America and the Maranaw
I was privileged to accompany Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra in his courtesy call on US Ambassador Sung Kim last Oct. 19. It was a brief encounter of exchanging pleasantries and answering the queries of the amiable envoy (there’s a sense of ease in talking to a fellow Asian). I expressed the profound gratitude of the Maranaw for the technical assistance provided by the US government to the troops fighting the rebels during the war in Marawi. Recall that the US government provided technical advice on intelligence and urban warfare to our troops, as well as surveillance planes and “Grey Eagle” drones that helped in no small way in the liberation of Marawi. This is on top of the US government’s commitment to provide financial aid to the city residents.
The courtesy call preceded the briefing on Marawi hosted by USAID mission director Lawrence Hardy II. At the briefing, Mayor Gandamra spoke before representatives of various offices and agencies under the aegis of USAID who wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, about the real situation in Marawi.
As we cooled our heels in a narrow pathway while waiting to be ushered into the ambassador’s office, we viewed a gallery of photos of American generals assigned as governors of the Philippines, including Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood who led the pacification campaign in the so-called Moro provinces. I could not help but ruminate on these men, wondering who among them had presided over the atrocities and the gory massacre of the Maranaw people in the campaign to bring them to their knees in subjugation. (More Tausug were victimized in the great battles of Bud Daho and Bud Bagsak, as recalled by President Duterte, who skirted a meeting with then US President Barack Obama at last year’s East Asian Summit in Vientiane, Laos.) The martyrdom of the Maranaw in Kota Padangkarbala in Bayang, Lanao del Sur, on May 2, 1902, flashed in my mind: In that epic battle, 700 valiant Maranaw fought in a one-sided war with their bolos, krises, bamboo poles, and other improvised weaponry against the rifles, pistols and grenades of the American soldiers. None of the 700 survived. The .45 caliber pistol, with its tremendous stopping power, was invented by America to repulse the Maranaw juramentados who couldn’t be stopped by ordinary guns.
Marawi, formerly named Dansalan, was where the datus and sultans of Lanao issued the two historic Dansalan Declarations telling the US government to exclude the Moro provinces from the Philippine government’s territories after the forging of the Treaty of Paris, mainly because, they said, the country was inhabited by two peoples with different cultures and religions—the Christians in the north and the Muslims in the south. In fact, US Rep. Robert Beacon filed House Resolution No. 12772 in the US Congress on June 11, 1926, retaining Mindanao and Sulu under US protection, for a grant of independence in due time. Unfortunately, the author and sponsor of the bill was a Republican; with the strong protest from Manila, he failed to muster support from the then Democrat-controlled US Congress.
But these historical facts did not cross the minds of the American diplomats who posed questions to Mayor Gandamra about what had happened in Marawi.
With a PowerPoint presentation, the mayor painted a candid portrait of the situation in Marawi, including the pitiful condition of the evacuees, and provided background information on what had led to the siege of the city. In sum, there was positive reaction from those present at the briefing, which hopefully will translate to aid from the US government.
Will accepting help from a government responsible for the deaths and injuries of the Maranaw people in the past demean and dishonor their nobility and pride as a race?
The scars of the atrocities remain, but the Maranaw cannot forever be enslaved by rage over the horrors of a century-old war. Time heals.
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Macabangkit B. Lanto ([email protected]), UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright fellow in New York University for his postgraduate studies. He has served the government as congressman, ambassador, and undersecretary, among other positions.
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