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Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat (1580 – 1671)

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Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat, Dipatuan means “Master” in Malay and Kudarat is Arabic for “Power”‘ he was an Iranun noble man.  Taught the arts and letters by Malay, Chinese and Arab traders and missionaries who came to the harbor principality of the Sultanate. He was taught the art of sword fighting by his uncle who defeated the first Spanish Conquistador Esteban Figueroa in the “Battle of Tampakan” in April 1596, the equally famous Rajah Sirungan of Buayan. Figueroa brought with him 214 Spanish soldiers and 1400 native vassals from Visayas. The use of Christianized natives by the Spaniards sowed the seed of mistrust and historical divide of people belonging to the common race. Rajah Laut, Rajah Silungan, the young Kudarat and the Iranuns responded by attacking Christianized coastal villages of Visayas and Luzon whom they perceived as Spanish based support settlements.

Like his father and his fathers’ father before him he spent almost all his life sea faring and reached many shores that the winds carry their ships. As a young man he led many attacks against Spanish held territories as a response to Spanish threat of invasion. in November 1603, after taking the town of Leyte Kudarat witnessed the blood compact between his father Kapitan Laut Buwisan and the native Waray chiefs. Kapitan Laut Buwisan opened his mind to them, they (the Waray Chiefs) ask them: “Consider well what advantage you derived from beng tributary to the Spaniard. Has the Spaniard been able to protect  you? Had he been able to protect the people of Panay, Mindoro and Balayan? If you ally yourselves to the Maguindanaos you would have him, Buwisan for  yout friend, and not what he is now, much to his regret their foe. Let them further consider how easy it would be for them to throw off the Spanish yoke with the help of the Maguindanaos. The Spaniards however were only a handful, nor were they invincible as they made themselves to be” The Visayan datus  thought there was wisdom in Buwisan speech, they sat down and entered into blood compact with him. This incident in Dulag Samar, influenced deeply the young warrior noble man Kudarat.

Several years after, Kudarat earned the Royal Title Kachil meaning ‘ young prince” , he attacked Spanish held territories as far as Manila with two goals in mind, destroy the Spanish armada and liberate the people of Luzon and Visayas from the yoke of Spanish imperialism. He became the Sultan after his father. Sultan Kudarat held court at Maguindanao,, Simuay and Ramitan. A wise move of the Sultan in order to control the Maguindanaos (Maguindanao), the Iranun (Simuay) and the Maranaws (Ramitan). Sultan Kudarat attacked Spanish held territories from 1633 to 1636 as far as the island of Manila, in response to theses “continous plunder and piracy” Captain General Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera was tasked to pacify the muslims led by their King Kudarat, their former plan was simple “defeat and capture Kudarat and temporarily put a Spanish puppet” because the successful evangelization was impossible without eventually destroying the principalities of the moros. Landing in Lamitan, with adance force consisting of trained Spanish soldiers and Christianized natives principally Pampangos and Visayans, on March 13, 1637, Corcuera began the siege of the Sultan Kudarat’s capital. after a fierce but short battle, the minor cottas were destroyed, including the mosque and plantations, Sultan Kudarat re positioned in the outskirt of the settlement. Not having enough men to storm Kudarat and his warriors, Corcuera waited for reinforcements, on March 16, the reinforcements arrived. The next day the battle commenced once again, this time Kudarat was wounded and his wife seeing eminent defeat, threw herself in a cliff while holding her child to avoid the humiliation of being captured. Kudarat retreated, under the protection of Maranaws and Iranun warriors, he was brought to an inland Idalemen “people of the woods” Iranun settlement. The siege in Lamitan was the first major defeat of Sultan Kudarat. Governor Corcuera took advantage of the defeat of Kudarat, he ransacked, plundered, burned muslim villages to the ground and even tried to persuade the Buayan Rajah Maputi to turn against Kudarat.


