Marginal Notes of Moro History in Passing:

 Marginal Notes by Yusuf Morales

The Muslims in the then Philippine archipelago were once a dominant group in the country. They have some 500 years experience of cultural and political history, so far the longest political experience compared to other groups in the whole Philippines. Their culture is a blend of Islam and adat.

Adat is the sum of both pre-Islamic culture and the philosophical interpretation of the Muslims on the teachings of Islam. It is itself the lasting contribution of the Philippine Muslims to the country’s rain forest are found in Mindanao.

While its agricultural crops include rice, corn, root crops, vegetables, cassava and fruits. Marine products like seaweed production, fish as well as gas and oil are dominant in the Sulu sea. Fifty nine percent of tuna and sardines are largely taken from the Sulu sea.

Mainland Mindanao has substantial mineral deposits. Zamboanga del Sur has gold, silver, lead, zinc deposit; Davao oriental has chromite reserves; marble deposits for Davao del Norte and oil deposit in South Cotabato. These huge resources of the southern islands have made Mindanao the land of promise.

However, the main concentration of the Philippine Muslim population is confined largely to the western side of Mindanao down to the Sulu Archipelago. In mainland Mindanao, the Muslims are dominant only in Lanao and Maguindanao provinces. While the rest of the Muslim populations are scattered in nearby provinces such as Zamboanga peninsula, North Cotabato, Sultan Qudarat, South Cotabato, Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur and Sarangani island. In the Sulu Archipelago, the Muslims are all dominant in three island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. This does not however discredit the presence of smaller communities belonging to the smaller Muslim ethic groups in other parts of Mindanao and in extension, their relations in Visayas and Luzon.

The Muslim Ethnic Groups

Ethnicity may also be another term for cultural groupin of nations though may not nescessarilly conform to todays context of nation-state but of a cultural grouping that has a perceieved identity as a people.

An ethnic community may be defined as tribal group which has its own language, hold in common a set of tradition different from others whom they are in contact. It has its own territory from which its ethnic identity is derived, and thus becomes a uniting factor for group cohesion. The Muslim ethnic groups in Mindanao and Sulu are linked by both ideological and geographical factors.

The Muslims in the south are also culturally linked to Muslim countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Patani of southern Thailand. They are composed of eleven ethnic groups. Each group has its own language but only a few controls a political unit like a province or municipalities.

Some groups speak one mother language with three variations like the Maranao, Iranun and Maguindanaon. Culturally it is evident from both tarsilas, language and genetics that the primal language was that of the Iranun which later splintered of to the development of the Maguindanon and M’rnao dialects.

The Sama people have one language with many variation such as the dialect of the Jama Mapun, and the Bangingi.

The Maranao. Literally, Maranao means people of the lake. Their homeland is called Lanao which means lake. Their oldest settlement started around here, and up to this day, highly populated communities still dot the lake. Their language is similar to Maguindanaon and Iranun. One shall be confused as to which of them owns the mother tongue since the Maranao and Iranun can understand 60% of the Maguindanaon language. At any rate , these groups live in proximity. Continuous contact allows them to develop or share a common practice including language.

The Maranao are concentrated in Lanao area. They occupy the most strategic place in Mindanao owing to their access to Iligan bay in the north and Illana bay in the south. During the colonial period, they fought against the Spaniards, usually under the flag of the Maguindanao sultanate. Throughout the colonial period, Lanao was one provincial tributaries of the Maguindanao sultanate. Seeing the importance of Lanao, the American colonial government in Manila encouraged landless Filipinos to migrate to Mindanao. Most settlers targeted Lanao as their final destination. After about 50 years, the Filipino settlers became established in the area north of Lanao. This eventually led to the division of Lanao into Del Norte and Del Sur beginning 1960s.

