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Mindanao (// min-də-NOW) is the second largest and southernmost major island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country (the other two being Luzon and the Visayas), consisting of the island of Mindanao and smaller outlying islands. Davao City is the largest city in Mindanao. As of the 2010 census, the island's population itself is 20,281,545 people, while the Mindanao island group has 21,968,174 inhabitants.
Parts of south-western Mindanao island group, particularly the provinces of Maguindanao, Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi (part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)), are home to a sizeable Muslim population, making the island group, along with Palawan, the only area of the Philippines with a significant Muslim presence. Due to widespread poverty and religious differences, the island has seen a communist insurgency as well as armed Moro separatist movements.
Mindanao is considered the agricultural basin of the Philippines. Eight of the top 10 agri-commodities exported from the Philippines come from here. Mindanao is also dubbed with the moniker as The Philippines' Land of Promise.
Mindanao is named after the Maguindanaons who constituted the largest Sultanate historically, and evidence from maps made during the 17th and 18th centuries suggests that the name was used to refer to the island by the powerful natives at the time. Evidence of human occupation dates back tens of thousands of years. In prehistoric times the Negrito people arrived. Sometime around 1500 BC, Austronesian peoples spread throughout the Philippines and far beyond. Native people of the Maluku Islands refer the island as Maluku Besar (Great Moluccas).
Mindanao Island is also a sacred home of Paramata Bantogen, Mabaning Gandamatu and Daranda Mabagani the Meranaw native people from Kiaranda a Ragat a Tiongcopa Layagen before Islamic Da wah, the largest non-Muslim tribe, and the Subanon Tribe[clarification needed] ; the aborigine of the Zamboanga Peninsula’s Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Island of Basilan, and northern provinces of Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte, and Misamis Oriental.
The Subanon are believed to have established themselves on Mindanao Island during the Neolithic Era, or New Stone Age, the period in the development of human technology beginning around 10,000 BC according to the ASPRO chronology (between 4,500 and 2,000 BC).[clarification needed] The evidence of old stone tools in Zamboanga del Norte may indicate a late Neolithic presence. Burial jars, both earthen and glazed, as well as Chinese celadons, have been found in caves, together with shell bracelets, beads, and gold ornaments. Many of the ceramic objects are from the Yuan and Ming periods. Evidently, there was a long history of trade between the Subanon and the Chinese long before the latter’s contact with Islam.
Islam first spread to the region during the 2nd millennium by Arab traders from present-day Malaysia and Indonesia. Prior to this contact, the inhabitants of the area were primarily animists living in small autonomous communities. Most of the indigenous population of Tausug, Maranao and Maguindanaon were quickly converted to Islam except the elusive Subanon, Talaandig, Higaonon and some other small tribes who resisted and avoided contact with the Arabian Islamic missionaries.
The first mosque in the Philippines was built in the mid-14th century in the town of Simunul. The Philippine sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao were subsequently established in the 15th and 16th centuries, respectively. In the late 16th to early 17th centuries, the first contact with Spain occurred. By this time, Islam was well established in Mindanao and had started influencing groups on the big islands of the Visayas such as Cebu and as far north as Bohol and present-day Manila on the island of Luzon. Manila itself once was Muslim when the Sultanate of Brunei annexed it.
Upon the Spaniards' arrival to the Philippines, they were dismayed to find such a strong Muslim presence on the island, having just expelled the Moors from Spain after centuries of fighting under the Reconquista. In fact, the name Moros (the Spanish word for "Moors") was given to the Muslim inhabitants by the Spanish. Caesarea Caroli was the name given by Villalobos to the island of Mindanao when he reached the sea near it. This was named after Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire (and I of Spain).
Spain was forced to abandon Zamboanga in Mindanao temporarily and to withdraw its soldiers to Manila in 1662 after the Chinese under Koxinga threatened to invade the Spanish Philippines.
