byRonald de Jong
The last Tribes of Mindanao, the Maguindanaons, people of the flood plains.The island of Mindanao is former known as Gran Moluccas or Great Moluccas and namedafter the Maguindanaons who are part of the wider Moro ethnic group.The name means people of the flood plains or derived from the two word maginged anddanaw which means people of the marshy. In the early 15th century, Sharif MuhammadKabungsuan, an Arab-Malay preacher from the royal house of Malacca, introduced the Islamicreligion, customs and the Sultanate system of governance. He married into the local noblefamilies of Mindanao and around 1515 founded the first sultanate of Mindanao, the sultanateof Maguindanao and Buayan. The indigenous population was quickly converted and the firstmosque in the Philippines was built in the middle of the 14th century.Bangsamoro or Moroland was originally home to the Muslim sultanates of Mindanao, thesesultanates resisted Spanish colonial rule, and were therefore not fully integrated with the restof the islands. The term Bangsamoro is derived from the Malay word bangsa, meaning nationor people, and the Spanish word Moro, from the older Spanish word for Moor, a term for Arabsor Muslims. Their ongoing struggle for self-determination and cultural identity is a struggle ofgenerations. The Maguindanao are one of many groups of "lowland" Filipinos who arrived onthe island of Mindanao during sequent waves of migration from the Southeast Asian mainlandseveral thousand years ago. The region of Maguindanao became home to most of thecountry's Muslim or Moro populations, composed of many ethnic groups such as the Maranaoand the Tausug, the Banguingui as well as collective groups of indigenous, non-Christian andnon-Muslim tribes. Better known as the Lumad, a complex patchwork of indigenous groups.The Maguindanao, the largest group of Muslims on the Island of Mindanao, live in the mostunappealing area, the marshy portion of the present site of Cotabato, their ancestral land isflooded many times a year by overflowing rivers.The Maguindanao, a hardy clan, are inland, dwelling Muslims who cultivate rice as their basicfood crop and survive on fishing and weaving fine mats and baskets. For centuries, they livedin relative peace with other tribal groups that inhabited the highlands of Cotabato; thesegrounds were used as a place of refuge and as a source of slavery. Attempts by theMaguindanao to subdue the mountain tribes of Cotabato did not succeed, but later on tradingflourished between the different groups. As far back as the Spanish occupation, variousMuslim groups of the Maguindanao tribes were already settled in regions that developed laterinto important towns such as Samal in Davao del Sur, Tagum in Davao del Norte and Mayo which is now Davao City. At present the Maguindanaons live along the coastal area ofSouthern Mindanao, as well as in the Cotabato Basin adjacent to the upper Allah Valley.Most Maguindanao follow standard Islamic beliefs and practices, but the nativeMaguindanaons persevere to a form of folk Islam, their believe in spirits, sorcery andsupernatural beings is still evident in their culture and ceremonies. The apo na palay, orgrandfather of the rice, is a tribe member who conducts rituals and chants incantations overthe rice fields at night to ensure a good harvest. During the month of Ramadan, all tribemembers will participate in various ceremonies that are associated with fasting. Otherceremonies, such as those related with birth, marriage, and death, have both indigenous andIslamic beliefs and rituals.The Maguindanao are traditionally a peace-loving, inland-dwelling tribe, the essence of theancient Islamic faith and culture remains a great part of their daily life, a great contradictionhowever is their culture of dominant clan power that is deeply rooted within the Maguindanaotribes. Clan wars or blood feuds have long been embedded in the life in many parts ofMaguindanao. these feuds, characterized by occasional outbursts of retaliatory violence arecalled rido, a term that originated from the Maranaos. The causes of rido are commonlyoffenses to honour, land disputes, crimes against women and offenses between families,kinship groups and communities.Maguindanaons celebrate the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival, an extraordinary display of Muslimreligion and culture. It is a colourful feast commemorating and celebrating the arrival of ShariffKabunsuan via Rio Grande de Mindanao more than 500 years ago. For centuries Islam hasbrought peace and harmony to the people of the Maguindanao tribe, a tribe with a turbulentpast, a vibrant present and uncertain future. Maintaining the unique Maguindanao culture whileoperating in the modern Mindanao way of life will be a huge challenge and a great opportunityto show the world the real and peaceful face of the Maguindanao tribe.
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