Moro (ethnic group)

Moro (ethnic group)

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Moro

caption = Abdulwahid Bidin
population = 5 million (2006 estimate; 5.25% of the Philippine population)
regions = flagcountry|PHI smaller|(Bangsamoro, Manila, Cebu)

flagicon|MalaysiaMalaysia smaller|(Sabah, Kuala Lumpur)
flagicon|IndonesiaIndonesia smaller|(Kalimantan)
languages = Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug, other Moro languages, Chabacano, Cebuano, Filipino, English, Malay
religions = Predominantly Islam
related = Lumad, Visayan, other Filipino peoples, other Austronesian peoples

The Moro are a multilingual ethnic group and the largest mainly non-Christian [ [ Analysis: Philippines, Philippines: Insecurity and insufficient assistance hampers return, Situation Reports: Philippines, Philippines: Insecurity and insufficient assistance hampers return ] ] ethnic group in the Philippines, comprising about 5.25% of the total Philippine population as of 2005, [ [ Philippines - Muslim Filipinos ] ] making them the sixth largest ethnic group in the country. Their name originated from the Spanish word Moor, and they mostly live in a region dubbed as "Bangsamoro" in the southern Philippines. Due to migration, Moro communities have also begun to appear in major cities like Manila, Cebu and Baguio.


Muslims and Christians have generally remained distinct societies.

When the Spanish arrived in the 15th century, they successfully integrated the northern and middle regions of the current Philippines into their growing empire. However, the Muslim South long remained a site of resistance and violence. Consequently, it grew isolated from the Westernizing influences of Spanish rule, including education, trade, and economic development. When the Philippines were ceded to the United States by Spain following the Spanish-American War, the new American administration treated the restive South as a separate entity with a separate administration. As with the Spanish, the violence endemic to the region continued the trend of isolation, with the Moro regions receiving little benefit from the US government investment, including the Thomasite teachers, establishment of economic institutions, and infrastructure investment. Consequently, by the time of independence in 1945, the Moro regions remained vastly underdeveloped in comparison to the rest of the nation, with a population that was highly illiterate and poorly educated, with an economy dependant on subsistence farming. The cycle of violence, lack of investment, and more violence has plagued the region ever since. The migration of wealthy, educated Christian Malays, mainly Cebuanos from the Visayas, into traditionally Moro areas contributed to the endemic resentment of the Moros to the Christian Malay majority (who today make up majorities in many historically Moro regions), and acted as an impetus for calls for an independent Moro homeland known as Bangsamoro.

A significant change of government policy led to the 1990 creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which gave Moros in the region control over certain aspects of government, but not their security and foreign affairs.

Social factors in the early 1990s contributed against the political autonomy sought by Muslim leaders. Industrial development and increased migration outside the region brought new educational demands and new roles for women. These changes in turn led to greater assimilation and, including intermarriage.



The "homeland" of the Moro is "Bangsamoro", the word comes from the Malay word "bangsa", meaning "nation" or "people", and the word "Moro".

Bangsamoro covers the provinces of Basilan, Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Palawan, Sarangani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga Sibugay. It also includes the cities of Cotabato, Dapitan, Dipolog, General Santos, Iligan, Marawi, Pagadian, Puerto Princesa, and Zamboanga.



The Moros have traditionally been led by either a sultan or by datu.

The concept of the sultan was brought to the Philippines through Islamization. The presence of Islam, began the creation of sultanates like that of Magindanao and othat of Sulu

Meanwhile, the datu was the traditional ruler in Filipino societies. Their function was similar to the duke. In return for tribute and labor, the datu provides aid in emergencies and mediates disputes with other communities through the "agamat". They may also have four wives if they wish. In the past, datus have led raids on other villages in order to seek revenge ("'maratabat") for the death of a follower or the injury of his honor.

Datus currently act as the community leaders in Moro societies and administer the Sharia (Muslim law) through the agama. The datu essentially heads government programs in Moro communities, which tend to be hierarchical in rural areas.


