Governor-General: WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT March 16, 1900 to July 4, 1901 [as the head of the Second Philippine Commission]


The US Army term “department” was an administrative section describing a geographic district. The Department of Mindanao and Jolo was hence an area of action, which was, as in other departments, directed by a commanding general. The Department of Mindanao and Jolo (1900 to 1914) was among seven departments of the Division of the Philippines (March 20, 1900 to 1911). The others were the Departments of Southern Luzon, Visayas, North Philippines, South Philippines, Northern Luzon, and Luzon. General William Kobbe led the American conquest of Mindanao; he was also tasked to open and secure the abaka ports of southern Mindanao for American use.

Early 20th C

A Chinese-Maguindanaon mestizo named Piang emerged as the leader of Cotabato, after the renowned Datu Utto[1] receded into old age. He would be known as Datu Piang even without an ancestral leadership lineage, for his ability to profit, in kind and in power, firstly from Spanish colonial administrators. He would then be called as “America’s great friend.“

Aside from Datu Piang, the other Maguindanao leader who emerged strong during the American period was Datu Sinsuat Balabaran. Adopted by Piang as a child, Datu Sinsuat cooperated with the US forces. He expanded the deltaic Maguindanao power base in what are now Cotabato City and Nuling (already much reduced at the end of the 19th C from the Cotabato-wide domain of Yang Dipertuan Qudrat of the 17th C) into Dinaig. Datu Sinsuat and Datu Piang acted on the basis of their own reading of the radical shift in the balance of power between and among their Maguindanao communities, and the new and the old colonizers, and commenced a leadership style based on accommodation. Their decisions were independent from — even if similar to — the accommodation given the Americans by the Sultan of Sulu. The Sultan even acted independently of many Tausug datus of Sulu.

1900 to 1939

Governor-General: WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT July 4, 1901 to January 31, 1903 [as the first Governor- General of the American Colonial or the Insular Government]

The Philippines was administered by the US-formed “Insular Government,” which meant an American colony unincorporated into the US. The Insular Government operated under the US Bureau of Insular Affairs, a division of the US War Department. The Insular Government acted through the Second Philippine Commission, informally known as the Taft Commission. It issued laws, established a judiciary, created a civil service, and organized a public education system. The US President governed by authority of the US Congress and not as Commander in Chief. In contrast, the US Army Department of Mindanao and Sulu (including Palawan) was headed by a series of US Army generals.

January 1, 1901

The American colonial administration installed a telegraphic communication line between Manila and the north coast of Misamis. This installation preceded military offensives.

August 1, 1901 to July 1902

Brigadier General George W. Davis became the first American military governor of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. He recommended the abrogation of the Kiram-Bates Agreement, paving the way for the creation of the civilian administration over the non-Christian “special” areas. Davis also recommended free trade of “Moro goods.”

August 8, 1901

The Philippine Constabulary (PC), the first of the four service commands that would form the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), was established under the supervision of the American Civil Governor. Established via the Philippine Commission Act No. 175, the PC performed police functions, replacing the Spanish guardia civil. As a para-military force, it assisted the US Army against both Muslim and Christian resistance fighters of various ideological commitments (who were generically called “insurgents” in American letters). Its activities and military philosophies deployed in 20th C Mindanao (and the rest of the Philippines) were to prove pivotal — with negative and positive, but mostly mixed and continuously dangerous outcomes — to the ways history transpired.

October 2, 1901

Act No. 253 of the Philippine Commission under Governor General Taft established the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes (BNCT). This bureau was to conduct ethnographic studies of “Mohammedans” and “pagans” of the Philippines, thus enshrining in governance the categorization of Muslims and indigenous peoples as separate from the mainstream.

December 29, 1902

A comic opera, a “biting political satire with a catchy musical score” entitled “The Sultan of Sulu” — embryonic form of the Broadway musical — was written by George Ade and became a hit on Broadway, New York City. Of this period in the US, one scholar wrote: “In the first few years of the 20th, or “American Century”, from the end of the 19th Century until World War I, the struggles between the Americans and the Moros mesmerized the American public.” The enduring stereotypes (Orientalisms that emerged in the 19th C and earlier in Europe) began to circulate in mass media with great momentum, from this time:

March 1902

US Army inroads into the Lake Lanao area inhabited by Maranao speakers proceeded with a road project from Parang-Parang, Cotabato. However, the project led by US Lt. William Forsyth was hampered by horse and cattle rustling; and by American deaths by hacking and gunfire at the hands of roving Maranao bands, many identified as men from the fortified town of Bayang. Hence, Col. Frank D. Baldwin was given authority to mobilize three battalions, consisting of 1,800 men, in an expedition to Bayang. Like many of his peers assigned to Mindanao, Col. Baldwin was a veteran of the punitive expeditions against native Americans.[1]

May 2 to 3, 1902

Col. Baldwin’s forces moved from Malabang to Bayang, surrounding Fort Pandapatan, or Padang Karpala, which, at that time, was already a century old and was regarded as a nearly impregnable “cotta.”[1] Six hundred Maranao warriors defended the fort, many of whom had earlier fought Spanish soldiers. Of this number, 400 to 500 were Bayang and Binidayan locals. The others were from the interrelated Maranao villages of Bacolod, Butig, Paigoay, Maciu and Dirimuyud. An estimated 300 to 400 Maranao died because of overwhelming odds. This Battle of Bayang was said to have broken the aura of Moro invincibility. A detail of this event involved one Christian Filipino soldier with the US Army, Paulino Santos, wounded in battle; subsequently conferred an award for valor. Santos was to become the architect of systematic resettlement of Christians into Mindanao through the next decades.

May 1902

The BNCT published a “Circular of information, instructions for volunteer field workers. The Museum of Ethnology, Natural History and Commerce.” Among other techniques of study was the measurement of skulls/heads to determine the relative level of savagery or capacity for ‘civilization’ — embedding thus a racist paradigm in governance.

July 1, 1902

The US Congress passed the Philippine Organic Act (or the Philippine Bill) that marked the end of the Philippine-American War. The date coincides with the breaking of the intense resistance in Batangas and Samar provinces through extremely violent acts of the US Army; which, however, did not completely stop pocket resistance. Among other provisions, the Act declared all inhabitants of the Philippines living in the Philippines prior to the “insurrection” as citizens of the Philippines; but not of the US. The Act notably limited private individual landholding to 16 hectares, and to 1,024 hectares to corporations. The Bill gave American citizens the right to acquire and own agricultural lands; and it was thus that large tracts passed onto corporate American ownership for the establishment of plantations modeled after Euro-American agribusiness templates.

July 1902

Governor General Taft personally asked for an audience with Pope Leo XIII to allow the purchase of the friar lands, and then asked the US Congress for more than US$7 million to fund the purchase, to sell to Filipinos on easy terms. This led to the Act No. 1120 or the Friar Lands Act promulgated in 1904. It was among the first legislative interventions of the 20th C Philippines that proffered land to peasants to quell civil strife. As the Act was implemented, it transpired, on one hand, that the principal beneficiaries were the men who fought with or were loyal to first president Aguinaldo. Numerous small farmers could not understand, on the other hand, why they had to pay for the land that their fathers owned or tilled. Those who did not acquire property lacked access to institutional credit, marketing facilities, or improved agricultural techniques; and lost their land to local moneylenders and hacenderos.

July 10, 1902

US President Theodore Roosevelt declared the so-called Philippine Insurrection ended and hostilities ceased in the Philippines “except in the country inhabited by the Moro tribes, to which this proclamation does not apply.” In fact, resistance to the US did not end until 1906.

The Department of Mindanao was created as one department of the US Army.

