It is always a question of how to look back with a clear vision on where to proceed.
The Jabidah Massacre is a story of my people’s struggle. Its narrative—how it should be told, for whom, and why—has been permeating in all aspects of our daily lives as Moros. It has become part of our dreams and visions, and we grew up with it as if it is our second skin.
As a Tausug, the story of this carnage in Corregidor Island in 1968 is closer to home. In fact, the dreadful retelling of the scenes and of what came after it and all the violence in the hands of the Filipinos during martial law in the 70’s felt almost like an old house where I spent my childhood with fond memories of innocence and fear—because I am a Tausug Moro living among Filipinos.
Most of the victims, shot treacherously point-blank as if in a death row, were all from Sulu province; they spoke my language, they knew the same seas that I know as the back of my hand.
In our house, we remember and still keep the stories of those young people who violently perished in their dreams to serve a Filipino government and its claim to a Moroland—and of the lone survivor, Jibin Arula, like an important family heirloom.
Yes, I have to mention the name as if an incantation: Jibin Arula, the lone survivor who jumped off the cliff and swam the shark-infested waters of Manila Bay to reach the province of Cavite. He was the only access to the Jabidah Massacre as state institutions and incredulous nationalist historians and opinion makers attempted to silence it as counter-argument to the Bangsamoro struggle.
Half a century later, we are still at a loss for directions: younger generations of Moros still try to locate this event in their daily struggle, a generation pampered by privileges after the Marcos dictatorship fell in 1986.
As the country continues to plunge into political divisions, it is imperative now that we need to ask the more pressing questions to locate ourselves as Moros in the unfolding of events that might shape the Philippines in the near future: how to proceed, where, for whom—and the most important question: why there is still a need to pursue the Bangsamoro struggle even if the future is as grim as the promises of peace and freedom from the hands of our colonial masters.
The Jabidah Massacre and its narrative will offer an option on where we can begin.
Bangsamoro is a nation in progress held in the memories and stories of people who still believe that we can find the best possible world for the next generations of Moros.
How to proceed is by looking back from the sacrifices of our martyrs and freedom fighters. From the Jabidah Massacre to the Martial Law years, the carnage in Abubakar and various massacres perpetrated by state-sponsored militia known as Ilaga in northern and central Mindanao.
We have to engage the younger generations of Moros to this continuous building and rebuilding of a Moro nation according to our own imagination.
Where to go from here?
The Jabidah Massacre will be remembered as the covert ‘Operation Merdeka’ of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to recover the Sabah from the Federation of Malaysia.
The government recruited young Moros, mostly Tausug ethno-linguistic group, from Sulu province to be trained in Corregidor Island for a military operation. The training ended up in a massacre of young trainees in March 18, 1968.
From that incident, the young educated Moros from the universities decided to take action to find justice for the victims. From there, the collective action became a movement, from a movement to a nation aimed at charting its own destiny.
Jabidah Massacre 50 years later is the continuous struggle to define a movement, a nation.
The Jabidah Massacre is not for the Filipinos, of course. The narrative of the Jabidah Massacre is for the Bangsamoro people.
This is our story, our history, and the accountabilities to memorialize the event was for the benefit of the next generation of young Moros so they have something concrete to look up to as the history of their own people.
With the current situation where Moros are waiting for the results of the Bangsamoro Basic Law as it slowly progresses in Congress, we need to sit down together and gather ourselves to ask each other and reflect if there is still a need to continue, or perhaps just yield, and worst, abandon.
What we are in right now is a situation where people, a nation, is suspended in a perpetual waiting-game if we will be released from this bondage, or we will continue to be what we are right now and in the past—second class citizens in our own land, a Moroland under endless tyranny, to quote Salah Jubair, a land defended by our ancestors.
The retelling of the Jabidah Massacre is an act of bravery. It is a form of rebuilding a fragmented self and consciousness. After 50 years, we are still struggling to articulate its meanings. After so many years, we are still longing for an answer. Victory comes to those who patiently wait without abandoning the graceful resistance to an age-old oppression.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.