“The first ray should have been a Muslim ray,” Senator Richard Gordon told the Daily Tribune in a phone interview on Tuesday, Independence Day.
Gordon was referring to the rays of the Sun on the Philippine Flag, which at present count stands at eight, representing the first provinces that revolted against Spain.
For Gordon, principal author of Senate Bill 3307, better known as the Ninth Ray Bill, the contributions of Muslim Filipinos in the fight for independence should be recognized with that ray he wanted added to the eight.
The eight rays represent Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Tarlac.
“When you really come down to history, a Muslim called Lapu-Lapu, a Tausug, fought back right away when the Spaniards came. Inherent sa atin (It is inherent in us)…although we just mangled his memory – made him a fish, made him a murderer. He has been demonized throughout history.
“To make a long story short, the Spaniards were never able to command Mindanao,” added Gordon, a History and Government major at the Ateneo de Manila University, who also took up law at the University of the Philippines.
“As early as the 1500s, Sultan Kudarat told the Maranaos – hindi n’yo ba nakikita ang nagyayari sa Tagalog, sa Bisaya (don’t you see what is happening with the Tagalogs and Visayans)? They fought for several years. He united their minds, and he led Mindanao for 50 years – from 1634 to 1668.
“The Muslims were not passive like the Tagalogs and Visayans. There were many of them: Amai Pakpak of Kota Marahui (now known as Camp Amai Pakpak), who led in 1891 and 1895 assaults. They fought against 5,000-strong Spanish forces…Our history is woefully lacking.”
Naming other Muslim heroes who defended against and resisted invasion, fighting for months and conducting raids to defend their territories, Senator Gordon recalled his great-grandfather, who, he claimed, led the first victory of the revolution.
In pushing the addition of a ninth ray, Gordon said the movement was born in 1969 among like-minded brothers at the University of the Philippines where Gordon became a member of the Upsilon Sigma Phi, the oldest Greek letter fraternity in Asia, in 1968.
Gordon said they called it the Muslim Progress Movement.
Emmanuel L. Osorio, one of Ninth Ray movement’s founders, in an Inquirer report in 2013 explained the movement “believes that the flag must not only portray the freedom the country won through a revolution, but also the freedom that was preserved by Muslims and indigenous peoples.”
Osorio, in the article, added the minority groups were not colonized and must be honored with a symbol like a ninth ray so “we can be one nation.”
“It’s an abberation that only eight rays are in the flag,” Sen. Gordon opined. “My point is, they were not passive. They fought back, and the Moro call was head in many other parts of the country.”
In 2008, Gordon sponsored Senate Bill No. 2590 to introduce a ninth ray to the flag by amending Republic Act No. 8491, also known as the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.
Gordon’s bill was substituted by Senate Bill No. 3307 sponsored by Sen. Francis Escudero. On its third reading in September 2009, SB 3307 was approved.
The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence and consolidation with House Bill No. 6424 by the bicameral conference committee.
The Senate and House of Representatives reconciled the versions of Senate Bill 3307 and House Bill 6424, which provides for the inclusion of additional ray in the sun.
Gordon lauded the change, saying it would “foster greater unity among Filipinos regardless of religion” and several Muslim group representatives expressed their “elation.”
“This is a great step in recognizing the fact that we had Muslims such as Lapu-Lapu, Sultan Kudarat, Amai Pakpak, Sorongan, who kept fighting the Spaniards long before this country thought of a revolution against Spain,” he said.
“This would foster unity, make sure that nobody is excluded. If we are to have national unity in this country it must begin in our flag, it must be symbolized in our flag,” Gordon said.
“We take an amendment of the law here, but we actually amend the mindset of our countrymen and bring the nation back to its original posture, one that will not accept tyranny, one that will oppose tyranny. And we should give credit where credit is due,” he added.
“Sila ang una (They were the first),” he pointed out. “We excluded them rather than include them.”
Behind the stories of the national heroes who fought for our independence, added Sen. Gordon, lie the stories of our mostly-forgotten Muslim heroes, including Lapu-Lapu, Sultan Kudarat and Rajah Sulayman.
By adding a ninth ray to the sun in the Philippine flag, we not only “acknowledge the courage, bravery and integrity of Muslim Filipinos,” we also “teach our young people that we are a nation, united in our diversity.”
Those who think otherwise, the senator adds, “want more division than unity. They are unenlightened, ignorant.”
Citing an example, the senator asks, “Why did we make lapu-lapu a fish? Why do we say, who ‘killed’ Magellan? Why not ‘defeated’ Magellan? As I said in my message on our 120th Independence Day, we still have a ‘colonial hangover.’”
The senator, in a Facebook post, said: “Today we celebrate the 120th anniversary of our independence and for the past 120 years, we are still inching towards freedom. But what is real independence? Independence is not just a word for commemoration, but a culture of self-help, self-reliance and cooperation.