Saturday, June 10, 2006

Martyrs of Freedom

100 - years ago on March 5-8
1,000 - Moro (Tausug) men, women, children were massacred by
800 - American soldiers inside the 50-foot crater of the dormant Bud Dahu volcano in Jolo island;
6 - survived to tell the story

The Senate has declared the victims of Bud Dahu massacre "martyrs of freedom" and March 6 of every year Bud Dahu Day.

Here is an account of the bloody event from the UP website:

"Martyrs of Freedom"
100 years after: Peace pilgrimage honors victims of Bud Dahu Massacre

Like a school of fish in a glass bowl, some 1,000 Moro men, women, and children found themselves swimming in their own blood inside the fifty-foot crater of Bud Dahu --a dormant volcanic mountain six kilometers off Jolo, the capital town and show window of Sulu Province in Mindanao.

They were caught unprepared when, from the edges atop the crater, a troop of 800 American soldiers fired down into the bowl. They fought desperately but their kris (a wavy-edge sword), hunting spears, and rifles were simply no match against the Americans' high-caliber artillery. Some of them, including women and children, were mowed down by as many as fifty bullets while others were impaled upon bayonets. Only six survived the four-day assault.

The encounter took place a hundred years ago. March 5-8, 1906. The American government preferred to call it a battle--bloody and violent, yes, but a legitimate armed confrontation between the military forces and a group of lawless fanatics. US President Theodore Roosevelt even commended the American Army for "a most gallant and soldierly feat" in the fight at Mt. Dahu.

Pundits, however, were quick to point out the contrary. American literary luminary and social critic Mark Twain called the encounter a massacre, the US troops uniformed assassins, and the Moros �helpless and weapon-less savages in a hole like rats in a trap.� American historian Vic Hurley noted that, �by no stretch of the imagination could Bud Dahu be termed a �battle.� The Americans troops stormed a high mountain peak crowned by fortifications to kill 1,000 Moros with a loss to themselves of twenty-one killed and seventy-three wounded! The casualty reflects the unequal nature of the battle.�

History tells us now that the victims were a community of Tausugs who fled to Bud Dahu in defiance of the American rule and occupation of Mindanao. Spain ruled the country for 333 years but the Moros never recognized its authority. The Moros isolated themselves in the southern islands of Mindanao. And when the Americans took over, they were no readier to obey the new colonizers than they were the Spaniards.

Today, the Bud Dahu bloodbath continues to inspire the Bangsamoro people in their struggle for self-determination. They invoke the same spirit in resisting the presence of American forces who are presently conducting military exercises in Mindanao through the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippine and US governments. They are still trying to make sense of the peace agreement signed by the national government and the Moro National Liberation Front exactly ten years ago
this March.

Indeed, one hundred years after the Bud Dahu massacre, Filipino Muslims, as Moros are called nowadays, are faced with virtually the same issues: resistance to American imperialism, the quest for peace, and the desire for self-determination.

That is why the Mindanao PeaceWeavers, a network of peace advocates, has organized the Bud Dahu Centennial Council (BDCC). Fatmawatti Salappudin, lead convenor of Mindanao PeaceWeavers, said the Council will spearhead yearlong activities to commemorate the Bud Dahu encounter.

A peace pilgrimage, which seeks to honor the Bud Dahu martyrs in the hope of finding closure to that painful chapter of Mindanao�s history, kicked off the celebration. On
March 4-9, 2006, peace pilgrims trekked to Bud Dahu where they witnessed a symbolic ritual of paying tribute to the massacre victims. A peace covenant at the crater of the mountain concluded the tribute. �We installed a marker on the crater with the message that truth and justice shall always prevail,� said Salappudin.

BDCC chair Prof. Samsula Adju said there will be forums in Manila and key cities in Mindanao �to inform and educate the Filipinos on the Bud Dahu massacre.� Meanwhile, lobby groups from all over the world will demand an apology from the US government to the descendants of the massacre victims. Such a gesture, said Adju, will help heal the wounds of the past.

He said they will also lobby for the declaration of March 8 as an official holiday in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Recently, the Senate declared the victims of Bud Dahu massacre �martyrs of freedom� and March 6 of every year Bud Dahu Day.

In the University of the Philippines, the Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS) spearheaded one whole day of activities on March 3 to commemorate the Bud Dahu encounter. The IIS, in partnership with the College of Arts and Letters, Asian Center, Center for Integrative and Development Studies, and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, held a forum, photo exhibit, mini-lectures, and cultural presentations. (Rod P. Fajardo III)

No comments: