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This article is about the Philippine province. For other uses, see Sulu (disambiguation).
Sulu Provincial Capitol Building in Jolo
Sulu Provincial Capitol Building in Jolo
Flag of Sulu
Official seal of Sulu
Location in the Philippines
Location in the Philippines
Coordinates: 06°00′N 121°00′E / 6.000°N 121.000°E / 6.000; 121.000Coordinates: 06°00′N 121°00′E / 6.000°N 121.000°E / 6.000; 121.000
Country Philippines
Region Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)
Founded March 10, 1917
Capital Jolo
Seat of Government:
 • Type Autonomous province of the Philippines
 • Governor Abdusakur Tan II (Liberal Party)
 • Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan (Liberal Party)
 • Total 1,600.40 km2 (617.92 sq mi)
Area rank 66th out of 81
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 718,290
 • Rank 38th out of 81
 • Density 450/km2 (1,200/sq mi)
 • Density rank 12th out of 81
 • Independent cities 0
 • Component cities 0
 • Municipalities 19
 • Barangays 410
 • Districts 1st and 2nd districts of Sulu
Time zone PHT (UTC+8)
ZIP code 7400 to 7416
Dialing code 68
ISO 3166 code PH-SLU
Spoken languages Bahasa Sūg (official), Zamboangueño Chavacano, Malay

Sulu (Tausūg: سوگ, Sūg; Chavacano: Provincia de Sūlū; Filipino: Lalawigan ng Sulu) is an autonomous archipelago province in the Philippines, located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Its capital is Jolo and the primary/main island of the same name occupies the middle part of the group of islands in the Sulu Archipelago, between Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.


The peaceful advent of Islam around 1138 through merchants and traders had a distinct influence on Southeast Asia. The coming of Arabs, Persians and other Muslims paved the way for the arrival of religious missionaries, traders, scholars and travelers to Sulu and Mindanao in the 12th century.

Painting of Sulu home & coconut plantation

A landmark born of the social process was the founding of the Sultanate of Sulu. Year 1380 CE, Karim-ul Makhdum came to Sulu and introduced Islam to the Philippines. Year 1450 CE, a Johore-born Arab adventurer, Sayyid Abubakar Abirin came to Sulu and lived with Rajah Baguinda Ali, eventually marrying his daughter Dayang-dayang Paramisuli and eventually inheriting Rajah Baguinda's polity (which was a principality before) and turning it into a sultanate. Sayyid Abubakar eventually inherited the rule of Rajah Baguinda, established the Sultanate of Sulu and became its first Sultan. To consolidate his rule, Sayyid Abubakar united the local political units under the umbrella of the Sultanate. He brought Sulu, Zamboanga Peninsula, Palawan and Basilan under its aegis.

The navigational error that landed Ferdinand Magellan in Limasawa brought awareness of Europe to the Philippines and opened the door to Spanish colonial incursion. The Spaniards introduced Christianity and a political system of church-state dichotomy, which encountered fierce resistance in the devastating Moro wars from 1578 to 1899. Sultanate of Sulu formally recognised Spanish sovereignty in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu in middle of 19th century, but these areas remained partially ruled by the Spanish as their sovereignty was limited to military stations and garrisons and pockets of civilian settlements, until they had to abandon the region as a consequence of their defeat in the Spanish–American War.

After Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States, American forces came to Jolo and ended the 23 years of Spanish military occupation (1876 to 1899). On August 20, Sultan Jamalul Kiram II and Brig. Gen. John C. Bates signed the Bates Agreement that continued the gradual emasculation of the Sultanate started by Spain (Treaty of 1878) until March 1915 when the Sultan abdicated his temporal powers in the Carpenter Agreement. The Agreement eliminated opposition to the civilian government of Gov. Clinton Solidum.

Sulu Province, Philippines in 1918

The Department of Mindanao and Sulu under Gov. Carpenter was created by Philippine Commission Act 2309 (1914) and ended on February 5, 1920 by Act of Philippine Legislature No. 2878. The Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes was organized and briefly headed by Teofisto Guingona, Sr. With the enactment by the US Congress of the Jones Law (Philippine Autonomy Law) in 1916, ultimate Philippine independence was guaranteed and the Filipinization of public administration began. Sulu, however, had an appointed American governor until 1935 and the Governor General in Manila had a say in Sulu affairs.

At any rate, the essence of local governance forged by Rajah Baguinda continued to permeate the ethos of Sulu politics despite centuries of colonial presence. History points to a local government in Sulu that antedates other similar systems in the country. Today, Sulu has a locally constituted government and is part of the ARMM.


