Is it possible to understand Muslim Mindanao without looking at Malaysia? Perhaps not. This stern neighbor has played its hands rather wisely: feeding a Filipino rebellion on one hand, and helping end it on the other. Sabah has been home to thousands of Muslims who once fought for independence under the Marcos dictatorship. It was their refuge when the military continued to pummel them with bombs and bullets in Mindanao. Sabah was always part of their real and imagined community. Before colonizers carved out superficial boundaries in that part of the world, the Muslims of Sabah, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu were one community that freely traded goods with each other, paid unhampered visits to one another and spoke the same language. The imperious Sultanate of Sulu reigned over these islands.