20 June 2020

Following the initial peopling of Mindanao by Negritos, followed by the Austronesian people, a great linguistic diversification took place over several millennia. The result was a wealth of ethnic groups, each with their own languages and customs. They have been classified in many different ways, but it is believed that there are about 11 ethnolinguistic groups in Mindanao and Sulu that have adopted the Muslim religion, and about 18 Lumad groups./1/

The coastal regions of the northwest of Mindanao were settled by Subanons and Maranao, with the former populating the Zamboanga peninsula and the latter the region around Lake Lanao down to the coast.

In the 16th century a new group settled in the area.

The trigger for this event occurred far away, across the sea in Bohol. In the 16th century Bohol and Panglao were important trading centers, maintaining links with Cebu, Butuan and even distant Ternate in what is now Indonesia. At one point in time the people of Panglao invaded Bohol and established a kingdom which reached its peak during the reign of two brothers, Rajahs Dailisan and Pagbuaya. Recognizing its importance, Ternate established an embassy in Bohol. However the relationship between Bohol and Ternate deteriorated after the Ternate (Indonesian) ambassador and his men were killed as punishment ‘for making advances to a concubine’. In 1563 the Ternatens retaliated by attacking Bohol, aided by the Portuguese with sophisticated weapons such as muskets and arquebuses. They caught the Boholanos unprepared and many were killed, including Rajah Dailisan.

Pagbuaya, together with about 1,000 (10,000?) others fled the island and found refuge in a beautiful bay in northwestern Mindanao at Dapitan. They took the name of their new home, Dapitans./2/ Soon after that, in 1565, the Spanish reached Dapitan for the first time and Pagbuaya formed a strong alliance with them./3/ This was not mere friendship. Pagbuaya and later his son Manook actively supported the Spanish conquest of other parts of the Philippines. Manook was later baptized as Don Pedro Manuel Manook. The Dapitans helped the Spanish with the conquest of Manila, Camarines and Sorsogon. Don Pedro even founded Gubat and lived there. Don Pedro also appears in the history of the establishment of Iligan when the Dapitans extended their influence along the north coast of Mindanao. The Dapitans were known for their valor and the Spanish used them rather like the British used the Ghurkas of Nepal many years later.

Don Pedro had a sister, Dona Madalena Baloyog (or Bacuyo), who also played an important role. According to Combes, she had great influence over the Subanons and ‘obtained the name of pacifier, mistress, and sovereign of the hard hearts of the chiefs of the Subanon. Her importance stretched much further east. When the Butuanons resisted Spain in the early 1600s Dona Magdalena was asked to mediate with Silongan, the chieftain of Butuan. She was remarkably successful and later became the recognized leader of their people, loyal to Spain. In 1622 Dona Magdalena repeated this feat in Cagayan which was ruled by her grandson Salangsang. Here she facilitated the access of the Recollectos to Cagayan.

After his death, Don Pedro was succeeded by his son-in-law, Don Gonzalo Maglinte, who made Iligan into Spanish territory, right next to the Muslim Maranaos of Lanao. He was another fearless warrior and in exchange for his loyalty the Spanish exempted ‘his nation’ from tribute and personal service (Combes). He neutralized the threat from the Muslim south and was involved in events in Cebu and Oton. Don Gonzalo was succeeded by his son Pedro Cabili(s) and from the 18th to the 19th century this family dominated political life in Dapitan and Iligan. In those centuries, the Spanish used Dapitan as a military outpost for their operations against the Muslims. Spain constructed a number of forts along the north-western coast, in Dapitan, Iligan and Ozamis, aided by the Cabili family.


Footnotes: /1/Two Muslim ethnolinguistic groups are in Palawan; /2/Dapitan means meeting place, from the Visayan dapit/hapit, "to invite"; /3/At the same time Pagbuaya turned down the diplomatic overtures of Borneo (Brunei?).


Source: Jonathan B. Catubig, Dapitan Kingdom: A Historical Study on the Bisayan Migration and Settlement in Mindanao ca 1562. PNHS, The Journal of History, Vol XLIX 2003.


Gerry van der Linden is a former Vice President of the Asian Development Bank and is now active in microcredit and governance NGOs in the Philippines


Herminio A. Liwanag

12.07.2020 10:37

Very interesting Mr. Gerry. I frequent Iligan which made your article interesting to me. How about an article on Borneo? Is it part of the Philippines?


27.06.2020 11:46

We are learning a lot from your well researched and interesting blogs. We really don’t know much about Mindanao. Thank you for letting us read your blog!