Confederation of sultanates in Lanao

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The Sultanates of Lanao in Mindanao, Philippines were founded in the 16th century through the influence of Shariff Kabungsuan, who was enthroned as first Sultan of Maguindanao in 1520. The Maranaos of Lanao were acquainted with the sultanate system when Islam was introduced to the area by Muslim missionaries and traders from the Middle East, Indian and Malay regions who propagated Islam to Sulu and Maguindanao.

Unlike in Sulu and Maguindanao, the Sultanate system in Lanao was uniquely decentralized. The area was divided into Four Sovereign States of Lanao or the Pat a Phangampong a Ranao which are composed of a number of royal houses (Sapolo ago nem a Panoroganan or The Sixteen (16) Royal Houses) with specific territorial jurisdictions within mainland Mindanao. This decentralized structure of royal power in Lanao was adopted by the founders, and maintained up to the present day, in recognition of the shared power and prestige of the ruling clans in the area, emphasizing the values of unity of the nation (Kaiisaisa o Bangsa), patronage (kaseselai) and fraternity (kaphapagaria).

They had maintained and had successfully defended their Sultanate from all Spanish attempts. After the last attempt, the Spanish never again ventured in all their duration in the Archipelago for 333 years.

The Four Sovereign States

Approximate extent of the Maranao Confederation bordering the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu, and the territories of the non-Islamized Lumad people

The four sovereign states of Lanao are:

  • Unayan
  • Masiu
  • Bayabao
  • Baloi

The Present system

The alleged unethical integration by the republican form of government under the Philippine Commonwealth without consent by the 1st Presidency of then Manuel Quezon, the 1st Philippine Constitution since 1934 has prohibited the granting of titles of nobility to Filipino citizens. Legally, the state does not recognise the Sultanate system.

The Sultanate system in Lanao has survived colonialism and non-recognition by state authorities. Like the sultanates in present-day Sultanate of Brunei, Republic of Indonesia, Federal Government of Malaysia and the Muslim region in the Kingdom of Thailand, sultanates in Mindanao have continued to exist despite its non-recognition.

In Lanao region (composed of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte), the Sultanate system has remained important as an integral part of the Maranao society, symbolizing royal authority, cultural heritage and Islamic influence. At present, Maranaos trace their lineage, legitimacy and authority through their Salsila that has chronicled the origins of the Lanao royal houses.

Despite having no legal recognition of the Sultanate system, the Royal Houses of Lanao are now protected ethnic and traditional houses when the Philippine government legislated the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997 which recognizes and promotes all the rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines.

History of the Royal Houses

Shariff Bangkaya begot two children from his 3rd wife Bae sa Matampay namely, Dakeneq of Malabang and Shariff Laut Buisan. Shariff Laut Buisan was installed as 6th Sultan of Maguindanao in 1597 and was married to the sister of Sultan Batara Shah Tengah of Sulu. Shariff Laut Buisan begot Gayang and Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat. Gayang was married to the grandson of Dimasangcay Adel – Shariff Matonding, whose children reigned as the Sultans and Bai a Labi of Lanao, while his brother Shariff Muhammad Kudarat was installed as 7th Sultan of Maguindanao in 1619. In 1656, Sultan Kudarat declared a jihad against the Spanish colonialist. His Sultanate was felt as far as Ternate in Indonesia and Borneo, and in fact, its power reached the shores of Bohol, Cebu, Panay, Mindoro and Manila in north.

Spanish Campaigns in Lanao

In 1637, Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera decided to send an expedition to subdue the Datus and the people of Lake Lanao. As early as September 1637, he had promised the lake area to the Jesuits, who would get the same the moment it was conquered.

The conquest of the Maranaos was entrusted to Captain Francisco Atienza, the Alcalde Mayor of Caraga. With fifty Spaniards and five hundred Caragans, the captain landed in Bayug, then proceeded to the Maranao territory, reaching the lake on 4, April 1639. There were about 2,000 families or 800 inhabitants. The Spaniards brought with them six collapsible boats that they fitted out in the lake.