The Unconquerable Sultan of Mindanao

Bloodied but unbowed, Kudarat remained unconquered. He was even more resolute than ever
in his determnation to fight back not only to regain whatever is lost on the lands of his forefathers but also an even larger territory. A few years stay in the lands around the magnificent Lake Lanao, he was able to extend his power not only on Maranaw muslims but over the pagan dwelllers of lake, who were similarly fierce warriors. Unfortunately though, Jesuits priests were permitted by the Maranaw datus to preach in their lands, even to the extent of allowing the Spaniards to build forts near the lake. Sultan Kudarat cannot allow this to happen, although as a religious man himself, he can tolerate preachers of other faiths in his realm, but, strong Spanish miilitary presence, under his watch cannot happen. If the Iranun nation is lost, everything is lost. Calling all the Maranaw datus, he presented to them the consequences of cooperation with the Spaniards and the presence of forts in their midst. Jesuit priest Father Combes reported the exhortation of the defiant ruler of Maguindanao in October 1639:

“What have you done? Do you realize the subjection would reduce you to? A toilsome slavery under the Spaniards! Turn your eyes to the subject nations and look at the misery to which such glorious nations had been reduced to. Look at the Tagalogs and Visayans! Are you better than they? Do you think the Spaniards consider you of better stuiff? Have you not seen how the Spanards trample them under their feet? Do you not see everyday how they are obliged to work at the oars and the factories with all their rigors? Can you tolerate anyone with a little Spanish blood to beat you up and grasp the fruit of your labor? Allow yorselves to be subjects today and tomorrow you will be at the oars; I at least will be a pilot, the biggest favor they willl allow a chief. Do nor let their sweet words deceive you: their promises facilitate their deceits, which little by little, enable them to control everything . Reflect on how even the minor promises to the chiefs of other nations were not honored until they became masters of them all. See now what is being done to these chiefs and how they are being led by a rod.”

Kudarat pointed out to the Maranaos that their loses would amount no more than a year’s harvest, a trifle in comparison with the loos of their freedom. Kudarat was speaking to all chiefs of the Maranaws the “dwellers of the lake”, which many of them were not his subjects, some were not even muslims, buit the Maranaws knew their origins, they were actually the same race wiith this Chief of Kudarat an Iranun, whom they admired and even thought of having supernatural powers. The Maranaws are Iranuns who settled around the majestic lake Lanao. This brave Muslim Chief was is a brother in law of another significant  Maranaw Chief of Butig Datu Nuning Amatunding, who led countless expeditions and defeated all his foes. And when Kudarat noticed that his words found his mark, he aroused their anti Spanish stand and Maratabat “honor”, by promising them his help, as well as that of his brother in law the Maranaw datu Nuni Amatunding. “Thank you brother, now it is done, the Spaniards will pay for their atrocities and the blood of the martyrs will not be in vain. They will be avenged” Sultan Kudarat said to his brother in law Datu Nuning Amatunding.

The Maranaw warriors attacked the newly built Spanish fort. Atienza, the alcalde mayor of Caraga formed a relief expedition and saved the beleaguered soldiers stationed in the fort. After twenty nine days of fierce battle, the Maranaws set the fort on fire  and left their positions around the fort and retired to the mountains in the interior. The Spaniards burned all the settlements and fields they could lay their hands on. Atienza, would make one more try to conquer the Maranaws but failed. After this second attempt, it would take the Spaniards two centuries and a half to return to the lake. The Spaniards took advantage of the long hiatus of Sultan Kudarat after the fall of his capital in Ramitan by talking peace to the Rajah of Buiayan Datu Maputi, around the middle of  1638, Corcuera promised to deal with him as the paramount lord of the Pulangi and send him his captain with seven artillery pieces to help him take over the territories which still recognized Kudarat as their lord. Rajah Maputi showed interest to the offer of Corcuera. Kudarat’s spies reported the move of Corcuera. His long stay in Lanao, may result in losing his territories in the Pulangi, the land of his forefathers. He decided to deal with their problem immediately.