The province covers an area of 1,600.4 square kilometres (617.9 sq mi).[1] Sulu's main island, Jolo, has an area of 868.5 square kilometres (335.3 sq mi),[3] making it the 16th largest island of the Philippine Archipelago in terms of area. Sulu is a part of the Sulu Archipelago, which stretches from the tip of the Zamboanga Peninsula to the island of Borneo. The main island and also its islets are located between the island-provinces of Basilan to the northeast, and Tawi-Tawi to the southwest.

Administrative divisions[edit]

Sulu is subdivided into 19 municipalities.

Municipality District[4] Area
(per km²)
No. of

Banguingui (Tongkil) 2nd 352.59 17,802 50.5 14 7406 4th 6°01′32″N 121°50′11″E / 6.0256772°N 121.836319°E / 6.0256772; 121.836319 (Banguingui (Tongkil))
Hadji Panglima Tahil (Marunggas) 1st 67.9 5,850 86.2 5 7413 6th 6°06′38″N 120°57′58″E / 6.1104509°N 120.9660387°E / 6.1104509; 120.9660387 (Hadji Panglima Tahil (Marunggas))
Indanan 1st 170.72 65,858 385.8 34 7407 3rd 5°58′20″N 120°58′10″E / 5.9721988°N 120.9695578°E / 5.9721988; 120.9695578 (Indanan)
Jolo 1st 126.4 118,307 936 8 7400 1st 6°03′13″N 121°00′01″E / 6.0536561°N 121.0002644°E / 6.0536561; 121.0002644 (Jolo)
Kalingalan Caluang 2nd 166.5 26,848 161.2 9 7416 5th 5°53′04″N 121°15′48″E / 5.8843513°N 121.2632918°E / 5.8843513; 121.2632918 (Kalingalan Caluang)
Lugus 2nd 133.04 19,839 149.1 17 7411 5th 5°42′12″N 120°49′11″E / 5.7033626°N 120.8197832°E / 5.7033626; 120.8197832 (Lugus)
Luuk 2nd 313.04 29,897 95.5 12 7404 3rd 5°58′04″N 121°18′47″E / 5.9677171°N 121.3130093°E / 5.9677171; 121.3130093 (Luuk)
Maimbung 1st 77.5 28,445 367 27 7409 5th 5°55′52″N 121°01′37″E / 5.9309973°N 121.0269364°E / 5.9309973; 121.0269364 (Maimbung)
Old Panamao 2nd 107.57 37,933 352.6 31 7402 4th 5°58′48″N 121°13′06″E / 5.9801376°N 121.2182093°E / 5.9801376; 121.2182093 (Old Panamao)
Omar 2nd 18,098 8 6°00′36″N 121°23′02″E / 6.0099501°N 121.3837767°E / 6.0099501; 121.3837767 (Omar)
Pandami 2nd 170.89 22,474 131.5 16 4th 5°33′02″N 120°48′30″E / 5.5505941°N 120.8083248°E / 5.5505941; 120.8083248 (Pandami)
Panglima Estino (New Panamao) 2nd 125.1 27,724 221.6 12 7415 5th 5°57′25″N 121°11′46″E / 5.9569609°N 121.1961937°E / 5.9569609; 121.1961937 (Panglima Estino (New Panamao))
Pangutaran 1st 258.1 28,461 110.3 16 7414 4th 6°18′00″N 120°35′02″E / 6.3001132°N 120.5837917°E / 6.3001132; 120.5837917 (Pangutaran)
Parang 1st 258 58,028 224.9 40 7408 2nd 5°54′47″N 120°54′19″E / 5.912995°N 120.9052277°E / 5.912995; 120.9052277 (Parang)
Pata 2nd 116.99 14,918 127.5 14 7405 5th 5°50′28″N 121°10′55″E / 5.8411482°N 121.1819887°E / 5.8411482; 121.1819887 (Pata)
Patikul 1st 330.04 42,036 127.4 30 7401 3rd 6°05′19″N 121°06′25″E / 6.0886509°N 121.1070509°E / 6.0886509; 121.1070509 (Patikul)
Siasi 2nd 192.87 64,229 333 50 7412 2nd 5°32′36″N 120°48′53″E / 5.5433754°N 120.8146334°E / 5.5433754; 120.8146334 (Siasi)
Talipao 1st 380.57 75,173 197.5 52 7403 1st 5°58′32″N 121°06′29″E / 5.9754853°N 121.1080027°E / 5.9754853; 121.1080027 (Talipao)
Tapul 2nd 89.17 16,370 183.6 15 7410 5th 5°42′18″N 120°52′53″E / 5.7050066°N 120.8813453°E / 5.7050066; 120.8813453 (Tapul)
 †  Provincial capital
  • Coordinates are sorted according to latitude. (Italicized entries indicate the generic location. Otherwise, they mark the vicinity of the town center).
  • Italicized names are former names.
  • Dashes (—) in cells indicate unavailable information.


