What if Rizal sought refuge in Moroland?

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Last of two parts
Now, as to the escape alluded to by Rizal in his trial, did Hadji Butu intimate this possibility beyond the earshot of the ever-present farol de combate? Perhaps, there was no need for clandestine talk. A more likely scenario would be Hadji Butu discussing the planned escape with Rizal in broad daylight in the presence of the guard. Why, both could converse in Arabic, and there was no tape recording back then.

To where would Rizal be likely ferreted out? Not in Sulu where the Sultanate was compromised and loose on all ends. Neither in Borneo where the British and the Dutch had some implied repatriation understanding with the Spanish. If Rizal were to go that way, either one of the two authorities would have served him back to Manila in a silver platter in exchange for some concessions. And certainly not in Maguindanao, where the ruling class was kowtowingto the Governor General. A more likely ideal place would be in the Lanao Lake where the Spaniards had yet to ascend and make some lasting impression. In fact, Rizal had been tweaking on a map update of Mindanao. He corrected his old 1852 Coello map to reconcile with the one supplied by Blumentritt accompanying the latter’s article Ethnography of the Island of Mindanao. Rizal was irked that Blumentritt’s map did not have “the great lake of Mindanao.” Rizal explained that “Lanao” means lake.

In this case, Hadji Butu must have had already pre-arranged the escape. A more likely contact would be Ongkí {Baȳalabi ā Dimsangkay sa Maçiu}, a sister of his Sultan, Haroun Al-Raschid. Ongkí was then married to a Ranaū-Iranūn, Malang sa Īngŭd {Dimasangkay sa Maçiu}, who was a grandson of Datu Inŏ, the 4th Sultan of Maçiu (from the issue of Ongkícame later the Tamano, Disomimba, etc.). This powerful and wealthy royalty could have hosted José Rizal, provided him the necessary security and amenities he would need while awaiting the unfolding of events in the North to clear up.

Rizal was lonely and restless in exile. He concocted many things to amuse himself. His genealogy project never really took off and his family tree sketch ended up merely as a wrap cover of an oracle he made and fancifully named Haec Est Sibylla Cuma. Perhaps, for coming up with this fortune-telling device, Rizal had been subconsciously weighing his chances. One entry: “You will do well marrying, but do better not marrying.” Clearly, the oracle was calibrated for his personal consumption.


Even then, Rizal must have politely refused the offer, for besides isolating himself further, he would be throwing away the fate of his family to chance. He would not know when the war of the Katipuneros with Spain would end. In any case, the Spaniards, following a well-laid blueprint on taking the last bastion of the Iranūn territory attacked the cota of Datu Akadir (Amaī Pakpak) in Marahui (Marawi) in 1894, and attacked it again the following year, finally making Akadir a martyr on March 10, 1895. In September the following year, en route to Spain to join Blumentritt as an army physician in Cuba, Rizal was arrested in his cabin and repatriated to Manila. On December 30, he was shot to death by musketry.

Although the planned settlement in Borneo was quashed by the Spanish authorities (for this would be an insult to them), Rizal must have left a lasting impression on Hadji Butu, as, like Rizal, he was entered as mason later at Sinukuan Lodge No. 16 by a conferral team that included Manuel L. Quezon, becoming the first Moro to become a mason. Rizal’s influence went beyond the grave.

We could only speculate what Rizal would have had up his sleeve had he decided to slip away from Dapitan and entered the exotic realm of the Moroland. The mature Rizal then was decidedly different, a world away from the youthful schoolboy of Ateneo Municipal de Manila who wrote El Combate: Urbiztondo, Terror de Jolom, which celebrated the victory of Governor General Antonio de Urbiztondo over Mohammad Fadlun, better known as Sultan Pulalun of Sulu.

The later Rizal seemed less circumspect and apt to peppering his scribbling with names of datus, paramatas, and ancient warriors plucked from out of the blue. He was obsessed with knowing the pre-Spanish history of the Philippines that he spent money to hole himself up in the library of London. His favorite speech was not the appropriately masked and measured monologue of Rajâ Mūda Solaiman of Tondo, but the raw, patriotic—in-your-face—cadence of Datu Mangubal’s (Ubal) speech in 1596, two days before he killed Captain Ésteban Rodriguez in combat. This was decidedly a turnaround in his outlook.

Rizal’s growing awareness of his background was evident in his back-and-forth correspondence with Dr. Blumentritt. Rizal wrote that he had suspended his study of Tagalog grammar on account of his study on Malay. Then he was learning and trying to do an inventory of Sanskrit terms that could be found in the local language. In exile, he doodled a sketch of his family tree. What’s the wisdom behind all these exercises? Was it because he was bored and the exile was taking its toll on him? More appropriately, did he lay a hand on a full-blown sĕlĕsîlah (genealogy) of the Ranaū-Iranūn kept by the Subanŭn descendants of Putrí Kamŭngkas sa Lalabago living around Dapitan? Was he bracing himself for the long haul?

Had he opted to live among the Ranaū-Iranūn (Maranao), all of the above preparations would suddenly make sense. Rizal would then be breezing through their literature for he would have no trouble deciphering the kirim or jawi script, a modified Arabic writing, because of his background in that field. He would enjoy reading the epic Darangên as its esoteric language (quite removed from everyday Maranao or Maguindanao), contains some thirty-percent Sanskrit. And in their sĕlĕsîlah, he would read the ancestry of the Filipinos as they are related to Karkani, Maluku, Maladau, Johor, Brunei, Banjamarsin, Têmpasuk, Riau, etc., and the interconnections among the native Filipinos, especially in Mindanao, and some key events thrown in he would neither find holed-up in the library of London, nor read in a history (still proliferating today) that was just “written on the deck of a Galleon ship.”

Gat José Rizal himself was a direct descendant of Rajâ Bésar Lacandula (Lakáng Ab’dúla) through the Maria Poloin and Alonso Talabos line, hence descended from Rajâ Lontok all the way to the Sultanate of Brunei. His father’s side was of Chinese descent. But whenever asked about his ancestry, he said he is, first and foremost, a Malay. In his own words, he proudly declared: “I have in my blood the wanderungslust of the Malayans. I always have it!” We have to pardon Rizal the German expression (no pun intended) for he was in correspondence with Blumentritt when he uttered this. Wanderungslust means a strong, irresistible impulse to wander. Now tell us if that description does not fit the Iranūn like a glove, the “Vikings of the East” as Owen Rutter had said of them.

We would never know what would have happened had Rizal sought refuge in the lake 3,000 feet above sea level. One thing is certain though: the legacy he left behind is far from being thoroughly mined. As monsoon Southeast Asia is coming under one roof, his utterances remain as fresh as today’s headlines. From among the “wanted list” in the siege on Marawi, most of them were barely out of their adolescence. If the youth is to be the nation’s hope, we must make every effort to mold them into broad-minded human beings, and not as insensitive robots cooped in a “toril” who merely bandy around with them their boarding pass, treating this earth as a transit stop on their flight to their “paradise,” and never caring what mess they wrought in the process.

Sharief is an Asian genealogist, whose forthcoming book, Vol. 1 of 7 of his Monsoon Riders Series, is due for publication in 2018. Some material in this article was taken from that volume. He has been a contributor of feature articles in the Moro Times (published by The Manila Times) in 2007-2008, and wrote fiction for the Sunday issues of The Manila Times. Read his blog: onmaranao.blogspot.com, a celebration and pilgrimage into the culture and arts of the Ranaū-Iranūn of Southeast Asia.

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