Tausūg people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Tausūg people
Suluk people
Sulu people
Tausug woman in a pangalay dance.
Total population
c. 1.3 million
Regions with significant populations
(Basilan, Palawan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Manila, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga)
(Kudat, Beluran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna, Tawau, Kuala Lumpur)
(North Kalimantan)
Tausūg, Zamboangueño Chavacano, Cebuano, Tagalog, English, Malay, Indonesian
Predominantly Islam
Related ethnic groups
Moros, Lumad, Visayans, Malay people,
Filipino people, and other Austronesian people
Tausug women in a traditional Tausug fan dance.
This article is about the people named Tausūg. For their language, see Tausug language.

The Tausūg or Suluk people are an ethnic group of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. The term Tausūg was derived from two words tau and sūg (or suluk in Malay) meaning "people of the current", referring to their homelands in the Sulu Archipelago. Sūg and suluk both mean the same thing, with the former being the phonetic evolution in Sulu of the latter (the L being dropped and thus the two short U's merging into one long U). The Tausūg in Sabah refer to themselves as Tausūg but refers to their ethnic group as "Suluk" as documented in official documents such as birth certificates in Sabah, which are written Malay. The Tausūg are part of the wider political identity of Muslims of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan known as the Moro ethnic group, who constitute the third largest ethnic group of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan.[citation needed] They originally had an independent state known as the Sulu Sultanate, which once exercised sovereignty over the present day provinces of Basilan, Palawan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and the eastern part of the Malaysian state of Sabah (formerly North Borneo).


The Tausūg presently populate the Filipino province of Sulu as a majority, and the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Palawan, Cebu and Manila as minorities. There is a large population of Filipino-Tausūgs in all parts of Sabah, who mainly work as construction labourers with a substantial number as skilled workers. The Tausūg workers tend to be confused with the more numerous Bajau workers in Sabah.

In Sabah, the Tausūg groups had settled in the eastern parts of Sabah, from Kudat town in the north, to Tawau in the south east, as the Sulu Sultanate once ruled over the eastern part of Sabah. However, any other new Tausūgs who arrived from the Philippines after the 20th century are not recognised as the ethnics of the state and will be considered as illegal immigrants.[1] Many of the old ancestry (those who had lived in Sabah since before the 20th century) had intermarried with other ethnic groups in Sabah, especially the Bajaus. Most prefer to use the Malay-language ethnonym Suluk in their birth certificates rather than the native Tausūg to distinguish themselves from their newly arrived Filipino cousin in Sabah. Migration fuelled mainly from Sabah also created a substantial Suluk community in Greater Kuala Lumpur.

While in Indonesia, most of the communities mainly settled in the northern area of North Kalimantan like Nunukan and Tarakan, which lies close to their traditional realm.

"Tausug" means "the people of the current", from the word tau which means "man" or "people" and sūg (alternatively spelled sulug or suluk) which means "[sea] currents".[2]


The Tausūg currently number about 953,000 in the Philippines. The Tausug language is called "Sinug" with "Bahasa" to mean Language. The Tausug language is related to Bicolano, Tagalog and Visayan languages, being especially closely related to the Surigaonon language of the provinces Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur and the Butuanon language of northeastern Mindanao specially the root Tausug words without the influence of the Arabic language, sharing many common words. The Tausūg, however, do not consider themselves as Visayan, using the term only to refer to Christian Bisaya-language speakers, given that the vast majority of Tausūgs are Muslims in contrast to its very closely related Surigaonon brothers which are predominantly Roman Catholics. Tausug is also related to the Waray-Waray language

In Malaysia, they number around 300,000 and 12,000 (1981 estimate) in Indonesia.[3] Tausug also speak Zamboangueño Chavacano, other Visayan languages, and Tagalog in the Philippines; Malay in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia; and English in both Malaysia and Philippines as second languages.

Malaysian Tausūg, descendants of residents when the Sulu Sultanate ruled the eastern part of Sabah, speak or understand the Sabahan dialect of Suluk, Malaysian language, and some English or Simunul. Those who come in regular contact with the Bajau also speak Bajau dialects. By the year 2000, most of the Tausūg children in Sabah, especially in towns of the west side of Sabah, were no longer speaking Tausūg; instead they speak the Sabahan dialect of Malay and English.

