Nurallaji (Nur) Misuari was born on March 3, 1942 in Jolo, the fourth son in a family of 10 children. His parents were simple Tau Sug and Sama fisherfolks from Kabinga-an, Tapul Island. According to friends, Nur was so poor that he could never have gone to college were it not for a kindly teacher in Jolo who recognized his potentials and pulled off a scholarship for him as a Commission on National Integration (CNI) scholar at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Manila.
Nur recalls being an "ordinary child without ambition. All I wanted was to go to school and serve my family." In 1958, Nur left Jolo to attend the university, where friends say he was soft spoken, reserved, and a disciplined student. Former Secretary Ruben Torres, who went to the university with Misuari, recalled that Nur's only recreation was billiards. "He was very religious," says Torres. "He never drank or chased women."
Nur took a degree in Political Science and soon after blossomed and became the embodiment of campus charisma through his campus activities particularly as a debater.
Upon graduation, Nur went to law school in 1962, but dropped out in his second year. He took a Master’s degree in Asian Studies and finished it in 1966. Through the help of the noted historian, Dr. Cesar Adib Majul, Nur landed a job as a Political Science instructor in UP.
Emergence as a Leader
In 1964, Nur founded the Bagong Asya, a radical student group. Together with Jose Maria Sison, Nur also became one of the founding fathers of the Kabataan Makabayan (Patriotic Youth) or KM. KM was founded as a comprehensive organization for student, worker, farmers, and professional youth. It undertook political demonstrations and trained large numbers of young people for a “proletarian revolutionary party.” It drew membership from students and young professionals. With Sison as the Chairman of KM, Nur was appointed Chairman of KM’s Western Mindanao unit. KM became widely known as a Marxist front organization, and it was the first opposition group to be outlawed upon the declaration of Martial Law.
Discovery of a Revolutionary Calling
Nur Misuari soon discovered his revolutionary calling as a Muslim, in 1968, when news broke out on the so called Corregidor Massacre, now popularly known as the Jabidah Massacre. It involved the killing of 64 innocent Bangsamoro youths who were lured to join a clandestine military operation and who mutinied against their officers when they came to learn that they were being trained to invade Sabah and would possibly be killing fellow Muslim brothers and their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there.
This incident in Corregidor was reported to have two important political consequences. First, it angered both Christian and Muslim leaders in the Philippines, particularly Cotabato Governor Datu Udtog Matalam. And second, it inflamed the Malaysian government of Tunku Abdul Rahman.
On May 1, 1968, hardly two months after the Corregidor bloodbath, Datu Udtog Matalam organized the Muslim (which later was changed to Mindanao) Independence Movement (MIM), that sought to form a state comprising the contiguous southern portion of the Philippine Archipelago. Its manifesto accused the Philippine government of pursuing a policy of “extermination” of the Muslims and made “manifest to the whole world its desire to secede from the Republic of the Philippines, in order to establish an Islamic State.”
Nur Misuari, who was then an organizer and moving spirit of the Philippine Muslim Nationalist League (PMNL), wrote as editorial in the July 1968 issue of PMNL’s official organ, the Philippine Muslim News: “Separatism is a costly and painful process and few ordinary mortals are prepared to pay the price. But this world has been a witness time and again to the division of certain countries into smaller ones. For, political division is a matter not fully within the control of men, nor yet a sole product of...