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Royal Rumble: A Sabah Claimant Speaks
One of the heirs of the hotly-contested territory gives his lighthearted two cents.

by Published on: Mar 7, 2013 - 7:00am

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[Ed’s note: Ibba Rasul-Bernardo is descended from the viziers of the Sultanate of Sulu, and his family holds a small claim over Sabah. At present, Ibba is a Manila-based writer, a social entrepreneur, techie, motorcycle rider, and a long-time colleague of editors. We asked him for his two-cents’ worth on the Sabah-Philippines-Malaysia debacle, and this is what he had to say.]


( I was brought up in a family that valued brains and achievement over money and titles. I was also brought up to not brag, especially about things unearned. Which is why being a "royal" was never a big part of my upbringing.


As a snot-nosed kid, I was even a bit embarrassed to ask about our royal lineage for fear of getting a very stern lecture from my mother, Amina Rasul (who is royalty; dad is, like Princess Diana, a commoner). Besides, royal pedigree doesn't change the fact that I am a dork.


So my heritage passed into history until this Sabah situation arose. We recently had a family meeting with some of the heirs. Here we discussed the history of Sabah and our legal rights to it. I always knew that we had some claim and now I know how legitimate it really is.


The author (right) during his wedding, dressed in royal wear patterned
after the Grand Vizier of the Sulu Sultanate


The Lineage


To say my great-grandfather Hadji Butu was great is an understatement. There are poems about him in the Tausug oral tradition. He was the vizier or wazir (Prime Minister) to three Sultans, he freed his slaves, he was the first Muslim Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, and most of all he was a man of peace and learning. He was married to Princess Hadja Salma who in turn was first cousin to Queen Dayang Dayang Hadja Piandao.  You can clearly trace Sabah's claim through these powerful women, and through them I claim a tiny percentage of Sabah.


My Grandfather Ambassador Abraham Rasul, after whom I'm named, succeeded Hadji Butu as Prime Minister to the Sultanate. He was given the power by the Sultan of Sulu to discuss the pursuit of Sabah with President Macapagal, and afterwards, President Marcos.


My family was where the Sultans got their viziers. In Game of Thrones terms, we were the Hand of the King and the title was passed down from first son to first son.


Sadly, I'm the first son of the first child who was a daughter. So I'm not in line to be a Vizier or Prime Minister to the Sultan. In another life, I would have been a Datu with my own retainers and warriors. I might have even started a revolution against my cousin Tariq, to whom the title would officially fall to. Lucky for Tariq, times have, he's also a cool young man for whom I have a lot of affection.

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