an artist from Sulu. The graffiti was made when the Phillipines army attacked and bombed Jolo on February 1974. Rumour says that an MNLF Muhajahiddin named Abdul Yakin Mandangan made the graffiti. Notwithstanding Tawasil’s mission to “heal the wound”, the graffiti shown in the photo seems to bring the animosity and sad memories of the catastrophe back.


In this context, art is symbolic weapon to fight against oppressor. Art visualizes the massacre and resentment, and also it speaks about restoration of justice and theological expectation (glory for “us” and God will punish “them”, the wrong). Art functions to direct and to form social mentality in lieu with social struggle through heroic narration and martyrdom as well as to ignite hatred repertoire through “enemy’s” intimidation.


Apart from painting and graffiti, the people of Sulu also express their sorrow through folksong such as Do’dang-lelleng (Sama) and Lelleng-Tausug. Do’dang-lelleng is about a mother lamenting her children and husband who become the victim of the conflict, while Lelleng-Tausug talks about the girls and the orphans’ misery caused by the conflict. Both songs internalize the sentiment from the victim’s point of view who suffer the most but know nothing about the political conflict. They are resentful and unsympathetic towards the conflict and yet they have to perceive it as fate just like taking the hardship of life, like poverty, prostitution, single parents, widows, and loosing home.


Quoting Gadamer, Mucha concluded that through linguistic which operates in the continuous understanding of mediation process transmitted through tradition, human being (will) realize their existence and see the world more wisely. Although the youth in Sulu are still overshadowed by their belief “the glory in the holy war”, Mucha believes that the southern Philippine will one day find peace as long as the youth receive continuous positive guide and model. “Those children want martyrdom but they do not understand what they fight for”, said Mucha to end the presentation. (ANG)

This post is also available in: Indonesian


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