This website is dedicated to academic discussions about the people of Bangsamoro. It was conceptualized by students of section TFX4 of Kasaysayan 1 class, 2nd Semester, Academic Year 2005-2006, University of the Philippines Diliman. This site is in partial fulfillment of the requirements of Dr. Jaime Veneracion of the Department of History of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Professor traces historical roots of Muslim struggle in the Philippines

By Jo Florendo B. Lontoc
UP Newsletter
February 2006
Vol.27, Number 2
Prof. Julkipli Wadi of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies covered almost a millennium of Muslim history in the Philippines in a lecture before participants of the ASEAN-Uninet, putting into perspective the rise of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Wadi, a public intellectual on Islamic issues, noted that the three movements were one in objective – Muslim liberation – but differed in the strategy. He also noted that among the lines dividing the MNLF and the MILF were tribal issues and secularism, with the MNLF being associated with the Tausugs and a political agenda and the MILF with Maguindanaos and religious advocacy. Both follow conventional rules of engagement in contrast to the ASG, which has been listed by the US State Department as one of the terrorist groups of the world.

Wadi noted that the MNLF and the MILF could be considered offshoots of the two sultanates that prevailed in Mindanao from pre-Hispanic times to the early 20th – the Sultanate of Sulu and the Sultanate of Maguindanao. Both lost political power only recently with American colonization and America’s subsequent unification of the Philippine islands as one republic.

The Sulu sultanate was established in 1450; the Maguindano sultanate, seven years later. Some 200 years before this, Islam had gained a foothold on the islands through Arab merchants. Wadi noted that unlike the spread of Islam in Africa, the Balkans, and Spain, and the imposition of Christianity in the Philippines, which were characterized by violence, Islam spread in the Philippines through “simple sharing of faith.” The sultanates that came out of this situation successfully resisted Spanish subjugation throughout the entire 333 years of Spanish rule.

Wadi also made some observations on the topic of the Sabah claim, the Jabidah Massacre, the significant role of UP as the source of brains behind the rise of the MNLF, the peace talks with the MNLF and the MILF, and the current American military presence in the South, which he called America’s “second coming” to Sulu. He said this coming—on the pretext of Balikatan exercises—reminded Muslims of the past atrocities of America. Wadi said that in 1915, the US cut diplomatic recognition of the Sultanate of Sulu and had, since the turn of the century, already massacred around 8,000 Moro men, women, and children in the Sulu area.

The Philippine government committed similar atrocities such as the massacre early in the Marcos era of more than 20 young Muslims by the Philippine military. They were part of a larger group who were being trained by the military as a paramilitary group, but who allegedly resisted orders “to grab Sabah by force.” The Philippine claim over Sabah was adopted by the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal, when the Sultan of Sulu sought the government’s help in his claim over Sabah.

According to Wadi, more than a hundred thousand Moros were killed in wars between MNLF and the government between 1968 and 1974. Eventually, in 1978, the MILF was established. The ASG rose only in the early 1990s as a result of the Muslim youth’s alleged disenchantment with MNLF, its leader, and the government; but its ideology got muddled with the death of its founder Abdujarak Abubakar in 1998. Wadi described the alleged relationship between ASG and Al Qaeda as “hazy,” saying Abubakar did not make any reference on Al Qaeda.

Nur Misuari, who went back to the mountains expressing discontent at how the government carried out the peace agreement, is now in jail. The government is currently holding out the peace agreement, is now in jail. The government is currently holding peace talks with MILF. Wadi said the ASG, in turn, had been reduced to less than 30 people. Meanwhile, Muslims in the country continue to be a diverse lot, composed of 13 ethno-linguistic groups. The latest census placed the number of Muslims in the country at 3.3 million or 5.1 percent of the population, but the Office of Muslim Affairs pegs it at 8 million. The MNLF estimates the number at 10 million to 15 million.

The Yakan

The Yakan are the inhabitants of Basilan which was formerly known as Tanguina. "Yakan" refers to the majority Muslim group in Basilan, an island just south of Zamboanga province in Mindanao. The Spaniards called them Sameacas and considered them aloof and sometimes hostile hill people (Wulff 1978:149; Haylaya 1980:13). They were about 161,000.
They are known to be peaceful and respectful as shown in their manner of greeting. They are also watchful of strangers especially those who who wear shoes. Top be friend them, a visitor has to join them in betel nut chewing ritual (mang-upa). Yakan are also frugal people. They speak of a language related to that of Badjao annd Sama but of different intonation. This is called Bahasa Yakan.

They have brown complexion and black straight hair. The Yakan men usually wear multi-colored pants (sawwal kuput0 tightened with a 25-meter red colored and tassled kandit (waist wrap around); pira (weaponry) and lutuan (brass betel nut container). They also wear baju (polo shirt) decorated with gold plated or brass buttons. Toghtened to his head is a pis (headkerchief). They walk around with no shoes at all. The women wear the same tight fitting suits. They do not wear kandit instead they wear dikat (wrap around). Along with these is ulos (blanket), sapotangan( head band), and dons bansil (gold plated tooth) for beautification purposes.

The Yakan remained in the interior, hostile to lowlanders. But in the year 1842, a fugitive from Cavite named Pedro Cuevas escaped to Basilan where he fought and killed a Yakan chieftain named Datu Kalun (also spelled Kalung and Kalum). Cuevas then adopted the name of Datu Kalun (Haylaya 1980:43). The Yakan accepted Cuevas as their leader because he embraced the Yakan religion and way of life, married one of their women, and instituted meaningful sociopolitical changes in their lives. Datu Kalun consolidated the Yakan, led battles against the invading rulers from Jolo, and rid Basilan of pirates and marauders. In 1844, the French government tried to occupy Basilan, intent on establishing a network of naval stations to protect French trade. The inhabitants of Basilan fought against the French for a year, resulting in a French withdrawal, as formalized in a proclamation dated 5 August 1845. During the same year, a US survey mission studied the potentials of the Sulu archipelago, but American intervention did not start until 1899. In 1895, the Sultan of Sulu sent his bravest general, Datu Julkanayin, to regain control over Basilan, only to be defeated by Datu Kalun's forces. The ensuing peace encouraged more Christians to settle in Basilan. Thus, the Spaniards now considered Cuevas/Datu Kalun an ally and pardoned him for his earlier offense. By this time, the Katipunan (revolutionary organization) had been gaining momentum in Luzon. In Mindanao, Muslim resistance contributed greatly to the weakening of Spanish colonizers. Moreover, the Spanish campaigns against the "Moros" - the derogatory term used by the colonialists against the Muslim Filipinos - caused heavy casualties and depleted Spanish resources by millions of pesos. One example is the Muslim attack on the Spanish garrison in Jolo, which dealt a heavy blow on the Spanish forces in Mindanao in 1897. The military attack is considered an important anti-colonial revolutionary effort, although the Muslims themselves did not join the Katipunan (Haylaya 1980). While Zamboanga and Sulu were the centers of Spanish-Muslim hostilities, Basilan inhabitants, especially the Yakan, remained fairly unaffected by the social upheavals. Still, the Yakan were among those natives called Moros by the Spaniards (Jundam 1983:8-9). The arrival of the Americans in 1899 changed the situation in Mindanao. The American strategy of integration was more acceptable to the Muslims than the Spanish strategy of conversion. The new colonizers were received openly by the Muslim elite. On 19 May 1899, American troops took over the Spanish garrison in Zamboanga, one of the last strongholds of the Filipino revolutionaries in Mindanao. By December 1899, the Americans led by Col. James S. Petit occupied the Spanish naval base of Isabela de Basilan. In Basilan, an old and sickly Datu Kalun (Pedro Cuevas) supported the new colonizers.

The Yakan are art lovers. Most of their materil cultureare artistically designed and colorfully painted. They live in luma (Yakan house). The house has a porch called pantan where visitors are entertained. Sometimes they use the pantan as resting place at a particular time of the dayThey serve food in talam(brass tray). The Yakan are primarily farmers who use plows drawn by water buffaloes to cultivate the soil. Rice is their main crop; cassava and coconut are also grown. Sadly, few people grow enough rice to last from season to season. There are no major Yakan villages. Instead, the Yakan live in settlements that are based on mosque affiliation. The mosque is considered the center of the community. Yakan houses are usually scattered among the fields, and it is difficult to see where one settlement ends and the next begins. The inhabitants of a settlement may or may not be of the same clan.
After a hard work on a farm, lilla(boys) rest for a while on porch playing musical instruments (kulintang) and brass drums. Yakan grandmother known as papu’dindi prepares lokot-lokot(native food). The Yakan tends to buold their house far from each other because of the great distance between farm. Their houses are huge with hogh posts and roofing, rectangular and elevated on piles, having steep thatched saplaw(roofing).
Yakan are agriculturist. The land they inhabit is rich of all sorts of trees and plants. Coconuts, abaca, lanzones, rice, cassava etc. were the common source of their income. They believe that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are good working day and the rest are bad working days. Of all the crops
, rice is most valued by the Yakan. The first seed to be planted at the center of the rice field should be done by the Imam. The Imam is also responsible for the prayer before planting and harvesting. The miniature house is built at the center of the rice field which will be the house of Apu-Sin (elder spirit). This spirit was believed to be safeguarding the field. At the four corners of the rice field, incense were burnt to keep vigil during first day of planting.
Yakan men are good hunters and Yakan women are good weavers. The nuclear family, which consists of the husband, his wife, and their unmarried children, is the most common domestic unit. Property is divided equally between children, in spite of teachings in the Koran, which state that a daughter should only inherit half as much as a son. Jural obligation is a vital factor that leads to the cohesiveness of the kin. In times of crisis, they are expected to help each other. Each of individual can rely on one another.

The Yakan are primarily Muslim. The imam is the religious leader of the community and conducts various ceremonies. The Yakan follow the Islamic calendar and celebrate the annual Muslim feasts, such as the birthday of Mohammed. Ceremonies are also held in connection with births, completion of Koranic studies, weddings, and burials. The Yakan have incorporate many of their traditional animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects have spirits) into their Islamic rituals. They believe in evil spirits that sometimes attack people. One such devil is believed to attack and torture people during the second month of the Muslim year.
To Yakan, the Quran is the Divine revelation of Allah addressed to all mankind, regardless of race, region, or time. Islamic doctrines are learned formally in madrasa (school)or listening to the Khutba (sermon) during Fridays. They believe in Surga (heaven) and in hell(narka). People who are elgible to enter heaven are infants who dies at birth, mother who dies during delivery, martyr who die in defense of Islam and pious ulama (scholar). Those who committed sins even if he is an Imam will be punished in hell. But miracles that canm save them from hell is the Quran and Muhammad.

The Sama

The Sama were the first inhabitants of the Tawi-Tawi archipelago. The term Sama was derived from the word “sama-sama” which means together. The current population of Sama from the south is about 225, 000.

The Sama may be described as cohesive and peace loving people. They express themselves by means of words more often than physical means. They are also known as Samal and they speak a language called Basa Sinama.
The Sama has sub-cultural groups which reside at different parts of Mindanao. They are from Tawi-Tawi, Southern islands of Mindanao, Southern Palawan, Basilan, Davao, Zamboanga and Sulu. Some are in North Borneo, in Kuta-Kinabalu, Sanpurna, Kalimantan, Samarindaand Celebes.

The original ancestors of Sama lived among Timbakkung which is a kind of tree.They were scattered along the shorelines of Simunul particularly Buhi Indangan. Ma-as=Malakituk first met Muslim missionaries who reached Simunul by way of Tunggusung isaland. The first mosque built in this land is credited to the Sama who used Timbakkung trees fro construction. Intermarriage between Sheik Makdum and local natives might have taken place. Some claimed they descended from Sheik. This is because of their Arab features.
Each of Sama subgroup has different origin, characteristics and beliefs. They were identified according to ther name of of their coastal settlement. From Tawi-Tawi the different sub groups are Sama Simunul, Sama Balimbing, Sama Tawi-Tawi, Sama Sibutu and Sama Ubian. Each of them varied ancestral backgrounds and outlook in life.
The Sama Simunul descended from the ,ixture of Arab and native blood. This is evident from their skin complexion and physical traits. The Sama as a whole are suspicious of strangers especially those who are wearing shoes. If the visitors are friendly, the rapport is easily established. The congenial, hospitable visitors wre extended the best of family’s welcome. Usually, delicious food were served to them. They wre also allowed to sleep on the only bed of a Sama family. Sama are God fearing people. They believe man should submit to no one but Allah.
Sama Tawi-Tawi descended from Johore. Their ancestors crossed ocean through small out riggers. Their forefathers are powerful men who have supernatural powers to invite the unsen spirit called “Jin”. Graveyards of their ancestors are highly reverd and believed to possess “busung” force which cause incurable sickness.
Sama Tibutu descended from another Makdumin-Mukthar. They possess ilmuh or knowledge of Jinism or spiritism.
The Sama Ubian descended from Sea Dayak. They are known to be fierce fighters. They were the underwater commandoes. However, they do not submit to vengeance. And also they peacefully co-exist with the other Sama.
In Siasi, there are also Sama known as Sama Manubul and Sama Laminusa.
The Sama Manubul have appearance similar to those of Sama Sibutu. They are stocky ans short with brown complexion. They love aquatic sports like swimminr and rowing. The Sama Manubul are jolly, friendly people. During moonlit nights they enjoy staying at the beach and dancing pangay to the sounds of kulintangan and gongs.
The Sama Laminusa are proud and aristrocratic people. They era descendants of Jamiyon Kulisa who was the chief aide of Alexander the Great. Jamiyon Kulisa was believd to have fled to Nusa island, east of Siasi and established leadership there.
Aside from Siasi, Sama people are also inhabitants of Jolo. They are known to be Sama Tapul, Sama Panguturan and Sama Kainga-an.
The Sama Tapul have fizzy hair. They are reserved individuals but aggressive fighters. They are from the Kasalipan (sharifs) who are men of nole blood.
The Sama Panguturan is the subgroup who is generally losing the identity. This was due to the influx of Tausug. The younger generation of this subgroup prefer to be called Tausug rather than Sama.
The Sama Kabinga-an has a touch of Chinese physical trait. They have lighter skin color. They were known to be thrifty, artistic and diligent. They usually shy away from social and political conflicts.
The ancestral backgrounds and cultural differences do not cause disunity among them. The chief source of cohesiveness is the Islam.

The Sama people were fond of golden jewelries. They usually wear sing-sing or ring; gallang (bracelet); kut-kullung (necklace) and aritis (earring). They wear Sambra (short sleeve summer blouse), Sawwat (long loose pants), Badjukuput (tight fiiting blouse), Sablay (long sleeve blouse), Tadjung (wrap around). For the women’s make up, they ue atal (lipstick) and madda (powder).

The Sama are a maritime people, with fishing being their major economic activity. They also engage in seafaring trade and some farming. Throughout much of the area, copra (dried coconut meat yielding coconut oil) is the major cash crop. However, copra holdings are small, and most families are unable to support themselves entirely from copra sales. Thus, trade also occupies a central place in Sama society. Maritime groups were historically valued for their navigational skills as seafarers and suppliers of dried fish, trepang (sea cucumbers), pearls, pearl shells, and other items.
Their houses were usually built along coastal settlements for sanitation. The tide washes away their wastes. Another reason is to secure them from enemies.
The economic life of the Sama is quite progressive. The common source of income of the Sama is fishing and farming . aside from these they also engage in seaweed farming known as Agal-Agal. On the other hand, more and more Sama had joined government and privete institutions. However, there are still more farmers than educated or college graduates. Though. Some earn a living as sales worker and clerks. Other members of the community were housekeepers, students and family helpers.
Fishing, boat building, and iron working are primarily male occupations, while weaving mats and marketing pottery are jobs for women. Both men and women engage in farming and trade. The Sama are known for their traditional dances, songs, percussion and xylophone music, dyed mats and food covers, and wood carvings.
The Sama have different organization. One of these is the Barbangasa or the nobility. The Mahardika are the freeman who are free to exercise their basic rights over ptivate properties and professed religion. They are the professional, college degree holders and the rich and poor people. They usually hold the position of the Imam. The Imam, Khatib and Bilal are the ones responsible for enlightening the Sama with regards to his religious duties. The Burbugsa were classified to Kasalipan and Kadatuan (datu), The Kasalipan were descendants of Muhammad, “Sutsu Sin Rasul” by virtue of the so called Seven Makdum.

