President: EMILIO AGUINALDO Y FAMY upon the declaration of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 and with the creation of the First Philippine Republic on January 21, 1899, which lasted until April 1,1901

End of the 19th C

Mindanao at the end of the 19th C was only peripherally incorporated into the Spanish dominion, which was, in any case, at its end. With the sale of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Cuba to the United States through the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris, and after brief battles in Manila and Havana, the Spanish Empire ceased to exist. Mindanao was a patchwork of ethnicities, most of which were village-centric (and in some areas today, they still are). Three ethnicities — the Tausug speakers of the Sulu Archipelago, the Maguindanao-speakers of the Pulangi River delta and those of the upstream Pulangi who speak a dialectical variant of Maguindanaon, and the Iranun — were atypical in Mindanao/Sulu for their concepts of supra- village identities, owing to a centuries-old adherence in a world religion, Islam. The overlapping homelands and maritime territories of the upstream Buayan Maguindanaoan[1] and Iranun, with the more powerful identity changing a number of times through the previous centuries, produced an overlapping sense of political identity. The other Islamicized peoples of Mindanao — the Maranao, Yakan, Jama Mapun, some Sama, some of the Molbog of Palawan — were, at this time and in varying degrees, village-centric, although the Maranao gravitated towards the idea of confederacies of several villages. These identities were language-based in large measure, and at the beginning of the 20th C, despite a common faith in Islam, these ethno-linguistic groups were fiercely independent of each other. Indeed, many were largely unaware of village-level events in the far-flung villages of the other language groups. So, too, were the dozens of other Mindanao ethnicities unaware of events beyond the uneven reach of their various communications networks.

January 18, 1898

President Emilio Aguinaldo wrote to the Sultan of Sulu, addressing him as his “great and powerful brother,” to pledge that the Philippine Republic would “respect absolutely the beliefs and traditions of each island in order to establish on solid bases the bonds of fraternal unity demanded by our mutual interests.” Then, on May 1899, Aguinaldo’s cousin Baldomero wrote the Sultan, asking the latter to establish in the domains of the Sulu datus a government aligned with the Republic’s decrees and to report the strength of his armed men. Baldomero Aguinaldo, commander of the southern areas of the new Republic, promised the Sultan “if in this war…we secure our independence and… are successful in preventing the enemy from gaining foothold, the grateful country will always render a tribute of homage and gratitude to your memory.” The Sultan did not respond to either missive.

1899 to the early 20th C

The status of North Borneo (now the Malaysian Sabah) as a juridical entity was internationally regarded, at the turn of the 20th C, to be under the purview of the British North Borneo Company. Centuries earlier, from 1658 until 1878, the northern and eastern sections of Sabah were acknowledged by all relevant political actors in the region to be under the suzerainty of the Sultan of Sulu—although the peoples of the deep interiors maintained their substantially autonomous affairs as small political entities. Earlier, in 1878 the Sultan of Sulu either granted/ceded or leased out Sabah (depending on legal interpretation) to the British North Borneo Company. With the Madrid Protocol of 1885, Spain relinquished sovereignty over the land and maritime territories that were either granted/ceded or leased out, and recognized the supervision of the British corporation over Sabah. In the hindsight view of a number of scholars, these agreements were flawed by mistranslations across the languages used.

Turn of the century

An estimated 40,000 Christians were already living in the northern areas of Mindanao, invited in the 19th C by Spanish colonial administrators who were only beginning to control Muslim- dominated parts of Mindanao at this time, some three centuries after their conquest of the Visayas and Luzon. Migration, particularly from the Visayas, was encouraged. However, prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1521, Visayans — the Cebuano and Boholano in particular — were already moving on their own into this region. Indeed, the Boholanos were involved in Moluccas-Dutch affairs in the early 1500s.

By the time the American forces arrived, the area of what was to become Davao City was centered in a small Spanish settlement called Vergara, formerly a place called Mayo. It was to be the last of the embryonic Spanish era towns to have been reorganized administratively by the American colonial government.

Of the estimated Mindanao and Sulu population of 500,000, 30% were Muslim, 20% were regarded as “wild tribes.” The 50% were regarded as “civilized,” having originated from the Visayas.