I received a call from my mom last Monday, August 18 early morning. “Kolambogan was attacked!”, and finally my mom woke me up. For the past days, the whole nation have seen how forces of Moro Islamic Liberation Front attacked the
- Children displaced from their own homes. The painting depicts the vinta, a Muslim boat.
town of Cotabato, and there was no news of possible attack in other places of Mindanao especially Lanao. These attacks are connected with the Muslim group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who wants to control and regain Mindanao from the Philippine government.
Islam and Christianity
Philippines has been referred as the first Christian nation in Asia; brought by the Spaniards who colonized the country for more than 300 years. For hundreds of years, Spanish influences were adopted by the Filipino natives in their own culture from food to language. Every student in Philippines would tell you that Catholicism is the best gift that the Spanish colonizers gave.
However, not all Filipinos are Catholic or Christians, majority of non-Christian Filipinos are Muslims. And most Filipino Muslims reside in Mindanao. Islam was introduced to the country long before Ferdinand Magellan sat foot on the islands, and early Filipinos were Muslims. The reason why most Muslims are in Mindanao is that, the Spaniards were not able to colonized the area.
Mindanao, unlike other places in the Philippines is a big chunk of land mass; while most parts of the Philippines are islands. Hence, it was very hard for the colonizers to have full control of Mindanao so they let the Muslims alone. For years, Muslims live and controlled the whole area of Mindanao, not until the early 50s.
The Coming of the Christians
After the Second World War, when the rest of the country was in turmoil and devastation was opened for Christians to migrate. Referred as the “Land of Promise”, Mindanao was the perfect place to start their lives all over again. Christians from provinces of Bohol, Capiz and Ilocos for example were given hopes to improve themselves. My mother’s family moves to Lanao from Bohol right after the war and their lives greatly improved owning vast lands and other properties.
Christians, started to purchase lands from Muslim who sold their properties for a very small price. It is not a surprise to see many Christian families having a large piece of land where they planted crops like coconut and rice. But peace didn’t reside, shortly after Christians and Muslims were fighting at each other.
Conflict in Mindanao
Muslims are concerned by the fact that Christians became well-off but their own people became poor or poorer. The Christians began to control the agriculture and other industries s well as the politics of Mindanao, Muslims are now aware of the inequality between them and the Christians.
Conflict started with land grabbing between to camps, stealing of crops and many others. Cases of Muslims raiding each houses for money and other cruelty surfaced. Soon, Christian civilians formed groups to deal with the Muslims with the most notorious group, “Ilaga’ which means ,”Rat”. This group and other underground anti-Muslim groups in the Philippines vow to stop the Muslim cruelties in Mindanao with some resorted to ethnic cleansing. This is one of the reason why some provinces in Mindanao are “Christianized” while the others are Muslims. Take Lanao as an example, it is divided into Norte (North) and Sur (South); majority of the residents of Lanao del Norte are Christians while Sur are Muslims.
It’s unfair for the Muslims to be blamed for all the terror in Mindanao. They themselves are victims and most of them try to live a harmonious lives with the Christians. Muslims who want to avoid the conflict in Mindanao even moved to other parts in the Philippines like Cebu and Manila, and went into trading to support their families. Whenever news of Muslim and Christian encounter would surface, Muslims would feel anxious that they will be put into blame. Muslim civilians even help Christians by informing them of some news of future attacks from Muslim rebels.