September to October 1902

Captain John J. Pershing of the US 15th Cavalry, under the authority of the Department of Mindanao, embarked on campaigns to subdue the communities around or near Lake Lanao with finality. On September 22, 1902, Pershing mounted an expedition against Sultan Uali (or Wali) of Butig, using artillery to “pulverize his cotta” [in the American period jargon]. Butig was home to people who, at that time, still understood their ethnicity as Iranun.[1] Pershing then targeted Datus Tawagon and Ganduali in Maciu (today’s Masiu). Between 40 and 50 of the datu’s followers were killed. Prior to this assignment, Pershing participated in suppressing Apache, Sioux, and Cree uprisings in the American West as a young soldier. He would be Governor of the Moro Province.[2] He belonged to a turn of the century American military establishment that quelled dissent against imperial power.

October 1, 1902

Most of the territories accepted as belonging to the Philippines under the 1898 Treaty of Paris were reverted to civil government and local civilian control under the American governor generals, by fiat of the Philippine Commission — with the notable exceptions of “Moro” and “pagan” or “non-Christian” areas of Mindanao and Sulu. (Noteworthy is that the province of Batangas was also placed under Martial Rule during this period.)

November 6, 1902

The Land Registration Act No. 496 required landowners to register and acquire Torrens titles, introducing thus this realty system into the Philippines. It created the Court of Land Registration and the Register of Deeds. It also limited land acquisition to only three titles. Many small farmers, either unaware of the law, or too poor to pay for the documentation, failed to register. Illiteracy also prevented full implementation of the Act. In the ensuing years, unscrupulous actors applied for ownership through fraudulent surveys. Moreover, the law had the effect of determining the limits of private lands — e.g., all lands registered before 1902 — and thus to allow classification of all other spaces as public lands. A number of analysts contend that this law technically conquered Muslims, legally estranging them lands (and waters) that they assumed to be family domains by virtue of ancestral usufruct tradition.


The population density of Mindanao and Sulu was five people per square kilometer.

February 1, 1903

General Pershing embarked on a conciliatory tour of the Lake Lanao periphery. A Maranao traditional leader who decided to cast his lot with the American forces, Amai Manabilang of Madaya (near Dansalan, today’s Marawi City), accompanied Pershing and lent his authority to Pershing’s mission. Amai[1] Manabilang held suasion over a large area of the Lake region, except on its west side — Bacolod and Pualas — whose chiefs would change from friendship to hostility depending on their changing reading of the changing winds.

Dr. Najeeb Mitry Saleeby was appointed Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes (BNCT). The American of Lebanese descent, whose mother tongue was Arabic, reported bringing “from Mindanao a collection of twenty-three original documents pertaining to the law, history, and religion of the Magindanao Moros,” which were purchased by this bureau, and which will have been edited and published with translations. His work was to become the substantive source of information on this subject, for Filipino elites in the 20th C.[1] They did not inquire after Saleeby’s and the other American bureaucrats’ ideological persuasions.

February 10, 1903

With the Land Registration Act of 1902 taking effect, the necessary bureaucracy was built, and the judges and other officers appointed by the Governor General.

April 4, 1903

The pandita[1] Sajiduciaman of Bayang conferred honorary datu status to Captain Pershing — the only American thus honored. The battle-hardened Pershing, responsible for a great many deaths of local fighters, had at this point pushed for greater diplomacy; de-emphasizing military aggression. Pandita Sajiduciaman had earlier survived the Battle of Bayang.

April 6 to 8, 1903

Act No. 718, passed by the Philippine Commission, rendered void all lands granted by “Moro sultans or dattos or from chiefs of Non-Christian tribes” unless authorized by the central government. The European Regalian[1] principle was put in place.

April 22, 1903

Additional islands near the mainland of North Borneo were covered in a document entitled “Confirmation by the Sultan of Sulu of Cession of Certain Islands,” signed by Sultan Jamalul Kiram with the British North Borneo Company. These were islands from Banggi Island to Sibuku Bay. This confirmatory deed reiterates the agreement between the two parties that the newly included islands were among the districts and islands mentioned in the January 22, 1878 agreement. The Sultan was given an additional 300 dollars a year “with arrears due for past occupation of 3,200 dollars,” with the originally agreed 5,000 dollars increased to 5,300 dollars per year payable annually. This Confirmatory Agreement was understood to validate and ratify the 1878 cession/lease agreement.

May 6, 1903

Three troops of the US Cavalry, a medical unit, and a field battery of guns (each soldier authorized to carry 200 rounds of ammunition) set off for Bacolod, near Dansalan (today’s Marawi). The Maranao kutà (stone fort) at Bacolod was regarded as nearly impregnable. A period record remarked that the Bacolod warriors, outnumbered and outgunned, “with only their krises and campilans, and a few lantacas (brass cannons, that threw slugs) they defended themselves mightily … The cotta was set ablaze, and soon the loud yells of Moro defiance subsided. Bacolod was destroyed. With it perished sixty Maranao warriors, including the sultan’s advisor and several sympathetic datus from Maciu, Taraca, Pindolonan, and Binidayan.”[1] The American account speculated along the prejudicial lines of the period: “The heavy losses in lives and property would have been avoided if the Bacolod Moros had surrendered or talked peace. They did not because they had no term for peace.”

Early May to May 6, 1903

Captain Pershing directed his attention to finishing off Maranao resistance, and took to the area of Taraca in the Lake Lanao periphery. Datu Ampuana Gaus led Taraca fighters, who finally capitulated on May 6. In this latter period of his campaign, Pershing’s forces killed 115 and captured 52 Muslim resistance fighters. On the May 10, 1903 The New York Times: “Capt. Pershing and his column have returned to Camp Vicars, Mindanao, from the expedition through the country east of Lake Lanao. The column experienced no opposition after the fighting at Taraca. The prisoners captured at Taraca took the oath of allegiance to the United States and were released. Among the Moros killed in the Taraca forts were nine Dattos and one sultan. The moral effect of this fight will be far-reaching, and it is doubtful if there will be any further hostility in the Lake Lanao country. Capt. Pershing estimates the population of Taraca at 30,000, and that of the district at 100,000. He says the population of the Lake Lanao district had been underestimated.”

June 1, 1903

Philippine Commission Act No. 787, or the “Act Providing for the Organization and the Government of the Moro Province,” created the military governance unit that further institutionalized the administrative cleavage between the “Moro” and the “wild” peoples on one side, and the larger part of the Philippines populated by Christian majorities on another side.[1] It also replaced the spirit of non-interference of the Kiram-Bates Agreement with the imperative of direct rule over Muslim-dominated areas. Slavery was among the newly banned practices. The provincial governors of Zamboanga were to be heads of this Moro Province. From 1903 to 1914, they were: Brigadier General Leonard Wood (1903 to 1906); Brigadier General Tasker Bliss (1906 to 1909), Colonel Ralph Hoyt (1909), Captain Charles Hagedon (1909), Brigadier General John J. Pershing (1909 to 1913), and Frank Carpenter (1913 to 1914). Like Pershing, Wood was a veteran of the offensives against native Americans at the end of the 19th C in the US. The Moro Province had five districts: Davao, Cotabato, Lanao, Sulu, and Zamboanga. Governor General Taft articulated the breadth of the province as: “all of the territory of the Philippines lying south of the eight parallel of latitude, excepting the island of Palawan and the eastern portion of the northwest peninsula of Mindanao.” The US Army generals who commanded these areas enjoyed expansive civilian and military authority. They ruled with a combination of brute force, diplomacy, and a Protestant sense of democracy.

August 6, 1903

Leonard Wood, shortly to be Governor of the Moro Province, brought to bear the last of the American military campaigns in the Lake Lanao area against the Maranao and Iranun. The campaigns were punitive in nature, as were the previous attacks in Buldon, Cotabato.