After the Spanish–American War, the Americans fought numerous battles against the Moro. At the start of World War II, Japanese forces defeated Gen. William F. Sharp's forces, including Gen. Guy O. Fort's 81st Division, after a battle which started at Malabang, Lanao, on 29 April 1942, and ended near Ganassi, Lanao, on 10 May 1942. However, guerrilla forces were active until liberation at the conclusion of the Battle of Mindanao.
The region is home to most of the country's Muslim or Moro populations, composed of many ethnic groups such as the Maranao and the Tausug, Maguindanaon, Banguingui (users of the vinta), as well as the collective group of indigenous tribes known as the Lumad.
Colonization by Filipino Christians
The native peoples of Mindanao are the Moro Muslims and the Lumad Animists. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Moro and Lumads controlled an area which now covers 17 of Mindanao’s 24 provinces, but by the 1980 census they constituted less than 6% of the population of Mindanao and Sulu. Heavy migration to Mindanao of Luzon and Visayans, spurred by government-sponsored resettlement programs, turned the indigenous Lumads and Moros into minorities.
The native Moro Muslims and Lumads were supplanted by the first Spanish and American colonization programs, with Christian settlers taking control of key areas and disrupting the Muslim's administrative structures and control over resources. The Americans chose Christian settlers to become officials of settler-populated townships instead of Lumads and Muslims. Due to the activities of the settlers,[clarification needed] including logging, the environment has suffered significant damage. Eric S. Casiño wrote on the interaction between the Filipino settlers, the Moro Muslim and Lumad natives and the impact on the environment in his book Mindanao Statecraft and Ecology: Moros, Lumads, and Settlers Across the Lowland-highland Continuum.
The Americans started a colonization program on Mindanao for foreign agricultural companies and Filipino Christian settlers against the native Muslims and non-Muslim Lumads of Mindanao, in order to secure the area with a Christian presence and help the American military assert control over the area once it was conquered. Europeans and Japanese were suggested as potential immigrants along with Filipino Christians by the American General Wood.
Davao in Mindanao had a large population of Japanese immigrants who acted as a fifth column, welcoming the Japanese invaders during World War II. These Japanese were hated by the Moros and disliked by the Chinese. The Moros were judged as "fully capable of dealing with Japanese fifth columnists and invaders alike." The Moros were to fight the Japanese invaders when they landed at Davao on Mindanao. The Japanese went back to their ships at night to sleep since the Moros struck so much fear into them, even though the Moros were outnumbered by the Japanese.
90% of Mindanao's people consisted of native Moro Muslims at the start of the 20th century, but the invasion and colonization sponsored by the American and Philippine governments led to Filipino Christian settlers turning into the majority of almost 75% of the population, with the American colonial government helping to kick natives off their land and giving the land titles to Christian colonists. Media compared the American conquest of the west from the Native Americans to the Filipino conquest and settlement of Mindanao from the Muslims, the Philippine government, Philippine military and Filipino militias used extremely violent tactics against natives to support the settlers.
The government agencies involved in settlement on Mindanao were the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA) and subsequently the Land Settlement and Development Corporation (LASEDECO), followed by the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA).
The Americans used their control over property and land laws to let American corporations and Filipino Christian settlers take over Lumad and Moro Muslim resources and land and depriving them of self-governance after eliminating the sovereignty of the Moro Sultanates, and ignoring Moro requests for their own independence, with the Philippine government continuing the colonization program after independence leading to a humongous number of Filipino settlers streaming into Moro territories, and this led to Moros making moves for independence and armed struggle against the Philippines.
After 1960, the settlement program turned the Moro Muslims into a minority from their previous majority in Mindanao, similar to what happened in the Indonesian Transmigration program where Javanese people where frontier areas are settled with ethnic Madurese and Javanese people.
Severe violence between native Muslims and Christian settlers erupted due to the influx of Christian colonists, companies and other entities seeking to exploit new land on Mindanao who engaged in land grabbing. Lumad and Muslim interests were ignored by the state sponsored colonization program led by the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA) which provided benefits for the colonists and made no consideration for the Muslims.
