MOROLAND – Land of the Bangsa Moro



16th century map

Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan comprised the Land of the Moros since the 13th century.  In the 1660s, Palawan and Sabah were added to the Moro territories by virtue of a gift from the Sultanate of Brunei to the Sultanate of Sulu. The lands north of it like the Kingdom of Manila were invaded and colonized by Spain. The Moro sultanates — Sulu, Maguindanao, Buayan and the Maranao confederacy — however fought and maintained their independence until the coming of the Americans in the beginning of the 20th century.

The 16th century European map above proves that Mindanao was already known to the world even before the so-called “discovery” of the Philippines by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

When Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu in 1521, an island north of Mindanao, he met with the Cebu King, Rajah Humabon. Magellan immediately introduced his religion, Roman Catholicism to the natives, and planted a wooden cross to commemorate the arrival of Christianity in Asia. This angered the Muslim religious leader Cali Pulacu* (known to the Filipinos as Lapu-Lapu), who protested the presence of the foreigners. Magellan, in typical European arrogance, led his men to the neighboring island, Mactan, where the Cali (meaning judge) lived. Magellan met his death at the hands of the Muslim Cali, thus depriving him the honor of being the first man to circumnavigate the globe. However, his flagship, the Trinidad, was the first ship to circumnavigate the globe (at least according to Western documents).

In 1571, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in Manila, in Luzon Island, north of Cebu. Manila at the time was ruled by Muslim Malays from Borneo. Rajah Matanda ruled Manila together with his teenage nephew, Rajah Suleiman, the Rajah Muda. Suleiman’s elders, including his other uncle, Lakan-Dula of Tondo welcomed the foreigners. But the young prince realized that Legazpi had devious intentions. He declared war against the Spanish. Without the help of his elders, Rajah Suleiman fell in battle. Rajah Muda literally means Young King but Malay sultanates use this title to denote Crown Prince. But the Filipinos celebrate Rajah Suleiman as the last king of Manila.

The Spanish conquistadors could not believe their eyes. It was not too long ago when they revolted and drove away the Moros (Moors) from Spain. And now, halfway around the globe, they met them again.

The Spanish differentiated the two natives of the archipelago into Moros (Muslim Malays) and Indios (pagan Malays). They then formulated their simple policy regarding the natives — convert the Indios to Christianity and kill the Moros.

And so, for about three hundred and fifty years, the Spaniards tried their best to christianize the Indios and annihilate the Moros. They succeeded in the former but failed in the latter.

In 1898, the Spanish left and the Americans came. Again the Moros fought. In 1946, the Indios became masters of the Philippine Islands. In 1972, the Moros resumed their fight.


*The true identity of Cali Pulacu / Lapu-Lapu / Silapulapu is still under debate. This writer believes in the theory that Cali Pulacu was a Muslim because pagans like Rajah Humabon, usually submit to foreigners first. Throughout history, Muslims usually do not immediately bow down to Christian invaders, esp. proselytizing ones like the Spaniards. Rajah Suleiman of Manila is a case in point.





4 thoughts on “MOROLAND – Land of the Bangsa Moro

  1. i have some correction from here Raja Humabon is not King but only a governor of Cebu, raja Means Governor . Sultan is a King which is from Sulu and SUltan of Suly assigned each of the inhabitant island of Raja like Raja Baguinda of Manila Datu Puti of Ilo-Ilo .. etc


    1. Really?! Rajah is a Hindu word which means King. Maharajah means Great King. There is no such thing as “governor” in feudal times. Sultan means sultan, not King. Malik is the Arabic word for King. The Sultanate of Sulu had NOTHING to do with Manila. Manila at that time was governed by Borneans from the Sultanate of Brunei.


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