The Legend of our Moslem Heritage
Families sprouting out of the Nanarug-Undag Clan are descendants of my great-grandfather, Macario Undag (originally known as Makakwa Nanarug) who was a son of a Moslem chieftain in Lanao del Norte. In the mid-1800, as a five-year-old prince, he was kidnapped for ransom by a rival Moslem group but was sold instead to the Captain of the Civil Guard of the Spanish Regime in Maigo, Lanao del Norte. The Christian buyer and his wife fell in love with the adorable prince and they hid him from the Moslem bounty hunters in Jimenez, Misamis Occidental. The prince grew up adopting the Christian name, Macario Undag, and was never found by the bounty hunters. Subsequently, a little Moslem girl, Makatambong Abas was also kidnapped and sold to them as well. She was also adopted and renamed Magdalena Fuentes. Ten years later, these two adopted children had a pre-arranged marriage to hide their ancestral origin.
Before the Captain died, he willed his property to Macario and Magdalena. They then occupied the coconut plantation and rice field in Pines, Oroquieta Misamis Occidental.
Macario and Magdalena Undag raised their family of nine children, namely: Teofilo, Enrique, Ceferina, Alejandro, Tomasa, Paulina, Presencia, Pablo, and Timoteo. I come from the line of Enrique. He was my father’s dad. I am the second child of Juanito Gabule Undag and Elena Calamba Cahanap.
This task in putting into written account the origin of our Middle Eastern ancestry is seemingly insurmountable. My thanks to everyone who helped build this painstaking project without which this record would not have been born. We are proud of our heritage and we want to leave a legacy to the coming generations a reference when one day they want to know their ancestral background.
The Adoption and Pre-Arranged Marriage of Makakwa Nanarug & Makatambog Abas:
Pantar was a settlement in the province of Lanao del Sur in Mindanao, south of the Philippine Archipelago. Moslems emigrated from Saudi Arabia in the early to mid1800s and occupied Pantar. Sultan Nanarug inherited the sultanship in the late 1800s when his father died. This was a friendly village on the south side of Pantar.
The northern side of Pantar and neighboring towns was ruled by other tribal lords, also commonly titled sultan. These barbaric and unforgiving warlords constantly fought over territories and land.
Papa used to tell my brother and me how a Moro would treat his neighbor when there was a dispute regarding the border of their property, especially when that neighbor was a Christian. If the Moro lost his claim in the presence of a cadi, the town magistrate, he would go home and plant a bamboo tree in his front yard on the border between his property and his neighbor’s. Waving a balasiong, he would shout, “if this bamboo tree grows, this dispute will live long after me and my descendants are dead. If the bamboo tree dies, then, our friendship will resume. Only then will my grievances be forgiven and forgotten.”
This was troubling to the Christian neighbor who would give up his homestead and moved back to a friendlier neighborhood where he could feel safe and at home.
The aggressiveness of these uncivilized invaders drove most Christians away from their domain. Two sets of communities with a major cultural divide developed.
Sultan Nanarug had his own share of conflict and grievances toward the land-grabbing rival tribes surrounding him because they did not appreciate the partiality he showed towards members of his own tribe. The rift persisted but he stood his ground because his tribe protected him.
Another practice of these Moro groups was to kidnap children and sell them to the highest bidder. Not only a lucrative source of income, but kidnappings also served as revenge for unsettled conflict regarding land ownership, as well.
One day, his five-year-old son, Makakwa, was left unchaperoned and played by himself in the villa. Moro pirates abducted the little prince.
Prince Makakwa disappeared with no trace to track down. Resigned that he would never find his son, Sultan Nanarug gave up on the search and paid more attention to his other children who were all girls.
Around the same period, in a neighboring barrio called Balo-i, a 5-year old Moslem girl, Makatambog Abas, was also abducted. Her parents never found her either.
Meanwhile, in the Christian village of Maigo, Lanao del Norte, friends and relatives noticed that the town magistrate and his wife, who were childless, had a boy and a girl around the house all the time. They came out of nowhere. At first, they were trained to do household chores. Then, they were sent to school and taken to church as well. Eyebrows were raised, and questions were asked about their sudden presence. In hush-hush conversations, Captain Jose Undag, and his wife, Beatriz, revealed that they bought these children from Moro pirates who had passed through Maigo.
These two Moslem children, Makakwa Nanarug and Makatambog Abas delighted the childless couple. Endeared by their refinement, politeness, and attractive features, the Undag couple adopted them. They were baptized and Makakwa Nanarug was renamed Macario Undag while Makatambog Abas became Magdalena Fuentes. For some unexplained reason, they decided that Makatambog adopt Beatriz’s maiden name.
And the Twain Shall Meet
Nineteen-Sixty-Eight was a significant year for the Undag clan in the provinces of Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Lanao del Sur. This was the year of the encounter that united the three separate but related clans from these neighboring provinces.
I went home that summer in 1968 for a short break from college and from my work as Assistant Librarian at Southern Capital Colleges in Oroquieta, Misamis Occidental. Papa asked me to help him with a letter he was writing. I noticed he signed, “Juanito Undag-Nanarug.” Oops, Papa is having a bout of his lunacy again, I mused.
“Pa, what is that?” as I pointed to his signature.
“I am Juanito Undag-Nanarug!” he announced confidently in his heavy sounding baritone voice.
