The Ateneo de Zamboanga University hosted a forum on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on July 22, 2014. Key stakeholders from the different sectors in Zamboanga City joined in the whole day discussion. The first part of the forum focused on the historical context of the challenge of peace in Mindanao.
Bangsamoro in a Historical Context
The first session of the “Weaving the Capestry for Peace: A forum on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” focused on the historical background of the Bangsamoro and ZAMBASULTA.
The first speaker was a graduate professor of the Ateneo de Davao University, Dr. Heidi K. Gloria. Dr. Gloria began her speech on the history of the Moros dating back to the Spanish Colonization in the Philippines. Fr. Francisco Combes a Jesuit and one of the first writers to describe Mindanao and Sulu during the last decade of 17th century described the Zamboanga Peninsula as a beautiful peninsula. She also added that Zamboanga played a major role in the history of Mindanao and Sulu. The Spanish settlement in Zamboanga began when the administration of the Spanish Colonial Government brought 300 spaniards and 1000 visayans to find a new colonial settlement in 1635. Zamboanga was ideally suited situated for watching and intercepting Moro movements.
According to Dr. Gloria, “Hundreds of years after, we face a problem that reflects that long and highly troubled pants. Like a long nightmare that horns our sleep and even our waking up hours, we keep going back to our problems, of a mixed populations. It’s relationship with the national government that has continually neglected Mindanao and Sulu, and life threatening problems such as poverty and insecurity to human life.”
To start the discussion on the Bangsamoro in a historical standpoint, Dr. Gloria used excerpts from the book she wrote entitled “History From Below: A view from the Philippine South” that traces the origin and the problems of Mindanao in the context of Philippine history.
“The problem of Mindanao is rooted in social injustice. Just as the problem of the HUKBALAHAP and the NPA” she stated. We inherited this problem as one of the dubious legacies of the colonial period and therefore share in its guilt and culpability. Today, we need the bangsamoro as the only branch to end the warfare in the Philippine south caused by centuries of prejudiced, discrimination, deprivation, neglect, and plainly differences to the Muslims and other indigenous people in Mindanao and Sulu” according to Dr. Gloria.
Dr. Gloria ended her talk saying “it may be our last chance for peace in Mindanao.”
Weaving the gaps of ZAMBASULTA History
Professor Hezekiah A. Concepcion of the School of Arts and Sciences in the Ateneo de Zamboanga University during the start of his discourse on discussion focused on the history of weaving the gaps of ZAMBASULTA around the region.
“When we look into the history of the region, we do not only depend on the official narratives…we also listen to the voices of people in the day to day activities. Or what you call Social History.”
Professor Concepion also discussed the activities and programs spearheaded by the Ateneo de Zamboanga University regarding the gaps in ZAMBASULTA. Such activities include conferences and workshops, research on local history through ARC and history writing projects, commemorative publications, Diccionario Chavacano Project, formation programs, family and migration history projects and modules on local history and literature.
“As I was reflecting on the theme, I realized that through the years Ateneo has always been engaged to help people understand the intricacy, Centro dynamics of Muslim-Christian relations” Mr Concepcion stated.
The reason on the importance of weaving the gaps of ZAMBASULTA history according to Professor Concepcion is, “it is important so that our minds will be broadened; we will have a better understanding of the causes and the roots of the problems in Mindanao.”
The historical context of the forum aided the participants in grounding their issues and recognizing the role of the past in the progressive and peaceful future being woven during this significant part of Mindanao’s history.