Like the phoenix | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Like the phoenix

While the people in Metro Manila were buying and wearing all sorts of merchandise—including rubber shoes with the Philippine flag on it and proudly declaring “Pinoy (or Pinay) ako,” groups and individuals throughout the country from Aparri to Tawi-Tawi it seems were looking into their own beginnings as pre-Hispanic “nations.”

Quietly, they have been and still are collecting bibliographical data, family histories, old photographs, stories from community elders, even oral traditions and ancient art, looking for this lost identity. But with what can be described as serendipity, in the process of trying to find out why they are different, they have come upon the discovery that there is a link that connects them one to the other and to all—Ilocano, Tagalog, Batangueño, Bicolano, Ilonggo, Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug and all the other ethnic groups of Mindanao and the southern islands.


Why this has come about appears to be, at this point, still in the realm of speculation. But whatever the motivating factor, this could turn out to be the one important process that this nation needs to undergo to ultimately realize that elusive dream of nationhood, of a love of country so real that there will be no need to resort to substitutes like selling the flag on rubber shoes, or wearing the country’s map on a T-shirt.

At first I noticed it in the different festivals held in various provinces and regions featuring their distinct local products which are presented in the context of their culture and local history. Then there was the identification of local historical figures and heroes that were hardly mentioned in the national narrative, and honoring them during provincial anniversaries and similar occasions.


Then almost inevitably came the need to know their own histories quite apart from the scant mention in textbooks and journals of the colonizers; to know who they were and what they were before the Spaniards and the Americans landed on their shores and called them Moros, Indios, Pintados, Lutaos, Negroes, juramentados, monkeys without tails and savages whose villages had to be turned into a howling wilderness so they could be benevolently assimilated.

And wrote their histories for them.

In this collective quest people came together and decided to organize themselves into movements, clubs, fraternities and even a commune, and like water seeking its own level, flowed into cyberspace in the form of FaceBook pages where I found them, after we Moros created our own, the very generic-sounding Moro History and Culture page.

That is where I discovered that there is indeed a common thread that binds them. Like scattered children longing for a lost mother, all of these groups and individuals were trying to find that seemingly mythical lost country called “Mai-I” or Maharlika, or Mahardika.

While some do admit that President Ferdinand Marcos had awakened them to an awareness of this once-upon-a-time country and former Sen. Eddie Ilarde has recently rekindled it, awareness transcended myth through their own discovery while trudging through such facts as place names, dates, geographical configurations, the origins of the different peoples who came to inhabit the islands and the languages with which they communicated with each other and with other groups.

On the social networking pages alone I found at least a dozen groups identifying themselves as “Maharlika,” including some engaged in commercial ventures.

The Maharlikan tries to establish unity as people of the Maharlika nation through historical research, Maharlika Ako promotes national pride; Maharlika Katagalugan, a sense of their own identity as part of a greater whole; and the rather political Partido Maharlika.


And then there is the Ilonggo Nation Movement that apparently has long known their identity from the time of the 10 Malay datus who bought their land from the indigenous tribes with a salakot full of gold, so that now their concern is simply re-establishing their nationhood from the time when nobody had the bad manners to mimic their speech. Ang Republika Federal sang Kabisay-an (The Federal Republic of the Visayas), 1898-1901, says all that needs to be said in what is parenthesized between those two dates.

But what caught my interest most was Maharlika Nation, which first impressed me as some kind of a hippie commune, trying to form a community in harmony away from the materialistic metropolis (think of the movie “Flashback”) complete with their long hair, sandals, beads and tie-dye shirts, and—Ananda Marga. I had never seen as much flashbacking to the glorious ’70s.

It turns out they have an actual thriving self-sustaining “commune” in a large clearing in a forest in San Rafael, Rizal that they call “Maharlika Paradise” where they even have a day-care center and a building for crafts; while within the community itself is an organization of artists and writers.

And more as a compromise, they have a corporate body, Ang Kilusang Maharlika or Ang Kasama, Inc., which they describe as “a confederation of self-reliant socio-economic-cultural zones that envisions a progressive Maharlika, where full human potential is developed while continuously serving a society that is guided by the ideals of neo-Humanism and progressive socialism,” asking us to join them “in the struggle to change the colonial Philippines into a great nation.”

The meaning of “maharlika” according to one of the pages, is “one that is great and noble” and is derived from the Sanskrit “mahardhika.”

But the more surprising thing is, even the members of our page are amenable to the vision of a nation united in diversity called Maharlika, rising, like the phoenix, from the ashes of colonization, as long as it is called Mahardika, meaning “land of the free.”

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TAGS: Aparri, Bicolano, Ilocano, Ilonggo, Maguindanao, Maharlika, Maranao, Tagalog, Tausug, Tawi Tawi
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