Islamization of the Philippines Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 21 December 2016

Islamization of the Philippines

Contrary to the methods of Spanish conquistadors who handled colonization at swordpoint, the introduction of Islam to pre-colonial Philippines and to the rest of Southeast Asia was generally achieved with minimal bloodshed. By marrying into the rich and ruling class, Muslim traders, teachers and missionaries facilitated the spread of Islam as they travelled to Java, Sumatra, Jahore, Malacca, Borneo and other nearby islands to conduct their mission. By the 13th century, most of the lands of Southeast Asia were Islamized, and pretty soon the southern part of the Philippines followed this trend during the 14th century.

But of course, this phenomenon could have not been possible without notable Muslim people who spearheaded the spread of Islam. Based on the tarsila or the genealogies, the first one who introduced Islam in the country was Tuan Mashaika, the supposed son of Jamiyun Kalisa and his wife, Indira Suga, who were both sent to Sulu by Alexander the Great (Mongcal). Tuan Masaika married the daughter of Raja Sipad of Patikol in Buansa, present-day Jolo ( He was followed by Karim-ul Makhdum, or simply Mukdum, a noted Arabian scholar who introduced Islam in Malacca in the middle of 14th century and continued his travel to the east. He then reached Simunol, Sulu after passing through Sambuwangan (Zamboanga) and Basilan in 1380 (Mongcal). He built the first mosque in Sulu, and he continued to preach Islam until the time of his death. Around 1390, Raja Baginda, a minor prince from Menangkabaw, Sumatra arrived with soldiers and conquered Sulu.

Afterwards, in 1450, they were followed by a Jahore[->0]-born Arab explorer[->1] and religious scholar[->2] named Sayyid Abu Bakr Abirin, or simply Abu Bakr (Sultanate of Sulu- Wikipedia). Upon coming to Sulu, Abu Bakr married Paramisuli, the local dayang-dayang or princess, and daughter of his predecessor, Raja Baginda. Then, he founded the first-ever sultanate of Sulu with him as the sultan, and thus he assumed the title Paduka Mahasari Maulana al Sultan Sharif ul-Hāshim. But it was Shariff Muhammad Kabungsuwan Ibrahim, son of a royal-blooded Arab from Hadramaut (, who stretched the borders of Islamization beyond Sulu, and into the entirety of Mindanao. In 1475 he and his soldiers invaded the natives of present-day Cotabato and married the princess Putri Tonina. He then founded the sultanate of Mindanao with him as the head.

It wasn’t just the natives in Mindanao who had been affected by the spread of Islam. Malay traders from Borneo facilitated the spread of Islam to some of the provinces of Luzon, namely Batangas, Mindoro and Pampanga. By the time the Spaniards arrived during the 16th century, they were surprised to discover that natives from certain parts of Luzon, including pre-colonial Manila and Tondo, practiced Islam. It is common knowledge, however, that technically and generally, the Spaniards had been more successful in propagating their religion all throughout the Philippines, thus confining and paralyzing the spread and influence of Islam. Today, the Philippines is one of the most predominant Roman Catholic nations in the world, second to East Timor in Southeast Asia. Only about 5% of today’s Philippine population practices Islam.

The Roots of Education in the Philippines

It is common for Filipinos to place a high regard on education not only as a predestined obligation to their children, but also as an important means to a higher social and economical status. According to the National Statistics Office or NSO, as of May 2012, 58 million out of the estimated 67 million Filipinos aged 10 to 64 years old are functionally literate, meaning they can read, write, compute, and comprehend (Mercene). Most Filipinos who are functionally literate are those whose who have at least finished high school.

In pre-colonial Philippines, however, education in hunting-gathering communities or Primitive Communal societies was “informal, unstructured, and devoid of methods” (DepEd). It is less focused on academics characterized by the 3Rs which are reading, writing and arithmetic, and more compliant to vocational activities. The learners were taught by their parents or in the houses of tribal educators such as the babaylan or the katalonan, who are believed to possess wisdom and knowledge on spirituality with respect to their beliefs and traditions (Sribd). An ancient Southeast Asian writing system, called the Baybayin, was used as a teaching medium.

Baybayin, from the Tagalog term baybay which means “to spell” is a member of the Brahmic family[->3] and is recorded as being in use in the 16th century, up until the late 19th century (Baybayin – Wikipedia). It is not to be confused with Alibata, which is Arabic in origin. Ancient writing tools consist of leaves, palm fronds, tree bark, fruit rinds, daggers as panulat and materials made from bamboo. Upon the arrival of the Spaniards, these native communities are already practically and technically literate using the Baybayin.

There had been several major changes to the type of education in the Philippines during the Spanish period, as their teachings were centralized on the ideology of Catholicism. The tribal tutors were replaced with Spanish missionaries, and the responsibility for providing primary education to indigenous populations was left to religious orders, headed by parish friars. The concepts of church and school were merged. This elitist, religious-oriented and exceedingly patriarchal type of education continued until it was partially liberalized through the enactment of the Educational Decree of 1863 which provided for the establishment of at least one primary school for boys and girls in each town under the responsibility of the municipal government (DepEd). The first book printed in the Philippines, a version of Doctrina Christiana or Christian Doctrine in the Chinese language, was printed in 1590, to be followed by versions in Tagalog and Spanish in 1593.

There were four major groups of Spanish missionaries who established Christian schools in the Philippines, most of these institutions still teaching at present. The Augustinians established a school in Cebu in 1565, and then the Franciscans took charge of educating the natives in 1577. The Jesuits followed in 1581, with the youth as their focus. They also founded the Unibersidad de San Ignacio, which was later incorporated into the University of Santo Tomas, and also the Colegio de San José in 1601 that took over the management in what became Escuela Municipal, now Ateneo de Manila University (Education in the Philippines- Wikipedia). The last group of missionaries were the Dominicans, who established a school on their first mission in Bataan in 1587, and later founded Colegio de San Juan de Letran in 1620. In general, however, education during the Spanish period was “inadequate, suppressed, and controlled” (DepEd).

A free and adequate secularized public school system only came with the first decade of the American rule, with respect to recommendations of the Schurman Commission, or the First Philippine Commission – a five-person group headed by Dr. Jacob Schurman[->4], president of Cornell University[->5], to investigate conditions in the islands and make recommendations (Schurman Commission – Wikipedia). The Taft Commission or the Second Philippine Commission established by President William Mckinley came later in 1900. This commission, headed by William Howard Taft[->6], was granted legislative as well as limited executive powers (Taft Commission – Wikipedia), and thus it focused on training the people for the duties of citizenship and avocation. The spread of public schools throughout the Philippines came afterwards in 1901, when the Thomasites, the five hundred pioneer teachers sent by the U.S. government to the Philippines due to shortage of teachers, arrived and established barangay schools.

Works Cited List
Mongcal, MAJ SAMUEL T . “Sulu: Our Ancestral Domain.” The Philippine Marine Corps’ Official Web Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. .

“Sultanate of Sulu – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. .

“The Spread of Islam in the Philippines.” Scribd. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. .


Javier, Jess G.
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