Corcuera, boasting the defeat of Sultan Kudarat, demanded tribute to Rajah Maputi, but with a stroke of luck it seems, Rajah Maputi refused outright to pay tribute as well as to allow missionaries into his territories. He allowed building a fort to his realm, on a condition it will be placed under his jurisdiction and even demanded more artilleries for his protection. That ended Spanish “peace offerings” to Rajah Maputi. But Corcuera may have ended flirtations with Rajah Maputi, he turned his eyes on the latter’s rival Datu Manakior, the chief of Taulan whose followers inhabited the mountains some miles upstream  northeast of Buayan. Manakior was promised the return of lost lands as well as those of Maputi if he would help the Spaniards drive away the Rajah of Buayan.

On March 2, 1639, Major Pedro del Rio led an expedition to destroy Rajah Maputi, confident that he will be sccessful with the help of Datu Manakior they will eventually defeat Rajah Maputi and therefore weaken their utmost rival Sultan Kudarat. On March 21 the fighting began with Rajah Maputi’s warriors. inspite of the stiff resistance of Kabalukanen warriors allied with Rajah Maputi, the Spaniards prevailed after gaining higher ground. The stronghold of Rajah Maputi was burned to the ground, he retreated to Kabalukan. Datu Manakior who led his two thousand Taulanen warriors on the side of the Spaniards was delighted with the victory. The Spaniards promised to consider him as lord of Buayan. The Spaniards began to build a new fort in Buayan.

To the dismay of the Spaniards, Sultan Kudarat, returned to Simuay, after more than two years stay in Lake Lanao, unconquered and stronger. Series of raids against the Spanish vessels and forts immediately commenced. This time his warriors managed to capture two Spanish brigs upon the intercession of a priest Kudarat released the prisoners and entered into a peace treaty with the Spaniards. A calculated move on his part, because the peace treaty will give him enough time to deal with the internal power struggles of the rival Buayan and consolidate the forces within his realm. He wasted no time in seeking a dialogue with Sultan Maputi and Datu Manakior. The talks was successful. A united Maguindanao and Buayan was once again established.

By December 1639, Sultan Maputi attacked the Spanish fort in Buayan. They managed to isolate the fort and even captured a Spanish brig carrying twenty Spanish soldiers. At least for the time being everything is going well with the Sultan of Maguindanao Kudarat after his return to Simuay.

In 1645, the new Spanish Governor General convalidated the previous pact. There was relative peace during these periods. Jesuit missionaries were protected and free to preach Christianity in the Moroland. Sultan Kudarat further more consolidated his forces including Buayan and even the many native chiefs of Visayas. He also strengthened his alliances to other South East Asian Sultanates, such as Johore, Ternate, Sulu, Brunei etc… What is astonishing is the arrival of warriors who are “the most foreign arrivals, whose Moorish dress of turban and marlotta and weaponry as well as worship suggested they are Arabs or Indians in origin” (Francisco Combes 1645-1657) They distinguish themselves as navigators, warriors, traders who were ready at all cost to defend the Sultanate of Maguindanao. When everything is set Sultan Kudarat is now ready to exact vengeance. In 1655, Ten years after the truce, Sultan Kudarat sent his ambassador Banua, a son of a former Tagalog captive to Manila. He brought a demand letter of the Sultan of Magundanao and a beautiful Kris as a gift to the new Spanish Governor Sabiniano de Lara. Sultan Kudarat demanded the return of artillery pieces that were captured by the then Governor general Corquera and the freedom of the Maguindanao and Iranun prisoners of war. Although not a member of a royal family or a significant chief of the realm, he was accorded the necessary courtesies befitting his position. However, the Spanish Governor cannot accede to the demand, he explained that the cannons were melted down and the captives were in the hands of influential families of Manila and many of them converted to Christianity.

