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Blue Blood of the Big Astana Ibrahim A.

Jubaira RENDITIONS

Ibrahim Jubaira is perhaps the best known of the older generation of English language-educated Muslim Filipino writers and one of the most prolific, with three volumes of short stories published and two more collections of unpublished material. Born in 1920, Jubaira began writing in high school. He was editor of the Cresent Review Magazineand the Zamboanga Collegian, as well as a columnist for the Zamboanga City Inquirerand Muslim Times. His own education and social standing he came from a family of minor royalty put him on a path familiar in colonial history. Coming of age under the colonial American government, his English-language education led him to government service: first as a teacher in Zamboanga and later with the Department of Foreign Affairs, which took him to Sri Lanka (1969-78) and Pakistan (1982-85). A number of his later stories were set outside the Philippines. In 1970, Jubaira received the Presidential Medal of Merit in Literature from Ferdinand Marcos. As a young man, he published frequently in The Free Press, a magazine which was established in 1907 and published until it was shut down by the Marcos government in the 1970s. Throughout the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, The Free Press was to paraphrase literary historian Resil Mojares a middle-class bible, carrying articles on culture and current affairs, as well as a steady supply of English-language short-stories. The Free Press actively sought contributions from unknown or lesser-known writers in the provinces outside Manila, and it came to serve as a venue for such young writers. To publish in The Free Press was to be given a national, English-language audience for subject matter about which the readership may not have been knowledgeable. Blue Blood of the Big Astana was published in 1941, on the eve of World War II. Philippine independence was not formalized until 1946, and the great migration of Christian Filipinos to Mindanao did not get underway until the 1950s. But like many intellectuals and political leaders of his generation, Jubaira advocated an integrationist approach in the southern Philippines, believing that only a measure of accommodation with the Christian state could protect Muslims from unscrupulous newcomers. For a time in the 1950s he served on the ill-fated Commission on National Integration. Both as a writer and as a high-status Muslim with the benefit of a colonial education, his voice assumes a distance from the world he describes in Blue Blood. Jubairas curious use of the Anglo-English term Mohammedan, for example, is an important marker of his complicated debt to American schooling and sets him apart as one empowered and knowledgeable enough to convey the world of datus, astanas(palaces), and Mohammedans to others. The story is striking for the degree to which that world, a Tausug Muslim world, exists as a discrete entity. With few referents to location or time, the world of the astana is conveyed in its wholeness, as is fitting for a story that recreates bittersweet childhood experiences. The narrator Jafaar, an impoverished orphan, is left in the care of the local datu, whose home is called an astana. Taken there against his will, he is instructed about how to live in the datus home; his low status requires that he quickly learn the language and manner appropriate to address the datu and his household. The separateness of this world is a function of physical distance and proximity to other/outside places. But this distance is not a permanent condition. In the voice of Jafaar, Jubaira believed the astana, the datuship, should accommodate itself to the Christian state which lay beyond. With great economy of words, Jubaira crafts a love story, a coming of age story, and a plea for the separateness of this re-created, seaside Muslim world which would not preclude accommodation with the Philippines. Ibrahim Jubaira died in 2003. We acknowledge with thanks the permission granted by his daughter, Noralyn Baja, to reprint and translate this story. Coeli Barry Asia Research Insitute and Thammasat University Southeast Asian Studies Program

Project In English

Marvin Kakilala Sir Ton-Ton nd 2 Year