The Sama are almost all Sunni Muslims. Those who are knowledgeable in religious matters, such as the imans (Islamic leaders) and other mosque officials, are called paki or pakil. They preside over all important ceremonies and act as religious counselors. Friday prayers are performed in the parish mosque, climaxing a weekly cycle of daily prayers. Also, an annual religious calendar is observed, celebrating Ramadan (yearly Islamic fast) and the birthday of Mohammed. The Sama still retain some of their traditional ethnic religious beliefs. Spirits of the dead are thought to remain in the vicinity of their graves, requiring expressions of continued concern from the living. Some graves have reportedly become the sources of miracle working power. During the month of Shaaban, it is said that God permits the souls of the dead (roh) to return to this world. To honor them, the living offer special prayers to the dead and clean the graves.
The Sama believe in Sulga(heaven) and in narka(hell). Their belief is the effective mechanism in controlling their napsu(desires) to preserve their lyman (faith).

The Tausug

The Bangsamoro, a diverse Moslem community taking up a significant percentage of Mindanao’s population, has been around for centuries, even before the Spaniards’ first steps on the Philippine archipelago. Though unheard of in many instances, the Bangsamoro is a culture still well-preserved. However, their beliefs, traditions, and existence have been challenged.
For the past few decades after modernization in the country started, old traditions absorbed more normative and modern ones. Such a phenomenon has been long feared and preservation has been compromised. For example, matrimony and marriage has undergone dramatic traditional changes that even their rituals show modern traces. Efforts on preserving and even restoring traditions have been taken into consideration.
Despite modernization and its effects to the moro communities, it is interesting to note how the Tausug, a tribe of the Bangsamoro, was able to preserve an entirely unique tradition. Such an event is still notable in some Tausug communities in the South.
The event is categorized under annual rituals which celebrates how the tribe came into the waters.
Tausug communities are packed and are built on the sea. Their houses are quite simple and are raised from the surface by stilts. They usually come in pentagonal figures, all with nine posts. These stilts or posts are very important for they, with the house itself, constitute the body and being of the Tausug people and their origins. Each post stand for nine important body parts.

The Tausug home resembles the human body as shown in the diagram. The significant parts of the body namely: the head, the heart, the stomach, the navel, the reproductive organ, the arms, and the legs, are represented by the nine stilts of the Tausug home.
As a Tausug home is built, a rope which resembles the umbilical chord, is tied to a nearby tree. After nine months, the rope is cut. Such a tradition is holy because it is a ritual held to celebrate the tribe’s origins. The cutting of the rope resembles birth, of course. And the first nine months of the gestation period of humans is well represented by the first few months of the built home until the rope is cut. The womb is the tree which is part of the earth. This shows that the Tausug still consider the earth as their mother though they spend most of their lives at sea.

Tausugs are considered as the people of the current which reflects their close ties to the sea. Their name came from tau (people) and mai sug (brave), which literally means brave people. Hence, they live by their name. Tausugs are known by their bravery, independence, and their love for adventure. They are fighters and good sailors.

Tausugs were the first one to embrace the Islam religion. By the time Islam was introduced, they served as models by practicing Islam culture in their lifestyle and their political structure. As this led to the Islamization of the whole island, Tausug sultans were sent to other islands to spread the Islam religion, which paved way to the scattering of their group to Palawan, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Zamboanga, and even up to Sabah.

Tausug communities observe the structure of a sultanate, wherein they are led by a sultan. The sultan is then aided by a group of datus. The next sultan is chosen based on genealogy or being a direct relative of the Muhammad.

Tausugs inhabit the town of Jolo, the largest town in the island of Sulu. There are about 50,000 Tausugs at present. Statistics showed that about half of their total population is literate.

Tausugs use the Tausug language as their main mode of communication. This language is similar to that of the Butuanon and the Kamayo of the northeastern part of Mindanao. Tausug language is divided into certain dialects such Parianun and the Gimbahanun.