October 7, 1903

The Philippine Commission Act No. 926, or the Public Land Act, introduced the homestead concept to the Philippines. It offered Filipino citizens up to 16 hectares of “unoccupied, unreserved, un-appropriated agricultural public land in the Philippine Islands” through a homestead program. The Act stipulated that the applications are “for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation, and not either directly or indirectly for the use or benefit of any other person, persons, corporation or association; that the land applied for is non-mineral, does not contain valuable deposits of coal or salts, is more valuable for agricultural than forestry purposes, and is not occupied by any other person.” Unlike later legislative interventions of a similar nature, no financial assistance was offered would-be settlers. It was also widely observed that the central government was slow to conduct surveys. For this reason, few settlers could show documents proving ownership of land they were farming. Opportunists proliferated, registering whatever land they could.


Among the major beneficiaries of the Public Land Act of 1903 was Ohta Koyabusho, a Japanese migrant from Okinawa who had been determined, since settling permanently in Davao in 1905, to purchase land from the Bagobo and Ata people for an abaká[1] plantation. The Act allowed corporations the privilege of purchase. Ohta would be the founder of a Bagobo-Japanese community and an enterprise of considerable scale that lasted until the Second World War. Inter-marriage between Bagobo and Japanese, through those decades, contributed to peaceful co-existence.

December 22, 1903

The Philippine Commission, according to The Friar Lands Act of 1904, “entered into contracts with the Philippine Sugar Estates Development Company, Limited, La Sociedad Agricola de Ultramar, the British-Manila Estates Company, Limited, and the Recoleto Order of the Philippine Islands, for the purchase of about one hundred and sixty-four thousand one hundred and twenty-seven hectares of land, situated in the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite, Bataan, Cebu, Rizal, Isabela, and Mindoro, for the aggregate sum of seven million two hundred and thirty-nine thousand seven hundred and eighty-four dollars and sixty-cents, money of the United States,” for redistribution to would-be lease-holders or settlers. These contracts did not bear on Mindanao directly; they nevertheless first realized the idea enshrined in the Friar Lands Act of employing land grants to quell civil unrest.

November 1903

Panglima Hassan, an imam and also district commander of Luuk, Sulu, under the Sulu Sultanate, attacked the American garrison in Jolo. He led some 3,000 men (some records say 4,000) armed with the traditional wavy sword, the kris, in defying both the American military and the Sultan, whom he perceived to be pro-American.

1903 to 1905

American military forces allegedly killed as many as 3,000 Muslims in Mindanao during this three-year period. The allegation remains an estimate, based on calculations from records of encounters reported in Philippine and American newspapers and other accounts.


Dean Conant Worcester, Secretary of the Interior, wrote in his report to the Philippine Commission that “The territory occupied only by non-Christian tribes embraces considerably more than half of the superficial area of the Archipelago.” Worcester’s estimate was based on extensive fieldwork and writing throughout the Philippines.

February 1904

Governor-General: LUKE EDWARD WRIGHT February 1, 1904 to April 1, 1906

Two other Tausug headmen, Datu Laksamana and Datu Usap, subsequently joined Panglima Hassan in attacking the Sultan of Sulu in the village of Pampang. The panglima survived, but fell on March 4, 1904 at Būd Bagsak. Disagreements with traditional leadership continued, notably in mid-1905, when Datu Usap persisted with anti-American resistance.

February 4, 1904

Captain Pershing and Major Robert Bullard initiated and facilitated the settlement of the village of Dansalan (now Marawi City) by a dozen Chinese and 30 Christian families.

March 2, 1904

The Kiram-Bates Agreement of 1899 was abrogated unilaterally by the United States, upon the recommendation of General Leonard Wood, and with the approval of US President Theodore Roosevelt. Secretary of War (and former Philippine Governor General) Taft wrote to Governor General Wright: “By order of the President, you are hereby directed to notify the sultan of Sulu and the dattos who signed the so-called Bates treaty of August 20, 1899, which was a modus vivendi and mere executive agreement that in view of the failure on the part of the sultan and signing dattos to discharge the duties and fulfill the conditions imposed upon them by said agreement, they have forfeited all rights to the annuities therein stipulated to be paid to them and all other considerations moving to them under the agreement; that the treaty is abrogated and held for naught and that as residents of the Moro Province in the Philippine archipelago they are subject to the laws enacted therein under the sovereignty of the United States. …The disturbances in the island of Jolo make necessary speedier action that was contemplated in the above dispatch. (Signed) Taft.” This unilateral abrogation was to be cited often in 20th C polemic shoring up identity, as a signal betrayal of Moro honor.

March 1904 to October 22, 1905

Datu Ali, nephew of renowned late 19th C Buayan, Maguindanao leader Datu Uttu, mounted a large-scale confrontation with US forces in Cotabato, principally to reject the colonizer’s anti-slavery policy. Governor Wood personally led the manhunt for Ali, who received support from the upstream Pulangi region of his Buayan clan ties. Ali also rallied support from the Lake Lanao communities, hence arriving at a historical juncture when two Muslim ethnicities collaborated against a single perceived enemy. In hindsight view, this juncture may be regarded as significant for marking common cause in a cross-ethnic struggle unified by a shared Muslim identity. But there were also rivalries of a personal nature. Datu Ali’s rival (and father-in-law), Datu Piang, whether or not under torture or untoward duress from the Americans, provided information that led to Ali’s death. During this lengthiest Muslim rebellion against the US occupying forces, the battles at Sarinaya and at Malalag River (in what is now Davao del Sur) were remarkable for the scale of Muslim casualties. Of Sarinaya, US Secretary of War Taft reprimanded Governor Wood for excessive violence.

May 7, 1904

The Forest Act or Act No. 1148 expanded the scope of Philippine Commission Act No. 648 enacted by the US Congress in 1903. George Ahern, Director of the Bureau of Forestry, guided the process of legislation. Act No. 1148 set forth policies and “gave the Bureau power to issue timber concessions on whatever scale and duration they deemed a lumberman’s resources could match. Nearly twenty million hectares of forest lands were under his [George Ahern’s] control” all over the “Philippine Islands.” In this period of American colonization, public works projects needing timber were prioritized, for example in Philippine Commission Act No. 1544, which exempted “from internal revenue taxes all timber and other forest products for use in the actual construction and equipment of certain railway lines in the Philippine Islands.” Mindanao was not (yet) targeted in the early 20th C, but the Bureau of Forestry’s culture of extraction — however scientifically managed — was to set the directions for forest resource extraction for most of the 20th C in the Philippines.


Manila playwright Severino Montano, writing under the pen name Lola Basyang, and Juan Hernandez, created the zarzuela in three acts, “Minda Mora.” It explored Muslim-Christian conflict as romantic near-misfortune. Two Muslim-Christian pairs were involved, but it is the young Muslim woman, Minda Mora, who endures the tragedy of a father who dies battling American forces; a mother dying of heartbreak; and the ignominy of becoming pregnant by her Christian lover. The musical construed the cross-ethnicity conflict as embedded in American colonial conditions. The happy ending appears to signify an absence of deep enmity between the cultures of the pairs.

1904 to 1906

The US Army undertook a challenging salvage operation to raise scuttled former Spanish gunboats in Lake Lanao. The General Almonte, General Blanco, and Corcuera were raised. Philippine forces were able to use the General Blanco until the 1930s. The Spanish used these gunboats in a push to subdue the Lake Lanao area before the 1890s.

April 30 to December 1, 1904

At the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, 80 Mindanao Muslims were presented among other representatives of other Philippine “types” or “tribes.” During this World’s Fair, the American organizers labeled the Muslims, according to one scholar, as “people whose culture lies between the categories of ‘barbarity’ and ‘civilization,’ e.g., they were quite different from headhunters and dog-eaters from the Northern Cordilleras who were supposed to be ‘below’ them (for the Moros have supposedly reached a higher stage of development through their contact with Islam), but not yet quite at par with the “Christianized Visayans.” The living Philippine exhibitions at this World’s Fair solidified American and European racial stereotypes that separate the Moro from the Christian, even if the Philippine “living exhibits” were not racially distinct from one another.