The Datus of Lanao initially stalled the Spaniards.They promised tribute and accepted the missionaries. The allies of the Spaniards observed the movement of inhabitants into the interior. The Maranaos could easily muster 6,000 warriors from among the four confederation of Lanao. Lack of firearms though was their disadvantage although they have their traditional weapons. Governor Almonte dispatched Major Pedro Fernandez del Rio with 70 Spaniards and 500 Visayans to join with the forces of Atienza.

The expedition had to pass through the area of Dalawn, Gandamatu (in Macadar) and Nanagen where Shariff Matonding, who was married to Gayang, a sister of Sultan Kudarat, engaged and harassed the reinforments of the colonizers. After a difficult passage made by the fierce resistance of Shariff Matonding, Major Pedro del Rio finally made it to the shores of the lake where he join the forces of Atienza. In the middle of April, Capt. Atienza and part of his troops left for Bayug and fortified it with a stockade and sailed for Caraga.

In October of the same year, an additional force of 50 Spaniards and 500 Boholanos arrived under the command of Captain Pedro Bermudez de Castro who had orders to build a fort in Marawi to start imposing Spanish sovereignty.

Sultan Kudarat visited his sons-in-law in Lanao, Balindong Bsar, and Dianaton Naim of Butig. He gathered all the Datus of Lanao and delivered the now legendary speech in this form:

The Maranaos, inspired by the Sultan's speech took up arms against the newly built fort. They used indigenous means to get at the fort and set it on fire. Three of the Spanish boats, brought from Bayug were captured. Atienza formed a relief expedition and saved the Spaniards. The Maranao warriors after 29 days of siege left their position. Afraid to experience once more the starvation and horrors of siege warfare, the Spaniards proceeded to burn their own fort and made a retreat back to Iligan.

In 1640, Capt Atienza tried once more to conquer the Maranaos. For the second time, the Spaniards burned the fields and retired to the coast, but not without losing some men on the way due to ambushes.

The second attempt to colonize and make Catholics of the Maranaos had utterly failed. In payment for their freedom, making true Sultan Kudarat's wisdom, the Maranaos lost that years harvest but remained unmolested until the coming of the American Capt. John Pershing and his troops.

Birth of the Sultanates in Lanao

In Lanao, the Maranaos started to be acquainted with the sultanate system in the 15th century before Spanish Colonial Era through the influence of Shariff Kabungsuan, who was enthroned as the first Sultan of Maguindanao in 1520, In 1640, Balindong Bsar of the house of Masiu became the first Maranao Chieftain enthroned as Sultan, with specific title as Sultan Diagaborolah. He was charged to enforce the teaching of Islam and the law and order in Lanao. On the same year, Sultan Diagaborolah consulted the seven Maranao Datus on how to govern Lanao.

They were Dianaton Naim of Butig, Sultan Mardan of Macadar, Datu Burus of Pagayawan, Datu Ottowa of Ditsaan, Datu Acari of Ramain, Onbaor of Bansaya, Engki-Okoda of Minitepad, and Alanake of Baloi. The eight wise men (including Balindong Bsar) agreed to create the four sovereign states of Lanao (Pat a Phangampong a Ranao) composed of the States of Unayan, Masiu, Bayabao, and Baloi, and the 16th Royal houses (Panoroganan or Royal Houses) and on a lower level, the 28 members of the legislative body (Pyakambaya ko Taritib), and the area sultans.

The socio-political system was based on the Taritib, Ijma, laws, customary laws, and adapted practices of the Maranaos. The Phangampong system was further divided into smaller socio-political units.

The Taritib, an ancient order or law bound together the four states or principalities of Lanao into an alliance or confederation and defined their relationships. There is no central, all powerful authority but every state or principality respected the traditional alliance termed Kangiginawai.