Palawan and the Molbogs

Palawan island has an area of about 1.2 million hectares and it forms the southwesternmost part of the Philippines. It is home to 87 different cultural groups and races that co-exist harmoniously. They are of generally Malay origin, having been influenced by Borneo, China, and the Middle East. Namely, they are the Tagbanua, Pinalawan, Batak, Ken-uy or Tau't Batu, Calamian, Jama-Mapuns, Molbog, Tausug, and Samal-Bangigni. Malays began inhabiting the island in the 12th century. Settlements were ruled by Malay chieftains. Within close proximity of Borneo, Southern Palawan was under the control of the Sultanate of Borneo for more than 200 years after the entry of Spanish conquerers into the Philippines. In the past, settlers relied on agriculture. They grew palay, coconuts, ginger, sugar, bananas, and camote to feed themselves. They raised pigs, goats, and poultry such as chicken. They knew how to fish and hunt using tools such as bamboo traps and blowguns. The Northern Calamianes islands were the first to be ruled by Spaniards. These were declared as separate from the Palawan mainland. In the early 17th century, Spanish missionaries in the form of friars went to Cuyo, Agutaya, Taytay and Cagayancillo but failed in their bid to Christianize these areas in the face of stiff resistance by the Moro communities. In the late 17th century, Spanish churches were built enclosed by garrisons to protect from Moro raids in the towns of Cuyo, Taytay, Linapacan and Balabac. Such forts exist to this day, as testimony to the past. In 1749, the Sultanate of Borneo gave up southern Palawan to the Spaniards, hence Spain established its rule over the whole of Palawan. It used to be called Paragua. It was organized as a single province called Calamianes. It was later divided into three provinces, namely Castilla in the northern section, Asturias in the southern mainland, and Balabac Island. It was later renamed Palawan when the Spaniards left after 1898. It fell under American rule which introduced reforms and programs for development. Schools were constructed all over the province. Agriculture was further promoted, and the ties between the people and government were established. Several ethno linguistic groups live in remote villages in mountains and the coasts. Their ancestors supposedly occupied Palawan even before Malays settled on the island coming from the Madjapahit Empire of Indonesia around the early 13th century. The Tau't Bato or "people of the rock" live in Singnapan Valley in southern Palawan. They inhabit caves in the rainy season and in the dry season emerge to immense themselves in kaingin farming. They are familiar with market concepts such as wage, labor, and money. The Panimusan are the early inhabitants in mainland Palawan. Close contact with Tausugs from the Sulu Sultanate brought in Islam to the people. They are concentrated in the southern part of the island namely Batarasa, Rizal, Quezon, Brooke's Point, and Espanola. Muslims in these municipalites are dominant and wield political power. The indigenous group Palawan, also known as Palawanon, Pinalawan, Pala’wan and Palawano, are located at the southern interior of Palawan, particularly the areas south of Apu Rauan on the West coast and South of Abu Abu on the East coast. Their estimated population is between 15,000 to 20,000. They live in coastal areas and tropical marine highlands. They live a sedentary lifestyle. They are hunters and gatherers, and engage in agriculture and fishing. Their dialects are South Palawano or Bugsuk Palawano. The Molbogs, also known as Molebugan, Molebuganori, and Molebuganon, are native to the island. Their estimated population is 5,700. They live in coastal and mountain environments. They live mainly on agriculture and fishing. They are the original inhabitants of the southernmost island group of Balabac. They derive their name from the word "malubog" which means "turbid water". They are the ones most influenced by Islam. Brunei Muslim missionaries inculcated their religion among the Molbogs. During the 15th century, Islam was actively being propagated when Muslim principalities emerged from the eastern side of the Malay peninsula and Borneo. During this time, the Brunei sultanate was expanding. The Sulu sulatanate also helped to strengthen Islam among the Molbogs.

The Sangils

The Sangils came from Sangihe an archipelago in eastern Indonesia sprawling the Sulawesi (Celebes) just south of the Mindanao sea, then they migrated to Sarangani province and to the coastal areas of Davao del Sur and South Cotabato even before the coming of Islam to Southeast Asia which
The Sangil inhabit the islands of Balut Sarangani and parts of the coastal area of South Cotabato and Davao del Sur provinces. In the past, the Sangils were among the buccaneers who attacked Spanish held territory in the Visayas and Luzon.
The Sangils had been Muslim prior to their arrival in Southern Mindanao. Their migration perhaps came about as a result of Dutch colonial pressure and increasing Christianization of their homeland (Sangihe Archipelago) starting in the second half of the 18th century.
They embraced Islam later as a result of their continuous contact with their motherland, which became Islamized, as well as with the emerging Muslim communities in Maguindanao and Sulu in the 14th century.
Their language seems to show affinity with the Sama language in terms of commonality of vocabularies, similarity of the manner of speaking, and the sound of the utterances of words.
The Sangils earn their livelihood by fishing and cultivating small quantities of food crops. A few of them engage in boat-building of vessels like vintas and pumpboats.

The Maranao

The Maranao, like the Maguindanao, shares a not-so-distant history. The Maranao is closely interrelated with the Iranun and the Maguindanao in terms of tongue or dialect. The strict resemblance of the Maguindanao, Maranao, and Iranun tongues has eventually led to the creation of an isolated category of native dialects. Like the Maguindanao and the Iranun, the Maranao is part of the Danao tongue category.

Maranao translates as “people of the lake”. They now reside in the banks of Lake Lanao. Like the most of the Bangsamoro tribes, the Maranao has retained its native land from where their first sultanate has resided.

The Maranao culture focuses mainly on the values of human life and life itself. Traditions such as matrimony and baptism have been well preserved and valued today as they would do centuries back. Such traditions, however, are strictly going into danger of being replaced by modernization and practices.

The Maguindanao

The Maguindanao, literally, "people of the flood plains", occupy the basin of the Pulangi River. In the past the Maguindanao settled along the banks and in the valley regions of the river. Today they are found in several provinces. In Maguindanao province, which accounts for 76% of the total Maguindanao population, they are settled in Barira, Buldon, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Kabuntalan, Dindig, North Upi, Matanog, Cotabato City, Buluan, Datu Panglas, Pagalungan, Ampatuan, Maganoy, Datu Piang, Talayan, Sultan sa Barongis, General Salipada Pendatun, and South Upi. In Cotabato province, they are found in Pikit and Kabacan. In Sultan Kudarat province, they live in Lebak, Palembang, and Kalamansig, all coastal towns. In 1988 the Maguindanao population numbered approximately 500,000 (Peralta 1988:7).

Most of the residents of Maguindanao classified themselves as Maguindanaon (64 percent), about 14 percent as Iranon; 5 percent, Teduray; and 17 percent, other ethnic groups.

Most Maguindanao follow standard Islamic beliefs and practices. Like any other Muslim tribe of the Bangsamoro, the Maguindanaon believes that the Qur’an, as believed by other Muslims, is the ultimate compilation of the words of Allah and is the source of all Islamic principles. Aside from the Quran, other Islamic sources of law include the Sunnah or Hadith (literally, "a way, a rule, a manner of acting") which recounts the deeds and sayings of Prophet Muhammad; and the Ijma and Iftinad, a revisable collection of the opinions of Islamic jurists. The Maguindanao believe in the six articles of the Islamic faith: (1) belief in the oneness of Allah; (2) belief in the angels of Allah; (3) belief in the books of Allah; (4) belief in all the prophets of Allah; (5) belief in the judgment day; and (6) belief that the power of good deeds comes from Allah alone (Maguindanao).