The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is headed by a Regional Governor. The Regional Governor, along with the Regional-Vice Governor, act as the executive branch. The ARMM has a unicameral "Regional Assembly" headed by a Speaker. This acts as the legislative branch for the region and is responsible for regional ordinances. It is composed of three members for every congressional district. The current membership is twenty-four.


Islam has been the most dominant influence on the Moro culture. Islamic polygamous marriages are approved by public authorities while polygamy is considered illegal for non-Muslim citizens. Pork is not eaten since it considered taboo under the Qu'ran. Another practice is Islamic circumcision ("tuli"). However, circumcision is also very common practice among non-Muslim Filipino males.


The culture of the Moro revolves around the music of the kulintang, a specific type of gong instrument, found in the Southern Philippines. This music includes original styles called the Tagonggo and the Kapanirong.


There are at least ten ethnic subgroups within the Moro ethnic group, all descended from the same prehistoric Austronesian migrations from Taiwan that populated the rest of the Philippines and Maritime Southeast Asia. These could be identified on the basis of language. Three of these groups make up the majority of the Moro. They are the Maguindanaons of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao provinces; the Maranao of the two Lanao provinces; and the Tausug of the Sulu Archipelago. Smaller groups include the Banguingui, Samal and the Bajau of the Sulu Archipelago; the Yakan of Basilan and Zamboanga del Sur; the Illanun and Sangir of Davao; the Melabugnans of southern Palawan; and the Jama Mapuns of Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi Island.

Moros are not closely knit and they lack solidarity. [Nick Joaquin, Culture and History: Occasional Notes on the Process of Philippine Becoming (Pasig: Anvil Publishing, 2004), 226.] Each group is proud of their culture, identity and language, including their variation of Islam. Endemic conflict has persisted for centuries. Internal differences among the Moros existed in the 1980s, however, these were outweighed by cultural, social, and traditional aspects as well as shared historical experiences vis-à-vis non-Muslims.


Pre-Hispanic era

During 1380, the arrival of Arab missionaries, including Makhdum Karim, in Tawi-Tawi initiated the conversion of the native population into Islam. Subsequent trade between Malays also helped establish the Islamic faith.

Starting in 1457, the introduction of Islam led to the creation of many sultanates. This included the sultanates of Buayan, Maguindanao and Sulu, which is considered the largest and longest-lasting Muslim state in the country until its annexation into the Philippines in 1898.

Many of the inhabitants of the pre-Hispanic Philippines are said to be Muslims. Rajah Sulayman, a chieftain of Manila at the time of the Spanish conquest, is one example.

Hispanic era

The Spanish arrived in 1565. This caused most of the Philippines to end up under the Spanish rule. The sultanates, however, maintained their independence, which enabled them to develop their own culture and identity.

With the colonial intentions, the Spanish held incursions within Moro territory. They also began erecting military stations and garrisons with pockets of civilian settlements. The most notable of these are Zamboanga and Cotabato.

Feeling threathened by these actions, Moros decided to challenge Spanish authority. They began conducting raids on Christian coastal towns.

Bankruptcy due to the ongoing raids caused the Spanish crown to recognize Moro sovereignty. However, only the Sultanate of Sulu benefited since it was the only sultanate left standing. [ Mindanao Peace Process by Fr. Eliseo R. Mercado, Jr., OMI. [] ]

American period

Post-Philippine Independence

After independence, the Moros were marginalized in the Philippine nation-state. This coupled with Christian settlement in traditionally Muslim regions, gave rise to armed secession movements. [Nelly van Doorn-Harder. "Southeast Asia, Islam in." "Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World". Edited by Martin, Richard C. Macmillan Reference, 2004. vol. 1 p. 647.]

Controversial government policies

The government policies instituted immediately after independence threatened the Moro society.

The creation of the now abolished the Bureau for Non-Christian Tribes and the encouragement of migration by non-Muslim Filipinos, led to the settlement of hundreds of thousands of Visayan, Tagalog, Ilocano, and others inside the "Bangsamoro" provinces in the 1950s. Their influx inflamed Moro hostility.

