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From Moro to Latino


To erase all the negative and degrading connotations attached to certain words which tend to create animosity among the multi-cultural and multi-linguistic inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu, it is essentially important to know their origins and the circumstances in which they were used.

Let’s focus on one particular example which has been embroidered with many unwholesome and prejudicial connotations and denotations, the term “Moro.” If you still recall the article I wrote and published a couple of weeks ago, I quoted SirGanz of Marawi City who revealed that the first mention of this word could be credited to the interpreter of Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon of Cebu as early as 152l.  Then I cited the commonly accepted historical fact that it was the Spaniards who first collectively called the native inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu, “Moros” when they arrived in Mindanao whose first presence was recorded in Jambangan which according to the latest historical material I downloaded from the Internet, could be dated as far back as November 1596 when a small Spanish settlement and garrison was established in the port of La Caldera, the present-day Caldera Bay barangay, Recodo , in the West Coast, some l5 kilometers away from the heart of the City.

Deductively, the Spaniards, who knew nothing about the various ethno-linguistic native inhabitants, had to think of a term that would identify them from the other natives inhabitants they much earlier encountered in Luzon who they generally called “Indios” probably on account of their physical similarities with those natives of South and North America. So because the first people they saw in Mindanao resembled the “Moor,” a member of a NW African people of mixed Berber and Arab descent, it was normally logical for them to call them”Moros” without distinction as to their ethnicity and religion, notwithstanding the fact that the Spaniards knew that the Moors were generally practicing the Muslim or Mohammedan religion.

So it was under this sociological context that the Subanons, the Samas, and the Tausogs who were the first settlers of Jambangan (now Zamboanga), were generally called “Moros” by the Spaniards when they first arrived at Caldera Bay in 1596. This was the same Moro identity that the Spaniards gave to all the other native inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu.

Over more than three hundred years of Spanish attempts at conquest of Mindanao and Sulu, many inhabitants who were either pagans or practicing the Islam faith were converted to Christianity in Mindanao and Sulu and politically pledged allegiance to the Spanish Colonial Government of the Philippine Islands. They then became the first Filipinos in Mindanao and Sulu. Those who continued to resist Spanish control, domination, colonization, and Christianization remained to be called generally Moros by the Spaniards.

Over the centuries, the Subanons were slowly driven into the hinterlands of the Zamboanga Perninsula while the Tausogs and the Samas remained along the coastal areas either as adherents of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo or the Sultanate of Maguindanao. The Moros, which at this point in our colonial history were now referred generally to the unconquered and un-Christianized inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu continued to resist Spanish sovereignty and were beginning to recapture their territories when the Spanish –American War broke out in 1898.

In fact, there was no Spanish-American military encounter ever recorded in Mindanao and Sulu because when the American arrived on May 19, 1898, all the territories were already recaptured and  taken over by either the forces of the Sultanates or the revolutionaries. From the standpoint of the Law of War or Law of Conquest, Mindanao and Sulu had already regained their full independence and sovereignty from the Crown of Spain before the American Forces landed in Jolo on May 19, l899. (Anyone is free to refute this assertion of mine.)

During the American occupation, Mindanao and Sulu were joined for better governmental control and the “Moroland” was coined which simply means “ land of the Moros” just reverting to the original moniker first given by the Spaniards which referred to all the inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu without any reference to religion or ethnicity.

The Subanons, Samas, and Tausogs who were the earliest inhabitants of Jambangan (Now Zamboanga) became known as Zamboangueños. From the word original Malay term,” Jambangan”, evolved the most beautiful, romantic, picturesque, poetic, historical, and legendary sobriquet, “City of Flowers” which is just its English translation. Intrinsically and linguistically, therefore, “Jambangan” or Zamboanga and “City of Flowers” are one and the same.

Then just about four years ago, by a stroke of executive fancy and soon after, a legislative act of passion for Latin culture, the “City of Flowers” was unilaterally and arbitrarily changed to “Asia’s Latin City.”  Hence, we are now all “Latins.” Please don’t ask me where the original Zamboangueños {Subanons, Samas, and Tausogs) are now.  What I can certainly confirm by virtue of CCR #760 is: I, who was once called a Moro by the Spaniards and the Americans, am now legally converted to Latino.

By Clem M. Bascar

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