November 12, 1904

Philippine Commission Act No. 1259 provided for a permanent financial appropriation for members of the Sultan of Sulu’s inner circle, to wit: “To the present Sultan of Sulu, six thousand pesos, Philippine currency; to Hadji Butu, one thousand eight hundred pesos; to Hadji Taib, nine hundred pesos; to Hadji Mahomet, nine hundred pesos; to Hadji Abdallah, nine hundred pesos; to Hadji Bandahalla, one thousand two hundred pesos; to Datto Joakanain, nine hundred pesos; and to Datto Kalbi, nine hundred pesos.” These payments were prescribed from and after March 21, 1904, the date when the payments under the Bates Treaty were stopped, to and including November 30, 1904, and monthly thereafter.

April to May 5, 1905

Governor-General: HENRY CLAY IDE November 3, 1905 to September 19, 1906

A supporter of Panglima Hassan, Datu Pala — whose living was made in the slave trade — arrived back from Borneo and commenced armed encounters with US forces in Jolo, inflicting casualties on the American side. The Sandakan police under the British asked the US forces to keep Datu Pala at bay, and after initial reluctance due to the political needs of imposing the cedula tax and other policies unpalatable to the Muslim population, the Americans deployed 700 US soldiers to Jolo; soon increasing the number to 1,100 plus 160 local scouts and militiamen. Two squadrons of the 14th Cavalry Regiment and two companies of the 22nd Infantry Regiment attacked Datu Pala’s holdout in Paruka Utik’s fort. One hundred Muslims were killed mainly by artillery bombardment on May 1. General Leonard Wood pursued and killed Datu Pala and 20 of his allies on May 5.

March 6 to 8, 1906

Leonard Wood was still the civil Governor of the Moro Province when the US Army mounted a heavily armed offensive against defiant Tausug groups at Būd Dahu,[1] a volcano in Jolo, Sulu. The US Army, deploying superior firepower, killed 600 Tausug. Some contemporary accounts gave a higher figure: of the 800 to 1,000 individuals living atop the volcano, only six survived. Būd Dahu is topped by a highly defensible (1,800-yard diameter) crater at its summit, surrounded by thick forest, and had served as the redoubt of sundry Tausug anti-American combatants and their families for several weeks prior to the American attack. They belonged to different groups, many survivors of previous debacles like the Datu Pala fracas; many rejecting the head tax and disarmament. They had opportunity to engage in rice and yam agriculture, and were thus well provisioned, aside from being substantially protected by the character itself of the mountain. US Army officers had asked their leaders inside the Būd Dahu crater to allow the women and children to descend from the volcano. Not only did the women stay, there were reports that some dressed as men and fought like warriors. Photographs and other records indicate that 2/3 of those killed were women and children; that corpses were piled five bodies deep; that many of the dead had multiple wounds.

March 12, 1906

American liberals, notably including Mark Twain, decried the Būd Dahu carnage. “Comments on the Moro Massacre” by Twain was entered into the US Congressional Record.[1]


Governor-General: JAMES FRANCIS SMITH September 20, 1906 to May 7, 1909

A village made into a more active trade hub by American activities, Dansalan and its surrounding areas were absorbed as a regular municipality into the American colonial realm in the Philippines. Dansalan was the old name of Marawi or Marahui. Dansalan at this time had already absorbed American, Chinese, Japanese, and Christian Filipino residents.

November 19, 1906

The US Department of State sent a note to the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. stating that Sabah does not belong to the British Crown through the lease of the British North Borneo Company of this territory from the Sultan of Sulu. The note remarked that the British North Borneo Company did not represent a government.

1909 to 1913

Govenor-General: WILLIAM CAMERON FORBES November 11, 1909 to September 1, 1913

Captain Pershing became Moro Province governor, under whom its economy increased by 163%. American records observe that Muslims of Mindanao had begun to make bank deposits. American administration saw Mindanao (and the Philippines) as a continuum, and its policies had an even effect. A middle class emerged uniformly in the disparate Muslim communities; uniformity that in time contributed, albeit slowly, to the emergence of a pan-Mindanao Moro identity transcending specific ethnicities by the mid-20th C.


An American initiative, the first rubber plantation was established in the Philippines on Basilan Island, homeland of the Islamicized Yakan speaking people. Four years later, in 1914, the owner of this Basilan Rubber Plantation sold it to J. M. Menzi, who then established the first commercial rubber plantation over vast tracts in Lamitan and Isabela towns of this island province. American “pacification” in Basilan involved the introduction of large-scale rubber and copra (coconut) concerns. Earlier, in 1900, Menzi founded the Manila Daily Bulletin, originally as a shipping journal. The word “pacification” was widely used by the American colonial government, and applied to military and non-military means for conquest.

By this year, of the 97 major plantations of 100 hectares or more, 61 were owned by Americans, 19 by Europeans, five by Chinese, and 12 by Christian and Muslim Filipinos.

September 8, 1911

Datu Alamada continued the fight of the late Datu Ali in Cotabato. He assembled a fighting force of 500 men, who attacked Buldon and other parts of the northern reaches of Cotabato. Proving to be a formidable opponent to the American forces, he also had unique ideas about his fight. In 1913, he surrendered with 3,000 followers to a Filipino official, not to Americans.

December 1911

Through Executive Order No. 24, Captain Pershing commenced disarmament as policy, despite his active pursuit of pacification by diplomacy. The policy — pursued by a more militaristic General Leonard Wood — was delayed until this year when a major road project would have been finished. Pershing gave a deadline of December 1, 1911 for compliance.

February 11, 1913

A second battle occurred in and around the crater of Būd Daho, in large measure due to defiance of the disarmament policy. The anti-American resistance was also driven by a distrust of all parties — American, Muslim leaders, and Christian leaders — who did not appear to support an increasingly intense sense of Muslim autonomy. Pershing led two infantry battalions, a machine gun platoon, six troops of the 2nd Cavalry, a field artillery battery, five companies of the Philippine Scouts, and a Moro Constabulary Company into this battle. The battle did not intensify because of Pershing’s negotiating skills.

The Philippine Commission Act No. 2259, or the Cadastral Act, institutionalized systematic land surveys, facilitating the inventory of titled lands vis-à-vis the lands that can be alienated for government purposes. It instituted a civic responsibility: “It shall be the duty of every person claiming an interest in the lands to be surveyed, or in any parcel thereof, to communicate to the surveyor in charge upon his request therefore all information possessed by such person concerning the boundary lines of any lands to which he claims title or in which he claims any interest.” Many Muslims and other Mindanao communities with pre-colonial social systems (e.g., today’s ‘indigenous people’) remained unaware of this dictum.


Philippine Commission Act Nos. 2254 and 2280, the Agricultural Colonies Acts, invited Christian settlers into Pikit (the first to be carved out of the Cotabato town of the late Spanish period); Glan (in today’s Sarangani); and Pagalungan (at that time, from 1912 to 1926 in the old Muslim district of Midsayap, in turn part of the general region of Dulawan and Pikit). Christians were allowed 16 hectares; Muslims, eight hectares. Midsayap, Pagalungan, and Pikit are contiguous territories deep sa raya, the upstream or upper valley of the Pulangi River, where Muslim communities have associated themselves with the Buayan sultans for at least three centuries. The arrival and success of Cebuano migrants in Glan, at the southernmost Buayan-oriented areas, presaged the arrival of Ilocano migrants into the neighboring Kiamba in 1918 and into Malungon in the 1930s onwards. Kiamba was populated by the T’boli, who lived in proximity with Maguindanao coastal communities that were, furthermore, also spread out along Malungon’s seaward areas, among the scattered homelands of the B’laan people.