“You mean you can change your last name just like that?”
“I will file a late registration.” Then, he went on, “Sit down and listen. You are a princess. Quit your job. We are moving to Pantar. I will be crowned a Sultan and we will live in a mansion.”
“But I am attending school.”
“Mindanao State University is just around the corner where the mansion is. You can finish your degree there.”
Over my dead body. I’m not going anywhere, I said under my breath. I did not want to defy him openly. That would be like committing suicide. But between trying to please him and amuse him, and be polite, my curiosity got the best of me and I paid attention to his story.
Sometime in 1968, Papa was playing pool at the billiard hall inside the marketplace in Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur. Across the billiard pool were booths of market vendors. Many of the Moslem traders occupy these booths to display their merchandise. He noticed one of those wearing a white turban headdress, adjacent to the hall, where he was playing, stared at him constantly. At first, he ignored it. Then he grew uncomfortable, becoming self-conscious and curious. What he markedly notice was that this Moslem vendor looks like a priest because he wore a white headband; but, most remarkedly, this vendor closely resembled his own features. Papa stared back and gave the man half a smile. Then he resumed playing. When he looked up again to see if the man was still staring, he took a second look, noticing oddly enough they look like twins. Funny, this muklo looks like me, he thought. He went to the restroom to find a mirror, ran his fingers through his wavy curls, and studied his fine features. What in the world? I don’t believe this! He looks just like me!
He could not resist any longer. He decided to stop playing, stepped out of the hall and approached the vendor, saying, “I noticed you were staring at me. Can we talk?”
“Yes, cousin, I stared at you because my gut told me you’re the one I have been looking for – for years. As Allah is my witness, I finally found you.”
“I am Juanito Undag. Who are you?”
“I am Diyamla Nanarug Dimalaang from Pantar. I am a Muslim priest and a sultan but decided to become a traveling salesman to fulfill my vow to Babo Nanarug. I have done this for the last thirty years to find my long-lost cousin. I promised my uncle I would not stop until I find him or his descendants.”
“Who is your uncle?”
“Sultan Pumbaya-baya Nanarug Dimalaang. His brother-in-law, Makakwa, was abducted as a child and never found.”
“How did you know where to search?”
“We were told Makakwa came back and he disclosed to them his whereabouts all those years but Babo Nanarug rejected him. Babo regretted that rejection. Before he died, he made my father and my uncle promise not to stop searching until Makakwa and his descendants were found. My father and I traveled together in the search for Makakwa. My father died ten years ago, so now I travel alone. He made me reaffirm our promise to not stop looking.”
“We are aware of our Moslem ancestry. When we were growing up there was not a day that Tatay Macario would not mention something about the little Moslem prince from Pantar, who was abducted and sold to the Christian magistrate in Maigo. He was talking about himself. In fact, he gave me the idea to visit Pantar to see if his father is still alive.”
“Did you ever get there?”
“I only got as far as Maigo. I was advised not to go inland, into the heart of the Moro land because I did not know the language and I would not come out alive.”
“I tell you, cousin, since arriving here three months ago, I noticed you come in and out of the billiard hall. Every time I see you, my heart beats fast. I did not want to alarm you. So, I just sit here quietly, watching you, studying your looks and mannerisms. My heart tells me we’re blood-related.”
“Where do you stay for the night?”
“I sleep right here in a sleeping bag.”
“Come home with me. You can stay at my house. We have lots of catching up to do.”
Diyamla stayed on our farm for a week, trying to acquaint Papa with is traveling adventures in the search for a long-lost cousin. One night he said, “I need to go back to Pantar and tell them about our meeting.”
“Of course, Cousin Diyamla. In fact, I have a better idea. I’ll go with you.”
Welcoming Moslem Relatives with Ambivalence
Papa was gone for quite a while. Mama could never predict Papa’s coming and going. After having been married to him for twenty-six years, she has been used to it. Nothing bothered her anymore.
When Papa came back from his trek to the Moro land, he had company with him. Sultan Pumbaya-baya was eager to introduce himself to Papa’s remaining live siblings: Eusebio, Poten, and Elias. Papa anticipated they would not be comfortable in welcoming an individual wearing a sarong and a white turban. To delay the get-together, Papa took Pumbaya-baya home and engaged him in conversations about the Muslim faith in contrast to the Christian faith.
While Pumbaya-baya rises early every morning to face the rising sun as it eavesdrops from the East, Papa reads his Bible. Laying his mat on the ground, Pumbaya-baya kneels, bows his head down to the ground, and chants, “Allah-la, Allah-la; Taruwa-taruwa…” And on and on he goes for a good thirty minutes to an hour.
“Juan, what are you reading?” Pumbaya-baya asked one morning right after his morning ritual was over.
This is my opportunity to introduce the Bible, Papa thought. “I’m reading the Bible, Bapa. Do you know there was a man from Judea who was born to save the world from their sins, so they can have a place in heaven with him? He came in peace, but they crucified him.”
“Yes. I know the man. He was a prophet from Allah. He was a good man. I go to Mecca to observe the Ramadan every year and to pay homage to Muhammad.”
When Papa finally took Pumbaya-baya to his three brothers, one at a time, they all had mixed reactions.
“Juan, are you out of your mind? Why bring him here? He is going to steal and kill. Mark my words!” Elias, the youngest, protested.
TO BE CONTINUED.