A Constant Retelling: Exploring the Bangsamoro Narratives/Amir Mawallil

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“Narratives, unlike historical documentation, are not devoid of values, agenda-setting, and yes, politics.” Mawallil acknowledges that the performance of a constant retelling of the Bangsamoro struggle requires interrogation of a power structure that frames the narration of a nation; that it was always about negotiation, resistance, and the relentless remembering to reconstruct a fragmented past. Mawallil perhaps is the country’s youngest and foremost chronicler of the Bangsamoro narratives: its meanings, languages, and relevance to contemporary Moro and Filipino societies.

Eloquent, unforgiving, bold, inquisitive, and at times tender and poignant, A Constant Retelling: Exploring the Bangsamoro Narratives is a collection of essays that interrogates, performs, and celebrates the Bangsamoro, its histories, cultures, and struggles in a language that is accessible to both Moro and Filipino readers.

 

“For a long time, the voice of a Moro was hard to come by. The term Moro itself was once denigrated, that of a race cast aside in the consciousness of the Filipinos. It was unfair and unjustified of a nation to make them them, as opposed to us, the people of the north. The elusive peace would have come sooner if we had listened to their whispers, their tales, their fears and anger, their aspiration for truth. As it is we have to keep unraveling the past so we may know where history stands, and it isn’t done just yet. We need to know the Moros, to step out of the old stories where they were put in the margins. Amir Mawallil is the Moro voice of the millennial generation telling us to listen, to understand, of what his people before him had to go through. In his graceful and poignant writing, we may understand what their struggle was all about and bridge their south closer to us. His essays bore testimonies to the forgotten massacre in Malisbong during the years of Martial Law, to the undercurrents of the narratives pertaining to the rebellions in his native Sulu, and to the Abu Sayyaf’s dangerous threat of destroying the Moro’s Islamic values. In his words the pride and core of being a Moro stands out, and it is through those words that a fight for a true Bangsamoro can be won.”

– Criselda Yabes

“Amir Mawallil writes where his passion lies – his homeland, his identity, his history. To say that this book is a mere collection of writings is to miss the narrative that he weaves – the story of Moros beyond the battlefield, beyond the stereotypes, and beyond our limited knowledge and superficial empathy. Amir is honest, frank, and critical even as he is compassionate and introspective in this suite of essays. This is a must-read for anyone keenly interested in people and cultures, and everyone in search of history though the lens of a generation that is shaping the future.”

– Glenda Gloria

Currents, eddies and storms.

Amir Mawallil is a journalist, used to collating and presenting facts. He presents many of these, both historical and current, in the many essays in “A Constant Retelling: Exploring the Bangsamoro Narratives”. But this Tausug son of the Bangsamoro is at his best as a storyteller, when his words take on the rhythm of the seas around his Western Mindanao homeland, rising and falling, in a lyrical re-telling of stories passed down from elders.

In these more intimate tales – of his grandmother, Fatima, who cowered underneath a tree to survive the bombs dropped by Ferdinand Marcos’ military, or a chance meeting with a non-Muslim woman that turns into a dialogue about the lenses we use to view history, or a throwaway passage that serves up a little known facet of the Abu Sayyaf’s origin, Mawallil gently escorts people not of the bangsa to look past the grim headlines about Muslim Mindanao.

Mawallil shines brightest in the first of two essays on the 1974 Malisbong Massacre and one on the 1913 battle of Bud Bagsak in Sulu, at the start of the book.

These are classic show-don’t-tell exercises that make you quail and gain a new perspective on the long narrative of resistance, betrayal, unrest and cooptation – whether by colonizers or rulers of Imperial Manila, or generations of “freedom fighters” who collectively cast a giant shadow, all shades of red and black from wars fought.

It is a shadow both loved and loathed, one that instills respect and frustration. As the author and young Bangsamoro of his generation struggle to crawl out of the dark, there is a temptation to forget, to move on – the new catchword from Manila.

In this book, Mawallil defends the “privilege to remember,” because only by distilling the ashes of defeat and the roars of victory and defiance can the Bangsamoro hope to build a future.

– Inday Espina-Varona

 

 

About the Author

 

Amir Mawallil has worked as a journalist. He now writes opinion pieces for local and overseas publications— both online and in print. He also writes pieces about the Bangsamoro narratives, and heads the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s communications and public information office.

 

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