Karl Gaspar .
LONDON, England – The two-day conference sponsored by the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) of the University of London took place in this city last month. The Conference theme was “Mindanao Cartographies of History, Identity and Representation.” A total of a hundred scholars from mainly Europe, the United States and Asia participated in this conference solely on Mindanao, which is a clear sign that in itself, there has already evolved a vast Mindanawon scholarship through the past decades.
Outside of two key note speeches (by Dr. Patricio Abinales of the Asian Studies Program of the School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii and Dr. Oona Paredes of the Department of Asian Language and Culture of UCLA), a total number of 24 papers were presented at the conference. Of these, six were from Mindanao. They included the following:
• Beautiful English: Marginal Identities and Dominant Positions by Sheila Java-Guinal of Ateneo de Davao University.
• Texture, Text and Context: A Journey Into Mandaya Folklore: by Rhodora Ranalan of Ateneo de Davao University.
• The Spanish Musings in Philippines’ South: The Politics and Name and Images in the Creation and Fostering of a Town, 1635-1899 by Ma. Christina Canones of Ateneo de Zamboanga University.
• Manobo Textile Art and Design: by Carlito Camahalan Amalla from Agusan
• Re-staging Histories and Identities in Museums in Mindanao by Pamela Castrillo of Ateneo de Davao University
• Popularization of the Mindanao Cultural Landscape by Karl Gaspar of Ateneo de Davao University.
There were also two art installations set up by Igy Castrillo and Abraham Garcia Jr. and the film of Arnel Barbarona – Tu Pug Imatuy – was also shown.
There were other speakers who are from Mindanao but who are not based in the island these days. They include the keynote speakers and Adrian Calo of Butuan. A few others are not from Mindanao but did their research work among the IPs of Mindanao. Thus Cherubim Quizon’s paper dealt with the indigenous dress of the Bagobo-Tagabawa and others, Antoine Laugrand did his study on the Blaans of Davao Occidental and Sr. Geraldine Villaluz RSCJ on the Talaandig.
The history of Muslim Mindanao was dealt with by a number of scholars, but unfortunately not one of them is a Moro based in Mindanao. Among those who had papers on the Muslims in Mindanao include: Kawhima Midori on the Legacy of Sayyidna Muhammad Said of Lake Lanao, Annabel Teh Gallop on the Art of the Qur’an, Rogelio Braga on Decolonizing the Bangsamoro Narratives and Miyoko Taniguchi on the New Challenge of Bangsamoro Peacebuilding.
There were a few reflections I had during the two-day event at Soas. First, that it was rather sad that of the 24 papers and two keynote addresses, only six of us were actually based in Mindanao as of today. This is of course not the fault of the organizers as they had limited funds and could not provide for travel costs. Considering the high costs of travel, many Mindanawon scholars would have found it difficult to attend as hardly any university would fund the travel costs. Besides the UK visa requirements also make it difficult to come to London.
Clearly, Mindanao has already registered well in the minds of both scholars who have been working on the Philippines as well as the up-and-coming ones but they are mostly concentrated in Europe, the US and some parts of Asia. Once more there is a question of available resources, as there are more possibilities of research grants in the developed countries rather than in Third World regions. Thus there were no participants from Latin America and Africa. But there is no question about it: rather than insist always on Philippine Studies, it is now possible to have the regions as specific topics also on their own merit.
The interest on Mindanao is still concentrated on the Moro and the Lumad realities. There are still very limited interest in terms of the migrant settlers’ realities as well as present-day concerns for politics, culture and the arts. But it is also very interesting in terms of dealing with some of the past historical periods that need to be further researched on, e.g. the pre-conquest periods when Mindanao had vast contacts with its neighbors, the role of the other European attempts to conquer the Spanish colony but from the south and so on.
In the two-day conference, a Mindanawon scholar can only be so delighted that in the years to come, Mindanao will continue to be of strong interest for scholars all over the world.
(Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute in Davao City and a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is author of several books. -Mindanews)