The Five Pillars of Islam are faith in one God and the four obligations of praying, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one's lifetime. The concept of jihad or natural right to self-defense finds expression in the holy wars (the Jihad) of defense when Muslim land and religion are threatened. Warriors of jihad are guaranteed a place in sorga (heaven). The Muslims believe that the world divides into two spheres -- Dar-ar-Islam (Islamic Sphere) and Dar-ar-Harad (non-Islamic Sphere). The first subdivides into four territories: forbidden, namely Mecca and Medina; reserve, namely Iraq, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, and other areas controlled by Muslims; canonical, where Muslims are allowed to practise their faith in a non-Islamic country like the Philippines; and irredentist, of which Muslims had control until they were forced out, e.g., Spain and Israel (Isidro 1976:46-52).

Although Islamic influence on the Maguindanao is supposedly deep, their religious culture has tended towards "folk-Islam", which has governed much of their ethics, politics and social behavior. Alongside the Islamic beliefs, indigenous religious systems survive. There is the belief in evil spirits and devotion to gentler ones. Belief in magic provides the Maguindanao with security in the face of immediate danger (Glang et al 1978:35-37). As early as the 17th century, the Englishman Thomas Forrest, noted that just as Islamic practices like circumcision are prevalent, indigenous practices like tiling and blackening one's teeth as acts of socio-religious devotion were still followed (Maguindanao).

The Maguindanao language is part of a subgroup of languages called the "Danao(plains) languages". The subgroup includes Maranao, spoken in the Lanao provinces; Ilanun (also Ilanum or Iranun), spoken by a group of sea-based people between Lanao and Maguindanao; and Maguindanao, mainly spoken in Maguindanao, Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat (McFarland 1983:96).

As Muslim lowlanders, the Maguindanao, possess a strong weaving and carving tradition (Casal et al 1981). As with all other Muslim groups, the Maguindanao are prohibited from representing animal or human forms in art. This led to the development of an abstract form of artistic representation in Maguindanao carvings and textiles. These designs are also carved on the weaponry and musical instruments of the Maguindanao.

For example the birdo (vine) motif usually embellishes the musical instrument called kudyapi, which may be shaped like a mythical animal resembling a crocodile (Darangen 1980:112-113).

Arms and weapons were also prominent in Maguindanao traditions. Maguindanao weaponry were virtually adapted by other tribes. They were not only used for war but were also used for religious purposes, sacrifices, traditions, and ceremonies.

A typical Maguindanao blade is the kampilan, usually handled with both hands, and used for cutting off heads or splitting the body from top to toe. The handle of the kampilan features the naga ("S"-shaped abstraction of a mythical serpent) in the form of a gaping mouth. The head above the mouth is usually adorned with reddish fibers, turning the handle into a manelike figure (Lane 1986:177).

Weaving was also an important part in Maguindanao culture as is with others. Known as Oulan, it is traditionally done on a very simple backstrap loom.

The Maguindanao malong (tube skirt) displays more commonly the ikat (literally, "to tie") design. Before weaving, the warp or weft or both yarns are secured with waxed threads. One common ikat design is the eight-pointed star, which is reminiscent of the "radiating-core" motif (Casal et al 1981:132-134).

Metalwork has been an important part in Maguindanao culture. It’s been widely involved in the production of brasswares, weapons, and others.

Silver inlaid lutuan (betel boxes), gadur (jarlike containers), and panalagudan (pot holders) epitomize Muslim brassware. Indicating wealth and status, these objects decorate the affluent Maguindanao home. The gadur come in pairs and are dignified objects with minaret-like tops (note the tower-like structure sprouting skywards as part of the enigmatic Taj Mahal). They are profuse with silver-inlaid scrolls and various geometric shapes. Betel boxes come in sets of four or at least have four compartments to accommodate the four betel chew: bunga (areta nut), buyo (fresh pepper leaves), apug (lime powder), and damp tobacco leaves. These brassware usually have either silver or white-metal inlay, and are ornamented with okir designs (Casal et al 1981:155).

Other metalcraft adorned with okir motifs are the sundang (sword), the gulok (knife), the panabas (long knife), the dilek (spear), the badung, the kris and the bongalambot, the hair clip worn by female royalty (Glang et al 1978:15).

Maguindanao pottery is made mainly through the "turn-modeling" technique, where a turntable, as well as a paddle, an anvil, and a broken rim, are used to mold and shape the pottery (Jose-De La Cruz 1982:8-9).

Maguindanao kadyun (pottery or earthenware) include the kuden (cooking pot for rice and viands), the lakub (vessel covers), the paso (tub for washing rice and vegetables), the buyon (drinking water jar), the kararo (small drinking water jar), the tampad (jar for storing water or salt), the baing (open front jar for parching coffee or grains), the simpi (a covered bibingka or rice cake baking pan), the dapuran (elongated, floored stove), the sinokuran (steamer pot), the binangka (a buyonlike jar but with decorated shoulder), the pamu-mulan (flower pot), the torsian (coffee pot), the ititi (tobacco jar), the tutugan (square ember holder), and the lagan (cooking spot for fish) (Scheans 1977:74-75).
Language, visual arts and crafts, and literary works are only a few of the many elements that comprise the Maguindanaon culture. These elements, however, are shared among other tribes in Muslim Mindanao. Other elements like marriage, weddings, and life cycles are intensified in other tribes— the Maranao as such. The Maguindanao also have common features of different ceremonies shared by other tribes within the Bangsamoro. In terms of language, however, confusions are inevitably created because of the strict resemblance. Faint distinctions is words and their uses must be noted so to fully identify their differences. Where the Danao tongue originate among the three tribes— the Maguindanao, Maranao, and Iranun— is still left unanswered.

