A Farewell to the Mindanawon

As the Resurgent launches its maiden pages on the heels of Rody Duterte’s First 100 Days, contributor Des Mendoza bares her insights not only about the man who became President, but about the pioneering spirit of the South, and why we are all in this together.

Forgive the Mindanawon for being Mindanawon.  That is who he is and who he has become. In the last hundred days he has hogged the limelight, filled your literati with nauseating invectives, kept you at the edge of your seat. 

Once  upon a time, in the 1900s, when the legislature opened up the island of Mindanao for homestead,  he was much like you and me in the past 100 days ---filled with anxiety over the uncertainty of the future, exasperated at having to work so much at making  a living instead of actually making a life, disillusioned at leaders who had cheated on us,  frustrated at how things did not seem to work when they should have.   He had to think of his family, his future, his legacy--the mark he would leave in this world.

But unlike you and me now, perhaps, who have jobs beyond decent, a place to stay, transport to take us around,  mobile phones and access to the internet—he had nothing but discontent, his bare hands and muddied feet, and the miniscule prospect of a future in a land that, he was told, had promise. Where he was going, there was no social service, no security, no support, no access to anything more than land.  It was the frontier, after all, and beyond the frontier there were no guarantees.

But he had one thing going for him---bigger than himself, bigger than his family and circle of friends, bigger than anything he had ever held on to.  He had hope.

He trailblazed.  He cut into the wild and tamed this terrain, with stick and shovel and everything he could muster, he dug in without relent, with all his strength, holding on to nothing but the hope that he had. In the grass lands or marshes or  mountain ranges and forests,  his spirit was undaunted.

He travelled. In the rugged foot trails, he conquered distance, pushed everything to the limit—made commuter transits of single passenger vehicles—not because he was stupid ---but because he had a need.   He had to  transport people and resources deeper into the island, to build, to prosper.  He explored every inch of his land to learn—to find out what it had waiting for him.  

He innovated.  Remembering what his fathers in Luzon and the Visayas taught him, he dug deep into his memory of the past  and painstakingly built up from there.

He observed.   Before him, he discovered,  there were others—those native to the land and those settlers who called his God by a different name.   He might have reacted to how they were different, but he quickly realized how they were of the same weave and how  they had existed far longer than he had on this very same land.  He made friends of the neighbors in the islands further down and shared an economy they all gained from.

He was cheated.  After all the work he had done, the powers came to claim their reward—to milk the land out for what it had, to stake their claim on the promise of the land. 

He fought.   He had lost lives, as he had loved ones, he had lost sense, as he had pride.  He had lost dignity trying to etch his path, but he kept on.  He had learned to organize his ranks, he has learned to paralyze the center when he makes his stand.

He was hardened for he saw how the Lumad were pushed to the uplands and cheated off their ancestral rights. He saw how the Moros were chased out of the land on which their communities and clans have grown and prospered.  

He was purified.  Beyond all that he had lost, he learned to be thankful for what he had left.   He had  after all,  the lessons of the past and they were most precious.

He persisted.  He remembered his history and  worked on his character.    He passed the lessons on to his children—who went out to the rest of the world to both conquer and  be tamed.

He synthesized.    He gave his culture a name—TRI-PEOPLE—a synergy of the cultures of the people born of the land, of people who had come to worship Allah, and the others that came from everywhere else.  He celebrated –and learned to express his thankfulness in dance and music.  He took to the hegalongs and the kudyapis of the lumad as he did to the kulintangs of the Muslims, as he did to the guitars and instruments of his conquerors and made harmonious music to share.

He had faith---in the everyman whom he found out in the frontiers with him.  He had faith in the environment that would nurture him,  give him food, share him its blessings.  He had faith in a merciful being ---one who had propelled him so far into his life, into this age.  

Courage is in his genes, integrity in the fiber of his being.  He is hotwired to thrive.

Forgive him for his language— which is crude and undignified, without the Western twang our children now have.  He did not seem to need the fancy when he was negotiating with the Lumad nor the Moro, nor his neighbors in the Southeast.  His language  reveals much of his  frontier experience, lacking in finesse and diplomacy but filled with will and determination.

If he is not well-versed with your ways or  ideals of democracy and internationalism, if he has nary an idea of the post-modernist frameworks you have in your belt,  do not mock him, for his experience has taught him more about his land than all that our Western education ever could.

We call him Mindanawon but he came from the very ground where you now stand—from all of Luzon to the breadth of Visayas.  He shares the same name, the same fiber, the same blood. And he builds with us the same nation. 

If he offends your sensibilities, be forgiving.  Like your first 100 days of this presidency, he has had it rough the past hundred years of his life---and you had been Christian, civilized, cultured, educated, democratic and liberal  for so much longer.  Please understand.   

He is filled with courage and dream, he is armed with tenacity and industry, he has wrestled with history, he has tamed his environs as well as his fears, his roots are deep where you now stand.  

He is no more Mindanawon than you are Luzonian or Visayan. He is Filipino as you are.  

(Des Mendoza is a freelance writer/researcher/editor and full-time parent.  Her personal involvements and advocacies run a gamut of causes  and practices from integrated risk management (or disaster risk reduction with ecosystem management and climate change adaptation), inclusive (disability sensitive) policies across all sectors of society, preventive health care and traditional Chinese medicine to home schooling, alternative education, indigenous knowledge systems and doing sociology and creative visualization.  Beyond terminologies, however, she seeks “a life of utmost simplicity—walking to keep fit and to get around, appreciating food of all kinds and orientations, reading,  writing (usually with pen and paper),  spending time with people , and watching movies with family just because it is fun.”)