Not until after talking to Datu Teng Odin on the phone (he is the secretary of Mayor Muslimin Sema in Cotabato city), while pursuing this story for Newsbreak, did I find how little did I ever know about the different and differing cultures in Mindanao.
Because I did not want to tell him outright that all I wanted to know was Misuari’s age, I asked Datu Odin if he knew when was it this year that the chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) celebrated his birthday.
He said, he did not know because they don’t normally celebrate birthdays. Muslims don’t, generally. In fact, he said, Mayor Sema did not use to celebrate birthdays but after he ran for public office, he has often given in to pressures even if he did not want to. Mayor Sema was among the 15 MNLF central committee members who wrested control of the MNLF and ousted Misuari---about six years ago, three or four years after the peace pact with the Ramos government. After they also got their own dose of acrid tasting government betrayal three years after betraying Misuari, they have all decided to patch it up with the Moro leader, who until now, is still in jail without trial.