The Iranuns are what Warren calls the “Viking brethren of the Balanguinguih”, historically it is improbable to relate that the primal people would come from the mountain downwards as the Maranao peoples assert, but it has been always from the sea, and tasked with ensuring that navigation and trade routes remain safe, the Iranun has virtually ushered every foreign settler prior to the Spanish era to settle in Mindanao, from Chinese, to Arab, to Johore Royalty, the Iranuns are a small community that brought many cultural influences as well as carried the famous Shariff Kbaungsuan and other Missionaries to Mindanao shores (after being handed to them by their Balanguinguih brethren).

The Maguindanon or what is known as the Tau sa Maguindanao are the dwellers of the marshlands and rivers of the mighty Liguasan marsh-river systems, they have later established the Major sultanate of Maguindanao which was ruled over initiatlly by Iranun-Maguindanao half-breeds and later being ruled over by Datos and sultans. Tey eventually created theRajah Buayan Sultanate and other minor sultanates like the Sultanate of kabuntalan (which were the offspring of Rajah Buayan and Maguindanao) and the Bugasan sultanate of the Iranuns.

The Sama people who inhabited Tawi-Tawi are called by their place of residence. Thus, there is the Sama Balimbing, Sama Simunul or Sama Sibutu. These groups claim to be the origin of all Sama sub-groups scattered throughout the Sulu Archipelago. They inhabited most major islands of Tawi-Tawi. While in the mainland the Sama concentration is confined to Balimbing and Sapa-Sapa. These people have a high level of literacy rate compared to other Sama sub-group. Almost every Sama barangay in the mainland has a public school. Higher institutional learning is also available such as the MSU-Tawi-Tawi and the Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College (TRAC). Most top government positions are held by Sama. Like the Tausugs, the Sama are exposed to almost all fields of discipline and it is common to find them in national agencies occupying key positions.

The Sama Bangingi are also considered major group within the Sama tribe. Their dialect is just a variation of the Sama language. Geographical distance being separated from other Sama groups by seas has caused the variation of their dialect from their mother tongue. But, generally all Sama people understand each other. The Bangingi have a well-developed social organization comparable to the Tausugs. Back to the sultanate period each Bangingi community had its own panglima and maharajah as the highest and influential people in their society. The tip of Zamboanga peninsula, Pilas and Tungkil island were once dominated and ruled by the Bangingi leaders. They had four strong Kuta at Zamboanga before the Spaniards occupied it. The latter took several weeks before they were able to dislodge the Bangingi from their strongholds. The Bangingi were good sailors. They were the first group in this country to reach Bengal bay and explore the Indian ocean. They discovered the connection of Sulu sea , the straits of Malacca and the Indian ocean. Most of the sultanate expeditions to Visayas and Luzon were commanded by the Bangingi warriors.

The Bangingi unlike the Badjao are highly exposed to the Filipino society and its institution. Majority of them has studied in the Filipino school, and managed to occupy key positions in the government. Unfortunately, they failed to build their own institutions like school, political parties and businesses that are capable of effecting social changes in the society. There are only individual initiatives. The Bangingi remain far from collective social progress.

Jama Mapun are another Sama sub-group. They call their dialect as pullun mapun which is part of the Sama language. The term mapun stands for west. They call themselves as Jama Mapun because they are situated at the distant west of Sulu. They are concentrated largely at the Turtle island, Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi an island municipality located at the border adjacent to Sabah. They are also found in southern Palawan. Like the Bangingi, the Jama Mapun adopted permanent settlement, hence they have a clear-cut social organization where the panglima is recognized as top community leader. During the Sulu sultanate period, Jama Mapun used to be of a military strategic importance to the sultanate. It used to be the sultanates Point and Espanola. In these municipalities the Muslims are likely dominant and hold political power. Isolated Muslim communities are also found in Narra, Roxas, Taytay and Aborlan.

Since the collapse of the Sulu sultanate, contact between the Palawani and the Tausugs was almost lost. They have been isolated to each other as there is no direct trade or cultural link between the two people.