June 11 to 15, 1913

The Tausug datu Naquib Amil — a charismatic leader of some six to ten thousand followers camped together at Būd (Mount) Bagsak, another volcano in Sulu — challenged the American forces to fight it out with him. Datu Amil disagreed with the accommodation extended by the Sultan of Sulu to the American colonial government. The Sultan had already complied with Pershing’s request to convene a bichara,[1] during which Pershing offered compromises. The report to the Philippine Commission observed, “…the authorities of the Moro Province…were engaged throughout the year in carrying out the disarmament of the Moro population. Such opposition as was encountered centered in a small portion of the [Jolo] island known as Lati Ward… the population, influenced by the disorderly element, when it appeared that movements of troops were to be made, stampeded to the number of several thousand, including women and children, to Būd Bagsak… and flatly declined to surrender individual criminals or arms.” Captain Pershing, in a letter to his wife, wrote: “The fighting was the fiercest I have ever seen…They are absolutely fearless, and once committed to combat they count death as a mere incident.” The Battle of Būd Bagsak was described by American and mainstream Filipino journalists as the last major expression of Moro resistance to American colonization. But pocket resistance persisted until the eve of the Second World War, when leaders the leaders of various far-flung Muslim communities, independently and in deliberate collaboration, turned their attention to the Japanese invaders.

June 17, 1913

After two days of travelling from Cebu, the 120-strong first batch of “colonists” arrived in Fort Pikit. The travel included a stretch through the Pulangi River towards the interior regions of the Maguindanao-speaking people. In their first decades in their agricultural settlement, they were called colono, with the word carrying from the 19th C into the 20th C the concepts of population movement on the basis of terra nullis — the assumption that the land can be occupied without social costs. This assumption was based on the view that indigenous peoples did not have legal rights to land or territory, which were therefore legally unoccupied and free for a sovereign state to claim. The first batch of colonists were distributed among the villages called Ladtingan, Calawag, Ginatilan, Panicupan, Manding and, Inug-ug, all of which formed Colony No. 1. From 1914 to 1915, four more colonies followed, assigned to Paidu Pulangi (Colony No. 2), Silik (Colony No. 3), Makasendeg (Colony No. 4) and Pagalungan (Colony No. 5). Talitay formed yet another colony. That the colono label was not used for arrivals from 1918 onwards — when the arrivals were called home-seekers, migrants, and settlers — may signal a shift in the concepts surrounding population movement into Mindanao. “Settlement” and “migration” had an inflection on escape from poverty and oppressive conditions, while the colonos were thought to be exercising preferential options.


The process of disarmament of Muslim communities continued towards stable conditions during this last year before the creation of a civil government to replace the military-run Moro Province. From the American perspective this year, the most intense expressions of resistance — notably the Būd Bagsak and Būd Daho battles — could not be mounted again. It was during this second decade of the 20th C that the Muslims of Mindanao had developed a respect, however grudging, for the Americans; and a deepening dislike for Filipinos.


Governor-General: Newton W. Gilbert September 1, 1913 to October 6, 1913 [as Acting Governor-General]

The central government initiative to resettle Christian Visayas and Luzon peasants in Mindanao commenced this year, and resettlement became a systematic colonial government policy and set of programs. The homestead concept the US imposed on native American lands in the American West was thus to be given a new geographic/cultural field of application. However, that colonial imperative, as realized in the early 20th C Philippines, was suffused by the democratic ideal of entitlement to land for all, and informed by a growing anxiety about peasant unrest. This US homestead concept[1] was already incorporated in the Public Land Act of 1903, ten years earlier. However, until the Second World War, the resettlement initiatives did not gain momentum, and many migrants returned to their origins.

July 23, 1914

Governor-General: FRANCIS BURTON HARRISON October 6, 1913 to March 5, 1921

Through Act No. 2408, the Moro Province was reconfigured into the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, with a civilian governor, firstly in the person of Frank W. Carpenter. The intent was to facilitate governance of the entirety of the Philippines with one set of civilian principles implemented by a uniform bureaucracy. Muslim integration with the rest of the citizens of the Commonwealth was the spirit of this change. Under Carpenter’s management, a so-called Policy of Attraction was pursued among Muslims. Carpenter articulated his mission thus: “…the aim is the amalgamation of the Mohammedan and Christian native population into a homogeneous Filipino people.”

October 8, 1914

The first “colonos” from Cebu arrived in Glan, in what is now Sarangani. They belonged to the earliest Visayan movement into this southernmost part of Mindanao.


The agricultural settlement created by Commonwealth Act No. 2280 in Momungan or Nonungan (where Baloi is today) was to be a social experiment involving mixed race families. It did not last long, because the American men (married to Filipinas) did not have the farming experience for an agricultural colony.[1]

1914 to 1918

What was formerly an almost inconsequential settlement at the turn of the century, Davao[1] (what is now the city) experienced exponential growth fueled by export revenue from abaka plantations. Japanese investors were led by the pioneer Ohta, who led and sustained the interest of Okinawans such as himself. The substantial Japanese-Bagobo community that thrived even beyond the abaka heyday in 1918 would, in time, represent the real potential for peaceful co-existence amidst the massive economic transformation of a place.

September 1, 1914

By virtue of Philippine Commission Act No. 2408, an area measuring 2,296,791 hectares was designated the province of Cotabato. It encompassed 1/13th of the entire land area of the Philippines. This early 20th C Cotabato encompassed both poles of the Maguindanao political realm: the downstream sa ilud region of the Cotabato sultans and the upstream sa raya region of the Buayan sultans, as well as the in-between domain called Bagumbayan. The place name “Cotabato” was a colonial construct chosen by Spanish and American overlords for a region that maps from the 16th C to 19th C named Maguindanao or Magindano.

Through Philippine Commission Act 2309, the Moro Province was legally rendered null and replaced by the Department of Mindanao and Sulu created in July 23, 1914. The ensuing Organic Act No. 2408 extended to the inhabitants of the heretofore Moro Province “the general laws of the country” and the “general forms and procedures of government followed in other provinces.” The Organic Act therefore extended the jurisdiction of nearly all bureaus of the government to the Muslims of Mindanao. The new provinces created were Cotabato, Davao, Lanao, Sulu, and Zamboanga. Bukidnon was declared a “sub-province.”


Teopisto[1] Jamora Guingona became the first Filipino to head the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes. In 1930, he introduced the “New Deal Policy” for Mindanao, intended towards preventing unrest and promoting the integration of Muslims into Filipino society.

Former Secretary of Interior (1900 to 1913), Dean Conant Worcester, acquired a 10,000-hectare land with cattle ranching operations on the Bukidnon Plateau in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.[1] Prior to being a successful rancher and colonial administrator, Worcester was a zoologist and photographer, and in both roles, he played a substantial part in defining the Philippine Muslim and the “tribal” person as human beings to be civilized. His photographs in the National Geographic Magazine gave the world images of seductive frontiers, and peoples needing American ministration and tutelage.

March 13, 1915

Governor Carpenter and Sulu Sultan Jamal-ul Kiram II signed a Memorandum of Agreement. Through this instrument, the sultan recognized the US sovereignty in the Sulu Archipelago with “all the attributes of sovereign government that are exercised elsewhere in American territory and dependencies.” The sultan in effect abdicated all his powers including his prerogatives associated with the courts and collection of taxes while the US recognized the sultan as the “titular spiritual head of the Mohammedan church in the Sulu Archipelago;” and that the Moros “shall have the same religious freedom . . . and the practice of which is not in violation of the basic principles of the laws of the United States of America.” In the hindsight view of some scholars, the Agreement was flawed owing to mistranslation across the languages used.

