The Power of Sulu -Kahimyang Project

The Power of Sulu – A Brief History of the Throne of Sulu

 (Part 1 of 2)

Posted Tuesday January 03, 2012 (3 years ago)
January 3, 2012

Accounts of pre-Islamic times in the Sulu Archipelago are unreliable and conflicting. A Sulu legend tells us that the first inhabitants were Buranum, hill people from Borneo who settled at Maimbung and it is a common belief among the people that Alexander the Great and several of his officers once ruled in Jolo. During the fourteenth century, Samals and Bajaos from Johore immigrated in large numbers to the coasts of Sulu, where their descendants remain. The hill people, or Sulus proper, although outnumbered, held their own fairly well against the newcomers and took many of them captive. Moros from Mindanao, especially from Lanao, also came as immigrants.

Even prior to the advent of Magellan, Sulu pirates were the terror of the Visayas and Luzon. They held slaves, who were taken as captives or received as tribute, and these slaves were assimilated into the bulk of the population of Sulu.

In the year 1380, Makdum, a noted Arabian judge, introduced the Islam throughout the Sulu Archipelago. He built a mosque at Tubig-Indangan, on the island of Simunul. He died at Sibutu, where the people still venerate his grave. Later, about the year 1390, Raja Baguinda arrived at Buansa and successfully continued the work of Makdum, making himself ruler. It is said that he brought writh him a pair of elephants, the ancestors of a herd long since exterminated that once roamed wild in Jolo. From the time of Baguinda, the hill people the Buranum – were called Sulus.

The year 1450 was marked by the arrival of Abu Bakr, a Muslim missionary. He married Baguinda’s daughter, Paramisuli, and on his father- in-law’s death succeeded him as religious authority, later proclaiming himself sultan.

Abu Bakr divided the land into the political districts of Parang, Pansul, Lati, Gitung, and Lu-uk, appointing a panglima (next to a datu in rank) as head of each district. He also promulgated laws which furnished a foundation for the work of his successors. Abu Bakr was succeeded by his children and grandchildren, and the sultanate was regularly organized.

During the reign of the sixth sultan, Spanish Governor-general Francisco De Sande sent an expedition headed by Captain E. R. de Figueroa against Sulu, which reached the town of Jolo in June, 1578. With this expedition began a period of warfare between Sulu and Spain, which was to last for 300 years. De Sande gave as his principal reason for opening hostilities against the Sulus the desire to convert them to Christianity. There were, however, other motives, such as the reduction of the people, who were enjoying an independent government, to vassalage; exaction of tribute; and stopping piracy.

The history of Sulu from the time of De Sande to the occupation by the Americans consisted mainly in suecessive raids by the Sulus on different parts of the Philippine Archipelago, in expeditions by the Spaniards against the Sulus, in reprisals, confiscation of property, and taking slaves, and in the making of treaties which were more commonly broken than observed. In 1599 Cebu, Negros, and Panay wre plundered by Moros. In 1602 an expedition against Jolo failed after more than three months of fighting. The sultan for the time being remained “king of the land and lord of the seas.”

On January 1, 1638, General S. H. de Corcuera arrived at Jolo with some 80 vessels and about 2000 soldiers, Spanish and Filipino. He was resolved to occupy Jolo, and he succeeded in his purpose. Sultan Bungsu offered a fierce resistance, having fortified the town strongly. For the first time the Sulus experienced a defeat. But the Spanish sphere of action was not extended far beyond Jolo, and when the Chinese adventurer Koxinga threatened a powerful descent upon Manila, the Spaniards withdrew their garrison. The town was evacuated on April 14, 1646 after a treaty had been made between Sulus and the Spaniards. This treaty was in force for only a short time.

Sultan Bungsu was succeeded by Nasirud Din II and Salahud Din Karamat, during whose reigns the Sulus made many raids, visiting almost all parts of the Visayas and Luzon. In 1663 Zamboanga, which had been established as an outpost against the Moros, was evacuated by the Spaniards, who reoccupied it in 1718. Karamat was followed by Shahabud Din, Mustafa Shafiud Din, Badarud Din I, Nasarud Din III, and Alimud Din I.

In 1737, Alimud Din I ratified a treaty of “permanent peace and alliance” with Governor-general F. Valdes y Tamon. He was one of the strongest and best of sultans, wielding considerable influence over his people, introducing reforms, observing the terms of the treat faithfully, and suppressing piracy. He had parts of the Koran translated into Sulu, advocated education, issued money, formed a small army, and undertook to create a navy.

In 1748 Alimud Din had to leave Jolo, upon being overpowered by Bantilan, son of Sultan Shahabud Din, who had proclaimed himself sultan. The pretext for Bantilan’s rising was the friendship of Alimud Din with the Jesuits sent to Jolo by King Philip V in 1746.

