If I could have had the chance to meet her, I would like to have been invited to her astana for dinner. And there I would ask her all the questions: Did she really love her young husband or did she marry him for political convenience? Is it true that she was feared, that she slapped men with the sole of her slippers? What would she have done had she been allowed to rule after her uncle died, knowing that she was the power behind the throne? And, what really happened when it was all over, when Sulu lost the sultanate? Was that the reason for her deep loss? I had heard it was so profound it caused an illness that couldn’t be defined then (cancer) and that she had refused treatment.
I imagine it would be a long evening of listening to her. Her kitchen would prepare the traditional dishes of Sulu, the delicacies and sweets. She might frown if I tell her I’m a vegetarian, but I would not resist if the island’s famous curacha crabs were served. And although she was always strict and stern, she would, for my sake, give me a smile.
Criselda Yabes is a fellow with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on a one-year writing grant. She was based in Manila and wrote books largely on the military and Mindanao.