As in the case of the Communist leader Jose Marie Sison, Nur Misuari, the Moro revolutionary leader, was a professor at a university in Manila. Nur taught political science at the University of the Philippines during Nick’s tenure, which was one of the reasons why our trip to the Sulus was described as unnecessary. Nick had the opportunity to interact with them without ever leaving home. (Remarkably, too often at an university, members of two different departments rarely interacted with one another.) Later he would try to establish contact with both of them, in hopes that he might meet with them, though he knew both of them were no longer in Manila and were busy organizing their separate movements. Both would’ve been happy to see him, but both had become harder and harder to find.
Tom’s home, within an armed compound, was across the island from Isabela. The trip there was arduous by any standard, through a jungle that would become a staging ground for rebels. This was what Nick wanted to penetrate in one day. “Impossible,” Susan said. “I wish you had left me in Zamboanga. I could’ve at least read a book.” She had decided to come at the last moment, then regretted it once we were on a bus outside of Isabela and she saw the bus was escorted by soldiers (inside and on top) with machine guns. She said, “I don’t like the looks of this.” Nick and I reassured her. As long as we were with native people, we felt we’d be okay. Nick had has credentials, and I felt I could rely on him. He spoke to other people on the bus. They seemed friendly enough. We followed three or four of them when they got off at a very small settlement. Susan told me that she wouldn’t forgive me if something went wrong. By her own account, she felt better when she saw women and children in the settlement. The children gathered around her; they were nosy and loud; from there the women took charge and directed her to one of their houses, where they offered her a chair and something to eat and drink. We were also invited, which, if Nick hadn’t been so preoccupied, we would’ve accepted. At a mosque, having gone there immediately…assuming correctly that there would be men there, Nick began asking questions in Tagalog, and he got from them (relying on his credentials as a college professor and a radical) directions to someone who could help us. Before going, we told Susan we had a lead (which turned out to be a good one). Incidentally, she seemed content.
A boy then led Nick and me down a jungle path, which was virtually covered with overhanging branches. Along the way, we ran into various junctions with other paths leading, I assume, to other settlements. We finally took one of them to a jungle camp. There a group of armed men greeted us with suspicious and hostile looks. They all wore baseball caps and camouflage fatigues, and they were wearing green shades and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. We were taken to their leader, essentially a kid. Having greeted us still with suspicion, he led us into a small nipa hut…his quarters. To one side was a table, which served as a desk; around it were chairs, leaving enough room for a single bed. Across the front of the table hung a battle flag with five stars, a dagger, a spear, and a white disc with two parallel stripes on it. One shelf, behind the table, held a few books, which surprised Nick. From where he stood, he couldn’t make out the titles. Nick and I sat down after our host sat behind the desk.
“I assume you’ve come in peace,” he said. “You wouldn’t have been brought here, if you hadn’t been cleared. I would hate to have to shoot you and that would cause us more problems than we want right now.”
Nick said he was grateful for the opportunity to meet him, and he went on to explain that we came all the way from Manila: we came as friends, as brothers, and had common enemies, namely Marcos and the United States. Then their attention turned to me.
They discussed the situation in Tagalog, but not for very long for it seemed as if Nick persuaded him to accept me. Without hesitating, he then said, “Yes, we’re united by the Corregidor Massacre.” Then I received a history lesson about the Corregidor Massacre of 1968, and I embraced Solidarity. Most people were appalled by the massacre, because of the butchery, but the Massacre meant more to the Moros…it had become a rallying cry much in the same sense as “Remember the Alamo.” The murders were one thing, but the culpability of the government made it worse.
I remarked that the massacre at the Alamo galvanized Texans and that I thought the comparison was apt.”
“I thought the Texans died in battle,” Nick said, looking at me.
The Moro took it from there, “’Our brothers’ were executed, which calls for revenge. Jabidah! Jabidah!”
Nick then explained how he had been there for Moro students when they held a weeklong protest vigil over an empty coffin marked ‘Jabidah’ in front of the presidential palace. “We must set an example for the whole world. The presupposition is that Allah or God is great. Then with Allah or God’s help we’ll be revenged, and the presupposition of that is that we should place it in hands of Allah, and, with Allah’s help, we will prevail.”
“The Texans went on to win their war,” I remarked rather smugly.
“The Moro recruits were betrayed, and with this betrayal we were all betrayed,” the Moro said. “Betrayal is a great sin. Among all sins it’s one of the greatest, but the ramifications are far greater, and they must never be forgotten. Let Allah be our witness.”
Nick looked exhilarated, and I felt excluded.
As I grew impatient, Nick smiled and took hold of my hand. “Ted, here, is an American,” he said. “Yet we should consider him a brother. Perhaps you would like to hear more about him.”