Alimud Din went to Manila in 1749, arriving on January 2, and was royally received and entertained by Governor-general Arrechederra. Finally he was baptized as Christian on April 29, 1750, the ceremony taking place with great solemnity and pomp. Games, theatrical represetations, and bullfights were held in his honor. Governor-general F. J. de Obando decided to reinstate him as sultan; but while on his way back to Jolo he was unwarrantably imprisoned at Zamboanga by Governor Zacarias. He was then sent back to Manila, where he was held as a prisoner.

On account of this humiliation to Alimud Din, the Sulus became especially active in raiding and pillaging the northern coasts, hardly a town escaping. The year 1753 was the most terrible in the history of Moro piracy.

In 1763 the British, having occupied Manila, released Alimud Din and replaced him on the throne of Sulu, the Sulus receiving him willingly.

In 1769 the Sulus invaded Manila Bay and were able to take captives from the very wharves of the city.

In 1773 Alimud Din was succeeded by his son, Israel, whose administration was very successful. Israel was poisoned by his cousin, who ruled as Alimud Din II and under whom hostilities between Sulus and Spaniards increased. For a period of ten years or more traffic between Luzon and the islands to the south was paralyzed. It is said that even English and American ships tried to avoid the channels infested with Moro pirates.

The throne of Sulu was occupied successively by Sharapud Din (1789); Alimud Din III; Aliyud Din I; Shakirul Lah (1808); and Jamalul Kiram I, the son of Alimud Din III (1823). During these reigns there was continual warfare between the Sulus and the Spaniards; raids were answered with retaliations, and treaties were trampled.

In 1844 the French made a treaty with Sulu, and the increasing interest of other countries in Sulu aroused the Spaniards to the necessity of subjugating the Archipelago if they wished to retain any form of control.

-The Sulu Archipelago and its People
Sixto Y. Orosa, 1931
-History of the Philippines
David P. Barrows, 1925

The Decline of Sulu – A Brief History of the Throne of Sulu (Part 2 of 2)

Posted Sunday January 08, 2012 (3 years ago)
January 8, 2012

The period from 1848 to 1896 marked the decline of Sulu. In 1848 steam gunboats were used by the Spaniards for the first time in their warfare with the Moros Under Governor Claveria, three of these reduced the forts on the island of Balangingi in the Samales Group. The introduction of steam gunboats marked “the beginning of the end of Moro piracy”.

In 1851 General Urbiztondo invaded Jolo with a strong force, reaching the town on February 27. After a desperate fight the Sulus evacuated the town and the Spaniards burned it. The invader left Jolo after a few days, having captured 112 pieces of artillery. In 1861 the Spaniards employed eighteen steam gunboats, and these soon put an end to piracy.

In 1862 Mohammed Pulalun, who had been sultan since 1844, was followed by his son, Jamalul Alam. Alam proved to be an able administrator, and he introduced several reforms.

In 1876, Sulu was finally occupied by Governor-general Malcampo, who used some 9000 troops and considerable artillery in besieging the well-fortified town of Jolo. The use of steamboats, against which the Moro vintas proved ineffective, made it possible to stop the importation of guns and ammunition by the Sulus, The Sulus fought to a finish, but they were overwhelmed by the invaders. Not only Jolo, but almost all the other important fortified places were destroyed.

Jolo was occupied by a garrison consisting of two regiments of infantry, one company of artillery, and one company of engineers, under the command of Captain P. Cervera, who was designated as politico-military governor of Sulu. Cervera fortified Jolo. He was succeeded on December 31, 1876, by Brigadier-general Jose Paulin, the second governor of Sulu.

For one year, 1877 to 1878, the Moros constantly made attempts to overcome the Spanish garrison but were always defeated. Moros became juramentado almost daily, and the garrison suffered considerably.

Colonel Carlos Martinez was appointed governor of Sulu on September 28, 1877. He concluded a treaty of peace, the last that was drawn between Spain and Sulu. This treaty was fairly well observed. It was recognized by other nations, and with it their interference came to an end. Governor Martinez enlarged the town of Jolo and established a hospital.

In 1878 Sultan Jamalul Alam ceded (some accounts noted this as leased) the remaining Sulu possessions in Borneo to the Sabah North Borneo Company in consideration of a yearly subsidy of 5000 Mexican pesos. In the same year Sulu became a part of the new administrative division of Mindanao and Sulu.

