I lost a friend a few weeks ago. He passed away at a young age, just 48, way too young to die. I say that I lost a friend, but the truth is that I never met the man. I felt like he was a friend, though. He was a man that I wanted to meet for a couple of years now. I have been told that he also wanted to meet me. There were two or three times when we had each been scheduled to be at certain places at the same time and would finally meet each other, but in each instance one of us, or the other, was unable to make it. Honestly, I was shocked when I heard of his death.
The man that I am speaking of is a great man indeed. His name is Datu Toto Paglas. Toto was a Muslim man who hailed from Maguindanao Province, here on the island of Mindanao. In terms of his family, and his people, Toto was literally royalty. He was born of a father who was the head of one powerful Muslim family and a mother who was from a second powerful family in Muslim Mindanao. He was the product of the two most powerful families in Muslim Mindanao, yet these two families were mortal enemies, until Toto came along. It was through Toto that the Paglas clan and the Pendatun clan came together.
It all happened in the late 1950’s when the senior Datu Paglas (Toto’s father) met a young lady and fell in love. Unfortunately, this love was taboo, because she was the daughter of the family’s mortal enemy, the Pendatun clan. Although their love was forbidden by the elders in each of their families, they wed secretely and had a child. When this child came, the families decided to put their differences aside and join forces. With this joining of forces, Datu Toto Paglas, a mere child, became royalty – having come from the two most powerful Muslim families in Mindanao at that time, and finally having joined together.
Over the years, Toto’s story took many turns, and in the long run, he put his immense power to good use. He brought peace to his village, which is aptly named after his father and him as well, Datu Paglas Town, Maguindanao. I visited Datu Paglas myself last year, I wanted to witness the place that boasts of such a powerful story of peace. In the 1990’s when Toto was the mayor of Datu Paglas, he started a banana plantation and put people to work – Christians and Muslims. This banana plantation, and Toto’s many other accomplishments and projects brought work for poor people in Maguindanao, and it brought peace to an area that had previously been at war. There was a day when you could be shot for any reason in Datu Paglas, even for no reason at all. Those days are gone, though, thanks to Toto and his vision of peace. You can read the full story about Toto’s childhood and adult accomplishments on my Mindanao Blog, if you like.
Toto died on August 8, 2008, and his death shocked me. I didn’t even know he was sick. He died at Davao Doctor’s Hospital. He died of meningitis, and complications of Diabetes. Toto knew that I wanted to meet him, and I was told that he also wanted to meet me and was aware of the things that I have done to promote Mindanao over the Internet. I really wish that I would have had the opportunity to meet this great man. In addition to his work bringing peace to Mindanao, Toto was also a member of the Eisenhauer Foundation, working on bringing peace to every part of the world.
I wish we could have met, Toto!