Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Magison-ison: A parallel reality construction of war among Joloano Muslim Survivors in Sulu, Philippines

Usman-Laput, Lea (2005): Magison-ison: A parallel reality construction of war among Joloano Muslim Survivors in Sulu, Philippines.

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The Mindanao conflict in Southern Philippines is a long-standing controversy that has eluded comprehensive solutions. Despite efforts of the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the representatives from the peoples of Mindanao in undertaking peace initiatives, “the war:” continues.

The establishment of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as embodied in an organic law provided in the 1986 Philippine Constitution has not seemed to bring about the much-anticipated progress. Even with the so-called “autonomy” already in place to substantiate the clamor of the Muslims for self-rule in the Tripoli Agreement, conflict has escalated signifying unrest among the people.

Instead of dealing with the problem from the standpoint of an “outsider” who may know about the Mindanao conflict from what they hear, the study attempted to get a glimpse of “the war” from the “insiders” who have survived and lived to tell their own stories. From the perspectives of two distinct peoples of Sulu- the Christian and Muslim Joloanos, the study was able to penetrate the heart of conflict in Mindanao.

The study was able to visualize “the 1974 war” and the on-going conflicts from two cultural lenses and in the process was able to demonstrate a “parallel reality construction” among the war survivors who provided interesting insights of “the war” from their “fantasy themes”.

The research has not only surfaced conflicting notions in their revelations of “the war” as experienced (subjective realities) but has generated elements of “convergence” as their experiences were correlated with the institutionalized beliefs of war (objective realities) or the war as told. Despite distinct subjective realities, they have shown proclivity towards parallel perceptions.

The Joloano war survivors’ subjective realities as applied in the study include their psycho-social trauma of the war and their portrayal of the role of “the other” culture as co-survivors of war. Among the elderly, descriptions of their fears and negative emotions have strongly echoed “old prejudices”. Among the middle-aged, “prudence” and tact in their narratives revealed a tendency to rationalize and to show sympathy towards “the other” culture. From the young war survivors a propensity towards confronting their dilemma suggested optimism and resilience in their perceptions.

Transitions in the subjective realities of the war survivors are apparent across culture and age. Opposing views are very strong among the elderly except for one Christian and a Muslim who are associated with “the other” culture by reason of marriage with them. The older Christian Joloanos for instance believe that the war was “unnecessary” while the older Muslims were convinced it was “inevitable”. The study has strongly shown that “shifts” in perceptions could be anchored on the participants’ religious beliefs and changing circumstances that come with age, political set-up, economic climate and inter-marriage among others.

Their reactions towards the prevailing issues of war (media war issues, other concepts and beliefs of war) which constitute the institutionalized-objective realities as defined in the study are “convergent” despite distinct experiences and personal circumstances. They have for example generally shown disagreement towards the commonly held concept that the mass media function to crystallize relevant issues, like the war in Mindanao. The majority of the co-authors furthermore negated the belief of the general public that “Christians and Muslims can never co-exist peacefully, and that the 1974 war was a form of “jihad” or a religious war among Muslims.

In the study therefore, communication has been proven once again to play a vital role in clarifying issues of the Mindanao conflict. It performed an emancipatory role in ways that provided rhetorical and psychological relief by allowing an occasion for war survivors to deconstruct their realities through their narratives. And to reconstruct their meaning of war by actively taking part in correcting prevailing notions of war to bring about the much needed change in a war-torn community like Sulu.

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