The Philippines watched Zamboanga closely as the crisis unfolded where the MNLF & the AFP exchanged fire in the barangays of Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, and parts of Talon-Talon. More than 100,000 were displaced. Thousands of homes were burned. Nur Misuari was to blame according to the reports. The MNLF came seeking war is what the news told us.
Balik Probinsiya? Rebuild? Cast Aside?
The Philippines is no longer watching, but strange things are happening in Zamboanga. The first solution announced for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) was a “balik probinsya” program. This was met with much resistance and you can imagine why. The Sama & Sama Dilaut (Badjao) living in Zamboanga are natives to Zamboanga. Origin theories for the Sama tribe are undecided on whether the Sama worked their way up from the south towards Zamboanga or whether they arrived in Zamboanga and headed south to populate the Sulu archipelago. The point is they have belonged to Zamboanga for far longer than any other groups besides maybe the Subanen. To tell the Sama to return to their province is worse than telling the Chabacano to return to Cavite. “Balik probinsiya” was not going to be easily accepted and so talks began about rebuilding Rio Hondo. Talks became an excuse for no action. The crisis in Zamboanga didn’t last through the end of September. Talks have been on-going through October and November. Talks mean that the Sama of Rio Hondo and Mariki must stay “hostage” in these evacuation centers or along the shore of boulevard. They were not allowed to go back to their homes. They must endure the terrors of paperwork and bureaucracy. They couldn’t start rebuilding. Grand promises have been made. Promises that take the historical location of the Sama in Zamboanga and turn it into a Spanish inspired village with Spanish inspired Mosques.
Redefining Zamboanga. Embracing the Latin Influence. Rejecting the Tribal.
Zamboanga has for decades been trying to define itself as the Latin City. The cities real origins must pass into oblivion. It was founded as a trading place of Subanen & Sama. Originally named Sambuwangan after the mooring posts where Sama tied their boats in order to barter their sea produce with the bounty the Subanen had reaped off of the land. Now this origin is outright denied. Sources such as Zamboanga.com claim that the city is named after “Jambangan” an Indonesian word for flowers arranged in a vase. They prove their point by telling you to search for “Samboangan” in a Malay dictionary. This useage of the word “Jambangan” originates from the 1950’s referencing an occurrence where then Mayor Cezar Climaco was entertaining Indonesians. They pointed out to him the similarity to the word, “Jambangan” and he used it to campaign for the city’s tourism. They did not need to look as far as Indonesia. “Jambangan” is still a word in Sinama, but the city has never been “Jambangan” but has always been “Sambuwangan.” You can find this word still in both Sinama & Subanen.
November 30, 2012 The IDPs being Dumped in Talungatung
Finally action was taken regarding the plight of these Internally Displaced Persons in Zamboanga. They were pressured, tricked, & coerced into relocation. On November 30th in the early morning they were boarded onto trucks and dropped off in Talungatung. Tausugs, Yakan, Sama and Sama Dilaut (Badjao). 20 truckloads. 20 km from the city. 2 km from the ocean. This has the remaining Sama Dilaut alarmed. They fear being forced to move to Talungatung. They cannot be expected to survive when stripped from the ocean. Already 3 boats of Sama Dilaut have stole away from Talungatung and fled to Basilan. Is this not the definition of marginalization? Taken from the center of the city and cast off to the side.
- treat (a person, group, or concept) as insignificant or peripheral.
The Sama with their co-inhabitants of Rio Hondo are cast out of the city. Out of the way. The rulers of the city indeed find them insignificant. Those of importance are those that provide the Latin origin for this city. The Chabacanos. The previous mayor best expressed this attitude of those that govern Zamboanga. Former Mayor Lobregat’s concept of Zamboanga is this, “Here in Zamboanga, we are strongly promoting unity by enjoining people from other places who have come to settle in the city to assimilate the local practice and culture and ultimately be known as Zamboangueños who are articulate in Chabacano.” In their worldview local practice and culture is that of the Chabacano. To be Zamboangueño is to be Chabacano. The Subanen, the Sama, the Tausug, the Yakan, the Chinese, the Bisayans are all forgotten.
Discriminated Against – Insignificant
In fact they are discriminated against. Currently Sama, Yakan, & Tausug teachers are being forced to teach Sama, Yakan, & Tausug students in Chabacano. The end result is better education for the Chabacano student, better opportunity for the Chabacano teacher, and discrimination against all other tribal groups that hold historical right to Zamboanga.
Burning homes in Rio Hondo became an opportunity. An opportunity to cleanse Zamboanga further of anything that takes away from the city’s Latin image. Even the famous vintas of Zamboanga can be made to set sail. The Sama have this problem all over the Philippines. Their villages are coveted by other groups. They are followed and preyed upon. They are pressured, tricked, & coerced until their defense mechanism kicks in. They leave. The oppressor gets what they wanted. Its not just other tribes. Its businesses, tourist resorts. The government contributes to the problem. They define the Sama as squatters, since the government claims they own the shore. They would much rather lease that shore to those who they can profit from.
Rebelling Against Presidential Decree
This should not have happened though in Zamboanga. By presidential order the Sama right to Rio Hondo was defended. Presidential Proclamation 472 made in 1965 designated Rio Hondo as a Muslim community. They had been living there since before the Spanish came. This was upheld in 1975 by the organization of Sahaya Village, in Mariki established as a part of the government’s policy of attraction. Rio Hondo being burnt to the ground has become the excuse that allows that unlawful seizure of this land from its rightful owners. Can this oppression not also be defined as another form of terrorism? Could not the failure of the local government and DSWD to uphold Presidential Proclamation legally be defined as rebelling against the office of the President? Injustice is happening in Zamboanga and it is only being justified.