The Kaagan

The Kaagan, also called Kagan and Kalagan, are the Islamized indigenous peoples in the Western Davao gulf area. The Kalagans became Muslim probably during the middle of the 19th century, due to a combination of the following factors:1. The political pressure and/or influence of the Tausug migrants in Davao;
2. Contact with the Maguindanao sultanate,3. Extensive exposure and Intermarriages of Kalagan and Masuind Tausug.

The Kaagans are mostly found in Dava Sirawan, around Tagum, Davao del Norte, Mati Davao Oriental some places in Davao del Sur, and the other two Davao provinces. As of 1981, there are 6000 Kaagans in the country.

Kaagan language has many bahasa sug root words because of the arrival of the Tausugs who helped them organize their tribal society.
The Kalagans use Tagakaolo language, Maguindanaon words are increasingly used.
They are classified as: Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian, Western Malayo-Polynesian, Meso Philippine, Central Philippine, Mansakan, Western.
They have 82% intelligibility of Piso dialect, bilingualism in Cebuano, strong ethnic identity, preference for Kalagan language over Cebuano. Literacy rate in second language is perhaps 60%.
With the departure of the Tausug and Maguindanao influences at the height of the Filipinization process. Most of them have been marginalized and were helpless to improve their society because their social organization did not improve as those in Lanao and Sulu.

They are agriculturists, cultivating rice, coconut for crashed crops, while those living along the coast engage in fishing.

The Iranun

The Iranun are primarily found in Maguindanao in Mindanao and along the shores of Illana Bay and coastal areas near Cotabato City. Smaller groups can be found as well in Lanao del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur. Ilanun, an ethnic group in Malaysia, is also believed to have originated from Maguindanao and are originally Iranun. Studies showed those in Malaysia are 85% Iranun-like. Iranuns might have scattered to Malaysia in 1850.

Census showed that there were 12, 542 Iranun in the Philippines. Iranuns are believed to have the same origins with the Maranaos and Maguindanaos. Since Iranun are usually mistaken as Maranaos in the northern regions in Mindanao, and as Maguindanaos in the southern, no accurate number of their population as of today is documented.

Iranun’s language is called the Iranun or Ilanun.

The fact that majority of their population resides along coastal area, Iranuns usually fish to earn a living. Others are more likely to grow crops and participate in trades since Muslims observe active trading in the island.

Small communities of Iranun observe a set of traditional and customary laws. They are governed by someone who they called the headman who acts as mediator in times of fights among his constituents, and as a facilitator during discussions and meetings within the community.

All of the Iranuns are Muslims. Since the time Christianity was introduced, resistance to accept it was already evident among the Iranuns even up to today. Christianity in Iranuns is marked with distrust that is why, even until today, no Iranun is known to be Christians. Being Muslims on the other hand, it is observed that Iranuns observe a more relaxed way of observing the five pillars of Islam. In addition to the original practices, Iranuns observe animistic religion wherein they believe that supernatural beings do not just inhabit ordinary objects but also animated ones.


The Bangsamoro, being comprised of eleven major ethnic groups, has gone certain stumbles to attain their vision. According to Prof. Julkipli Wadi of the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies, some of the lines dividing the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), are tribal issues and secularism considering that the MNLF are mostly associated with the Tausugs while the MILF are with the Maguindanaos. (see sidebar/insert link if any for the full article). Certain aspects of the traditions, beliefs, and religion among the various ethnic tribes might have caused such internal conflicts. To prove that, let us first look into the eleven major ethnic groups belonging to the Bangsamoro.

Moro struggles: The birth of Fundamentalism/Extremism

Another armed group supporting an Islamic state came in the picture. This is the Abu Sayyaf, which is accused of terrorism by the government. They are opposed to peace talks between the government and the MNLF. The government has raised the issue of Islamic fundamentalism, extremist or terrorism. They have responded to the Abu Sayyaf’s violence and has launched an all out war against them. Some would say that the government authorities have linked Islamic fundamentalism in the Philippines to International terrorism. The MILF, MNLF and other Moro organizations are one in denouncing terrorist acts. However they believe that it will continue as long as the Moro problems are ignored by the authorities.

Moro struggles: New forces

Another group expressing their right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro is the Moro Revolutionary Organization (MRO). The MRO is demanding equal participation in the ongoing peace talks.

Moro struggles: Peace talks with the Ramos government

The Ramos government also went into peace negotiations with the MNLF. They will discus modalities in implementing the Tripoli Agreement. The negotiations went on for two years without anything happening. The Tripoli Agreement could not be implemented through an Executive Order. The Congress must amend or change the Organic Act and come up with a new law to create a new autonomous government. This causes the Tripoli Agreement aside and again stalls the negotiations.

Moro struggles: Cory Aquino's policies

The Aquino government attempted to negotiate with the MILF. The focus was also the Tripoli Agreement. But before any agreement could be made, the new Philippine Constitution was ratified. Again the talks break down. The constitution provided a commission to draft an Organic Act that would shape the autonomous government in the region. This will serve as the legal basis for the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Four of Thirteen provinces voted to join which is far from what the Tripoli Agreement provides.

