The Tausugs presently populate the province of Sulu as a majority, and the propvinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi as minorities. There is a large population of Tausugs in the all parts of Sabah, Malaysia as they are mainly laborers.
The Tausugs currently number about 953,000 in the Philippines. They are of the same Austronesian stock that furnished the Visayans. The Tausug speak the Tausug language. The vast majority of Tausugs are staunch Muslims. In Malaysia, they number around 300,000.
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 stands.
In 1390, Raja Baguinda landed at Buansa and extended the missionary work of Makdum. The Muslim 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 Badjao–were in varying degrees united under the Sulu sultanate, considered the most centralized -political system in the Philippines. Called the “Moro Wars,” these battles were waged intermittently from 1578 till 1898 between the Spanish colonial government and the Muslims of Mindanao.
In 1578, an expedition sent by Gov Francisco de Sande and headed by Capt Rodriguez de Figueroa began the 300-year warfare between the Tausug and the Spanish authorities. In 1579, the Spanish government gave de Figueroa the sole right to colonize Mindanao. In retaliation, the Muslims raided Visayan towns in Panay, Negros, and Cebu. These were repulsed by Spanish and Visayan forces. In the early 17th century, the largest alliance composed of the Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug, other Muslim 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 triumphed over his forces at Lamitan and Ilian. On 1 January 1638, de Corcuera with 80 vessels and 2000 soldiers, defeated the Tausug and occupied Jolo. A peace treaty was forged. The victory did not establish Spanish sovereignty over Sulu, as the Tausug abrogated the treaty as soon Spaniards left in 1646.
In 1737, Sultan Alimud Din I 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 V. The Tausug retaliated by raiding northern coasts. In 1893, amid succession controversies, Amirnul Kiram became Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, the title being officially recognized 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).
During the Philippine-American War, the Americans adopted a policy of noninterference in the Muslim areas, as spelled out in the Bates Agreement of 1899 signed by Brig Gen John Bates and Sultan Jamalul Kiram II of Jolo. Although the Bates Agreement had “pacified,” to a certain extent, the Sulu sultanate, resistance continued. In 1901, panglima (district chief) Hassan and his followers fought the Americans, believing that acceptance of American sovereignty would affect his own authority (Che Man l990:46-47)
After the Philippine-American War, the Americans established direct rule over the newly formed “Moro province,” which consisted of five districts-Zamboanga, Lanao, Cotabato, Davao, and Sulu. Political, social, and economic changes were introduced. These included the creation of provincial and district institutions; the introduction of the public school system and American-inspired judicial system the imposition of the cedula or head tax; the migration of Christians to Muslim lands encouraged by the colonial government; and the abolition of slavery. These and other factors contributed to Muslim resistance that took 10 years “to pacify”. The Department of Mindanao and Sulu replaced the Moro province on 15 December 1913.
A “policy of attraction” was introduced, ushering in reforms to encourage Muslim integration into Philippine society. “Proxy colonialism” was legalized by the Public Land Act of 1919, invalidating Muslim pusaka (inherited property) laws. The act also granted the state the right to confer land ownership. It was thought that the Muslims would “learn” from the “more advanced” Christianized 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 Christianized 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. Realizing 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.
The Commonwealth years 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. Fearing government-persecution, he went to the hills. On “death row,” he was finally pardoned by Pres Marcos on 11 September 1968. 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. Many leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group operating in Mindanao, are of Tausug descent. [link]