Below table demonstrates that Tausug language is closely related to Surigaonon language[edit]

English Tausug Surigaonon Cebuano
What is your name? Unu in ngān mu? Unu an ngayan mu? Unsa ang ngalan nimo?
My name is Muhammad In ngān ku Muhammad An ngayan ku ay Muhammad Ang ngalan nako kay Muhammad
How are you? Maunu-unu nakaw? Ya-unu nakaw? Na-unsa na ka?
I am fine, [too] Marayaw da [isab] Madayaw da [isab] aku (Tandaganon)/Marajaw da [isab] aku (Surigaonon) Maayo ra ([usab] ko
Where is Ahmad? Hawnu hi Ahmad? Hain si Ahmad? Asa si Ahmad?
He is in the house Ha bāy siya Sa bay siya/sija Sa balay sya
Thank you Magsukul Salamat Salamat
‘I am staying at’ or ‘I live at’ Naghuhula’ aku ha Yaghuya aku sa Nagpuyo ako sa
I am here at the house. Yari aku ha bay. Yadi aku sa bay. Niari ako sa balay.
I am Hungry. Hiyapdi' aku. In-gutom aku. Gi-gutom ko.
He is there, at school. Yadtu siya ha iskul. Yadtu siya/sija sa iskul. Diadto sya sa iskul
Person Tau Tau Tawo
(Sea/River) current Sūg/Sulug/Suluk Sūg Sūg/Sulog


Tausūgs are experienced sailors and are known for their colourful boats or vintas. They are also superb warriors and craftsmen. They are known for the Pangalay dance (also known as Daling-Daling in Sabah), in which female dancers wear artificial elongated fingernails made from brass or silver known as janggay, and perform motions based on the Vidhyadhari (Bahasa Sūg: Bidadali) of pre-Islamic Buddhist legend.[citation needed]

Sultanate of Sulu[edit]

Prior to modern times, the Tausūg were under the Sultanate of Sulu. The system is a patrilineal system, consisting of the title of Sultan as the sole sovereign of the Sultanate (in Tausūg language: Lupah Sug, literally: "Land of the Current"), followed by various Maharajah and Rajah-titled subdivisional princes. Further down the line are the numerous Panglima or local chiefs, similar in function to the modern Philippine political post of the Baranggay Kapitan in the Baranggay system.

Of significance are the Sarip (Sharif) and their wives, Sharifah, who are Hashemite descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. They are respected as religious leaders, though some may take up administrative posts.


Sultanate Era[edit]

Main article: Sulu Sultanate

The history of Sulu begins with Makdum, a Muslim missionary, who arrived in Sulu in 1380. He introduced the Islamic faith and settled in Tubig Indangan, Simunul, until his death. The Mosque's pillars at Tubig-Indangan, which he built, still stand.

In 1390, Raja Baguinda landed at Buansa, and extended the missionary work of Makdum. The Arabian scholar Abu Bakr arrived in 1450, married Baguinda's daughter, and after Baguinda's death, became Sultan, thereby introducing the sultanate as a political system. Political districts were created in Parang, Pansul, Lati, Gitung, and Luuk, each headed by a panglima or district leader.

After Abu Bakr's death, the sultanate system had already become well established in Sulu. Before the coming of the Spaniards, the ethnic groups in Sulu — the Tausug, Samal, Yakan, and Bajau - were in varying degrees united under the Sulu sultanate, considered the most centralised political system in the Philippines. Called the "Spanish–Moro conflict", these battles were waged intermittently from 1578 till 1898, between the Spanish colonial government and the Bangsamoro people of Mindanao and Sulu.

In 1578, an expedition sent by Gov Francisco de Sande and headed by Capt Rodriguez de Figueroa began the 300-year warfare between the Moro Tausūg and the Spanish authorities. In 1579, the Spanish government gave de Figueroa the sole right to colonise Mindanao. In retaliation, the Moro raided Visayan towns in Panay, Negros, and Cebu for they know the Spanish will get foot soldiers in this areas. These were repulsed by Spanish and Visayan forces. In the early 17th century, the largest alliance composed of the Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausūg, and other Moro and Lumad groups, was formed by Sultan Kudarat or Cachil Corralat of Maguindanao, whose domain extended from the Davao Gulf to Dapitan on the Zamboanga peninsula. Several expeditions sent by the Spanish authorities suffered defeat. In 1635, Capt Juan de Chaves occupied Zamboanga and erected a fort. In 1637, Gov Gen Hurtado de Corcuera personally led an expedition against Kudarat, and temporarily triumphed over his forces at Lamitan and Iliana Bay. On 1 January 1638, de Corcuera, with 80 vessels and 2000 soldiers, defeated the Moro Tausūg and occupied Jolo mainly staying inside captured Cottas. A peace treaty was forged. The victory did not establish Spanish sovereignty over Sulu, as the Tausūg abrogated the treaty as soon as the Spaniards left in 1646.[4]

