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What is this word “Moro”?

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(BY: CLEM M. BASCAR) One of the principal causes of animosity, disharmony, disunity, mistrust, and misunderstanding between and among  the multi-cultural inhabitants  of our country, is the lack or absence of knowledge and understanding of the correct meanings, linguistic origins, evolutions, and derivations of technical, difficult, unfamiliar or even very popular terms  which have become integral part of our day-to-day oral and written communication. Some of these terms have become so common and popular that we just use them without making any conscious effort to know their linguistic or dialectal origins. In the normal course of  conversation, we consciously or unconsciously tend to use these terms with all the connotations and denotations, (negative or otherwise)  by the persons who first used them inclusive of all those desirable or derogatory images that had been added or evolved over a long period of time and usage.

A classic example is the common word “Moro.”  Generally, the Christians call the unchristianized inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu “Moros” irregardless of whether they belong to the Islam faith or  those that are classified as Lumads, the un-christianized and un-Islamized inhabitants in the hinterlands of this poetically called “Land of Promise.”  On the other hand, the “Moros” generally call the Christians, “Bisaya” without distinction as to their ethnic identities or origins. Why the “Moros” collectively call the Christians particularly those coming from Luzon and the Visayas, “Bisaya” is something that the experts in linguistics must find out through the method of scientific research.

The word “Moro” is not part of any dialectal or linguistic heritage of the indigenous or native inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu. As I stressed in my previous articles, it is not also officially included as among the 13 (now more) ethnolinguistic  or indigenous tribes originally identified by anthropologists and sociologists. Historians and other authorities claim that this word was just a moniker given by the Spaniards when they came to Mindanao and Sulu for the first time in 1596  to refer to all the native inhabitants for they closely resembled the Moor, a member of the dark-skinned people of mixed Arab and Berber ancestry inhabiting ancient Mauritania in North Africa who conquered Spain  in the 8th Century  A.D. In support of the historical fact that it was the Spaniards who first used the word “Moros,” may I quote the following authoritative and credible sources?

(1) New Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 11, Copyriight 1989, page 381-

 “ The Spaniards never subdued the inhabitants who they called Moros; they were a fiercely independent people whose culture was melting ground of sea traders, shell and coral producers, fishermen, pirates, and slave traders.” 

(2) Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny, Authored by Salah Jubair, Third Edition , Updated and Expanded, Copyright 1999, page 13-

  “ All the monickers assigned to the natives, Indio, Moro, and Filipino were given by the Spaniards. History should credit them for giving us all these names, either out of hatred or by reason of similarities, or by force of circumstances, or by all of the above.”

(3) Orphans of the Pacific, authored by Florence Horn, Copyright, 1941, Chapter 8-

 “Moro history is gory. These people were not really beaten after three hundred years of Spanish effort. Americans brought them to terms only after decisive bloody massacres which aroused American public because women and children were done away with along with the men. When the Spaniards found Mohammedans in the Philippine Islands, they called them Moros simply out of painful memory of the Mohammedan Moors they fought in Spain.”

The afore-cited credible and internationally recognized authoritative sources are enough proofs and testimonies that the word “Moro” is not  indigenous to Mindanao and Sulu. They all point to the historical truth that it was just a monicker given by the Spaniards to refer generically to the native inhabitants of Mindanao of Sulu in the same manner that they called the native inhabitants of Luzon and the Visayas “Indios,” most likely because they also resembled the American Indians in South and North America. The “Indios” became  “Filipinos” when they were conquered, colonized, and Christianized by the Spaniards and after Ruy Lopez  de Villalobos named the conquered areas Las Islas Filipinas in honor of King Philip II of Spain.

Based on this historical fact that  “Moro” was just a monicker given by the Spaniards to the natives of Mindanao and Sulu, it is therefore, incorrect to claim that the word “Moro” is native or indigenous. It is also incorrect to assert that “Moro” is one of the native ethnic groups  from the standpoint of our anthropological and cultural history for it is not officially listed as one of the indigenous communities of Mindanao and Sulu.

How, when, and who first used the term “Moro” to refer to an indigenous or native inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu, and the organization or individual who first conceptualized and used this term as a national or ethnic identity that is endemic or indigenous in Mindanao and Sulu, are crucial matters that Congress must fully and definitely identify and scientifically determine as valid and reliable historical, anthropological, cultural, political, and ancestral basis for the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). 

is for Congress to diligently and scientifically find out most essentially and urgently because it is about to undertake the daunting legislative task of crafting  another Basic Law that will establish the new Bangsamoro Political Entity (BJE) and at the same time abolish the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for having been declared a “failed experiment.”
 




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