Moro Muslims are just 17% of Mindanao's population, whereas prior to the colonization program initiated by the governments of the Philippines, they had been a massive majority and the colonization and land grabs led to the current violent conflict, with private companies and Filipino colonists from the Visayas and Luzon taking lands from Moro clans with the Philippine government issuing land titles to settlers and ignoring Moro ownership of the land since they declared Moro land as public lands.
Massive settlement by Filipino Christian colonists continued after independence was granted and rule passed to Christian Filipinos from the Americans, and land disputes the Christian settlers had with the Muslim and tribal natives broke out in violence; eventually the colonization, along with the Jabidah massacre, led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro armed insurgency against Philippine rule. 
The Philippine government encouraged Filipino Christian settlers in Mindanao to form militias called Ilaga to fight the Moros. The Ilaga engaged in massacres and atrocities and were responsible for Manili massacre of 65 Moro Muslim civilians in a Mosque on June 1971, including women and children. The Ilaga also engaged in cannibalism, cutting off the body parts of their victims to eat in rituals. The Ilaga settlers were given the sarcastic nickname as an acronym, the "Ilonggo Land Grabbers’ Association".
The Moros were only incorporated into the Philippines by "conquest and colonization", constituting a separate nation from Filipinos analogous to the experience of Native Americans who violently resisted American conquest.
Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines at 104,630 square kilometers, and is the eighth most populous island in the world. The island of Mindanao is larger than 125 countries worldwide, including the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Ireland. The island is mountainous, and is home to Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the country. Mindanao is surrounded by 4 seas: the Sulu Sea to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea to the south, and the Mindanao Sea to the north. Of all the islands of the Philippines, Mindanao shows the greatest variety of physiographic development. High, rugged, faulted mountains; almost isolated volcanic peaks; high rolling plateaus; and broad, level, swampy plains are found there.
The Mindanao island group is an arbitrary grouping of islands in southern Philippines which comprises the Mindanao mainland, the Sulu Archipelago to the southwest, consisting of the major islands of Basilan, Jolo, and Tawitawi, plus the outlying islands of Camiguin, Dinagat, Siargao, and Samal in other areas.
Mountains and plateaus
The mountains of Mindanao can be conveniently grouped into ten ranges, including both complex structural mountains and volcanoes. The structural mountains on the extreme eastern and western portions of the island show broad exposures of Mesozoic rock with ultrabasic rocks at the surface in many places along the east coast. Other parts of the island consists mainly of Cenozoic and Quaternary volcanic or sedimentary rocks.
Paralleling the east coast, from Bilas Point in Surigao del Norte to Cape Agustin in southeast Davao, is a range of complex mountains known in their northern portion as the Diwata Mountains. This range is low and rolling in its central portion. A proposed road connecting Bislig on the east coast with the Agusan River would pass through a 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) broad saddle across the mountains at a maximum elevation of less than 250 metres (820 ft), while the existing east-west road from Lianga, 30 miles (48 km) north of Bislig, reaches a maximum elevation of only 450 metres (1,480 ft). The Diwata Mountains, north of these low points, are considerably higher and more rugged, reaching an elevation of 2,012 metres (6,601 ft) in Mount Hilong-Hilong, 17 miles (27 km) along the eastern portion of Cabadbaran City. The southern portion of this east coast range is broader and even more rugged than the northern section. In eastern Davao, several peaks rise above 2,600 metres (8,500 ft) and one mountain rises to 2,910 metres (9,550 ft).
The east-facing coastal regions of Davao and Surigao del Sur are marked by a series of small coastal lowlands separated from each other by rugged forelands which extend to the water’s edge. Offshore are numerous coral reefs and tiny islets. This remote and forbidding coast is made doubly difficult to access during the months from October to March by the heavy surf driven before the northeast trade winds. A few miles offshore is found the Mindanao or Philippine Deep. This ocean trench, reaching measured depths of 37,400 feet (11,400 m), marks one of the greatest depths known on the earth’s surface.
