people believe that the Sulu Archipelago has always been a
no-man’s-island for Christians. But this is not true at all.
One of the best books we have ever read on the history of Sulu
was Dr. Sixto Orosa’s The Sulu Archipelago and Its People
published way back in 1923. As far as we are concerned, it is
still one of the most authoritative books on the Tausugs. It was
written not only with a strong brotherly feeling for our Islamic
brothers but with utmost respect and reverence for their
culture. We believe that Orosa’s book is more relevant today
than when it was published 77 years ago.
Dr. Orosa was assigned as resident physician of the Sulu Public
Hospital and resided in Sulu for 17 years. Here is what he wrote
of his initial experience in Jolo:
"Since Muslims had their own doctols, we had no
patients at first. We waited and hoped, hoped and waited. Still
no patients came. We began to feel disheartened. A week after
our arrival in Jolo I narrowly escaped death at the hands of a juramentado
offended by my soldier’s uniform. Shortly thereafter, my wife
had the chilling experience of hearing and cry of ‘Juramentado!
Juramentado!’ when she was alone at home. So this, we told
ourselves, was the kind of life we faced. The temptation to pack
our bags and leave immediately was very strong."
After two weeks with absolutely no patients, a prominent Tausug
leader, Hadji Butu, got sick with abdominal pains and
progressive debility. The Muslim doctols could not even
alleviate his illness. Dr. Orosa said that he would give him an
injection. The Islamic doctors consented but said, "If he
dies, we’ll kill you!" Hadji was relieved of his pain.
News of the dramatic recovery spread like wildfire and, in no
time, Dr. Orosa’s problem became how to treat the great number
of patients who came to the government hospital.
Incidentally, Leonor Orosa Goquingco, National Artist for Dance,
is the daughter of Dr. Sixto Orosa and she not only was born in
Sulu, she spent the first 17 years of her life there. She quotes
her father saying that during American times, Jolo was very,
very clean and very beautiful. Writing of herself and her elder
brother, she recalled, "Nene and I were the only children
there, and the only Christians, our classmates being all Muslim
and adult. We got along with them, however, and they accepted
us. Though we led such a sheltered life, we found we could deal
with the world quite effectively even as children. We were not
scared of other people. Nene and I, of course, preferred each
other’s company. We had grown up together; we were only a year
apart in age; we had become very close. In school we helped each
other in lessons; we had our own games; just the two of us. How
could we play with our Muslim classmates when they were all so
big and grownup?"
Dr. Sixto Orosa’s The Sulu Archipelago and Its People should
be republished. Then, the present generation will see Jolo then