One problem that beset the sultanate of the four confederation of Lanao was the identification of the ancestral land area (Kawali) of each state (Phangampong). They were consequently defined by Datu Pascan of Unayan, Datu Popawan of Bayabao, Amiyanon Simban of Masiu, and Datu Dilion of Baloi. The agreement known as Kiatathamana-an delineated the areas as: Dalama, located in the municipality of Molondo, the boundary between Bayabao and East Masiu; Sawer, Masiu municipality the boundary between East Masiu municipality and East Unayan to Madamba municipality, the boundary between West Unayan and West Masiu; and Bacayawan in Marantao municipality, the boundary between west Masiu and Bayabao. Surprisingly, there is no identified boundary between Bayabao and Baloi but the reason is that both Pangampong lineage comes from the same family tree. Under the Kiangginawai (friendship) their boundary need not be established.

An Iranun lanong warship, used by the Moro sultanates in piracy and slave raids in the Spanish Philippines, Borneo, and other areas in Maritime Southeast Asia

In 1754, the Maranaos kept on increasing their maritime strength and accelerated their attacks on the Spaniards. Leyte and Calamianes bore part of the brunt of their attacks. About nine hundred Maranaos and Iranuns once landed to raid for slaves in Albay and captured more than a hundred inhabitants. In Balayan, Batangas, they looted everything they could lay their hands on. The Maranaos and Iranuns were thus responsible to discourage the Pintados of the Visayas to come with the Spaniards into their forays in Mindanao and Sulu.

The Maranaos and other Moros made these attacks since most of the native troops used against them were Visayans. The events prompted the Spaniards to devise a more elaborate and effective naval system of defense as the Visayans blame the Spanish Government to be unable to defend them even after giving yearly tribute to the Crown.

In 1757, the Iranuns and Maranaos accelerated their attacks on the Spaniards. There were frequent naval encounters between them and the Spaniards. In some of them, according to reports, thousands have perished.

In a span of four years, the Maranao raids for slaves in the Visayas reduced the number of tributes to the Spanish government by at least 100,000. For example, figures showed that the district of Panay paid 1,500 tributes in 1750. By the year 1757, there only 500 tributes paid. In Romblon, the number of tributes went down from 1370 to 995, while in Kalibu (Capiz) it decreased from 1,164 to 549. Many coastal towns were totally destroyed and the Visayan population was reduced considerably.

In 1759, Datu Aber Palawan and his men attacked the Spanish squadron in the northern part of Mindanao. He was martyred and buried in Radapan, Lanao (now Tarapan, Linamon, Lanao del Norte).

General Valeriano Weyler, the Spanish Governor-General, decided to deal with the Maranaos in 1889. He ordered his troops to land in Malabang (in Lanao) to conquer the unconquered Maranaos. He had 1,242 soldiers in two columns. The first column started from Malabang while the second column started from Iligan. (This two-pronged attack on Maranao territory from the northern and western parts of Mindanao was a reminiscent of the 1639 campaign against the Maranaos). After a few bloody clashes, Marawi was occupied on August 19, 1889, but not without encountering strong resistance from the Maranaos led by Datu Amai Pakpak. In September 1891, Weyler finally terminated his campaign without actually conquering the Maranaos.

On May 15, 1892, Friar Pablo Pastel drafted the blue print for the temporal and spiritual conquest of the Sultanates in Philippines for the gradual reduction of the political and other powers of the Sultans, Datus, Shariffs and Panditas in such a way that they would all eventually become powerless. The Spaniards considered all the Moro communities as the primary obstacle in their conquest and colonisation of the whole Archipelago.

On June 5, 1892, the Datus of Lanao cooperated in the fortification of the section around Agus River for their mutual defense. In February 1895, systematic Maranao attacks on the Spanish forts began. As a result, the Spanish invaders launched another Spanish expedition on March 10 of the same year to attack and capture Marawi, once and for all. The march to Marawi commenced. The Spaniards found themselves faced by strong cotta under the command of the same Amai Pakpak. The Maranao warriors fought with equal bravery but lost the war with the martyrdom of Datu Akader Amai Papak, his son, 23 datus, and 150 Maranao warriors. The Spaniards lost 194 men. About 3,000 Spanish troops, and countless volunteers from Zamboanga, Misamis, and Sibugay were involved. This did not stop the Maranaos to continue fighting.

