Home Book trading A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Mirahan – A Zamboanga Gathering of Book Lovers

A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Mirahan – A Zamboanga Gathering of Book Lovers


(An excerpt from the lecture that Brother Karl Gaspar gave during the Zamboanga Book Fair held at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University on July 29, 2022)

The global context that determines the current state of the production, appropriation, dissemination and popularization of knowledge – which has for so long been dominated by the availability of books and other publications generally accessible through the room classrooms and libraries – has shifted to other platforms, thanks to the advent of the information age and computer technology. In this post-colonial and post-modern era, radical changes have taken place in this field with their impact on our approaches to knowledge acquisition.

Everyone knows that today the distribution of knowledge has radically changed. Due to major technological developments, the forms and methods of disseminating and communicating information have thus been revolutionized. Just consider the changes that have taken place over the centuries, from oral tradition to the invention of the press, to the rise of the telephone, radio, cinema and television, and – over the past few decades – to the explosion in the use of the Internet, all of which have extended our channels of communication, as well as the dissemination of knowledge.

These processes moved along the four stages of the Industrial Revolution (from the first – with the rise of the use of coal transforming the agricultural economy to an industrial one in the 1760s, the second with gas and oil in the 1870, the third with electronics and nuclear at the end of the 1960s and finally with the Internet and its digital platforms and the renewable energies of the new millennium. With the advent of a new industrial era constituted by the digital revolution, the knowledge has become the engine of most modern economies.

Two social theorists have commented on this reality. According to Manuel Castelles, knowledge is a series of networks and flows and that today there is more emphasis on knowledge as a product rather than as a process, which is born not only in the minds of peoples but in their interactions with each other. For Jean-François Lyotard, what was the traditional way of acquiring knowledge that formed the mind also becomes obsolete and with it, the idea of ​​knowledge as a set of universal truths. For him, there are many truths, many knowledges and many forms of reason leading to the dissolution of the boundaries between traditional disciplines.

If there is no doubt that humanity has benefited from the benefits of the Internet (for example: imagine if there was no Internet during the two-year period of our isolation due to COVID-19) , there are those who also warn us of his shadows and ugly features. But no matter where we are in this debate, for those with a critical mind, there is no doubt that the shadow of the Internet has polluted our democratic framework, particularly in relation to the way we have conducted our processes. electoral.

There is still a need to maintain traditional forms of knowledge production and dissemination. We cannot simply abandon what was once the primary source of knowledge that has helped nurture our sense of humanity by helping us grow in age, grace, and wisdom. Books and publications will always have a place in humanity’s quest for peace, freedom and justice. This is why society will always need authors and writers who, in turn, need all the institutions that help to disseminate their works, from publishers to libraries. In a country like the Philippines where spaces for such dissemination are limited, organizing a book fair is a way to bring writers and readers closer together.

From July 27 to 29, the ADZU Center for Culture and Arts and Aklat Alamid, with the help of the National Book Development Board, organized Books Zamboanga on the theme – “Mirahan: Kitaan and Palitan of Salaysay of Paglikha and Pagtaguyod of Panitikan in Mindanao.” The organizers succeeded in bringing together creators and advocates of books, reading and literature from the Zamboanga Peninsula and other regions of Mindanao to encourage the production and promotion of original content from the regions of the Philippines.

Needless to say, this kind of event is so important for those of us who wish there was more encouragement for our writers and all those connected to this field, especially those in the millennial generations. and GenZ. Such an event also helps to encourage writing on the outskirts of the country, as more authors from our regions need to be visible across the country.

Why should we in the Mindanao-Sulu regions assert our visibility and voice in the landscape of Philippine publications and literature? Because, unless it was schooled only in the colonial era, the post-colonial era has shifted its focus from the global to the local, from the center to the periphery, from the western to the indigenous, from the dominant towards the dominated. For years, these dualities have been challenged by those who construct and/or promote postcolonial and decolonial theories in both social science and literary circles. Authors, writers and journalists are naturally the most vehement in the appropriation of these theories as they are the most assertive in expressing themselves in writing!