In 1737, Sultan Alimud Din I for personal interest, entered into a "permanent" peace treaty with Gov Gen F. Valdes y Tamon; and in 1746, befriended the Jesuits sent to Jolo by King Philip. The "permission" of Sultan Azimuddin-I (*the first heir-apparent) allowed the Catholic Jesuits to enter Jolo, but was argued against by his young brother, Raja Muda Maharajah Adinda Datu Bantilan (*the second heir-apparent). Datu Bantilan did not want the Catholic Jesuits to disturb or dishonor the Moro faith in the Sulu Sultanate kingdom. The brothers then fought, causing Sultan Azimuddin-I to leave Jolo and head to Zamboanga, then to Manila in 1748. Then, Raja Muda Maharajah Adinda Datu Bantilan was proclaimed as Sultan, taking the name as Sultan Bantilan Muizzuddin.

Sultan Bantilan Muizzuddin was a "saviour" to the Sulu Sultanate kingdom in 1748. If he had not fought against his brother for permitting the Catholic Jesuits to enter Jolo and spread their "Catholic Doctrine" throughout Sulu, it might have become a Catholic area today.

In 1893, amid succession controversies, Amir ul Kiram became Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, the title being officially recognised by the Spanish authorities. In 1899, after the defeat of Spain in the Spanish–American War, Col. Luis Huerta, the last governor of Sulu, relinquished his garrison to the Americans. (Orosa 1970:25-30).

Modern Era[edit]

A "policy of attraction" was introduced, ushering in reforms to encourage Muslim integration into Philippine society. "Proxy colonialism" was legalised by the Public Land Act of 1919, invalidating Tausūg pusaka (inherited property) laws based on the Islamic Shariah. The act also granted the state the right to confer land ownership. It was thought that the Muslims would "learn" from the "more advanced" Christian Filipinos, and would integrate more easily into mainstream Philippine society.

In February 1920, the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives passed Act No 2878, which abolished the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, and transferred its responsibilities to the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes under the Department of the Interior. Muslim dissatisfaction grew as power shifted to the Christian Filipinos. Petitions were sent by Muslim leaders between 1921 and 1924, requesting that Mindanao and Sulu be administered directly by the United States. These petitions were not granted. Realising the futility of armed resistance, some Muslims sought to make the best of the situation. In 1934, Arolas Tulawi of Sulu, Datu Manandang Piang and Datu Blah Sinsuat of Cotabato, and Sultan Alaoya Alonto of Lanao were elected to the 1935 Constitutional Convention. In 1935, two Muslims were elected to the National Assembly.

Nearly the entire Suluk (Tausug) population of British Borneo was massacred by the Japanese after the Jesselton Revolt during the Japanese occupation of British Borneo. The Tausūg in Sulu fought against the Japanese occupation of Mindanao and Sulu during World War II and eventually drove them out.

The Commonwealth sought to end the privileges the Muslims had been enjoying under the earlier American administration. Muslim exemptions from some national laws, as expressed in the administrative code for Mindanao, and the Muslim right to use their traditional Islamic courts, as expressed in the Moro Board, were ended. It was unlikely that the Muslims, who have had a longer cultural history as Muslims than the Filipinos as Christians, would surrender their identity.

This incident contributed to the rise of various separatist movements - the Muslim Independence Movement (MIM), Ansar El-Islam, and Union of Islamic Forces and Organizations (Che Man 1990:74-75). In 1969, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was founded on the concept of a Bangsa Moro Republic by a group of educated young Muslims. In 1976, negotiations between the Philippine government and the MNLF in Tripoli resulted in the Tripoli Agreement, which provided for an autonomous region in Mindanao. Nur Misuari was invited to chair the provisional government, but he refused. The referendum was boycotted by the Muslims themselves. The talks collapsed, and fighting continued. On 1 August 1989, Republic Act 673 or the Organic Act for Mindanao, created the Autonomous Region of Mindanao, which encompasses Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

Notable Suluks[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fausto Barlocco (4 December 2013). Identity and the State in Malaysia. Routledge. pp. 77–85. ISBN 978-1-317-93239-0. 
  2. ^ Jim Haskins (1982). The Filipino Nation: The Philippines : lands and peoples, a cultural geography. Grolier International. p. 190. ISBN 9780717285099. 
  3. ^ http://www.scribd.com/doc/49638616/Languages-of-Indonesia Languages-of-Indonesia
  4. ^ Cf. also Paulo Bonavides, Political Sciences (Ciência Política), p. 126.

External links[edit]