Had former congressman Romeo Jalosjos succeeded becoming mayor of Zamboanga City in the May 2013 elections, his intuitive dream of re-establishing a nation could have been complete. The land between Baliangao town in Misamis Occidental, which is on the northernmost tip of the peninsula, down to Zamboanga City, on its southernmost, was the ancient territory of the pre-Spanish Subano nation.The former mayor of Baliangao was Svetlana.
In ancient time Mindanao was divided into four nations and inhabited by the animist Iranons, the Muslim Maguindanaoans, the Butuanons and the Subanen. According to an article published in The New York Times in 1901 the Subano nation had its central government in Mandih, Siari Valley, in Zamboanga del Norte. Several sub-nations were scattered on the peninsula including the nation of Dapitano, the present Dapitan City.Dipag, the old name of the capital Dipolog, was just across the river from Dapitan, where the Filipino hero Jose Rizal was exiled from 1892 to 1896.The previous mayor of the shrine city was Dominador Jr., a younger brother and Romy’s look-alike.
A Subano village in Katipunan town was once ruled by chieftain Datu Maniwantiwan and Bae Daulanay, the ancestors of Jalosjos, a former lone representative for the province in Marcos-created National Assembly. Years later Jalosjos represented the first district. The incumbent is Seth “Bullit” Jalosjos, a son of Jalosjos and younger brother of Svetlana. The past representative of the second district of the province was Cesar, another brother. A sister Cely, was the former mayor of Pinan. After Romy’s proclamation, Fe Zamora, a reporter of the Manila-based Philippine Daily Inquirer headlined her article : ” A Subano Sits in Congress”.
During his incumbency, the Sultanate of Sulu bestowed on Jalosjos the honorary rank of maharajah or prince. Datu Ahmad, a descendant of the admiral of the sultan’s fleet and a possible claimant to the throne, once told me that this honorific title could only be given to a person with validated royal lineage. Being a descendant of a Subano chieftain Jalosjos was qualified, Ahmad said.
Jalosjos is proud of his lineage. During his campaigns Jalosjos stressed that he is an “orig”, meaning the original inhabitant of the place, unlike most of his rivals who were settlers from the Visayas and other parts of Luzon. During the heat of the campaign he joked to me, being his most trusted aide, that he was willing to deal even with ” the devil himself ” to remain .But he did not say where. Today,I have realized that what he meant was to remain within the peninsula permanently .
In the neighboring Zamboanga Sibuguey province, another son, Rommel, was the past congressman. Jalosjos was not creating a dynasty or a modern empire . He was reclaiming what legally belonged to the great Subano nation.This ancient nation has a language of its own, customs, traditions, practices and even an oral epic that it would take weeks to finish. It has its own myth about creation and religion.
Why Jalosjos failed in his recent attempt to be a mayor and tell others that the land was a Subano territory, could be because of his failing health, or he lacked trusted people. At the prime of his health, he used to conduct caucuses and meetings in villages . Supporters approached him personally to tell their problems or pledged their loyalty. In return money, gifts, and favors were distributed. Pigs were slaughtered, cooked and feasts were held. .His warriors or armed guards were always around following orders even by just a wave of his hand–just like a great chieftain of a vanishing nation.