Moro struggle: The Marcos government and the infamous Tripoli Agreement

The Marcos government was forced to sign an agreement with the MNLF to stop the war. It was known as the Tripoli Agreement of 1976. it was aimed to provide political negotiated settlement to the Moro problem by granting Autonomy to the Muslims. The government insisted on a plebiscite to settle the territories. The MNLF didn’t recognize the results of the plebiscite which brought down negotiations. Marcos won over many MNLF ranks through various forms of attraction. He pursued the creation of two autonomous regions. The armed struggles continued quietly amid all these programs. A splittist group within the ranks of MNLF broke away and formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Moro struggle: Martial law

Martial Law gave rise to a new revolutionary movement led by the youth. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). They continued the Moro struggle for independence. A war unsued between the MNLF and the AFP. The war was disastrous. About 150,000 to 200,000 lives were lost and the value of destroyed properties was in billions. The urban areas were safe but people there had miserable lives. There are no permanent jobs and slept in crowded areas. On the other hand, the MNLF and Bangsamoro considered the war as an initial victory.

Moro struggles: Post-colonial government

When independence was finally given to the Philippines, Luzon and Visayas celebrated the birth of a new nation, the Bangsamoro considered this as the death of their freedom. The succeeding presidents of the Republic continued the task of nation building that integrated non-Christians in the Filipino culture. They continued using the scholarship program, Torrens system, co-opted traditional leaders and brought in more settlers. The settlers wanted to have political power. They organized and armed a Christian extremist group, the Ilaga, to protect their power and land. On the other hand, they organized their own force to resist he Ilaga trough the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM). Civil war broke out soon. Moro people and Christian settlers were fighting with each other. When the MIM was neutralized, there were no signs that the problems would go away. It became worst when series of massacres against Moro people happened in the 70’s which will be part of the declaration of Martial Law.

Moro struggles: American rule

The Moro people fought sternly against the Americans. Unlike the Spaniards, the Americans employed several policies of attraction like establishing the so-called Moro province which will look after Moro welfare. An amnesty program allowed Moro rebels Moro rebels to surrender to American authorities. Free education and forging agreements like the Bates Treaty became convenient for the colonization process. The Bangsamoro lost their lands legally because of the Torrens land titling system. Their indigenous political system was replaced with a new one. After ensuring is political control in the Philippines, the Americans gave independence to the Philippines. Regardless of the protests of Moro leaders, Mindanao was to be given to the control of Philippines.

Moro struggles: Colonial aggression against the Bangsa Moro

The Spanish invasion and colonial aggression about 160 years after the existence of the Islamic Sultanates and principalities marked the beginning of Spanish tutelage and the halt of Islamic advancement in the northern islands of Luzon and Visayas. In Mindanao, the Moro relentlessly fought against Western colonialism for a span of more than 300 years. The Spaniards succeeded in teaching the Christians their chauvinist outlook of the Moro people. The Moros were said to be juramentados, herejes, feroces etc. who will burn in hell. Today, this has become a big factor in the failure of cooperation and pleasant co-existence of Muslims and Christians. Spanish aggression did not overpower the Moro peoples determination to resist any Colonial rule in their homeland.

Moro struggles: Colonial assault

The Spanish invasion started at about 160 years into the existence of the Islamic Sultanates. The Moro relentlessly fought Westerners for more than 300 years. Spanish expeditions in Mindanao sparked the beginning of wars between Christians and Muslims.


The Islamization of the Moros started in Sulu at the end of the 13th century. This was spearheaded by the missionary Tuan Mashaikha who got married there and established the first Islamic community. He was then followed by another Muslim missionary named, Karim-ul Makhdum. When Rajah Baguindao came, the political element in the Islamization was introduced. His son, Abu Bakar started the Sulu Sultanate.
Islam was first introduced in mainland Mindanao trough Maguindanao by Sharif Awliya. He married a local lady who gave him a daughter. When Sharif Awliya left, Sharif Maraja followed then by Sharif Kabungsuwan. Sharuf Kabungsuwan intensified the missionary activities of his predecessors and was credited to be the founder of the Maguindanao Sultanate.
Islam spread through intermarriages and political ties with neighboring ruling families. By the mid-16th century, the Moroland was in the process of becoming part of the wide Muslim world of Asia.


The Moroland is made up by Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan is currently known as Southern Philippines. It has twenty three but only 5 provinces have a Muslim majority. This land compromises 96,438 sq km – about thirty three percent of the total land territory of the Phlippines. The populations of the Moros were estimated at about 2,504,332. This number, however, is being questioned by the Moros as a strategy by the government to portray them as a small minority in the Filipino populations.
The Moros were once considered the most developed communities in the entire Philippines. They have very organized lives and had a government that dates well before our own Republic. Those governments are the Sultanate of Sulu, and the Sultanate of Maguindanao and Buayan. Sultan Kudarat united Maguindanao and Buayan into one Sultanate, the Sultanate of Maguindanao in 1619.
Sultan Kudarat’s power and influence was so broad that he was able to collect tributes from seafaring inhabitants of the coast of Borneo and some areas of Basilan and Visayas.The eleven major ethnic groups that compose the Bangsamoro are the Maranao, Maguindanao, Iranun, Tausug, Yakan, Sama, Sangil, Kaagan, Kolibugan, Palawan and Molbog. They have their own languages but only a few have political power. The Bangsamoro was once a dominant group in the country. They have the longest political experience in the Philippines at 500 years. Their culture is a combination 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 the lasting contribution of the Bangsamoro people to the country’s national body politic.