October 14, 2008. The highest court of the land declares the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) unconstitutional. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaves the negotiating table. There is fighting on the ground; the AFP bombs suspected MILF areas; whole villages are displaced. Scores die, many of them civilians, and 600,000 or more are rendered refugees in evacuation centers. Food supply is dangerously low; people’s shanties burn on highways. Children die from dysentery, malnutrition, pulmonary disease, bullets, and bombs.
This is the general context for this paper, actually a broken record of a context for the past thirty years. More immediately, it is the fruit of having to contend with the following remarks from students in these past decades of my teaching Philippine and Asian literature:
1. The Philippines was saved from becoming a Muslim country by Spanish colonization.
2. Muslims are allowed more than one wife and practice divorce; ergo, they are immoral and promiscuous.
3. The Muslims are warlike; they kill when forced to eat pork, they are juramentados and terrorists.
4. The conflict between the Muslims and the government forces is due to religious differences.
5. The Moros were pirates and enemies of the Filipinos.
6. To paraphrase former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the war between the Muslims and the government should continue to teach the Muslims a lesson.
7. Lumad. What’s that?