December 1915

Sulu’s Hadji Butu Rasul was appointed to the Philippine Senate by Governor General Harrison, the first Muslim to be accorded the title of Senator. In 1928, the succeeding governor general reappointed Hadji Butu to the senate. His rise in the Sulu hierarchy was distinguished by his position as Prime Minister to Sultan Badarrudin, and by the depth of his knowledge of Islamic theology and law. It was Hadji Butu who advised Sultan Jamal-ul Kiram to enter into an agreement with the American colonial administration.


The Legislative Districts of Mindanao and Sulu were designated as Agusan, Bukidnon, Cotabato, Davao, Lanao, Zamboanga, and Sulu.

August 29, 1916

The US Congress enacted the Jones Law (39 Stat. 545, c. 416), or the Philippine Autonomy Act, which superseded the Philippine Organic Act of 1902. A fully elected Philippine Legislature was created. It formalized the US commitment to grant the Philippines independence. It abolished the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, whose functions were subsumed under the BNCT. In addition to its southern coverage, this bureau was given jurisdiction over the Mountain Province and Nueva Viscaya. Mindanao Muslims were thus placed under the direct control of the Manila-based bureaucracy, run by Filipinos.

March 10, 1917

Act No. 2711, “An Act Amending the Administration Code” states that “The provinces of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu are the following: Agusan, Bukidnon, Cotabato, Davao, Lanao, Sulu, and Zamboanga.” The Act enumerated the coverage of the Department thus:

The Province of Agusan consists of territory in the northern part of the Island of Mindanao, west of Surigao, and comprises the following municipalities: Buenavista, Butuan (the capital of the province), Cabadbaran, Jabonga, Nasipit, and Talacogon.The province also contains the following municipal districts: [Amparo], Azpitia, Bahbah, Balete, Baquingquing, Basa, Baylo, Borbon, Bunaguit, Bunawan, Concordia, Corinto, Cuevas, Ebro, Esperanza, Gracia, Guadalupe, Halapitan, Langasian, La Paz, Las Nieves, Libertad, Loreto, Los Arcos, Maasin, Mambabili, [Manila], Mampinsahan, Maygatasan, Milagros, Novele, Nuevo Sibagat, Nuevo Trabajo, Patrocinio, Prosperidad, Remedios, Rosario, Sagunto, Salvacion, San Ignacio, San Luis [San Mateo], [San Vicente], San Isidro, Santa Ines, Santa Josefa, Santo Tomas, Trento, Tudela, Verdu, Veruela, Violanta, and Waloe.

The Province of Bukidnon consists of territory in the northern part of the Island of Mindanao between the Province of Agusan, to the east, and the Provinces of Oriental Misamis and Lanao to the west, with Cotabato to the south, and comprises the following municipalities: Impasugong, Malaybalay (the capital of the province), Maluko, and Talakag.The province also contains the following municipal districts: Baungon, [Claveria], [Guimbaluron], Kibawe, Libona, [Lourdes], Malitbog, Maramag, [Napaliran], Pangantucan, and Sumilao.

The Province of Cotabato lies east and south of the Province of Lanao, south of the Province of Bukidnon, and west of the Province of Davao, and contains the following municipalities: Cotabato (the capital of the province), Dulawan, and Midsayap. The province also contains the following municipal districts: Awang, Balatikan, Balut, Banisilan, Barira, Buayan, Bugasan, Buldun, Buluan, Carmen, [Daguma], Dinaig, [Dulawan,] Gambar, Glan, [Isulan], Kabakan, Kalanganan, Kiamba, Kidapawan, Kitubud, Kling, Koronadal, Lebak, [Libuangan], Liguasan, [Maganui], Nuling, Parang, Pikit-Pagalungan, [Reina Regente], Salaman, Sebu, Silik, Subpangan, [Talayan], and Tumbau.

The Province of Davao consists of territory in the southeastern corner of the Island of Mindanao, with appurtenant islands, including the Sarangani Islands. Its territory is indented by the waters of the Gulf of Davao. It contains the following municipalities: Baganga, Caraga, Cateel, Davao, (the capital of the province), Malita, Manay, Mati, Pantukan, and Santa Cruz. The Province also contains the following municipal districts: Batulaki, Caburan, Camansa, Compostela, [Guianga], Kapalong, Lupon, [Malita], Moncayo, [Pantukan], Samal, Saug, Sigaboy, Surup, and Tagum.

The Province of Lanao lies east of the Province of Zamboanga and west of Bukidnon, being washed on the southwest by the waters of Illana Bay, and contains the following municipalities: Dansalan (the capital of the province), Iligan, Kolambugan, and Malabang.The Province also contains the following municipal districts: Bakulud, Balut, Bayang, Binidayan, Bubung, [Buruun], Butig, Ditsaan, Ganassi, Gata, Kapai, Kapatagan, Lumbatan, Madalum, Madamba, Maging, Mandulog, Marantau, Masiu, Mulundu, Momungan, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Pantau-Ragat, [Patarikan], Pualas, [Sagtaran], Saguiaran, Suñgud, Tamparan, Taraka, Tatarikan, Tubaran, Tugaya, and Uato.

The Province of Sulu includes all the Islands of Mindanao and Sulu situated in the Celebes Sea and in the Sulu Sea between the fourth and eighth parallels of north latitude lying southwest of a line running northwest and southeast and passing at a point two miles due east of the northeast extremity of Tatalan Island. It contains the municipality of Jolo (the capital of the province). The province also contains the following municipal districts: Balimbing, [Banaran], Bongao, [Gitung], Cagayan de Sulu, Indanan, [Laparan], [Lati], Lu’uk, Maimbung, Marungas, Panamau, Pangutaran, [Pansul], Parang, Pata, Patikul, Siasi, [Silangkan], Simunul, Sitangkai, South Ubian, Talipao, Tandubas, Tapul, and Tongkil.

The Province of Zamboanga is located upon the western part of the Island of Mindanao and includes all the territory west of the boundary between Lanao and Zamboanga, with the adjacent islands not included within the Province of Sulu. It contains the following municipalities: Dapitan, Dipolog, [Isabela], [Lubuñgan], Kabasalan, Katipunan, Margosatubig, Pagadian, Sindañgan, Siocon, and Zamboanga (the capital of the province). The province also contains the following municipal districts: Bangaan, Dinas, Kabasalan, Kumalarang, Labañgan, Lamitan, Maluso, Margosatubig, Pañganuran, Sibuko, Sindañgan, Sirawai, and Taluksangay.[1]

May 16, 1917

Philippine Commission Act No. 2722 provided for usufruct use by the Sultan of Sulu of 4,096 hectares of public land in Sulu, to be reserved by the Governor General. The other members of the Sultan’s family entitled to this use were “his direct heirs Datu Rajamuda Muhallil Wasit, Dayang Dayang Hadji Piandau, and Putli Tarhata Atik.” The usufruct use was not subject to taxation; however, the lands may not be alienated, e.g., transferred to any other.


Twenty-four first settlers, arriving from Luzon, began their lives in Kapatagan, Lanao. (By 1941 their number would be 8,000. Kapatagan would host 93,000 immigrants in 1960.)

The census of this year showed that the “pagan” groups still consisted 45% of Davao Province.

A core Christian population of Zamboanga Peninsula — some of whom, particularly in the Dapitan area, descended from families from the Visayan island of Bohol as early as the 17th C — experienced exponential demographic growth surging from this year onwards.

Within the half-a-decade from the onset of migration into Mindanao in the 20th C, the percentage of the Muslim population of Mindanao fell from 63% in 1913 to 50% in 1918.