A second north-south range extends along the western borders of the Agusan (del Norte and del Sur) and Davao provinces from Camiguin Island in the north to Tinaca Point in the south. This range is mainly structural in origin, but it also contains at least three active volcano peaks. In the central and northern portions of this range, there are several peaks between 2,000 and 2,600 metres (6,600 and 8,500 ft), and here the belt of mountains is about 30 miles (48 km) across. West of Davao City are two inactive volcanoes: Mount Talomo at 2,893 metres (9,491 ft) and Mount Apo at 2,964 metres (9,724 ft), which is the highest point in the Philippines and dominates the skyline. South of Mount Apo, this central mountain belt is somewhat lower than it is to the north, with peaks averaging only 1,100 to 1,800 metres (3,600 to 5,900 ft).
In Western Mindanao, a range of complex structural mountains forms the long, hand-like Zamboanga Peninsula. These mountains, reaching heights of only 1,200 meters (3,900 feet), are not as high as the other structural belts in Mindanao. In addition, there are several places in the Zamboanga Mountains where small inter-mountain basins have been created, with some potential for future agricultural development. The northeastern end of this range is marked by the twin peaks of the now extinct volcano, Mount Malindang, which rise behind Ozamis City to a height of 2,425 metres (7,956 ft). Mount Dapia is the highest mountain in the Zamboanga Peninsula, reaching a height of 2,617 meters (8,586 feet). Meanwhile, Batorampon Point is the highest mountain of the southernmost end of the peninsula, reaching a height of only 1,335 meters (4,380 feet); it is located in the boundary of Zamboanga City.
A series of volcanic mountains is found near Lake Lanao in a broad arc through Lanao del Sur, northern Cotabato and western Bukidnon provinces. At least six of the twenty odd peaks in this area are active and several are very impressive as they stand in semi-isolation. The Butig Peaks, with their four crater lakes, are easily seen from Cotabato. Mount Ragang, an active volcano cone reaching 2,815 metres (9,236 ft), is the most isolated, while the greatest height is reached by Mount Kitanglad at 2,889 metres (9,478 ft).
In southwestern Cotabato, still another range of volcanic mountains is found, this time paralleling the coast. These mountains have a maximum extent of 110 miles (180 km) from northwest to southeast and measure some 30 miles (48 km) across. One of the well-known mountains here is Mount Parker, whose almost circular crater lake measures a mile and a quarter in diameter and lies 300 metres (980 ft) below its 2,040 metres (6,690 ft) summit. Mount Matutum is a protected area and is considered as one of the major landmarks of South Cotabato Province.
A second important physiographic division of Mindanao is the series of upland plateaus in Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur provinces. These plateaus are rather extensive and almost surround several volcanoes in this area. The plateaus are made up of basaltic lava flows interbedded with ash and volcanic tuff. Near their edges, the plateaus are cut by deep canyons, and at several points spectacular waterfalls drop to the narrow coastal plain. These falls hold considerable promise for development of hydroelectric energy. Indeed, one such site at Maria Cristina Falls has already become a major producer. Because the rolling plateaus lie at an elevation averaging 700 meters above sea level, they offer relief from the often oppressive heat of the coastal lowlands. Lake Lanao occupies the major portion of one such plateau in Lanao del Sur. This largest lake on Mindanao and second in the country is roughly triangular in shape with an 18-mile (29 km)-long base. Having a surface at 780 meters above sea level, and being rimmed on the east, south and west by series of peaks reaching 2,300 meters, the lake provides a scenic grandeur and pleasant temperature seldom equaled in the country. Marawi City, at the northern tip of the lake, is bisected by the Agus River, which feeds the Maria Cristina Falls.
Another of Mindanao’s spectacular waterfall sites is located in Malabang, 15 miles (24 km) south of Lake Lanao. Here the Jose Abad Santos Falls present one of the nation’s scenic wonders at the gateway to a 200-hectare national park development.
The Limunsudan Falls, with an approximate height of 800 ft (240 m), is the highest waterfalls in the Philippines; it is located at Iligan City.
