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ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: The Minoritization of the Indigenous Communities of Mindanaw and Sulu (2)

mindaviews rodil

2nd of 16 parts

(Done in 1992 at Iligan City, published initially as two versions. First as the abbreviated edition published by The Minority Rights Group, London entitled The Lumad and Moro of Mindanaw, July 1993. The Philippine edition carrying the full draft was printed by AFRIM in Davao City 1994. This was later updated in 2003, summarized in an epilogue. This is the third revision, now with an expanded Epilogue.)

Part II
The Barangay Communities

The barangays which were basically clan communities were associated with coastal settlements, or those found at the mouths and banks of rivers, or were simply lowland communities, who a long time past brought themselves from the other islands of the Malay archipelago and Indonesia. They rode in sailing vessels with that name, also known as balanghai or balangay, and landed in different parts of the islands.

A famous Philippine author has a description of a Tagalog barangay:  “The Tagalogs, having beached their barangays, retained their clan organization, each clan settling down by itself apart from the others, so that the name `barangay’ came to be applied to the kinship group and its village. Each barangay, consisting of several families acknowledging a common origin, was ruled by a patriarchal head or datu, who led its people in war and settled their disputes according to the traditions handed down from their ancestors.

Not all in the clan village had the same social status. There were those who were the equals of the datu in all respects save authority; there were the wellborn (maharlika), bound to their lord by kinship and personal fealty, owing him aid in war and counsel in peace, but in all else free, possessing land and chattels of their own. There were the timaua, who did not have the noble blood of the maharlika but were, like them, free. The rest were alipin, less than free. Some were serfs, aliping mamamahay (literally housekeeping dependents), owning house and personal property, but tilling the land of the datu or the wellborn for a share of the crop, and bound to the soil. Others, aliping sagigilid, (household dependents), were chattel slaves, captured in war or reduced to bondage according to Malay custom for failing to pay a debt.”

Each barangay averaged from 30 to 100 families, was self-sustaining and independent from the others. Exceptions were trading centers like Cebu and Manila, the latter having been reported to have 1,000 families at Spanish contact.

It is relatively easy to determine the traditional habitat of the various language groups. They have lived there since time immemorial down to the present day.

The Ilocanos occupy the area up north in Luzon, now aptly named Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Next to them southward are the Pangasinans, inhabitants of the province of the same name, and then the Kapampangans who are residents of Pampanga.

The Tagalog region begins from Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Bulacan and Bataan and goes all the way down to the boundary of the Bicol peninsula where we have Manila, which has always been the central part of it, Rizal, Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, and Quezon.

The entire southeast stretch called the Bicol region is the land of the Bicolanos.

In the Visayas, the Hiligaynons live in the island of Panay, the Cebuanos or Sugbuanon, as they traditionally call themselves, in the Island of Cebu, and the Waray in the Island of Samar and in the northern part of Leyte. The Cebuano sphere of linguistic influence goes as far as the neighboring Visayan islands like Siquijor, Bohol, and southern Leyte and northern and eastern Mindanaw.

The Islamized Communities

The Muslim principalities were considered to be the most developed communities in the entire archipelago, having reached the level of centrally organized life. Leading the group was the Sultanate of Sulu whose sultanate began as early as 1450. Though independent of each other at the time of Spanish contact the principalities of Magindanao and Buayan were united by Sultan Kudarat in 1619 into the Magindanao Sultanate.

The Islamized communities are traditional inhabitants of the southern portion of Mindanaw, central Mindanaw, the islands of Basilan and the Sulu archipelago, and southern Palawan.

Islam first arrived in the Sulu archipelago towards the end of the 13th century, estimated to be in 1280 A.D., brought by a certain Tuan Masha’ika who apparently got married there and thus established the first Islamic community.

Masha’ika was followed by a Muslim missionary named Karim ul-Makhdum around the second half of the 14th century.

With Rajah Baginda who came at the beginning of the 15th century had introduced the political element in the Islamization process.

