In truth, eMindanao is yet to make a history of its own. It has no precedent about Hawaii and Mindanao joining hands to construct an online library. It is a newborn baby in this cyberworld.

However, a bit of its current existence owes much to two important events in the past. The first is an online course in 2000 offered jointly by the University of Hawaii at Mānoa Asian Studies Program and the Ateneo de Zamboanga University. This curricular offering was supported by the Ford Foundation program on “Moving Cultures.” It was a project of UH Manoa School of Pacific and Asian Studies aimed at the site where the “culture of area studies is reproduced – the classroom – to create an innovative pedagogy for area studies courses.” More about it is described in Conrado Balatbat, Hezekiah Concepcion, Gerard Finin, and Ricardo D. Trimillos,“Salaam Mānoa, Aloha Mindanao: Creating a Student- Centered, Real-Time, Virtual Classroom” pp. 178-195,in Remaking Area Studies: Teaching and Learning Across Asia and the Pacific, edited by Jon Goss and Terence Wesley-Smith. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2010).

The second event that inspires the eMindanao project is the Lecture Series on Mindanao in 2001, launched by Dr. Belinda A. Aquino, past director of the Center for Philippine Studies. This initiative is part of the Philippine Year Component of the NRCSEA (National Resource Center on Southeast Asian Studies) Program for 2000–2003 funded by Title VI of the Department of Education in Washington D.C. The NRC is administered through the Centers for Philippine and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Three Lecturers from the Philippines graced this event: Prof. Ma. Cynthia Bautista, Prof. Rudy Rodil, and Atty. Michael Mastura. The two gentlemen are from Mindanao.

Since the joint course offering is still up and running, lets pry into its origin. It all started in 1999 when Fr. William H. Kreutz, President of Ateneo de Zamboanga University visited UHM. The course took shape with the reciprocal visit of two UHM faculty to Zamboanga City, Dr. Ricardo D. Trimillos and Dr. Gerard Finin. From ADZU, two counterpart instructors picked up the challenge. Messers Conrado Balatbat and Hezekiel Concepcion hopped in, and a team of online instructors emerged. The course became what is now ASAN 491P as an experiment on the teaching of some commonalities between Mindanao and Hawaii. Three concepts underlie its themes: sovereignty, identity, and conflict. In Mindanao, these themes correspond to the violent conflict associated with the rise of Islamic secessionist movement, or the larger Bangsamoro struggle aimed at regaining a lost sovereignty. The same pattern holds for native Hawaiians, where the movement for the establishment of a Hawaiian nation has lingered on for the past several decades. Both the Moros and the native Hawaiians also share a similar experience. Hawaii and the Philippines were annexed to the United States in 1898.

The joint online course continues to this day. As Dr. Trimillos has just retired, a replacement instructor has been recruited, Ms. Elena Clariza. She co-teaches ASAN 491P with Prof. Conrado Balatbat and Bong Concepcion. In 2008, the partnership extended to Mindanao State University- Iligan Institute of Technology. A variant of ASAN 491P was offered along the same mould, with Dr. Federico Magdalena as instructor from UHM, and Dr. Jamail Kamlian, counterpart from MSU-IIT. In 2012, Dr. Samuel Anonas and Prof. Rufa Guiam from MSU main campus (Marawi) and General Santos campus, respectively, joined the partnership to offer this hybrid online course. Titled “Islam in the Philippines,” it features the history of Islam in Mindanao and its current expressions, practices, and issues relating to politics, economy, and other aspects of Philippine life.

Today, eMindanao keeps these two projects under its wings. Two joint online courses on Mindanao continue to be offered with ADZU and MSU. Its online library, on the other hand, is being launched to enrich the instructional component. But it sets its other eye on the horizon beyond the confines of the classroom environment. It addresses the incessant demand for more information about Mindanao and its people, its history, peace process, and other current events.