Colonel Rafael Gonzales de Rivera became the fourth governor of Sulu on February 3, 1880. During his administration the Spanish forces were several times attacked by disaffected parties. But General La Corte, with the cooperation of the sultan and the datus, defeated and punished the disturbers. In 1881 La Corte completed the walls for the defense of Jolo.

On the death of Jamalul Alam, Badarud Din III became sultan in April, 1881. Badarud was the first sultan to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Colonel Isidro G. Soto was appointed governor on November 15, 1881, and was relieved on June 2, 1882, by Colonel Eduardo Fernarndez Bremon. Before Colonel Soto’s term expired, Bongao and Siasi were garrisoned.

The disturbances which marked the term of Colonel Bremon were put to an end by General Paulin and by Colonel Julian Gonzailez Parrado. Colonel Parrado, who became governor in August, 1882, showed unusual vigor and punished districts where juramientados – Moros sworn to die killing Christians had succeeded in dispatching several soldiers. He constructed a cement market place, established a water system, and made Jolo an open port.

On the death of Badarud Din on Feruary 22, 1884, the succession to the sultanate was contested by Raja Muda Amirul Kiram of the house of Jamalul Kiram I, by Datu Aliyud Din of the house of Shakirul Lah, and by Datu Iarun ar-Rashid. Datu Harun, not having a direct claim to the throne, withdrew his candidacy and went to Palawan. Datu Aliyud Din, with headquarters at Patikul, went so far as to proclaim himself Sultan, and then attacked Amirul Kiram at Maimbung. Amirul Kiram had the greater following, and after considerable fighting Aliyud Din fled to Basilan.

Governor Parrado was relieved by Colonel Francisco Castilla, who was succeeded by Colonel Juan Arolas in January, 1886. Arolas continued the work of sanitation and furthered public improvements with remarkable success.

Amirul Kiram asked the Spanish government to recognize him as sultan, and Governor Arolas was directed to send him and Datu Harun, who was to be appointed sub-sultan, to Manila. Amirul Kiram, however, refused to go to Manila. Datu Harun went alone, and on the recommendation of Governor Arolas was recognized as sultan by Governor-general Terrero.

Sultan Harun arrived at Jolo in October, 1886, and established his headquarters at Maubu. He was stoutly opposed by nearly all the datus, who supported Amirul Kiram, the logical heir to the sultanate. Sultan Harun and his followers, with the aid of Governor Arolas and the Spanish forces, waged war against Amirul Kiram and nearly all the datus. But he failed to receive recognition from the people as sultan, in spite of Governor Arolas’ brilliant military achievements.

Arolas’ term ended in 1893. Among all the Spanish governors of Sulu, he had the longest and most eventful administration. He was relieved by Colonel Cesar Mattos, and the latter was soon replaced by General Venancio Hernarndez. Sultan Harun did not receive consistent support from Arolas’ successors and was sent back to Palawan, where he died a few years afterward.

Toward the end of 1893 Amirul Kiram finally received official recognition from the Spanish government as sultan, and assumed the name of Jamalul Kiram II. It is a comnon belief that his mother who was intelligent and had considerable influence, promised the governor to exact tribute from the people if her son should be appointed sultan. It is also said that Jamalul Kiram, unable to collect the tribute, paid P10,000 out of his own funds.

Colonel Luis Huerta was the last Spanish governor of Sulu. Spain evacuated Sulu in May, 1899, when an American garrison relieved the Spanish garrison at Jolo.

On August 20, 1899, General J. C. Bates concluded a treaty with Sultan Jamalul Kiram II. This treaty is known as the “Bates Agreement”. Under it the sovereignty of the United States over Sulu was recognized.

The Sulus have always made first-class fighting men, and among them every able-bodied man might act as either soldier or sailor. After the first occupation of Sulu in the sixteenth century, the Spanish garrisons were not strongly maintained, and Spain’s influence was little felt beyond the limits of the town of Jolo. The datus and the people recognized no head other than the sultan. One hundred years before the time of Legaspi the Sulus had become fanatically Mohammedan. They maintained an independent state and had customs of their own. It was impossible and absurd to attempt to change their religion and character at one stroke.

The Sulus always opposed the payment of tribute, and withstood any interference in their internal affairs. No effort worth mentioning was made by the Spanish government to transform them gradually.

Evil was dealt with by evil. The governors, although some were good post commanders, were generally poor civil administrators, and they were frequently changed. No definite policy was ever pursued. No attempt was made to study local customs and peculiarities, and no governor could speak the dialect. The Sulus hated any foreign aggression, as was but natural, and Spain’s final military victories were neutralized through the tenacity, valor, and patriotism of the Sulus.

-United States Colonies and Dependencies
William D. Boyce, 1914
-The Sulu Archipelago and its People
Sixto Y. Orosa, 1931


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