Juan Miguel T. Tan
Unification sans Differentiation
In an archipelago of 7,107 islands, is this even possible: unification in the light of division, diversity, and differentiation?
First of all, it’s important to contextualize. In more contemporaneous times, the Philippine islands, while very much archipelagic has not been spared from that of imperialism nonetheless. One of our perhaps major colonizers, the Spaniards, provided a framework for the indios that we once were. Most notable, perhaps, among the myriad of their influences was that of religion – they introduced the concept of Christianity to us, Filipinos who were predominantly religion-less until the time that we had been colonized. But if we again go back to more the contemporary context, we realize that while Christianity pretty much dominates the entire archipelago, almost an entire sector, an entire entity and part of the Philippine islands is dominated by the religion Islam. Once again, we go back to the concept of an archipelagic state in order to be able to understand this “religious division.”
Has our being divided by way of 7,107 islands benefited us or has it perhaps led to our being differentiated further? Clearly, in a way, it was able to help in sparing a part of our country, particularly Mindanao, from our oppressive colonizers. But at the very same time we question, was this all good? Because right now, it seems as if while a part of our country had been spared from the oppression of Western colonizers, we have significantly been divided by way of religion, more than that of the geographical line(s) that naturally separate(s) us. In more contemporaneous times, this “religious division” has brought about disparities and wars within our own country. But what is the root cause of all of this disparity and disagreement?
Through his novel Margosatubig, Ramon Muzones answers this question especially through his main character, Salagunting, who is representative of this diversity within our country in his being a Christian-Muslim hybrid. In a way, he asks his readers, why do we always have to look at this division in the negative? Is a country and national identity defined and determined solely by having a single religion?
It would be safe to concede that indeed, the problem of diversity by way of religion is a central issue to the novel because from it stems what Muzones tells us is the real problem – the fight for Margosatubig. But while it is indeed a problem, it is transcended by this very fight for Margosatubig and how Salagunting is constantly trying to reclaim the land that was originally his. This novel, therefore, becomes not a question of diversity, but more importantly a question of national identity. And in order to understand specifically how Ramon Muzones was able to showcase this, we have to look at various elements and facets of the story, particularly the very setting of the story and that of the main character, Salagunting and how he represents our nation through his adventures and experiences. It is important to look first and foremost at the world that the story, Margosatubig revolves around. Ramon Muzones crafts for us and presents to us this imaginary world in which his characters revolve and move around, composed of varying fantastical elements involving magic and flying fish and kinaadman. But at the same time, ironically, in this very fictitious world that is Margosatubig, lies a very realistic representation of a reality, one of the major sectors of the Philippines, that of Mindanao, which he makes sure to establish as purely and arrogantly Muslim.
And despite the fact that the story had been set in the not-so-contemporaneous times, it can very much be seen how almost perfectly, it mirrors that of real time and the conflict between that of Christians and Muslims. In a way, Ramon Muzones converges a historical timeframe with that of an entirely fictitious one. As had been previously established, we, as...
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