It was his son-in-law, Abubakar, whom he had designated as his successor, who started the Sulu sultanate. We do not know what level of social development the people of Sulu have reached in the thirteenth century. What we do know is that in 1417, a Sulu leader named Paduka Pahala led a trade expedition of 340 people to China. They were said to have “presented a letter of gold with the characters engraved upon, and offered pearls, precious stones, tortoise shell and other articles.”

Islam came to Maguindanao with a certain Sharif Awliya from Johore around 1460. He is said to have married there, had a daughter and left. He was followed by Sharif Maraja, also from Johore, who stayed in the Slangan area and married the daughter of Awliya.

Around 1515, Sharif Kabungsuwan arrived with many men at the Slangan area, roughly where Malabang (Lanao del Sur) is now. He is generally credited with having established the Islamic community in Maguindanao, and expanded through political and family alliances with the ruling families.

Meranaw tradition speaks of a certain Sharif Alawi who landed in the present Misamis Oriental in northern Mindanaw; his preaching there was said to have eventually spread to Lanao and Bukidnon. There is hardly any evidence of this in the latter, however, except in some border towns adjacent to Lanao del Sur. From the southern end, Islam came through marriage alliances with Muslim Iranun and Maguindanao datus, specifically around the area of Butig and Malabang.

Islam in Manila was a relative newcomer at the time of the Spaniards’ arrival. There were reportedly ten or twelve chiefs in the Manila bay area, each the acknowledged leader in his town, and one of them was the greatest and was obeyed by all.

How did Islam come to the islands? It came with trade in a rather roundabout way. After the death of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) in 632 A.D., a general expansion movement followed. Through military conquests, the Islamic world turned empire with dominance established in the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.

The expansion movement likewise took towards Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, made possible either by or through Muslim merchants or missionaries or both. it was through the latter that the Malayo-Indonesian region and Mindanaw and Sulu were Islamized.

The trade route, which led to the Islamization of Mindanaw and Sulu, was the one that linked Arabia overland through Central Asia and thence overseas to India, China, Southeast Asia and Africa, especially in the period starting from the beginning of the 9th century.

Overseas travel at that time was directly influenced by monsoon winds and merchants had to establish trade stations along their route where they tarried for long periods of time. In the course of these stays, merchants-missionaries would marry into the local population thereby creating and establishing Muslim communities.

It was in this way that the Islamization process was generally facilitated and hastened in such places as Malacca, Pahang, Trengganu, Kedah, Java and others. By 1450, Malacca had become a leading center of Islam in the Malay archipelago.

It was from the Malay archipelago that Mindanaw and Sulu were Islamized. The establishment of Muslim trading communities in such places as Mindoro, Batangas and Manila in the northern Philippines came from the same direction, more specifically from Borneo.

The combination of trade and Islamization presumably created the necessary conditions that enabled the Sulus, and later, the Magindanao, to advance way ahead of the other indigenous inhabitants of the Philippine archipelago.

To what extent did Islam revolutionize the recipient communities? Before the advent of Islam in the Philippine archipelago, no community was reported to be monotheist. Diwata and anito were essential features of their belief system. Animists, they are called by social scientists nowadays. Believing that “There is no other god but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet,” Islam was the first to bring monotheism to the Philippines. The next was Christianity, which was close to two centuries later.

In the course of its historical development, the Islamic world was able to develop a social system distinctly its own, in consonance with the doctrine revealed in the Qur’an and also embodied in the Hadith or Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet. Such institutions as the caliphate, the emirate and the sultanate are part of this development.

The religion and the social system brought by Islam were radical departures from the animism prevalent among the many lowland peoples of the archipelago. Further, the stimulus provided by the Muslim traders combined to push the Islamized communities far ahead of the others.

They traded actively with peoples of the other islands within the archipelago, and also with other Southeast Asian countries, including China.

The Warrior Societies

Like the barangays, the warrior communities were also kinship-bound. Dr. Scott who has done extensive studies on the matter calls them warrior communities because they were “characterized by a distinct warrior class, in which membership is won by personal achievements, entails privilege, duty and prescribed norms of conduct, and is requisite for community leadership.”

