By Noor Saada
ZAMBOANGA City — In the shadow of the national games is the much-needed conversation about the place of sports in Bangsamoro. The first point is, why are we into sports? For the win? Unfortunately, this particular view had resulted in the number of past controversies such as age tampering, illegal import of players and winning tied with teacher promotion and so on. Peace advocates are lukewarm with sports competition, not for sportsmanship, but for its competitive “win-lost” mindset. For one to win, others have to lose. For us to win, we have to defeat the others. Imagine such mindset sipping into the daily lives of young players and coaches at home, in the community and places of work? The effect is having generations that see life and living as a competition, instead of collaboration and cooperation. A generation who see the ends justified. Indeed, there is a need to revisit the primary purpose of sports in the lives of Moros. It is better we revisit the basic premises – sports and games for physical fitness, mental discipline and teamwork; not simply for the win and medal tally in the annual district, provincial, regional and national competitions.
The second point we need to raise is the revival of traditional sports and games. Sports and games are not just for the win, they have cultural values as well. When we promote traditional sports and games, we perpetuate our own heritage, our own values. These are the sports and games we need to teach our young ones, and make accessible in our communities. The irony is, while the American regime ended a century ago, their colonial sport legacy like basketball is ever- present in every covered court in our barangays, while our own traditional sports are virtually non-existent. If we will not arrest the trend, we shall lose them with succeeding generations, until no one knows how to play it and even what to call it.
Aside from our all-time favorite basketball, we should also promote with the same interest and enthusiasm our traditional sports and games. No one will promote our traditional sports and games as avidly as us Moros. The Barmm is our opportunity to adopt a regional policy framework on traditional sports and games, to create development programs and establish a sports bureau responsible for its promotion, development and sustainability.
When we talk about traditional sports and games, we are talking two forms: The first one is the sports and games associated with the Sunnah (practice) of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and this includes archery (al-rimayah), horse riding (rukub al-khayl), running (jari), stick fighting, strength exercises, swimming (sabahat) and wrestling (mu?ari’at). The second one pertains to indigenous sports and games present among the 13 Moro ethnolinguistic groups such as sipa (sepak takraw in Malay), silat and kuntaw (traditional martial arts); and swimming and rowing among the Barmm island ethnic groups.
While the traditional games can be lodged with the Bureau of Cultural Heritage or its future replacement, the traditional sports can be managed by a sports bureau lodged under the education ministry. Can we invest in youth and children development through traditional sports and games? Can we bring back the parks and public spaces where these games can be played safely and enthusiastically by our children? Can we establish youth center in strategic places where traditional sports can be learned, mastered and played; not just as sports or for physical fitness but in the knowledge as these sports and games are being played across Bangsamoro, we are perpetuating our common heritage? Can we echo the Scots’ Highland Games where traditional sports and games are exhibited?
We understand that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) has its hands full of priority legislations. However, let us hope that sports and fitness players and enthusiasts among them will remember to include and integrate traditional sports and games either in the Education Code or as a separate policy framework to highlight its relevance to Bangsamoro identity and heritage. This is our best and last chance. I hope we can act on this the soonest. If we fail, we only have ourselves to blame, especially us, the present generation. If we fail, we will lose an important chunk of our heritage and the succeeding generations will curse us for our failure.
(Noor Saada is a Tausug of mixed ancestry – born in Jolo, Sulu, grew up in Tawi-tawi, studied in Zamboanga and worked in Davao, Makati and Cotabato. He is a development worker and peace advocate, former Assistant Regional Secretary of the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, currently working as an independent consultant and is a member of an insider-mediation group that aims to promote intra-Moro dialogue.)