Mindanao is the country’s second largest geographical area or division located in the southern end of the Philippines. The name Mindanao derives from the name of the indigenous tribes and people who lived and dominated the area since the beginning of Philippine written history, the Maguindanaons, historically great warriors and tribesmen who lived under the rules of the Sultanates led by the different Sultans or rulers.
Mindanao’s historical significance is deeply ingrained in the country’s history books and recognized as a major contributor to the Philippines colorful past. There are five major ethnic classes or Muslim groups in Mindanao namely Maguindanao, Samal, Maranao, Tausug and Badjao . Islam was introduced to this region in the 13th century through Muslim Arabian peoples from present day Indonesia and Malaysia through trade. It is the only region that can claim to have stood their ground and refused to be colonized by any of the foreign powers that occupied and annexed the country as their own, successfully resisting Spanish and American colonization during the different periods when these countries tried to control the country, which perhaps is the reason why Mindanao and its people were called great warriors in the colonizers own history books.
For hundreds of years the Spaniards tried to defeat the existing Muslim States but time and again failed to successfully control this region. A few hundred years later, after the Spanish have ceded control of the Philippines to America, the American troops who battled in Mindanao were again met with strong armed resistance and were forced to abandon their plan of completely controlling all the major regions of the country, leaving the Moro’s to themselves. The Bangsamoro concept of being a separate nation from the Philippines was born in the early nineteenth century, with the Moro’s seeking to separate themselves from the Indios (as Christian Filipinos were referred to by the Spanish) and create a distinct identity and nation of their own.
The following are historical places in Mindanao worth mentioning for people to get a glimpse of this elusive and proud Bangsamoro State.
Intramuros Jolo Sulu. The colonization of the Philippines by Spain starting in the 1500’s led to an aggressive army of Spaniards sweeping the archipelago to take absolute control of all the Philippine regions where they actually succeeded in doing at two of the country’s main regions Luzon and Visayas. When they came to Mindanao, the Spanish army was met by a fierce resistance never before seen nor experienced in their conquest of the two other major regions mentioned before. The Moro’s, as they were called then, valiantly defended their territories which led to frustrations among the Spanish conquistadors.
The war raged on between the Moro’s and the Spaniards for more than 300 years, with 16 major recorded military campaigns conducted by the Spanish against the Moro’s of the Sulu Sultanate, with the Mindaonaoans successfully thwarting all the attempts of total Spanish takeover except for a period of three decades when the Spaniards finally were able to get a stronghold of Jolo, Sulu mainly due to the Moro Chieftain’s decision to evacuate and seek refuge in Tawi-Tawi due to a mysterious epidemic that plagued the Sultanate.
Dapitan Zamboanga del Norte. The Shrine City in the Philippines is a moniker given to the City of Dapitan, a place known in history books as the land where the National Hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal was exiled. Jose Rizal is one of the most loved and greatest of all Philippine heroes who have conquered the heart of a nation during the Spanish colonial era. He is well known as a poet, writer, novelist, journalist, ophthalmologist, revolutionary and a great Filipino nationalist who used is inherent talent in writing to greatly influence the hearts and minds of the Filipino people to revolt, not through armed conflict, against the Spanish rule. His greatest and most popular works are Noli Me tangere and El Filibusterismo.
Dr. Jose Rizal advocated liberty from Spanish rule through peaceful means, perhaps to avoid bloodshed that has plagued the nation for centuries prior to him being born. Rizal at an early age has seen the atrocities committed by the Spaniards against his people with violent uprisings resulting in deaths of thousands of Filipinos who have sought liberty from Spain. His most prominent writing which angered Spain was when he mentioned in Noli Me Tangere that if the Spanish colonizers had nothing better to offer the natives except to treat them as slaves or Indios then everyone in Asia specially the Filipinos of his country are doomed.
He was also the founder of La Liga Filipina, an organization that will later give birth to the Katipunan, the group that will pave the way for the start of the Philippine-Spanish revolution. Rizal is not a supporter of violent struggles; instead he proposed to achieve the same end of freedom and liberty through peaceful institutional reforms. The hero believed the need to restore his people’s dignity and self-worth is justification enough to call for freedom and liberation from the grip of Spanish rule. He was tried by the Spanish government for rebellion and sedition and was executed in December 30, 1896 in Bagumbayan.