What comes to mind when you hear about the Bangsamoro?
The constant narrative of the Bangsamoro, its people and its culture, has been defined by decades of conflict and struggle towards the right to self-governance and self-determination. The Moro youth of today were born with these stories already in mind. They have been molded by what society views them as; that to be Moro, you must be a certain way.
Such is the case with Ali K. Satol, Jr. His latest work, Al-Intifada (The Uprising) features his short story “Oplan Merdeka.” Inspired by the story of Jibin Arula and the Jabidah massacre, Ali weaves a tale of struggle and determination that is so often unreported.
We delve into Ali’s search for identity, the ideologies that inform his writing, and the message he wishes to #MPower all Moro, Milennial and Mindanawon youth with.
1. Who is Ali Satol, Jr?
He is passionate, he pursues excellence. I was born spoiled, as I am the youngest and the only boy. However, when I matured, I turned my becoming spoiled into my search for nothing but the best. I am now spoiled in the growth of Allah (SWT). I am also sensitive, and I have my own internal world. My weakness is that I always try to be strong for others, that I sometimes forget myself.
2. How does being a Moro inform your writing?
“Writing can never be ideology-free. That is, we cannot be entirely objective. The essence of a writer informs the work, and vice-versa.” Ali says. “As a Moro writer, of course, it manifests in my work. I want to write the narrative of the Moro people, of my people. That is what I want to do with my work.”
I am always predisposed to my ideology. It is like Descartes – “I think therefore I am.” I write because I am a Moro-Muslim, and I am a Moro-Muslim because I write. I am also trying, through my writing, to dispel the notion that society can limit us to what we can do.
3. What moved you to create Al-Intifada?
Al-Intifada is a work of fiction, but it is inspired by real events. Fiction is my weakness. I am always so used to writing about myself – creative nonfiction, as it were. I have been fortunate enough to have had opportunities to write, for example when my piece entitled “The Fish” was published in Dagmay.
So, when the assignment came for us to write fiction, I had to transcend my being selfish and writing about myself to writing about other people and their stories. For example, there are Moro people in the far-flung areas of Mindanao who have never even heard of the Jabidah massacre. This was the catalyst for the creation of the MNLF, and then the MILF. They need to understand why these events are happening to them.
I also write about the Moro story for non-Moros to get used to the language that we speak. The media has made it seem that the words “Allahu Akbar” are something to be feared, when in reality it is a phrase meaning “God is the Greatest.” It was meant as praise to the Supreme Being. It is not a precursor to violence. We do not have to fear words. So whenever a Moro says or writes “In Shaa Allah” or “Assalamu Alaykum” they are not afraid. We must mainstream it.
4. What kind of stories are you trying to tell, as a writer?
I am trying to write the story of the Moro people. With creative nonfiction, you end up having a realization of the world. I usually root my writing in spirituality and philosophy, because these aspects of our lives guides us as people.
5. Writing is a form of art. What do you want to see in other Moro writers, artists?
There needs to be more Moro writers. The facets of the Bangsamoro story can only be told through us. Write more about our own mythology, our own oral traditions. Also, I do not want them to forget to pursue excellence in all forms, and to lead with honor; the Moro identity is something you carry with you always.
6. What lessons have you found in writing? What does it reveal about yourself, you ummah, the greater community?
Do not neglect the spiritual aspect of ourselves. The communication that we have with the Divine is very important, and it helps us to become better at communicating our stories. We need to read more, because this is the foundation. It influences and enriches our writing.