The Origin of the Term Moro
The Term Moro
The Origin of the Term Moro
The term Moro was not derogatory and pejorative when first used by the Spaniards. It was derived from the first four letters of country of origin of the conquerors of Spain – Morocco – “Moro” (singular or Moros - plural form), or “Moor” (singular and Moors – plural) in English. The first mention of the term Moro in Spanish records refers to a trader that became the interpreter of Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon. This Moro must have traveled a lot for he even warned the Cebuanos that the Spaniards are mighty warriors. He must be an Arab trader for never was he mentioned as a native practicing Islam, since the Philippines was then a transit point for Arab merchants on their way to China. Spanish records also show that the Spaniards did not call the natives practicing Islam as Muslim Filipinos but followers of Muhammad or Mahomet. This indicates that the term Moro carried a racial connotation as well for it was also used to refer to Arab looking people.
Later, the term Moro was used to refer to the people of Mindanao that practiced Islam. This shows that the term is associated with religion for Spaniards used the terms Moros and Muslim Filipinos interchageably.
While it is reflective of the religious affiliation of the people of Mindanao it was also a racial term i.e., Arab, therefore we can also say that there was a possible involvement of foreigners in the Moro Resistance. This is reinforced by the use of the term Sultanate that is Arabic in origin and further proven by the basic qualification of a Sultan to be a descendant of Prophet Muhammad (MPBUH), meaning he is of foreign origin or even a foreigner himself. This is aside from the concept of “Dar ul Islam,” or House of Islam that makes it a duty of any Muslim to help any Muslim in need. It must be noted that history as written before is the story of the lives of the great and the famous not of the inarticulate and the masses, therefore, when the term Moro was used by the Spaniards they were perhaps narrating the story of the foreign elements of the struggle of the Mindanaoans not just their ethnic resistance, just as when the term Filipino was first used it was referred to the mestizos and the Philippine born Spaniards not really the natives of the country as it is used at present.
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