There are numerous other issues with the way Muslims themselves are presented by Philippine textbooks, again pointing out how effective mental control has been. Some other examples include the following historical figures in early colonial history: Soliman of Manila, Lapulapu of Mactan, (Raja) Ladyang Matanda of Manila (whom the Chinese called “King of Luzon”), and Aceh of Manila. All of those figures can be traced to Tausug and Bruneian tarsilas (genealogy charts), which strongly suggests they were all Muslim. The accounts of Tomas Piras in his Summa Oriental in the 16th century also support that many Tagalogs, Visayans, and Tausugs–particularly the merchants and the ruling class–were “Mohammedans”. These facts were also completely ignored by most Filipino lawmakers and history teachers. In addition to erasing the role of Filipino Muslims played in Philippine history, there is also no mention about the famous Hindu-Buddhists. Lakandula, for example may have practiced a form of Buddhism which mixed Islam and indigenous religious beliefs.
Muslim History in the Philippines
While Christianity enjoys a privileged status in Philippine history texts, there are also issues with the way Philippine history is taught by Muslims. Most madaris (the plural form of madrassah or Islamic school), if they include Philippine history at all, mostly start with the arrival of Islam into the country. Thus history begins in either 1380 which marks the date of the arrival of Islamic missionaries, or 1490 which marks the date of the first Muslim state in the Philippines, the Sultanate of Sulu. The 20,000 years of history prior to that is essentially left out just as nearly everything before 1521 is blurry in national textbooks. Thus Butuan, which was predominately a Hindu-Buddhist kingdom founded by Tausugs and which flourished for 500 years, is left out along with the art works it produced such as the Tara of Agusan.
There are significant problems with those dates even from a Muslim perspective. We know that there are graves of Muslims–mostly Chinese–from the 12th and 13th century in Tawi-Tawi and Jolo. The earliest we know of dates from 1210. We also know Tausug rulers visited China and a Tuhan Makbalu, a Muslim, died there in 1310.
Another issue with the way Muslim Filipinos are teaching and writing is the role of women. Though this problem also exists with the way national history texts portray females, the erasing of female leaders from history is a recent phenomenon. Up until the late 20th century, woman exercised a great deal of authority both at home and in the Astana Putih (the White Palace, the royal of the Sultanate of Sulu). One of the most remarkable women in Philippine history was Sultana Sittie Kabira (Siti Cabil) in the 17th century. She was part-Tausug and part-Maguindanaon. Eventually over the objections of more conservative elements, she was enthroned as the female Sultan of Sulu and Maguindanao after the death of her grandfather. To bring about a closer alliance with other sultans, she took a Maranao prince as her husband thus uniting the three largest ethno-linguistic of what is now the BangsaMoro. She survived attempts by replace her by the Spanish, the Dutch, clerics, and rival families. Eventually her successor, Kudarat, would expand further to Borneo and negotiate a treaty with the Spanish.
However, today, a Muslim Filipino would be hard pressed to find information about pioneering females such as Sultana Sittie Kabira, Queen Regent Raja Portri of Maguindanao, Princess Tarhata Kiram or Dayang Dayang Piandao of Sulu. A cursory look at “Heroes of Moroland” or “Heroes of the BangsaMoro” on Google would reveal almost no women on their websites. Textbooks in madaris also generally do not celebrate these female rulers. Female sultans have been removed from official tarsilas within the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao after the 1980s. However, that is not traditional. The Darangen epic of the Maranaw for example celebrates the woman. In fact, Princess Lawanen is the central character. This new attitude can be attributed to the fact that many clerics have been greatly influenced by attitudes from the Middle East and are imposing a new social order in the name of Islam and BangsaMoro unity.
A Use-able and Filipino-Friendly History
While there are a number of good history texts out there, the teaching of Philippine history is left too much in the hands of individuals schools. When one considers how badly written some of the math textbooks are, it’s no surprise that our history books also are a casualty. It is also unfortunate that the National Historical Institute basically writes trivia and investigates how the national anthem is sung rather than actually trying to build a more use-able and Filipino-friendly (as opposed to the useless and Euro-centric one we have now) history course through the education system. There should be stronger legislation in how history is taught and a civil-orientation of history textbooks. This means a more balanced and scientific approach in all history textbooks, a better construction of “pre-colonial history”, accurate 21st century data, removing religious and ethnic bias, the incorporation of more history from various regions and especially from national minority groups including the Aeta, the Lumads, the Moros, the Igorots, as well as reflecting more on the way women are portrayed in history texts.
We can not begin to really build a national community until we can really examine our history and recognize the contribution of these many people have made in nation-building. José Rizal, after all, said: “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.”