He adds that “the major occasion for exercising military skill among these societies is during raids called mangayaw into unallied territory, but individual attacks are made by stealth or as opportunity presents itself, including suicidal one-man forays.”

Speaking of their sources of livelihood, Dr. Scott says that “all societies with warrior chiefs live by swidden farming, although the Kalingas have adopted terraced pond-fields in the recent past. Braves clear their own fields like everybody else — for which reason mangayaw raids tend to be seasonal — except among dependents and so qualify as a sort of `parasite class.’

Agricultural surplus is produced by increasing labor force through polygyny, sons-in-law, dependents by blood or debt, or slaves. Their heirloom wealth necessary for high social status consists of imports like porcelain, brassware and beads, or local manufactures like weapons and gold work. It is accumulated mainly through bride price, wergeld and legal fees, and is thus more likely to be the result of personal power than the cause.”

Among those falling within this category were the Manobo, the Mandaya, the Bagobo, the Tagakaolo, the Bla-an, and the Subanen of Mindanaw; also, the Isnegs, the Kalingas, and the Tinguians of the Cordillera.

The Petty Plutocracies

The petty plutocracies are confined only to the Cordillera central in northern Luzon, more specifically to the Ifugao, Bontoc, Kankanay and Ibaloy. They were described as such because “they are,” Dr. Scott says, “dominated socially and politically by a recognized class of rich men who attain membership through birthright, property and the performance of specified ceremonies; and ‘petty’ because their authority is localized, being extended by neither absentee landlordism nor territorial subjugation.”

The Classless Communities

The classless communities, Dr. Scott claims, are so characterized “because they distinguish no class or group which exerts authority or advantage over other classes or groups by virtue of ascribed or acclaimed status.” Very good examples of these were the Ilongots of northern Luzon, the Katalangan of Isabela the Ikalahan of Nueva Vizcaya.

The Mangyans of Mindoro (now known to be divided into six distinct language groups, namely, Iraya, Alangan, Tadyawan, Hanunoo, Buhid, Tawbuid and Batangan), the Batak of Palawan, the Teduray of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat in Mindanaw, the Sulod of Panay, and the Negritos who are known by different names (generally Aeta, Eta, or Ita to the Tagalog; Baluga, Alta or Dumagat to the Tagalog of Baler;  Atta to the Ibanag in Cagayan;  Agta among the Isneg;  Pugut meaning black or very dark colored to the Ilocano; also, kulot  or curly to the Ilocano neighbors in Abra;  Ata and Magahat in the island of Negros in the Visayas;  Ata in Davao, and Mamanwa in Agusan-Surigao).

What must be stressed because it is taken for granted by so many people is the fact that the Negritos have traditionally inhabited practically the entire stretch of the Philippine archipelago, from Cagayan southward along the entire stretch of the Sierra Madre to Camarines Norte; also, in Zambales in west central Luzon; in Panay and Negros in the Visayas; and Agusan-Surigao and Davao in Mindanaw.

According to Dr. Scott, “all these societies either farm swidden or hunt and gather forest products for their sustenance — or, in the case of some of the Dumagat, live off fish and turtles.” None of them had any concept of landownership. To them, said Dr. Scott, “the land itself is the property of supernatural personalities whose permission must be ritually secured for safe and fruitful use, and, similarly, wild forest products or game are either the possessions of, or under the protection of, spirits whose prerogatives must be recognized by ritual or even token payments in kind.

The products of the land, however, are owned by those who grow them, and may be alienated or loaned. Fish and game taken in group enterprises are divided equally among the participants and their dependents, or according to an agreed schedule which recognizes divisions of labor, risk, or leadership.”  None of them, too, adds Dr. Scott, had “traditional means of dealing with aliens at a political level, although the formalization of chieftaincy has been a frequent response to contacts with more powerful groups.”

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. A peace specialist, Rudy Buhay Rodil is an active Mindanao historian and peace advocate) 

The Spanish Contribution

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