 The Molbog. The Molbog are mainly confined in the Balabac islands located at the southern tip of Palawan. They received Islamic influence and later embraced Islam from Brunei Muslim missionaries. The propagation of Islam was active during the 15th century when Muslim principalities rose from the eastern side of the Malay peninsula and Borneo. At this period, the Brunei sultanate was expanding its influence to the Philippines and Palawan is not far from Brunei. The Sulu sultanate also helped to strengthen Islam among the Molbog.

Historical Gap

Historical gap is a period between two or more events keeping the new generation detached from the old ones. The new generation can no longer determine the culture of the past, and eventually may chart its own course different from their predecessors. This is the case with the two periods of the Bangsamoro history: the sultanate era, the US colonial period up to the present. The US era in the Philippines brought historical gap distancing the sultanate era from the present. The culture of the people underwent transformation in 50 years time under US rule. 50 years thereafter, the people developed a new culture which is no longer the same orientation as what was then. The conventional approach to this problem of historical gap is the reliance of the historians on the study of artifacts, the root of civilization, and the life of the leaders in order to move their mind centuries back.

By nature, jihad requires collective action or sufficient participation from the Muslims preferably to be led by the government under a righteous imam. This is the meaning of jihad to be known as fardhu kifaya. There must be a group of Muslims if not the entire masses who shall carry out the jihad fi sabilillah. Failure to carry jihad will make the whole community or state in a state of sin. But if there is a section of Muslim population that rises up for jihad, the entire Muslims become free from sin. Jihad becomes fardhu ayn sustains the continuity of the jihad up to the present.

Islam in the Philippines

The rise of Islamic political institutions in Southeast Asia in the early 15th century is viewed as the culmination of Islamization after about 200 years when the Arabs introduced Islam direct to the masses. This political development was a turning point in the history of the people because it revealed two important things: the formation of the Muslim nationalism and the birth of the first Muslim society in this country. Islam for this matter changed the political course of Mindanao and Sulu from the feudalistic as well as from colonialistic. The survival of Islam as ideological force in the south is an indication that their political course remained in the Islamic orbit.

Sulu was the first Muslim community in the south to establish a centralized government, the Sultanate of Sulu in 1450. The introduction of this sultanate implies that the indigenous institution became Islamized. This sultanate was a superstructure imposed without destroying the old foundation. This was one of the reasons that made the Sulu Sultanate strong. Hashim Abubakar was the founder and the first sultan of the Sulu sultanate. His father was an Arab from Hadramaut; his mother was a princess from Johore. According to the Tausug salsila, Abubakar belongs to a sharif lineage, which is one of the descendants of Nabi Muhammad (S,.A.W.). The term sharif is a title of nobility. When Abubakar rose to power, he assumed five titles affixed to his name, thus his official name runs as follows: paduka, mawlana, mahasiri, sharif sultan Hashim Abubakar.

The Sulu sultanate is multi-ethnic. At the height of its power in the early part of the 18th century, its territory encompassed the whole Zamboanga peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Palawan and Sabah. On the same period, the sultanate began to intensify its foreign relations with neighboring Muslim principalities in Brunei, Makassar, Manila, Cebu (before Spanish era), Maguindanao, Buayan and Batavia including China. This foreign relations of the Sulu sultanate involved trade, mutual friendship and military alliance. The sultanate had in fact dispatched ambassadors to different places and also received ambassadors from other countries.

Dr. Majul describes the history of the Sulu sultanate as had been one of war. Since 1578 up to the 1927, the Sulu sultanate was at the forefront of the struggle for freedom and national liberation. It was able to survive two major colonial waves: the Spanish and the US colonialism. Despite its political decline in the beginning of the 19th century, the Sulu sultanate maintained her status as independent sultanate from 1450 to 1936.

