The Malay world

The spirit of MAPHILINDO (Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia) has outlived President Diosdado Macapagal who initiated the formationof a Greater Malayan Confederation in 1963. Although the confederation did not materialize, a pan-Malayan spirit continues to bind the three countries. How evident that was during “The Malay Word”, the4th International Conference of the International Council for Historical and Cultural Cooperation — Southeast Asia (ICHCC-SEA)that took place in Manila last 14- 17 September.

Present in full force were the Philippine Historical Association (Kapisanang Pangkasaysayan ng Pilipinas), Society of Indonesian Historians (Masyarakta Sejarawan Indonesia) and the Malaysian Historical Society (Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia). Coincidentally, Manila is host while the Philippines is chair-country of the ASEAN.

The ultimate objective of these ICHCC-SEA conferences is to study the Malay cultural roots of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia through collaborative research of historians and scholars. In this manner, the three countries foster appreciation of their common heritage, enhance collective memory, promote mutual understanding and common interests.

The sponsors of the conference were the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), De La Salle University, College of Liberal Arts and Nusantara Technologies SdnBhd (NUSATEK) a premier Malaysian testing and calibration company chaired by Dato Dr. Mohamed Razali bin Dato Mohammed Yusoff.

Dr. Reynaldo C. Ileto was one of the speakers during the opening plenary session held at the Centennial Hall of the Manila Hotel. He lamented that no one remembers the Philippine Historical Association hosted the first ever-international conference of Asia in 1960, held at the session hall of Congress. Four Southeast Asian historians, including Teodoro Agoncillo, “argued for the writing of history from a local and regional perspective in order to counter the continuing dominance of colonial writings and to harness history towards nation-building.” However, the year after, another conference was held in Singapore where historians from American universities questioned national historiography and called it a “closed universe.” Dr. Ileto said the insights of the “early pioneers” of that forgotten 1960 conference are still relevant and should be revisited.

Dr. Oman Fathurahman, (Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamlic University, Jakarta) an unassuming young man, gave a brilliant presentation with slides ofmanuscripts in the Sheikh Muhammed Sid collection found in the

Al-Iman Assadiq Library of Husayniyyah, Karbala in Biaba damang, Marawi City. I hope none were lost during bombing because according to Dr.Oman these “have shed new light on the significant role of the Mindanao area as an integral part of the intellectual Islamic tradition in the Malay world. This collection has indicated the existence of strong intellectual and religious connections between the Lanao area of Mindanao and other centers of Malay Islamic learning such as Aceh, Banten and Cirebon.

He also said that these manuscripts show that “in the intellectual tradition of the Malays in Mindanao, not only works from Middle Eastern scholars are quoted, but also texts from Southeast Asian ones, written in the 17th and 18th centuries. “ Further research is needed, said Dr. Oman, “in order to unveil the history of the intellectual Islamic tradition in the Southern Philippines…’

The College of Liberal Arts of De La Salle University (Manila) hosted the second day of conferences; 100 lectures were held simultaneously in six audiovisual classrooms on the 4th floor of the Yuchengco building. Time management was very strict; morning and afternoon breaks and lunch were held at the Verdure of the adjoining Henry Sy Hall. There were student guides assigned to assist participants; the rooms were filled with La Sallians ready to get a glimpse of different aspects of The Malay World.

The subjects were incredibly diverse: Anthropology; Malay World 1 & 2; SocialMovements, Art, Media, Interactive Space; Historical Education 1 & 2; Spiritual History 1 & 2, Philippine History; East Asians in Southeast Asia; Language and Writing;

Ethno history of Mindanao; Malay Identity, Diplomatic and Political History; Urban Space; Literature and History 1 &2; Christianity and Islam; Ethno-history of the Cordilleras; Southeast Asia and Asean; Economic History; Heritage and Transformation; Genders and History.

It was humanly impossible to attend every topic that caught my interest so I had to make very disciplined choices: “Pengampong in Mindanao Historiography: A Lanao Confederacy of Malay influence “(Bulkiah Panalondong); “Maguindanao and Ternate Connection and Disconnection during European colonization”(Shane Sordilla). I missed “Opium and Weapons Trade in Maritime SoutheastAsia” (Jihan Bacug) but caught “Hinge of the Earth: Manila in Early Spanish Colonial Discourse” (Miguel Martinez).

After lunch, I rushed to the lectures on Ethno history of Mindanao, which were about weaponry, “Bangsa. Moro Nationhood and Martial Culture “(Jonathan Catubig,) “Kampilan: From Weapon to Emblem”(BulkiahPanalondong), “The Moro Kris: Historical evaluation of a weapon of Olden Times” (Dr. Fernando Santiago) “Sadyandi among Blaan and Tagakaulo of Sarangani “ (Jobert Balasa)

I also attended “Fishery in Indonesia and the Philippines during the Dutch Colonial Period (Azmi Fitrizia), “History of CoffeePlantations in Jombang, East Java, (Siti Mukaromah), “History of Jember Tobacco in Indonesian Rural Communities, 1956-1960” (Dahimatul Afidah).

To reinforce what Dr. Reynaldo Ileto said at the opening session, at the ending plenary Dr. Zaid Bin Ahmad expounded on the current state of the decolonization discourse in the Malay world and the extent of indigenization among scholars and historians. “The assumption is that knowledge about Malay history and society is derived from the works of colonial administrators and scholars which are strongly grounded on Western cosmology that serve colonial interests…In the past three decades, native scholars have been calling for decolonization and indigenization of knowledge because current western-centric historiography does not portray the perspective and values of the native Malay cosmology. The colonial- biased interpretation of historical events requires a paradigm shift…”

On the last day, a bright Saturday morning, at the Luneta. Prof. Xiao Chua gave a brief but moving talk about Jose Rizal’s last moments and how bravely he faced death. In silence, we walked to the monument to offer flowers to the Great Malay.