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Philippines Social History: Global Trade and Local Transformations

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McCoy chooses to open the section on Mindanao with a selection by Ronald K. Edgerton entitled, "Frontier Society on the Bukidnon Plateau: 1870-1941. The choice seems logical as it represents the point in time where the culture of the Bukidnon, or "mountain people," begins to interact significantly with the culture of the Dumagats, or coastal people as they assume the role of "migrant," and begin to establish an agriculturally based economic foothold on the plains. In this case both the Bukidnon and the Dumagats find themselves in a novel environment of cultural adaptation, synchronization, and perhaps assimilation. Therefore if we look at this time as a nascent version or experiment of regional culture blending perhaps it will lend insight into more modern scenarios.

Of particular interest, as the author points out, is the isolation that the geophysical qualities of Mindanao provide. The Bukidnon plateau up to this point in history had provided a modicum of isolation between the Magindanao and Visayan cultural worlds. However with the introduction of agricultural implements and technology in the 20th century what had previously traditionally difficult terrain with few redeeming qualities had become viable for the establishment of new settlements. These settlements would eventually lead to the integration of the "pagans," and "Muslims," and their respectively different languages and cultures.

If initially the international interest in the Philippines generated a fusion of coastal and mountain cultures, it would inevitably lead to the further fractionalization. This is first evidenced by the use of the Spanish Jesuits of the Bukidnon to establish trading posts along routes heading south into the plateau. (The Jesuits also had an interest in baptizing as many of the Bukidnon as they were able) In addition to trading posts the Jesuits utilized re-located, (perhaps self re-established through outside pressure is a better phrase), Bukidnon to establish a Spanish garrison with the mandate of stopping the advance of Muslim influence. It is very possible that it is at this point that the seeds of Muslim separatist ideas are planted. Without the outside interference of the Spanish, Mindanao may have developed into a more integrated region. (This is clearly just supposition.)

In addition to the Spanish the Americans would also bring outside influence to bear in a way that exasperated the cultural divide. Much in opposition to what some may call the Darwinian economic development of the coastal or Dumagat culture and peoples. The Americans would establish policies starting in the early 1900's which were designed to afford the Bukidnon more land rights, administrative preferential treatment and education, all based on the fact that they were "Hill" people. As much as the Americans seemed to be predisposed to assist the Bukidnon they seemed to be equally indifferent to the other cultures on Mindanao such as the Manobos. Perhaps isolation in the south had preserved their sense of independence from outside powers... Or perhaps the American felt that by being the benefactor to a more geo-economically challenged group that the U.S would later be able to better interject itself into the region in "joint," economic ventures such as pineapple plantations or cattle raising.

In the end the pre-war Mindanao colonial years are marked by a noticeable shift in population and culture location. Primarily of note is the social movement of the Bukidnon. The newfound lifestyle and administrative autonomy on the plateau was in no small part due to the interference of the Spanish and U.S. colonial policies. It was these policies, American in particular that would give rise to a new sense of ID for the peoples of Mindanao, whether it was a new conception or merely a reassessment of the older traditional one in response to change. It would inevitably be these new ideas of self that contribute to the modern concepts of self, or rather a sense of distinction from the rest of the Philippines.

In contrast to Edgerton, Jeremy Beckett addresses the more defiant aspects of the culture on Mindanao in the article, "The Defiant and the Compliant: The Datus of Magindanao under Colonial Rule. By the time the Spanish had arrived in the Philippines the Magindanao had already established a political system modeled after Malay Islamic versions.

This hierarchal system of Islamic rule weathered the Spanish,



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