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Sanmalan (Zamboanga)

The Hindu-Buddhist rulers of Puduan (Butuan) and Sanmalan (Zamboanga) sent missions to China in 1004, 1007 and 1011. They had good diplomatic ties with China, just like Ma-i, and Butuan had golden Hindu-Buddhist statues. Zamboanga has rich and colorful history. It was the center of barter trading among Chinese, Malays and the native Tausugs, Samals, Subanons, and the Badjaos as early as the 13th and 14th centuries.

One of the natives of Zamboanga Peninsula are the Samals or Sama. They live in houses built on bamboo stilts along the seashore and their main occupations are fishing and trading. The Sama are spread in many parts of Mindanao. In this part of the country, this indigenous group of people is best known for their skills in boat building, mat weaving, and pearl diving. When not in fishing, some are engaged in agriculture. Their principal crop is cassava. One group of this tribe is called Sama Bangingi who used to live in Taluksangay. “Taluk” in the samal language means violet, a favorite color of Samals, while “sangay” means a sandy place where birds flock. Rabana is the Samal’s favorite indigenous instrument, together with the kulintang and other gongs.

The emigration of the Bajaws or Samals of Juhur must have begun in the earlier parts of the fourteenth century, if not earlier. These sea nomads came in such large numbers and in such quick succession as to people the whole Tawi-tawi Group, the Pangutaran and Siasi Groups, all available space on the coast of Sulu proper, the Balangingi Group, and the coasts of Basilan and Zamboanga, before the close of the century and before the arrival of the first Mohammedan pioneers. Makdum was a noted Arabian judge or scholar who arrived at Malacca about the middle of the fourteenth century, converted Sultan Mohammed Shah, the ruler, to Islam. Continuing further east, he reached Sulu and Mindanao about the year 1380. In Sulu, it is said, he visited almost every island of the Archipelago and made converts to Islam in many places.

The original people of Zamboanga were the Subanen of Indonesian origin who came at about 2,000 to 6,000 years ago. They were coastal people who believe in the spirit of their ancestors and the forces of nature. When the Muslims arrived, they were pushed into the hinterlands and lived along the riverbanks. Thus, the name “Suba,” meaning people of the river. The Subanens who communicate through their Subano language prefer and wear colorful clothes and accessories. Black, red, and white are their favorite colors. The women often wear red earrings that match with beaded necklaces. Like other tribes, Subanens have their own entertainment or way of enjoying life. They like music. The Ginarang or Migboat, Basimba, Gatagan and Sirdel or Sumumigaling are some of their songs. These are sung with the accompaniment of their instruments like Gong, Kutapi, Sigitan, Lantoy, Kulaying and Tambubok.

The evolution of the name "Zamboanga" provides an interesting insight into its historical background. The early Malay settlers called the region “Jambangan”, which means Land of the Flowers. These Malays who built their settlements by the river banks were the subanons, that is the “People of the River”. Their chief, Saragan, lived with his family atop the legendary Mount Pulumbato that today lords over Pasonanca and Climaco Freedom Park (formerly Abong-Abong Park) then later on, the Samals and the Badjaos who came on their frail vintas also settled here, building their frail huts along the shorelines and confused “Jambangan” with “Samboangan” which comes from the word “Sabuan”, the wooden pole used to help push their vintas in shallow waters or to tie them for anchorage purposes.

Zamboanga was a Spanish province of Mindano, forming the south western extremity of that island. The climate is described as hot, but healthy, being a good deal tempered by regular land and sea breezes. It is beyond the region of typhoons, and is, strictly speaking, the only part of the Spanish Philippines that is wholly so. Water is abundant, and the soil described as fertile, but neither its exported produce or number of inhabitants afford satisfactory evidence of this. The area of the province has not been stated, and most probably has never been ascortained. The greater part of the territory is inhabited by wild tribes, not included in the registers of its population. The inhabitants subject to the Spanish rule amounted, in 1801, to 5162; in 1818, to 8640; but in 1847 to no more than 8281; so that in thirty years, instead of an increase, as in the better islands of the Philippine Archipelago, there was a positive falling off. The principal town bears the same name, and contains the bulk of the population of the province.

By 1900 in Mindanao Island there was no supreme chieftain with whom to treat for the gradual introduction of civilization and American methods, the whole territory being parcelled out and ruled by petty Sultans, Dattos or chiefs, in separate independence. In the Lake Lanao district, for instance, there was at least one Datto for every 50 men. The only individual who had any pretence to general control of the Mahometan population was Hadji1 Mohammad Jamalul Kiram, the Sultan of Sulu.

Under Spanish rule the Moro country was divided thus : Seven districts, namely, Zamboanga, Misamis, Surigao, Davao, Cottabato, Basflan, and Lanao, all under the Gov.-General of Mindanao. Jolo was ruled independently of Mindanao under another governor. Under the Americans, as of 1903 the capital of the Moro Province was at Zamboanga. The Moro Province was divided into five districts, to be known as the Sulu, Zamboanga, Lanao, Cottabato, and Davao districts. The Sulu District shall include all the islands of the Moro Province in the Celebes Sea and in the Sulu Sea. The Zamboanga District shall include the Island of Basilan and its immediately adjacent islands not included in the Sulu Distric, and parts of the Island of Mindanao and its immediately adjacent islands. The Lanao District shall include all the territory of the Moro Province in the Island of Mindanao lying east of the Zamboanga District.

A detailed account of the military operations in these islands would be but a tedious recital of continuous struggles with the irresistible white man. Life was cheap among them; a Moro thinks no more about lopping off another's head than he does about pulling a cocoanut from the palm-tree. The chief abhors the white man because he interferes with the chiefs living by the labour of his tribe, and the tribesman himself is too ignorant even to contemplate emancipation. Subservience to the bidding of the wily Datto, poverty, squalidity, and tribal warfare for bravado or interest seem as natural to the Moro as the sight of the rising sun. Hence, when the Americans resolved to change all this and marched into the tribal territories for the purpose, the war-gongs rallied the fighting-men to resist the dreaded foe, unconscious of his mission of liberty under the star-spangled banner.

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Page last modified: 31-03-2012 18:56:56 ZULU