Fernand Braudel theorized it in his book – The view from the periphery (Out of Italy, Europa, 2019): “It is sometimes said that light cast from the margins is best, that a complex whole can best be understood from its outer limits.” In a situation where “every fact, every event has been painstakingly studied by generations of dedicated historians, the perspective of the periphery, of the diaspora, can bring new clarity to developments at the center”.

The region formed by the Zamboanga Peninsula, the Sulu Archipelago and the Basilan over the years has been a major source of interest for researchers, writers and authors. As early as the Yuan dynasty (1268-1638), Chinese sources indicate tributary missions from Sulu to China, and in 1417 such a mission reached the heavenly court as recorded in the Ming Annals. It was not until the 18th century that Sulu-China reconnected through diplomatic and commercial activity. As recorded in the Ching Annal, five separate tribute missions were sent by the sultans of Sulu (between 1727 and 1763). This trade has been extensively documented in James F. Warren’s book – The Sulu Zone: The Dynamics of Foreign Trade, Slavery, and Ethnicity in the Transformation of a Southeast Asian Maritime State, 1768-1898.

The strategic location of the Western Mindanao region in Southeast Asia – located along the route from the Gulf of Davao to the Celebes Sea towards the Indian Ocean via the Strait of Malacca – has made this region conspicuous as galleons crossed the seas in search of the legendary Spice Islands. Portugal and Spain in the 16th century were competing to be the first to control the fort of Malacca to monopolize the spice trade which then fueled the world economy, apart from their desire to suppress Islam.

Thus, armed encounters with Muslims that included military expeditions to Borneo and Mindanao led to the Moro Wars from the mid-1500s to the late 1800s. Unfortunately, these wars persisted even after our independence, escalated under the Marcos regime from the Jolo fire in 1974 and remained turbulent until recently.

Geographically and historically, this region is a minefield for research and publications. This apart from its rich cultural heritage, given the rich mix of nationalities, ethnicities, cultural traditions and religious systems. This explains the presence of the Tausug, Yakan, Jama Mapun and various Samas who cover various groupings of Sama-Bajau speaking peoples present in a vast maritime area. Bajau is the most commonly used term, but in some cases the name is used pejoratively, which is why it is better to call them Sama- or Orang-Dilaut.

There are also the Sama or Samal Banguingui. Together with the Iranun, they were said to constitute the bulk of the Sultan’s navy, engaged in raids on the colonies in the northern Philippines, as well as the neighboring coasts of Borneo and were also involved in piracy and trafficking slaves during the 18e/19ecenturies. With their garay and long warships, they could easily outrun the Spaniards on the high seas.

Over the years, there have also been migrations from other parts of the world, including the Chinese, which explains the presence of Chinese ancestry among the citizens of Sulu today. Between 1770 and 1800, 18,000 Chinese came from southern China to trade and many of them stayed. Visayan settlers also eventually arrived in the archipelago, which explains the presence of Christians.

With all these nationalities and ethnicities, there was bound to be a mix of different languages ​​and many who lived in this area – especially those who traded – had to be able to communicate in different languages. With the establishment of a colony of Spaniards and Mexicans as well as the arrival of laborers from Manila and Visayas to help build Fort Pilar, a pidgin Spanish eventually developed into a full-fledged Creole language for Zamboangeňos , known as Chavacano.

It remains our hope – that voices from below will continue to assert themselves among the Zamboanguenos and other peoples of this region who – although on the periphery of our nation – could still attest to why the margins are as important as the center !

At the same time, we hope that institutions like the National Book Development Board, other government agencies that are supposed to encourage more research and publications such as CHED, NCCA and DOST can allocate more funds that will enable our young scholars to launch into publications.

The same challenge goes to our higher education institutions in the region who should push more professors and graduate students to publish not just with words but with budgets!

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is Mindanao’s most prolific book author. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw). Gaspar is a Datu Bago 2018 awardee, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents.]