The problem began when Christian migrants complained that the ownership of the land which they bought was not recognized by the Moros. Moros claimed that Christians only entitle land through government agencies, which were unknown and therefore unrecognized by the Moros. Another contributing factor was the public school system, which was regarded by most Moros as an agency for the propagation of Christian teachings.

Internal divisions

Divisions along clans are existent among Moros since the 1960s.

Many young Moros, dissatisfied with the old system, have asserted that datu and sultans were unnecessary in the modern Moro society. Among themselves, these young reformers are divided between the moderates, those who work within the system, and the militants, those who engage in guerrilla-style warfare.

Moro reformers, on the other hand, have achieved to establish unity within the community through religious adherence. This bond is strengthened by the continued expansion of Christians and by the prolonged presence of army troops within "Bangsamoro".

truggle for independence

The struggle has been in existence for centuries, starting from the struggle against the Spanish up to the Moro rebellion in the American period until the current Islamic Insurgency in the Philippines.

The history of the Islamic Insurgency in the Philippines began shortly after independence. The Philippine government envisioned a united country in which Christians and Muslims would be assimilated into the dominant culture. This vision, however, was generally rejected by Muslims, who feared that it was just a euphemistic equivalent of assimilation. Because of this, the government realised that there was a need for a specialized agency to deal with the Muslim community so they set up the Commission for National Integration in 1957, which was later replaced by the Office of Muslim Affairs and Cultural Communities.

Concessions were made to Moros after the creation of these agencies, with Moros receiving exemptions from national laws prohibiting polygamy and divorce. In 1977, the government attempted move a step further by harmonizing Muslim customary law with the national law.

Unfortunately, most of these achievements were superficial. The Moros, dissatisfied with the government, established the Moro National Liberation Front led by Nur Misuari with the intention of creating their own homeland. This initiated the Islamic Insurgency in the Philippines in the late 1960s, which is still ongoing up to the present and has since created a fracture between Muslims and Christians.

By the 1970s, a Christian terrorist organization called the "Ilagas" began operating in Cotabato. In retaliation, Muslim armed bands, like the "Blackshirts" of Cotabato and the "Barracudas" of Lanao began to appear and fight the "Ilagas". The Armed Forces of the Philippines were deployed to install peace, however their presence only created more violence.

In 1981, internal divisions within the MNLF caused the establishment of a conservative organization called the MILF. The group proved to be more effective than the MNLF in continuing the insurgency.


After the 1986 EDSA Revolution, President Corazon Aquino decided to reach out to the Moro community.

In the year 1987, peace talks with the MNLF began with the intention of establishing an auotonomous region for Moros. On August 1, 1989, through Republic Act No. 6734, otherwise known as the Organic Act, a plebiscite was held in the provinces within the "Bangsamoro". This was to determine if the residents would want to be part of an Autonomous Moro Region. This led to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Current situation

Currently, the Philippines is under threat due to the presence of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (the breakaway faction of the MNLF), the Abu Sayyaf (an offshoot of the terror groups), and by Jemaah Islamiyah. While the government is currently under peace talks with both the MILF and the MNLF, the violence is still far from over.

MILF boycotted the original referendum spawned by the Organic Act referendum process, and continued the armed struggle through the 90s and into the 21st century. However, it remains a partner to the stumbling peace process in the south, with the Philippines unwilling to brand MILF a "terrorist" group lest the separatists be driven away from the negotiating table [] .

ee also



External links

* [] MoroLaw: Moro Views on Bangsamoro Affairs
* [] ::a new medium for the modern moro::
* [] The Bangsamoro Online - The History and Struggle of the Bangsamoro People!
* [] The Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website
* The Bangsamoro Documentation Project
* Amir Butler: The Moro Struggle for Independence
* [ Swish of the Kris: The Story of the Moros, by Vic Hurdley]
* [ At The Da’Wah Center: A Call for Help]
* [ The Moro Conflict and the Philippine Experience with Autonomy]
* [ The Bud Dajo Centennial]
* [ Moro Swords]
* [ The Saga of Moro People during Martial Law]

Moro Organization links

* [ Bangsamoro Successors Generation Network (BSGN)]


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