Mindanao contains two large inland lowland areas, the valleys of the Agusan and Mindanao rivers in Agusan and Cotabato Provinces, respectively. There is some indication that the Agusan Valley occupies a broad syncline between the central mountains and the east-coast mountains. This valley measures 110 miles (180 km) from south to north and varies from 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 km) in width. 35 miles (56 km) north of the head of Davao Gulf lies the watershed between the Agusan and the tributaries of the Libuganon River, which flows to the Gulf. The elevation of this divide is well under 200 metres (660 ft), indicating the almost continuous nature of the lowland from the Mindanao Sea on the north to the Davao Gulf.
The Rio Grande de Mindanao and its main tributaries, the Catisan and the Pulangi, form a valley with a maximum length of 120 miles (190 km) and a width which varies from 12 miles (19 km) at the river mouth to about 60 miles (97 km) in central Cotabato. The southern extensions of this Cotabato Valley extend uninterrupted across a 350 metres (1,150 ft) watershed from Illana Bay on the northwest to Sarangani Bay on the southeast.
Other lowlands of a coastal nature are to be found in various parts of Mindanao. Many of these are tiny isolated pockets, as along the northwest coast of Zamboanga. In other areas such as the Davao Plain, these coastal lowlands are as much as 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) wide and several times that length.
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From Dipolog City eastward along the northern coast of Mindanao almost to Butuan City extends a rolling coastal plain of varying width. In Misamis Occidental, the now dormant Mount Malindang has created a lowland averaging 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) in width. Shallow Panquil Bay divides this province from Lanao del Norte, and is bordered by low-lying, poorly drained lowlands and extensive mangroves. In Misamis Oriental, the plain is narrower and in places almost pinched out by rugged forelands which reach to the sea. East of Cagayan de Oro, a rugged peninsula extends well into the Mindanao Sea.
|Regional center||No. of provinces
(including associated islands*)
|No. of cities
(including associated islands*)
|4,297,323||17,125||Cagayan de Oro|
*Provinces of Basilan, Camiguin, Dinagat Islands, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi are separate islands and/or island groups themselves, but are included under the island group of Mindanao.
**The city of Samal is a separate island but included under the island group of Mindanao.
***Isabela City is geographically a part of Basilan, but is an enclave of the Zamboanga Peninsula.
NOTE: Although administratively part of SOCCSKSARGEN, Cotabato City is considered the regional center of ARMM.
Mindanao is the most culturally diverse island in the Philippines where people of different languages, tribes and races meet. As the Moro and Lumad alliance provided an effective resistance to Spanish rule, Mindanao became a melting pot of different cultures, it creates a more distinct culture which is not present in other island groups in the country. Mindanao has been the seat of two great Sultanates namely the Sultanate of Sulu and the Sultanate of Maguindanao along with the most hispanized city in Asia, strategic Zamboanga City. A considerable number of Buddhist and Taoist temples and the indigenous tribes known as Lumad people which makes it more diverse.
Due to the continuous re settlement programs by the Central Government in Manila, Cebuano is spoken by the majority of people in Mindanao. Cebuano is generally the first language in most regions, except for the Bangsamoro areas on the west coast and among the Lumads. Tagalog is also widely spoken among the people. Hiligaynon or Ilonggo is widely spoken in South Cotabato and a large part of Cotabato Province. English is also widely spoken.
The Spanish-based creole, Zamboangueño Chavacano is the main language spoken in Zamboanga City and Basilan, scatteredly spoken around Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, parts of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. The Zamboangueño dialect is one of the six dialects of Chavacano language (spoken by a distinct Ethnolinguistic group, the Zamboangueño). other spoken dialects of Chavacano Language are the following: Cotabateñ in Cotabato City and Castellano Abakay in Davao Region.
Settlers now form the majority, with 63% of the population; Moro are 32% of the population; 5% are Lumads and most of them intermarried with the Settlers. The native Maguindanaon and other native Moro or Lumad groups of Mindanao have a culture that is different from the main culture of the Philippines.
