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The Philippine Muslim communities have a distinct religion and secular practice, culture and tradition.

A rough estimate of the Filipino Muslim community by the Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) states that the Muslim population consists five percent (5%) of the total Philippine population. Concentration of Muslim population is apparent in the ARMM, Region 9, 11 and 12. Their population in each region is illustrated in the table below.


Historically Muslim Filipinos are not integrated as one definable and united society. There are several endemic characteristics in their separate identities: (1) language, (2) political structure, and (3) history and degree of Islamic integration with cultural traditions and customs already existent. Each of the subgroups has been proud of its separate identity and conflict between communities has been endemic throughout Philippine Muslim history. However, their common experiences, especially in their relations with non-Muslim Filipinos, have somehow brought them together time and again.

Philippine Muslims consist of the following subgroups defined on the basis of language:

1. Maguindanao

The Maguindanao refers to the people living in the Pulangi area, located in what are now North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao Provinces. Cultural communities within this region also include the Tituray, T'boli and the Manobos.

Maguindanao originally means "people of flooded plain." The name Maguindanao was also named after the Sultanate or dynasty that ruled the area for several years.
2. Maranao

Maranao means "people of the lake." Their homeland is called Lanao or "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.

The Maranao form the largest Muslim community and cultural minority in the Philippines. Their families are traditionally large and close-knit. Feudal standing is in some parts still visible. The position, wealth and land ownership of many of those considered from an ancestry of "royalty" still maintain some political position or prominence in their areas.

The Maranao are considered the most devout and most traditional of the Muslim communities. They have braved much of the attempts to conquer and subdue them. They are also known for their artistry in carving, boat making and creation of malongs.

3. Tausug

"Tausug" derives from tau meaning "man" and sug meaning "current" and translates into "people of the current." Another argument made on the meaning of the name states that the name in fact translates to "brave people".

The Tausug even before the arrival of Islam or Christianity and the people who promulgated their system of government, the Sulu Islands, where the Tausugs are found, had their own system of government. The Tausugs openly welcomed Islam and the system of government that came with it. This has bred to the establishment of the Sulu sultanate. Leaders from this region moved to other places in the country, spreading Islam and its system of government in Tawi-Tawi, Palawan, Basilan, Zamboanga, and Sabah.

The Tausug, numbering around 502,918 (NCCP--PACT) in 1988 are predominant in the northern part of Sulu province, ie., Jolo Island and the neighboring islands of Pata, Marunggas, Tapul, and Lugus, and to a lesser extent in Siasi and Pangutaran.
4. Sama

Also in the Sulu Archipelago are the Sama consisting of five sub-groups including the Sama! and the Badjao. These people are highly dispersed in the Sulu Archipelago. They are considered boat-people, spending most of their time in constant movement throughout the islands in the area or living on the water. The Sama are also considered the sea-gypsies of the Philippines.
5. Yakan

Yakan is the majority Muslim group in Basilan. There is a registered 196,000 population of Yakans in the area of Zamboanga (NCCP-PACT, 1988).

The Yakan have generally two spheres of belief integrating Islamic principles and traditional beliefs into what is referred to as "folk Islam".

There is little known about this people. One of the highlights of their history is the arrival of Pedro Cuevas or Datu Kalun, an outsider who killed the datu of the Yakan and then was accepted as their Datu in the early 1800. The Yakans were primarily under the Sulu Sultanate, but proving to be deliberately their own through the leadership of Datu Kalun, the Basilan Yakan had given the Spanish and Americans. However, the Yakan have remained in many instances separate from any rule, other than that of Sultanates their Datu follows. Due to much political conflict in the area of Basilan, many of the Yakans have settled in the region of Zamboanga City.
6. IIanon or Iranun

The lranun are said by many to have been the origin of the ethnic groups within the Lanao del Sur to the Maguindanao areas. The Iranun language is in fact seen in the Maranao and Maguindanao languages. The Iranun were said to have fought under the Maguindanao sultanate. Many sultans of Maguindanao were said to have been from the lranuns.
7. Molebugan or Molbog

The Molbog mostly live in Bafabak, Palawan. The word molbog originated from the word "malubog" which means "murky or turbid water". Their language and practices share close affinity to the Orang Tidung (Sabah), Sama and the Tausugs. These people and other Muslim communities in Palawan were ruled by Sulu datus under the Sulu sultanate.
8. Kolibugan

Kolibugan means "half-breeds." Originally from the Subanon tribes, these people are called such because their culture has been said to be half breed, having come into Islam through intermarriage with Muslim communities. These people live the Subanun organization and language.

The term kolibugan is as well used to refer to all peoples who have accepted Islam through intermarriage.
9. Sangil

The Sangil are found in the Balut Sarangani, parts of South Cotabato and Davao Del Sur provinces. They are said to have come from Sanghe (islands in Indonesia between the Celebes), the origin of the name Sangil. They are people who were already Muslims before they came to Philippine shores.

The Sangil are also known for their boat making. They have also been said to be the buccaneers who attacked Spanish territories in other parts of the Philippines.

10. Kalagan

The Kaagan are mostly found in the Davao provinces. Their islamization was achieved through the arrival of the Maguindaon and the Tausug. However, when the Maguindanao sultanate and Tausug left, the Kaagan became marginalized and with less improvement in their social organization.
11. Muslim Inhabitants of Palawan

Palawan inhabitants (Panimusan) were islamized through the Sulu sultanate, through the Tausug who went there to introduce to Islam to the local people. Now, the Muslim populations in the area are found in Batarasa, Quezon, Brooke's Point, Espanola, Narra, Roxas, Taytay and Aborlan.

Source: CPRM Consultants. (June 2004). Institutional Strengthening of the Shari'a Justice System: (Phase I). Final Report on the SC-UNDP Project: PHI/01/001. Submitted to the Supreme Court of the Philippines
  Copyright 2011 Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication