Put aside commonsense. Disregard assumptions. Try to understand the power of passion and the excesses committed by Moros when pushed to desperation by amour propre or loss of face.
To better understand the phenomenon and its nature, particularly in the Sulus, let us follow a specific case. Even though the specifics may have been unique, who wouldn’t recognize a pattern? From a slight infraction to someone’s death, or a variety of situations, families went to great lengths not to offend someone and to avoid loss of face.
But what about a kiss from an impulsive youth? Did such an act violate the honor and virginity of a young girl? How much more serious would it have been had he touched her breast? Even the mere touching of a woman’s wrist or forehead, if intentional, was considered as serious as rupturing her hymen. And if she were of the upper class, either a datu’s daughter and a Sultan’s grandchild, watch out!
A young man, the nephew of the Sultan, might have lived to benefit the world, while the victim’s family could only boast of being tenants. Nevertheless, the victim’s family considered the kissing to be a gross insult and thus the loss of face.
The headman listened to the grievance and to a request that the young offender be punished in accordance with tradition. However, because of the perpetrator’s status, there wasn’t much the chief could do. Gossip dictated the rest. The whole village soon knew, as it were, about the loss of face. For that reason, the victim and her family felt ostracized, avoided public gatherings, but still once and while ran into the Sultan’s nephew. Therefore, whenever that happened, villagers exchanged glances and sneers and quietly taunted the young girl and her relatives. Something had to give. As often happened, one of the offended kinsmen, without saying a word, then got his spear. One might think killing the young man would’ve settled the score; but with the discovery of the young man’s corpse, the community now had to reckon with a greater wrong than the initial kiss and immediately knew evil had befallen them.
Looking for justice, people came running with sharpened krises; but it was too late: the revenger had already escaped into the jungle. For at least the time being, his family’s hurt pride had been appeased. So readily he sacrificed himself for that and, indeed, never returned. He later was killed, in the year of 1902, defying the U.S Expeditionary forces. Hunted all those years, he never knew two of his brothers were killed for his crime.
Normally, memory fades over time. Shouldn’t feelings of obligation and shame go to the grave with the participants? But in this case, after more than two generations, grandsons from each family continued the feud. By then, with luck and shrewdness, the son of the killer had become rich. For over thirty years, up to the outbreak of World War II, he owned a coconut plantation on Basilan and then collaborated with the Japanese in order to save his property.
Beginning sometime in 1935, when a grandson of the slain victim came to Isabela to buy and sale smoked tuna and learned that the plantation owner was the grandson of his grandfather’s killer, pressure to erase the stain by avenging the slaying grew. Only by killing his family’s blood enemy could he remove the social stigma. For many years, the grandson lived with the shame because he didn’t want to face a long prison sentence. Then came the war and the chance he’d been waiting for.
As a guerrilla officer, he became a living hero for killing a “Jap spy” and received a military merit medal from General MacArthur. Even though he entered the residence of the plantation owner and massacred a whole family, he was never considered a cold-blooded killer. The plantation owner died without knowing his killer or the remote cause of his death.