Philippine territorial map 1880 MINDANAOis the question – especially who will benefit from the extension of Martial Law? Marawi residents and refugees in the area seem not happy with martial law. There are ideas of IDs for Muslims which are highly discriminatory, even downright insulting. Lumads continue to allege military harrassment, some are unhappy now that they voted for Duterte. There are stories of numerous private armies and vested interests in the mining business. There are those Mindanaoans like Duterte, Pimentel and Alvarez, called Bisaya by Muslim Mindanaoans – the Christian settlers.

During Marcos’s time, Mindanao was like Terra Incognita to most people in Manila. Even the Visayas were hardly heard from. What was going on in Luzon was the horizon most of us had then. Now one hears from the likes of Samira Gutoc of Marawi, or from reporters on the ground close to the fighting – like Froilan Gallardo. Before 1920, when Mindanao was turned over to the Interior Department of the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands, Mindanao was a territory that the United States fought hard to get under control. Spanish control before was patchy in practice.

Yes, there was the fortress of Zamboanga. There was Dapitan – where Rizal was exiled to. Even today, Mindanao is still seen as a place of exile, for example for errant policemen. The Moro Wars of the early 20th century were bloody. There were in the late 19th century a number of Spanish attempts to have more than just nominal control over Sultanates like Sulu. The times after 1920, especially the 1950s, brought resettlement from the Visayas and Luzon. American-initiated plantations like Dole, mining and logging – commercial and settler interests versus those who were there first.

Everything parallels the way the Philippines north of Mindanao became the way it is today. In the Visayas, not only Lapu-Lapu resisted colonization. The Boholanos Tamblot and Dagohoy come to mind – the first was a native priest who rejected Christianity in 1621, the second was a rebellion that started in 1744 and held out until 1828 in resistance to forced labor, but sparked by the refusal of a priest to give a Christian burial to the brother of its original leader, a barangay captain. In the Dagohoy uprising, folk beliefs in magical powers of the leader played a role in holding out.

The likes of Duterte now find themselves in a strange role. He and his followers act a bit like Dagohoy and his followers – towards certain groups in Manila. The personalism of the leader, the belief of people in his capabilities and collective resentments play a similar role. On the other hand, Mindanao Christian settlers are similar to Spanish colonialists towards Muslims and Lumads there. There is the Karpman triangle which describes how roles can change from victim to villain or even rescuer. How that triangle plays out in Mindanao might decide the future of the Philippines.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 23 July 2017