The American Museum of Natural History, New York City, published “Peoples of the Philippines” written by University of California anthropologist Alfred Kroeber. The book used current census data for a demographic account: “Today there are but little over three hundred thousand Mohammedans in the archipelago against more than eight million Christians. In fact, the Mohammedans are outnumbered more than two to one by the pagans.” He gave the numbers of “pagans” thus: “[They] aggregate about two-thirds of a million or twice as much as the number of American Indians surviving in the United States.”

July 1, 1919

Philippine Commission Act No. 2874, or Public Land Act, used the term ‘public domain’ and essentially pertained to the disposition of friar lands. It provided that alienable public lands can be classified as (a) agricultural; (b) commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes; (c) educational, charitable, and other similar purposes; and (d) reservations for town sites, and for public and quasi-public uses. It asserted that “any citizen of the Philippine Islands or of the United States, over the age of eighteen years, or the head of a family, who does not own more than twenty-four hectares of land in said Islands or has not had the benefit of any gratuitous allotment of more than twenty-four hectares of land since the occupation of the Philippine Islands by the United States, may enter a homestead or not exceeding twenty-four hectares of agricultural land of the public domain.” The homestead title will be contingent on land improvement, to wit: “No certificate shall be given or patent issued for the land applied for until at least one-fourth of the land has been improved and cultivated. The period within which the land shall be cultivated shall not be less than one nor more than five years, from and after the date of the approval of the application.” Furthermore, it limited the hectares possible for “Any non-Christian native who has not applied for a homestead, desiring to live upon or occupy land on any of the reservations set aside for the so-called non-Christian tribes may request a permit of occupation for any tract of land of the public domain reserved for said non-Christian tribes under this Act, the area of which shall not exceed four hectares. It shall be an essential condition that the applicant for the permit cultivate and improve the land, and if such cultivation has not been begun within six months from and after the date on which the permit was received, the permit shall be canceled.” The iniquitous provisos and fundamental disparity went unnoticed for decades, except by various aggrieved Muslim groups that felt the immediate impact of the Act.


The National Development Corporation was established and given the task of land acquisition and promotion of corporate investments.

The American agricultural corporation BF Goodrich started operations in Mindanao by felling forests to plant rubber. The momentum of land conversion from forests to plantations picked up speed from this commencement period.

1919 to 1930

The Inter-island Migration Division of the Bureau of Labor commenced migration into Kapalong, Guiangga, Tagum, Lupon, and Baganga in Davao, the homelands of the Bagobo people; the Subanun homeland Labangan in Zamboanga; the Higaonon and Agusanen Manobo homelands of Cabadbaran, Butuan, and Buenavista in Agusan; and the Maranao area at the Kapatagan Valley in Lanao. In addition, Pikit and Pagalungan in Cotabato continued to fill up with more migrants. At this juncture, the provinces of Davao, Zamboanga, Lanao, and Cotabato were still undivided into their present configurations.

February 5, 1920

Philippine Commission Act No. 2206 authorized provincial boards to manage colonies. Zamboanga opened a colony in the Yakan homeland of Lamitan; Sulu, in the Sama homeland of Tawi-Tawi; Bukidnon, in the Binukid homeland of Marilog; and Cotabato, in the Maguindanao areas of Salunayan and Maganoy. This Act assisted a central government that did not have enough monies to financially support migration and resettlement. The idea of migrating to Mindanao, “land of promise,” had become part of the national imagination.

The BNCT, headed by Teopisto Guingona, took over the administrative work of by-then sixteen-year old Department of Mindanao and Sulu, through Act of the Philippine Legislature No. 2878. Guingona headed the agency until 1921.

July 30, 1920

Dayang Dayang Hadjia Piandao, daughter of the turn of the century Sultan Badaruddin, officially submitted to the Philippines through an oath of allegiance and loyalty. The following year, she became “special agent” of the colonial government to encourage Muslims to avail of education.


Dayang Dayang Putli Tarhata Kiram, daughter of Sultan Esmail Kiram of Sulu and favorite niece and adopted daughter of Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, was awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Illinois. She was the first woman “pensionada” of the American colonial government. Tarhata Kiram was to become a well-known public figure in the national life, for activism for Muslim interests; for having gone to the United States for her studies with her entourage; for marrying thrice after successive widowhoods (the third time to a Christian lawyer); for filing her teeth and wearing traditional Sulu garments upon her return from the US; and for supporting her first husband, the much older Datu Tahil, in open anti-American revolt in 1927. Datu Tahil was regarded as an “outlaw” for his participation in the tragic Battle of Būd Bagsak. Tarhata Kiram remained in the public eye until the 1970s.


Governor-General: Charles Yeater March 5, 1921 to October 14, 1921 [as Acting Governor General]

The Muslim and “wild tribe” areas of Mindanao were subdivided into wards. The wards recognized small political units the size of villages, led by datus, petty chieftains who were loyal to higher authority (for example, to a sultan or rajah muda) depending on the personal charisma or power of that authority; on clan ties; on geographical considerations; on debts of gratitude or finances; and so forth. Writing later in the 20th C, a scholar observed: “One result of this situation was that ‘wardship’ made a contribution to the growth of Moro cultural sub- nationalism…There was a brief period from 1920 to 1928 when foreign economic interests supported Moro apprehensions about Christian Filipino rule as a rationale for the retention of American jurisdiction over Mindanao and Sulu.”


Governor-General: Leonard Wood October 14, 1921 to August 7, 1927

A substantial American lobby agreed with the factions of the Muslims of Mindanao that expressed opposition to the incorporation of their domains if or when the rest of the Philippines gains independence. This lobby ultimately produced the Bacon Bill of 1924, lodged in the US Congress, which sought to remove Mindanao and Sulu from an independent Philippines; and to maintain US colonial administration over the Muslim territories. It was transparent to political watchers in the US that the bill was tied to the projected development of rubber and other resources in Mindanao and Sulu.


The first pineapple plantation in what used to be called the “Far East” was established at a site that eventually became Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, on 5,000 hectares of formerly forested land. The area was originally the homeland to a sub-group of the Manobo (a.k.a. Manuvu) that would be known in the 20th C as the Talaandig. The plantation began when California Packing Corporation, which sold the canned brand called Del Monte, sent a scouting mission for land in Bukidnon.[1]

1923 to 1924

The Iranun leader Datu Santiago, who was to be the last leader of a major resistance to American rule in the large Cotabato region, staged his fight in Parang, against the head tax and what he thought were onerous impositions by the public education system. He was also against Muslim girls going to school, as the American colonial administration prescribed.


Indicative of the assimilationist American colonial policy was the conceptualization of the first Manila Carnival beauty pageant as the tripartite Miss Luzon-Miss Visayas-Miss Mindanao formulation. Bai Amai Miring (Miss Lanao) and Scott Rasul (Miss Sulu) represented their region. Bai Amai Miring was “crowned” Miss Mindanao of 1926. This tripartite formulation of the Philippine body politic and geographic extent was to have an impact in the cultural imagination of the Filipino Christian majority.

Datu Gumbay Piang — son of Datu Piang — asserted in a speech that the Muslims “would be between two fearful and objectionable daggers — American at one side and Filipion at the other. As a defenseless people, they would have no alternative but choose which dagger would be less injurious. And, funny to say, they have already, since long ago, chosen the American dagger.” The metaphoric statement pertained to the imminent grant of independence to the Philippines and the preference of Muslims to stay with the Americans.

January 31, 1927

American forces attacked the fortification in Patikul, Sulu, of Datu Tahil, survivor of the two Battles of Būd Bagsak (where he lost his first wife and child), who had rallied Tausug resistance against land taxes, the imposition of penalities on tax deliquencies, and disarmament. Datu Tahil was at this juncture married to Dayang Dayang Tarhata Kiram, recipient of American education. Thirty to forty men were killed during this event. Datu Tahil escaped and Tarhata went into exile.


