Ashura and the Padang Karbala of Bayang in Lanao


On May 2, 1902, the celebrated war between the Maranaos and the American invaders took place in a plateau in Bayang, one of the royal houses in the Pat a Pungampong ko Ranao (Four Prefectures of Lanao). 

At the time, there was no Lanao del Sur nor Lanao province. There was only Ranao, home of the native Iranuns or Maranaos with a few immigrants.

That plain field was later called Padang Karbala, or Karbala Plains, an eponym in memory of Karbala in Iraq where the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (saw) and about a hundred of his relatives, followers and supporters were killed as they fought against the tyrant rulers in the Hijaz. 

Imam Hussein or Ameer Hussein (as) and his group of supporters were killed in Karbala, Iraq, by the army of Yazid, son of Mu’awiyyah, son of Abu Sufffyan.

It was believed the battles in Bayang and that of Karbala in Iraq did happen on the 10th of Muharram now commemorated by Muslims all over the globe as Ashura. And it was also believed the reason for the bloody martyrdoms in Karbala and in Bayang was the same and that is in defense of  Islam religion and their homeland. Hence, the Maranao People, especially the descendants of Diwan who are the natives of Bayang call the very spot in Bayang where the Maranaos were martyred as Padang Karbala.

The Battle of Bayang in Padang Karbala has originated a patriotic monument in the heart and soul of every Maranao of any generation. It remains a guiding spirit in the defense of the homeland and in the fight for self-determination and freedom. 

It was said around a thousand Maranao lives were lost during the battle called the first fiercest battle in the Philippines. 

Recalling that fateful event in Bayang, Dr. Federico V. Magdalena, said in his work “Revisiting the 1902 Battle of Bayang: “What was it that led to its occurrence?”

‘It all began when the administration of the Philippine Islands changed hands. 

‘As a colony of Spain, the Islands fell on the lap of the United States by virtue of the Treaty of Paris in 1898, owing to the victory of the United States over Spain in the war precipitated by the Cuban affair. 

‘But the transfer included Mindanao and Sulu, which were territories unconquered by Spain. As the United States occupied the southern islands, it also inherited the 300-year conflict with the “Moros” (then a derogatory term for the Muslims in the Philippines). 

‘Learning from its experience in winning the western frontier from the American Indians, the United States began to explore Mindanao and Sulu after concluding a “treaty” on August 20, 1899, with US General John C. Bates and Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram II as signatories (see Tan, 1994). 

‘A year later, US authorities would send troops to survey the rest of Mindanao island and establish sovereignty of United States over the inhabitants, who had always remained free from foreign dominion.’ 

Dr. Magdalena further wrote: “The Battle at Bayang was concededly an uneven fight, with the odds stacked against the Maranao warriors at a ratio of 6 to 10. 

“Outnumbered and outgunned, the “battle” would have easily been called a Moro massacre, or a “murderous retaliation,” according to Jacob Shurman, president of Cornell University and first head of the Philippine Commission…” 

“Despite this notorious reputation, the US troops received profuse commendations from their superiors, including the US President, and earned for Col. Baldwin a meteoric promotion to Brigadier-General and a new assignment. 

“To General Chaffee, the battle reaffirmed “respect for United States authority in the center of savagery…” 

Magdalena has the following impressions on the battle of Bayang 

“More than these results, the Battle of Bayang demolished the invincibility of Maranao resistance as the battle paved the way for more military expeditions during the ensuing years, under the command of Captain John J. Pershing. 

“Such expeditions also broke the insularity of the Lake Lanao region which, for centuries, had remained relatively untouched by outsiders. 

“All these consequences would open the Lanao region to free trade and its absorption into the economic and political systems of an emerging Philippine state. 

“The deadly encounter between the kris and the krag would soon come to an end. But the overriding significance of the Bayang battle is that it symbolized the triumph of globalism as well as the integration of the Bangsamoro homeland into the world system that gave life to modern states. 

“In particular, it meant the perfection of the three stars of the Philippine Republic and the union of two communities, the Filipinos and the Muslims, under the same flag.” 

To the Muslims, Magdalena’s impressions meant the battle broke the Maranao sovereignty. But not all know that the Maranaos shall ever fight to regain, even if it takes them forever, they will do the fight never to be erased in their heart and soul.

The Marawi Siege of 2017 is another tragedy that will remain forever in the heart and soul of the Maranaos. It was a result of the breaking of the Maranao insularity aand their sovereignty. And they will not stop educating their posterity especially of that tragic event in Marawi and how their forebears sacrificed their lives against the invaders if only to defend their homeland and Islam and their peace.

All these define the message of Padang Karbala. Muslimedia.PH

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