Understanding the Muslim Filipinos

Understanding the Muslim Filipinos

By Apolinario Villalobos


Christian Filipinos should not abhor their brother Muslims in view of the turmoil in Marawi perpetrated by the terroristic Maute Group. A terroristic group or any group with an intention of sowing destruction may arise from among the Christians, too. Unfortunately, many Christian Filipinos have yet to understand their brother Muslims beyond their porkless diet. By culture and religion, there are differences between the two, but they emanated from the same Malayan race, and by geography, they both belong to Asia.


Centuries before the Spanish arrival, Islam was well-entrenched in strategic islands of the archipelago, having been introduced in Sulu by Sharif Makdum, a Muslim missionary from Malacca. The first mosque which he built could still be found at Tubig-Indagan, on the island of Simunul. He died in Sibutu where a simple shrine was built in his honor. Makdum was followed by Raha Baginda who arrived in Sulu in 1390, and in 1450, Abu Bkr arrived from Johore who married Princess Paramisuli, daughter of Raha Baginda. Their marriage marked the founding of the Sulu Sultanate.


In Mindanao, the first Muslim leader to arrive was Sharif Kabungsuwan, who reached Cotabato (today, part of Maguindanao province) in 1475. He converted the natives into Islam and married the local princess, Putri Tuῆina. Eventually, he became the first Sultan of Maguindanao and his wife, the first Sultana.


At the time of the Spanish arrival, many parts of the archipelago were inhabited by Muslims, such as Batangas, Pampanga, Mindoro, Catanduanes and part of what is today, Metro Manila, particularly those along the Pasig River. When Legazpi arrived in 1571, the recognized Muslim “king” of Manila by the natives was Raha Sulayman, while in Tondo, it was Lakan Dula.


The Spaniards used the word “Moros” to refer to the fierce inhabitants who resisted their intrusion. The word is derived from the “Moors” who were their primary adversaries in Spain. It was the “fierceness” albeit, intended for the Spanish intruders, that unfortunately, had a negative impression in the mind of Filipino Christians. But, thanks to the later generations of Muslim Filipinos, for today, the reference which has been shortened to “Moro” connotes respectability. Contrary to what many non-Muslims believe, “Mohammedanism” is not a religion because Muhammad, himself, did not claim to have founded a religion. The counterpart of the Bible in Islam is the Koran or Qu’ran.


The Five Pillars of the Islamic Faith are: the profession of Faith; praying five times a day facing Mecca; giving alms called “zakah” to the poor; fasting during the month of Ramadan; and pilgrimage to Mecca. Polygamy is allowed, hence, a Muslim may have 4 wives for as long as he can afford to support them and divorce is also permitted.


Pigs are considered unclean, hence, pork is detested by Muslims. Alcoholic drinks are also not allowed. It is for this reason that prior to the arrival of Christians in Mindanao, vinegar was concocted from banana. When migrants from the Visayas and Luzon came, tuba (coconut wine) and basi (sugarcane wine) were introduced but only the Christian settlers imbibed them.


Many Biblical personages are also mentioned in Koran, the most popular of which are Jesus, Abraham and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is interesting to note that during Christmastime, some Muslim stalls in Quiapo display Christmas lanterns and Christmas trees. They also practice gift giving to live up with the season.


Finally, in the Philippines, politics laced with greed ruined the good relationship between the Christians and Muslims to some extent…