Governor-General: Eugene Allen Gilmore August 7, 1927 to December 27, 1927 [in an acting capacity]

At around this time, Christians assigned to the Muslim-dominated provinces begin to initiate their own migration projects. On his own, one PC 1st Lieutenant invited settlers from Luzon and the Visayas into the Midsayap area. A good number of today’s Midsayap old families emerged from these Christian lineages. The Midsayap self-propelled migration — animated by clan and community networks — occurred in other areas of Mindanao simultaneously. Subsequently, starting from the mid-20th C, self-propelled migration became an avalanche. Speakers of various Philippine languages gravitated towards settlements with similar tongues.


Governor-General: Henry L. Stimson December 27, 1927 to February 23, 1929

An uprising that was to be called the Alangkat Movement began within Mt. Kitibud, northern Cotabato. Tausug historian Samuel K. Tan wrote that “the Datu Santiago rebellion in 1923 was followed four years later by Datu Mampuroc of Kitibud who had grievances against Datu Piang for collecting P20,000 from his Manobo people. His reaction, marked by bloody clashes with government troops … [involved] some kind of mountain or messianic rituals.” This was one of many millenarian movements, involving such rituals, that joined or initiated myriad fights against American overlord-ship and against mainstream Filipinos, and that were perceived to be exercising anti-neocolonial policies and attitudes. These formations can be seen to be antecedent to 20th C movements that took twisted, bloodthirsty turns; notably, the 1970s ilagâ.[1]

January 12, 1928

Philippine Commission Act No. 3430 adjusted the reservation of lands in Sulu, Basilan, and adjacent islands for the usufruct use of the Sultan of Sulu, to 5,296 hectares of public land.

Second half of the 1920s

Governor-General: Eugene Allen Gilmore February 23, 1929 to July 8, 1929 [in an acting capacity]

The rise of 20th C large-scale plantations in Central Luzon and Panay Island in the Visayas produced the concomitant emergence of peasant strife in the second decade of the 20th C. Moreover, the global economic depression impacted on the preferential options enjoyed by the cash crops for export produced in these plantations: abaka, rice, corn, sugar, and tobacco. By the latter 1920s, activist peasant organizations were understood to have belonged to two ideological streams. One kind was of combative peasantry who framed their political action in terms of esoteric, millenarian forms Southeast Asian animism (that shaped their Christianity). Another kind were the labor and peasant groups inspired by Marxist-Leninism, as well as anarchic formations in the decolonizing world, who have in this period become sophisticated at unionization.

Late 1920s to 1930s

Governor-General: Dwight F. Davis July 8, 1929 to January 9, 1932 [in an acting capacity]

American Protestant missionary Frank Laubach began work among Maranao speakers in Dansalan (now Marawi City), developing a system for learning the Maranao language that was also useful for teaching the Maranao to read in their own language. This literacy tool, the Laubach method, would be used by American missionaries in other parts of the world.

November 2, 1929

Legislative Act No. 3537 divided the province of Misamis, which was, in the Spanish period, a part of Cebu. However, it was not until ten years later, on November 28, 1939, that this division between Misamis Oriental and Misamis Occidental was implemented, through Act. No. 3777. This is the first of the early 20th C Mindanao provinces to have been divided for reasons emanating from a central government imperative.

1931 to 1934

The American Governor General appointed Sultan Jamalul Kiram of Sulu as Senator.


During the 1930s, the Christian majority of the Philippines had misgivings about the incorporation of the territories labeled “non-Christian” (managed militarily by the United States) into an emergent nation. However, there was increasing belief in the Manuel Quezon view that the “Moro areas” should be given over to Filipino leadership, instead of American. A number of Mindanao Muslims associated their independent chance for self-determination with remaining longer under American, not Filipino rule.


Governor-General: George C. Butte  January 9, 1932 to February 29, 1932

The Muslim population of Mindanao had at this point been reduced from 76% in 1903 to 34% of the total Mindanao demography. This reduction can be interpreted variously, among which are reconstructions of larger Muslim Mindanao communities at the turn of the century owing to centralized power (in the singular case of Sulu) and settled rice agriculture (in Maguindanao), in a Mindanao that was in large part a vast tropical rainforest inhabited by nomadic bands.

February 27, 1933

Governor-General: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. February 29, 1932 to July 15, 1933

Commonwealth Act No. 4113 or the Sugar Tenancy Act was approved, regulating the sugar tenant-landlord relationships. It was observed even at that time that many tenants were unaware of this law or were dismissed when they demanded rights under this law. These transgressions principally impacted Negros and Panay tenants, and thus contributed to the widespread poverty in the Western Visayas that was to propel, in turn, immense migratory movement of Hiligaynon peoples (i.e., Ilonggo) into Mindanao.

Nov 15, 1935 to Dec 8, 1941

Commonwealth Act No. 4054 or the Philippine Rice Share Tenancy Act was approved, seeking to govern landlord-tenant relations and to ensure equitable division of profits as well as losses. Like the Sugar Tenancy Act, it took a long time for peasants to avail of the benefits of the law. According to the Department of Agrarian Reform official records: “[It] was the first law on crop sharing which legalized the 50-50 share between landlord and tenant with corresponding support to tenants protecting them against abuses of landlords. However, this law was hardly implemented because most of the municipal councils were composed of powerful hacienderos and big landlords. In fact, only one municipality passed a resolution for its enforcement and majorities have petitioned its application to the Governor General.”

1936 to 1941

Governor-General: Frank Murphy July 15, 1933 to November 14, 1935

“Mohammedan Filipinos” participated in the first nationwide Philippine electoral process in the election for delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Arolas Tulawi of Sulu, Datu Menandang Pang and Datu Blah Sinsuat of Cotabato, and Sultan Alaoya Alonto of Lanao were elected to the 1935 Constitutional Convention. Hence the three major ethnicities were represented: the Tausug of Sulu, the Maguindanao of Cotabato, and the Maranao of Lanao. During the early part of the 20th C, Muslim leadership was vested in the personae of the traditional (pre-colonial) datu-led political order.

1936 to 1941

Armed uprisings continued, particularly in Lanao, but were overwhelmed by the Americans.

February 12, 1935

The Quirino-Recto Colonization Act No. 4197 or the Organic Charter of Organized Land Settlement was enacted, declaring that settlement is the “only lasting solution to the problem in Mindanao and Sulu.” Most analysts, activists, and secessionists of the latter 20th C would come to regard this Act and similar government initiatives towards progressively increasing momentum for the re-settlement of Mindanao, as the proximate cause of the protracted war in Mindanao.

March 18, 1935

Haji Bogabong Kadi sa Onayan, in Lanao, wrote a petition to the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, signed by 150 village headmen, priests, and hajjis. They asked to remain under the overlord-ship of the Americans rather than join an independent Philippines. An excerpt says: “…they made the law (Commonwealth Constitution) and included all the welfare of the Kristiyanos in the law. They did not include the welfare of us, [the people of] Islam, in the law.” In another section: “Please do not give our land [the land of the people of] Islam, that belong to us, to those whom it does not belong.”


Legislative Act No. 4177 provided for full government support to the land settlement program.

By 1935

One summation of the American administration over the Muslim-dominated parts of Mindanao, written in 2002, described the colonizer’s imposition of compulsory education: “…putting pressure on the Dato class to send their children to government schools as an example to others. Many scholarships were offered, and some Muslims were sent for further education in Manila or in the United States. But, by and large, Muslims rejected the demand…for fear of Christian missionary efforts and because they regarded those schools as a threat to their traditional way of life…nonetheless, the American policy adversely affected the madrasah network, the traditional religious schools of the pandita.” Other analyses aver that American educational imperatives did, in fact, produce new Muslim leaders who did not belong to the traditional elites, and who ascended by virtue of education.