More than 70% of the population of Mindanao adhere to Christianity. Roman Catholics form the largest single religious group at 60.9 percent of the total household population. Islam comprises 20.44% while other religions are as follows: Evangelical (5.34%), Aglipayan (2.16%), Iglesia ni Cristo (1.66%), and Seventh Day Adventist (1.65%).
Many areas in Mindanao suffer rotating 12-hour blackouts due to the island’s woefully inadequate power supply. The island is forecast to continue suffering from a 200-megawatt power deficit until 2015, when the private sector begins to operate new capacity. Aboitiz Equity Ventures, a publicly listed holdings company, has committed to supplying 1,200 megawatts through a coal-fired plant on the border of Davao City and Davao del Sur that is slated for operation by 2018. The Agus-Pulangui hydropower complex, which supplies more than half of Mindanao’s power supply, is currently producing only 635 megawatts of its 982 megawatts capacity due to the heavy siltation of the rivers that power the complex. Zamboanga City, an urbanised center in southwest Mindanao, is expected to begin experience daily three-hour brownouts due to the National Power Corporation’s decision to reduce power supply in the city by 10 megawatts. The Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the largest power distributor in the Philippines, and Global Business Power Corp (GBPC), also a major provider, have announced plans to enter Mindanao for the first time to establish solutions for the power problems within the island.
The Mindanao Question
||The neutrality of this section is disputed. (November 2013)|
After 70 Decades of Settler biased land tenure laws, changing of traditional and cultural places to Roman Catholic Saints names and even names of a General bringing in Settlers, putting the crucifix on top of Mindanao Mountains, formation of religious based Settler militia called Ilaga led by officers of the Philippine Constabulary, connivance of Philippine Armed Forces with the Ilaga as a tool for counter insurgency resulted in full blown Insurgency led mostly by the Moro, Lumads and few impoverished Settlers. Cycles of displacement that have affected Central Mindanao for several decades have peaked during the first decade of the 20th Century.
After decades of “low intensity conflict” in Maguindanao between 1976 and 2000, President Estrada’s “All Out War” strategy declared in 2000 led to the displacement of more than 930,000 individuals. The decade that followed has been marked by a cycle of violence and resumption of peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that sought to establish an independent Islamic state in Maguindanao. The fighting led to several periods of mass population displacement at the very latest even until the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo displacing another 150,000 individuals mostly of Moro & Lumad communities
Between 2000 and 2010, four out of ten households (41%) reported having experienced displacement: 29% reported displacement caused by armed groups’ movements, 9% identified ridos (blood feuds), and 9% identified other causes, such as economic displacement (3%) or natural disasters (2%). Armed groups’ movements were by far the most frequent cause of displacement and also the most damageable. Some provinces were more affected than others, mostly of the Moro as they are the most active in resistance to what they perceived to be an extension of Spanish colonialism now perpetuated by the hands of the Philippine Government. Areas that suffered most damage and displacement are Maguindanao (82%), Lanao del Norte (48%) and Lanao del Sur (47%). Other forms of violence have also been prevalent. For example, in Maguindanao, 45% of the total population reported the destruction of their home. Other forms of violence reported in that province include the destruction of goods (37%), being attacked by someone with a weapon (20%), witness looting (32%), and witness killing (16%).
- Mindanao Development Authority
- Caesarea Karoli
- Geography of the Philippines
- Rido, blood feuds
- Bangsamoro Republik
- Kingdom of Butuan
- Moro people
- Islam in the Philippines
- Sultanate of Sulu
- Sultanate of Maguindanao
- Regions of the Philippines
- Provinces of the Philippines
- 2006 Central Mindanao bombings
- July 2009 Mindanao bombings
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- information on conflict affected area
- Violent Conflicts and Displacement in Central Mindanao: Challenges for recovery and development
- Mindanao Magazine[dead link]
- Mindanao Magazine[dead link]
- Moro Friends Community
- The Catalyst for Countryside Development
- Mindanao News
- Online Mindanao
- Taboan Mindanao