I was born in the northern Mindanao town of Ozamiz City. I began my tertiary education in 1972, just as President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and sent half the Philippine armed forces to Muslim areas of Mindanao to contain the armed separatist rebellion of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). These events shaped my intellectual and political concerns, and my work has revolved around issues of despotic and patronage power, popular resistance, and local power-national state dynamics under conditions of domestic conflict.I wrote my dissertation on state formation in southern Mindanao from the turn of the twentieth century to the eve of the declaration of martial law. As I conducted my fieldwork, I became drawn to the post-colonial consequences of American colonial state formation in the island, which include the persistence of separatist sentiments among the Muslim minority. My book, Making Mindanao: Cotabato and Davao in the Formation of the Philippine State (2000), tracked the historical-institutional origins of such sentiments and the non-religious causes behind the MNLF's rebellion. A more recent book, Orthodoxy and History in the Muslim-Mindanao Narrative (2010), elaborates on these foundations by examining further the roots of a resilient pro-Americanism among Muslims, the rebellion of the MNLF's heir, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the complex relationship between local warlords, national state actors and other armed groups in Muslim Mindanao.Although based in Japan, I have continued to be involved in public debates in the Philippines. I have a regular column in a small newsmagazine and contribute occasional commentaries on the state of Philippine and Mindanao politics in other media outlets. For the Wilson Center project, my hope is to produce a work that is both academic and relevant to public policy, especially as it pertains to the relationship between war zones, development aid, economic rehabilitation, and recovery.


B.A., History, University of the Philippines; M.A., Government and Southeast Asian Studies, Cornell University; Ph.D., Government and Southeast Asian Studies, Cornell University


  • Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, 2008-present
  • Associate Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, 1999-2008
  • Assistant Professor, Ohio University, 1998-1999


Philippine and Southeast Asian history and politics; insurgencies; local power; colonial and post-colonial state formation

Project Summary

Today, media and political leaders often attribute American success against terrorism in the Philippines to closer US-Philippine military relations and the involvement of American troops in civic action and development projects in critical areas. My research suggests, however, that American accomplishments in the southern island of Mindanao predate the heightened US military presence that accompanied the War on Terror. This project focuses on a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program, Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM), which has been operating successfully since 1996, largely unnoticed by political players in the national capital, Manila, and even by Washington policy makers. GEM's significance has recently grown more apparent as American strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan began to emphasize economic and social assistance alongside military warfare and institution building.

Through the use of local diplomacy and the offer of economic opportunity, GEM has accomplished the rehabilitation of certain war zones and the reintegration into society of about 28,000 former Muslim separatist guerrillas. GEM's approach combines sensitivity to local conditions with an unusual flexibility in implementing projects that has not been the hallmark of other development assistance in Mindanao. One of its results is a consistently positive reception by Muslim communities of an American presence in their areas – something remarkable given the unpopularity of the US in other parts of the Muslim world.

Major Publications

  • Orthodoxy and History in the Muslim-Mindanao Narrative (Quezon City: Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2010).
  • State and Society in the Philippines, with Donna J. Amoroso (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005).
  • Making Mindanao: Cotabato and Davao in the Formation of the Philippine Nation-State (Quezon City, Philippines: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2000).