ILOILO CITY, Philippines - Chief Superintendent Cipriano Querol Jr. is not just the top policeman in Western Visayas. He also holds the distinction of being the first "Sultan" of Muslim communities in Panay.
Querol was crowned supreme leader of some 10,000 Muslims on the island in rites on February 13 at Camp Martin Delgado, the police regional headquarters.
Hadji Abdullah Topaan Disomimba, sultan of Masiu and chair of the 16 Royal Houses of Lanao del Sur, led the ceremony that was also attended by Querol's brother, Vidal, a retired police director and ambassador to Indonesia, and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno.
Sammy Hadjimanan, sultan of Bayabao and spokesperson of the United Federation of Muslim Associations in Western Visayas, said the leaders of 10 largely independent and autonomous Muslim groups in the region agreed late last year to crown Querol as the "Sultan of Panay." The appointment was subsequently confirmed by Disomimba.
Querol converted to Islam in 1992 in Cambodia during a yearlong stint as a member of the United Nations peacekeeping force.
Hadjimanan said Muslim leaders had checked on Querol's family history and his faithfulness to Islam before they approved his appointment.
Twice, Querol went on a pilgrimage to Islam's holy city of Mecca a religious duty that must be done at least once in the lifetime by all Muslims who are physically and financially capable.
Hadjimanan said the enthronement of Querol will help lessen the negative perceptions of Muslims as terrorists or troublemakers. "We are a peace-loving people," he said.
Querol said he would foster unity among the Muslim associations and act as arbiter in conflicts. He will also link the communities with local government units to develop better cultural harmony and understanding and economic cooperation.
"Being the first Sultan in the history of Panay Island is truly a great honor and privilege, but it also carries a lot of challenges," he said.