Swish of the Kris, Authorized and Enhanced Edition
by Vic Hurley
The early history of the Philippine and Moro peoples.
Legendary Warriors: Islamic Moros of the Philippines Have Never Been Conquered
America’s first military experience with jungle and guerilla warfare was both a success and a dismal failure. In the twenty-five or so years after the Spanish-American War, the unruly but essentially Christian, indigenous population of the northern Philippine Islands was slowly calmed, pacified and brought to a rudimentary kind of democracy which eventually resulted in self-government.
In the southern islands, particularly Mindanao and Sulu, Moros, the relatively small Islamic native population, had been at war with Spain and other Western powers that had unsuccessfully tried to subjugate it, for more than four hundred years. While the northern Filipinos exchanged one colonial master for another, Moros have never acknowledged Spain, or any other nation to be their master, much less the United States.
American military forces eventually exceeded 75,000 troops on the ground, yet the Moros were never vanquished. The official and unofficial history of the Moros, as told by Hurley, describes the genesis of these violent and undisciplined fighters who did not fear death, rather they were fighters who sought death with religious fervor in every encounter.
Piracy and banditry were well-regarded occupations for these skilled jungle warriors and seamen. Immortality could be had in hand-to-hand – or more accurately kris-to-kris - combat: the victor lived - the dead Moro achieved Paradise. American mass-movement military tactics were not only useless in the jungle, against these fearless warriors, they were a bonus for the Moro fighters who could hide in ambush, attack in mass with blades flying and guns flaming, and then melt away on narrow jungle trails where the army could not go.
While weapons have changed over the last 75 years, the character, religious convictions, and goals of the Moros have not. Moroland (Bangsamoro) and independent self-government following Islamic principles continues to be the driving force. Strategies of ambush, suicidal mayhem, and vicious conflicts with official authorities and with each other continue to be the norm to this day.
To reach a real understanding of the forces of history that made the Moros the fearsome foes that they were and are, Hurley gives the reader hard facts, careful research, and vivid prose. Although Hurley was writing at a much earlier time and from a western viewpoint, there is no doubt about his respect and admiration for the character and convictions of the fighting Moros, and his disdain for the ineffective strategies and tactics of the U.S. Military.
This 2010 Authorized and Enhanced edition adds an authorative and comprehensive index which makes the book a more useful historical reference work: illustrative photographs not previously available, from the author's personal collection; maps; and a new Introduction describing the context in which the author was writing. This eminently readable volume is an important book that should be included in any collection of Southeast Asia, Philippine, Islamic, or Military histories.
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