The spread of Islam to Mindanao between 1450 and 1500 was part of the political goal of the Sulu sultanate. A Maranao oral report revealed that the first Tausug preachers reached the Lanao lake before the arrival of foreign Muslim missionaries, possibly the Malay preachers. This report is sufficient to establish the fact the Muslim settlements had gradually thrived in the Illana bay up to the lake area and the Pulangi valley. People from these areas were already used to come to Jolo for trade as well as for Islamic learning. It is for this account that Sulu became known in history as the center of Islamic learning in this country.

The full Islamization of the west coast of Mindanao was accelerated with the arrival of Muhammad Sharif Kabungsuwan. Like Abubakar, the first sultan of Sulu, Sharif Kabungsuwan is also an Arab and a descendant of Nabi Muhammad (S.A.W.). His Malay sounding name attests his forefathers had settled long time in Johore. Kabungsuwan and his followers arrived Malabang in 1515. He was accompanied by large group of Sama people who according to Dr. Kurais, a Sama scholar Kabungsuwan had passed by Tawi-Tawi and picked up some Sama people to accompany him in his journey to Mindanao. This means that the coming of Kabungsuwan to Mindanao was not accidental. It was the Sama Balanguinguih people who guided him to Mindanao. During this period, inter-island contact was already in place. Both the Sama and the Iranun had already explored the many sea routes in the Sulu archipelago.

It was not long after his arrival that Sharif kabungsuwan established the Sultanate of Maguindanao, possibly in 1516. The rise of this sultanate is almost similar to that of Sulu, should be viewed as the culmination of Islamization in Mindanao. It was actually a political necessity. Clearly, the sultanate was adopted as an instrument to consolidate the emerging Muslim communities.

The first seat of the political power of Maguindanao was Slangan and Maguindanao. Originally, these areas were the bastions of Iranun political activities. When the sultanate passed into the Maguindanao family and dynasty, the seat of power was moved to Pulangi valley. The term Maguindanao actually referred to a family. It was the royal family with which Sharif Kabungsuwan was linked through affinity. Since Maguindanao family became a symbol of Muslim power in Mindanao, their name became the official designation of Muslims throughout the Pulangi valley.

In the upper Pulangi valley the ruling datus were the Buayan family. Because of their influence, the whole areas were called Buayan. The political institution of the Buayans became Islamized as a result of the marriage of the Buayan prince to the daughter of Sultan Sharif Muhammad Kabungsuwan. After the death of Kabungsuwan, the Buayan family founded the Sultanate of Buayan as independent entity from the Maguindanao sultanate. The existence of two sultanates in mainland Mindanao strengthened Islam but often the source of friction between the Buayan group and the Maguindanao. In lull times, these sultanates fought each other for political supremacy over Mindanao. They also fought together against their common enemy in the face of foreign aggression.

One of the best Maguindanao rulers was Rajah Buisan who was the leading commander during the third stage of the Moro wars. He was remembered for his famous speech at Dulag, Leyte where he delivered his message inspiring the datus of Leyte to rise against the Spaniards. In his battle against the Spaniards, he aligned himself with Rajah Sirungan the ruler of the Buayan sultanate. Both leaders had for several times joined forces in their expedition to the north. The Buayan leaders managed to gain supremacy in the Pulangi valley only after the death of Rajah Buisan. The latter was succeeded by his son Sultan Qudarat. During his ascension to power, Qudarat was too young. It was for this reason the Maguindanao sultanate became overwhelmed. It took more than ten years for Sultan Qudarat to build his political power over the whole of Mindanao. He is remembered for his political prowess in uniting the two sultanates and the rest of the people in Mindanao under his strong leadership. Sultan Qudarat is also remembered for his famous speech challenging the Maranao datus to oppose the Spanish encroachment in Lanao lake.

The political hold of the Maguindanao sultanate over Mindanao however did not last long. Dynastic quarrels often broke out among the Muslim leaders. In the later part of the 18th century, the Maguindanao sultanate loosened its hold upon the Buayan (Majul, 1997:31). Its steady decline continued up to the arrival of the American colonialists in 1900. This decline created a vacuum which was later filled up by Datos who were close to Americans and the rest was modern Moro History.


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