Ambassador Banua returned to Maguindanao accompanied by the Jesuit priest Father Juan de Montiel and  Spanish Ambassador Father Alejandro Lopez. When they arrived in Simuay, the representatives of Spain did not receive the usual welcome and friendly terms with the Sultan for about fifteen years even calling Lopez his “brother”. Sultan Kudarat met them with the request that they bring back the letter of the governor, which ambassador Lopez refused. The Spanish response of to the letter of Kudarat, was a violation of the peace treaty. The letter of the governor was all Sultan Kudarat needed to disregard the treaty and declare war with the Spanish governent in Manila. Unknown to the Spaniards, the peaceful environment brought about by the 1645 treaty between Spain and Maguindanao, was used by Sultan Kudarat to consolidate his Maguindanao, Iranun, Maranao, Samal forces and other Christianized natives of Luzon and Visayas and rally the other Malay Sultanates such as the Sulu, Ternate, Sangil,  Makassar and Brunei to a united stand against the colonialist Spain. The Spanish governor gave the Sultan the war he needed. In 1656, he declared war to the Spanards. He was more or less 70 years old.

Sultan Kudarat was recognized by the Spanish government, the Dutch, Ternateans, Bruneians, Sulus, natives of Luzon and Visayas, Buayanens, Samals as a renowned leader with strong sense of political organization. Spanish writer Diaz spoke of Sultan Kudarat as a “man of great courage, intelligence and sagacity”. He was respected as well as feared by the Spaniards. Spanish Jesuits acknowledge him as a “man of faIth, who respect other religions”.

“For the people of Maguindanao, as far as we know, the age of Sultan Kudarat represented an experience in the decisive integration of the traditional social structure that helped to shape the Islamic elements of the succeeding Magindanaw reigns.” (Datu Michael Mastura) He was a symbol of Maguindanaao freedom and sovereignty. A noble man in deeds and blood. A recognition by Presidential decree declaring him a hero, a decoration for diplopmats, and a commemoration stamp all contribute to his heritage of greatness. He died a victorious more or less  90 years of age in 1671.

Kris Sword

The speech of Sultan Kudarat

The speech below is famous amongst Moro people. This speech that awakens the prides of the Moro people that after this speech the Moros fights under the leadership of Sultan Kudarat, a significant history that unites the Moro people to fight against the Spaniards. A moment in the history of the Bangsamoro that proves we Moros are united in our struggle for self-determination and freedom.

The speech of Magindanaw Sultan Muhammad Di-Pertuan Qudarat was translated in the Spanish language by the famous Jesuit Father Francisco Combes who served as ambassador of the Spanish government to the court of the Magindanaw Sultan in Simway between the years 1645 to 1657. The speech was written in the book of Combes titled Historia de Mindanao y Jolo.

This speech of Sultan Kudarat was translated by the eminent Muslim scholar Dr. Cesar Adib Majul in his book Muslims in the Philippines (Quezon city: University of the Philippines Press, 1999 edition, pp.156-157) as follows:

“What have you done? Do you realize what subjection would reduce you to? A toilsome under the Spaniards! Turn you’re your eyes to the subject nations and look at the misery to which such glorious nations had been reduced to. Look at the Tagalogs and Visayans! Are you better than they? Do you think that the Spaniards consider you of better stuff? Have you not seen how the Spaniards trample them under their feet? Do you not see every day how they are obliged to work at the oars and the factories with all their rigors? Can you tolerate anyone with a little Spaniards blood to beat you up and grasp the fruit of your labor? Allow yourselves to be subjects (today) and tomorrow you will be at the oars; I, at least will be a pilot, the biggest favor they will allow a chief. Do not let their sweet words deceive you; their promise facilitates their deceits, which, little by little, enable them to control everything. Reflect on however the minor promises to the chiefs of other nation were not honored until they became masters of them all. See now what is being done to these chiefs and how they are led by a rod. Don’t we have a right to regain back our Independence?”


Author, Mohammad Sinsuat Lidasan 

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“Don’t we have a right to regain back our Independence.” Sultan Kudarat