Population census of
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
1980 360,588 —    
1990 469,971 +2.69%
1995 536,201 +2.50%
2000 619,668 +3.15%
2007 849,670 +4.45%
2010 718,290 −5.93%
Source: National Statistics Office[2]

Although consisting of a mixed community of Muslims, the Tausug dominate the Sulu Archipelago. The Tausug were among the first inhabitants of the Philippines to embrace Islam as a religion and a way of life. They are referred to as ‘people of the current’, reflective of their close ties to the sea. The Tausug language is the lingua franca of Sulu. The other local language is the indigenous Bahasa Sama which is widely used in varied tones and accents. This variety led to the development of Sinama dialects. The major ones are Sinama Sibutu (spoken mainly in the Sibutu-Sitangkai Region), Sinama Simunul (concentrated in Simunul-Manuk-Mangkaw Islands), Sinama Kapoan (spoken in the South Ubian-Tandubas and Sapa-Sapa Regions) and Sinama Banguingui (concentrated in Buan Island and spoken by Banguingui people).

The Βajau-Ѕama language is also spoken, as are English and Filipino (Tagalog). Many locals and barter traders can speak Malay and Indonesian. Zamboangueño Chavacano is also spoken by Christian and Muslim locals who maintain contacts and trade with the mainland Zamboanga Peninsula and Basilan, as Tawi-tawi and Sulu were partially ruled by the Spanish as their sovereignty was limited to military stations and garrisons and pockets of civilian settlements, until they had to abandon the region as a consequence of their defeat in the Spanish–American War. The rest of Muslims speak Cebuano because of the mass influx of Cebuano settlers to Mindanao, especially with the Tau Sūg since Tausug is a Visayan language.


Majority of population of Sulu is Muslim (about 97%), with minority of Christians (2.6%).

A majority of Sulu's Muslim population practice Sunni Islam of the Shafi'i tradition, as taught by Arab, Persian, Indian Muslim, Chinese Muslim and Malaccan missionaries from the 14th century onwards.

Relatively newer Islamic sects, mostly brought by returning veterans of the Afghan wars and missionaries from Pakistan's stricter Sufi traditions, referred to as the Tableegh, have been active in propagating what they believe to be a "purer" Islamic way of life and worship. A very small number who have since married into Iranian or Iraqi families have converted to Shiite Islam.

Majority of Sulu Christians are Roman Catholics, they are under the jurisdiction of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Zamboanga through its suffragan Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo/Diocese of Jolo. Non-Catholic Christians include Evangelicals, Jesus Miracle Crusade, Episcopalian, and Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and a number of other Protestant denominations. Only the most recent Chinese immigrants adhere to Buddhism or Taoism, while most of the older Chinese families have acculturated and have either converted to Christianity or Islam while retaining most of their Chinese beliefs.


Sulu is predominantly agricultural with farming and fishing as its main livelihood activities. Its fertile soil and ideal climate can grow a variety of crops such as abaca, coconuts, oranges, and lanzones as well as exotic fruits seldom found elsewhere in the country such as durian and mangosteen.

Fishing is the most important industry since the Sulu Sea is one of the richest fishing grounds in the country. The province also have an extensive pearl industry. Pearls are extensively gathered and a pearl farm is established at Marungas Island. The backs of sea turtles are made into beautiful trays and combs. During breaks from fishing, the people build boats and weave mats. Other industries include coffee processing and fruit preservation.

The handicrafts of Sulu have both Islamic and Malay influences. Skilled artisans make boats, bladed weapons, bronze and brassware, pis cloth, embroidered textiles, shellcraft, traditional house carvings, and carved wooden grave markers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Province of Sulu: Brief Profile (There seems to be major discrepancies among authoritative sources: 343,699 ha (NSCB 2007), 175,460 ha (NSCB 2000), 167,377 ha (NAMRIA))
  2. ^ a b "Population and Annual Growth Rates for The Philippines and Its Regions, Provinces, and Highly Urbanized Cities" (PDF). 2010 Census and Housing Population. National Statistics Office. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Islands by Land Area". Island Directory Tables. United Nations Environment Programme. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Province: Sulu". PSGC Interactive. Makati City, Philippines: Philippine Statistics Authority - National Statistical Coordination Board. Retrieved 11 January 2016. 
  5. ^ "Total Population by Province, City, Municipality and Barangay: as of May 1, 2010 (ARMM)" (PDF). 2010 Census of Population and Housing. National Statistics Office. Retrieved 11 January 2016. 

External links[edit]