Arab settlement in the Philippines
|Regions with significant populations|
|Mindanao · Metro Manila · Visayas|
|Arabic · Tagalog · English · other languages of the Philippines|
|Sunni Islam · Christianity · Others|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Arabs · Jews|
Arab settlement in the Philippines is part of the story of immigration in the Philippines. The Philippines, a country with many vast communities of immigrants and foreigners (especially Americans and Chinese), has a notable Arab community. According to a recent survey, present day Arab migrants to the Philippines number about 822,000. The majority of Filipinos with Arab parentage live in Mindanao. Recently, most are immigrants, most who are entrepreneurs, settled in Manila.
In 1380, Karim ul’ Makhdum, the first Islamic missionary to reach the Sulu Archipelago, brought Islam to what is now the Philippines, first arriving in Jolo. Subsequent visits of Arab Muslim missionaries strengthened the Islamic faith in the Philippines, concentrating in the south and reaching as far north as Manila. Starting with the conquest of Malaysia by the Portuguese and Indonesia by the Dutch, the Philippines began to receive a number of Malaysian-Arab refugees including several Malaysian princes and displaced court advisors. Soon, vast sultanates were established overlapping the existing indigenous Filipino barangay (village) governing system and Indianized royalty. The two largest were the Sultanate of Maguindanao, which loosely governed most of southern Mindanao and the Sultanate of Sulu, which included Basilan, Jolo, and parts of Borneo. Several other smaller but famous sultanates were also established such as the sultanate of Lanao in Mindanao and the sultanate of Cebu, which was later conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century. The ties between the sultanates in Mindanao remained economically and culturally close to Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia until the end of the 19th century when the sultanates were weakened by the Spanish and later the American militaries.
According to the Syrian Consulate in Makati, the first Orthodox Christians on the islands were Syrian and Lebanese merchants and sailors, who arrived in Manila after the city was opened to international trade. Many of the Lebanese sailors married local women and their descendants have since become Philippine citizens, including the owners of a famous pizzeria in Manila.
In recent times, the first wave of Arabs to arrive to the Philippines were refugees from their war-torn nations, such as Lebanon which was under civil war in the 1980s, and Arab nations involved with the Gulf War in 1991. Other Arabs are entrepreneurs who intend to set up businesses.
Present-day Arab Filipino families include the Bediri (Tawi-Tawi), Abubakar (Sulu), Bajunaid (Maguindanao) and Samanoden (Lanao). (Samanudi, and not Samanoden, descended from Sudan. The Samanudis are in Cotabato and Lanao.) Former ARMM Speaker Ismael "Pochong" Abubakar is descended from the Bediri from his mother side and Abubakar from his father side. Former MSU Gensan Chancellor Moner Bajunaid is of Arab descent. (Bajunaid of Yemen from his father side and Masmudi of Tunisia from his mother side. Also of Arab descent in Mindanao are the following families:
- Cozbari (Syrian) of Lanao
- Soliman (Jordanian) of Cotabato City
- The Nesheiwat Family of the Philippines
The Solimans of Cotabato City are among the Arab pioneers and migrated to the then town of Cotabato to start a new life. He first came to the Philippines through Bacolod City then Kidapawan in North Cotabato and finally to Cotabato City. He settled in Cotabato City and became a prominent businessmen.
Jack Jacob Ayid Soliman-Yacoub Ayid Nesheiwat (January 21, 1903- October 25, 1971) was born in Al-Salt, Jordan. He used to own a bazaar and barber shop in Magallanes Street in Cotabato City. He was a respected figure among the city's vast Muslim community.The Nesheiwat family of Al-Salt to which the Soliman family descended from are among the oldest family in Jordan and can be traced as early as 14th century. The Nesheiwat's of today still exist in Al-Salt, which was recently declared a protected area by Queen Rania of Jordan.
Jack Soliman had three wives (Lourdes Veniarta of Bacolod City and Grace Grecia of Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat) of whom he had six children. The eldest being Charito Soliman Bueno, a respected Academian and Professor of Notre Dame University (June 19, 1941- September 26, 2006 )married to Damaso Bueno Sr. and had four children namely Damaso Jr, Ma. Donna, Jack Thomas and Emmanuel.Then followed by Dr.Joseph Ayid Soliman, a neurosurgeon married to Dr. Ella Sutton Soliman, based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States and had three children: Jack Joseph, Pamela and Michael. Nelson Ayid Soliman (May 25, 1952-April 30, 2010) a retired banker of Philippine National Bank, married to Sylvia Garcing a daughter of one of Cotabato City's pioneer Vicente Garcing of Victorias, Negros, and had three children namely Jacquelyn, Jack Vincent and Judah. Meriam Soliman Anino, a Chemical engineer married to Dr.Rolando Anino had three children, namely Lovelyn Grace, Jack Rollan and Rolando Jr. Jack Soliman Jr., a Mariner and Gamal Soliman, married to Janet Flores with four boys: Jack Kristopher, Jhan Paulo, Jian Gamalliel and Jairo Anjello. The Solimans of today have left Cotabato for good.
In the Visayas, the Caram family of Iloilo, the Deen and Jureidini families from Cebu are of Arab descent. In Davao are the Nasser and Borghaily (Aburjaily) family. Mostly they are of Lebanese origin. The Awad family of Davao's forebearer is the Lebanese Christian Juan Awad, who hailed from the Beqaa Valley. The Ysmael family of New Manila are also of Lebanese descent, and Hemady street is named after one of their relatives (by marriage) who was of Palestinian origin. From Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley are the Abrahams whose original family name was "Fakhri" (changed by the American authorities) who are blood relations of the Maronite Catholic Saint Charbel from Lebanon.
Some movie and TV celebrities are also of Arab descent. Among them are Carlos Agassi (real name: Amir Carlos Damaso Vahidi Agassi; Iranian), Charlie Davao (real name: Carlos Wahib Valdez Davao; Jordanian from maternal grandmother's side), Dawn Zulueta (real name: Rachel Marie Salman Taleon; Palestinian from maternal grandfather's side), Kuh Ledesma (of Lebanese lineage), Ana Roces (real name: Marinella Adad; Lebanese), Uma Khouny (Israeli Arab), Yasmien Kurdi (Lebanese) and Jessy Mendiola (real name: Jessica Mendiola Tawile; Lebanese).