The Spanish Kotah in Marawi was in a state of siege. Sporadic attacks on the garrison and ambushes became the order of the day. The Maranaos around the lake continued their resistance against the Spaniards even after gunboats were brought to Lake Lanao to launch a campaign against the communities around it. Maranao efforts to wrest the area from the Spanish however proved fruitless as the Spanish held on to their conquered territory until they eventually withdrew, but only after their defeat to the Americans in the Spanish–American War which commenced on May 1, 1898.

The American Regime and the Commonwealth

In 1899, the Sultans themselves led their people in fighting both the Spaniards and later, the Americans. They all ended as martyrs along with their families and warriors. In 1889, the Americans landed in Malabang (Lanao) and occupied the Spanish camp without much fanfare and named it Camp Concuera. Two years later, the Americans proceeded to the lake area but were met by Maranao warriors in Upper Bayang: Amai Barang, Mamarinta, Pitiilan, Sultan of Bayang and 300 warriors clashed with the Americans in a fierce battle. The Sultan and his men were crushed. The Sultan of Bayang perished but Captain Vicar also died. (The American camp in Upper Bayang was named after him --- Camp Vicar, Lanao). In Tugaya (Lanao), Datu Saruang and many others also died fighting against the American forces coming to their place. (upload the picture of pershing and the NY Times clip, justice cayetano) During the Commonwealth regime, Amai Manabilang of Marawi challenged the authority of Justice Cayetano Arellano, of the Philippine Supreme Court, in enforcing the government laws to the Maranaos. He led a campaign that Mindanao should be separated from the Philippines. The policy of attraction of the Americans in Lanao under General Pershing offered empty promises to the Maranaos who felt that the government deprived them with the continued exercise of their traditional and cultural practices and interference to their religion, customs, and traditions.

On March 18, 1935, one hundred twenty Datus of Lanao, with thirty Sultans signed a strongly worded letter, popularly known as "Dansalan Declaration" to U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and the United States Congress asking them that the Filipinos should be granted independence and the Moro Province should also be given their own independence or better left under American rule until such time that they were prepared to grant their independence to be known as Bangsamoro Republik.

The Sultanates of Lanao at Present and the Mindanao Problem

The entire Sultanates in Mindanao, Philippines at present have legally been unrecognized and practically reduced to non-entities by a provision in the Philippines Constitution prohibiting the granting of a title of nobility to a Filipino citizen. It was the responsibility of the sultans not only to defend their people and communities but also their religion. Among the Muslims in Mindanao, there is no way one can separate the sultanate from their culture and tradition.

The Royal Sultanate could play a very important role especially because by accepted tradition, constituents respect and value Sultanate authority. For example, in the Preservation of Social Order.

  • When there is no source of power except the Sultan, the community is stable. The Sultan has the influence and command to impose and execute the highly respected Taritib and Ijma.
  • When a dispute happens and the Sultan is not personally available to settle it, he can simply send his Tobao (scarf or headdress) through his emissary and it would be enough to make the parties stay "in suspended animation" and wait until he arrives to settle their dispute.
  • The Sultan has the power to ask anyone within his territory to come for questioning, for punishment if he committed an offense, or for anything that is for the interest of his people. He only needs to beat his gong and it is enough for the people to come to him.
  • When a buffalo is stolen by a person from another area, it becomes his duty to recover and restore it to the owner.
  • When conflicts between Sultanates occur, it was the duty of another Sultan to come and talk to them for a peaceful settlement. The common practice used by the Sultan in settling Ridos (feuds) even until now is tracing the family lineage of the conflicting parties with the ultimate end that both parties will realize that they are relatives either by affinity or by consanguinity. Kambabatabata-a (blood relations) Kapamagongowa (friendship) Kapamagadata (respect), and other relationships of the forefathers are being recalled. In most cases, disputes are resolved with tears flowing from the persons witnessing or present in the scene.

The 17 Ruling Royal Sultanates in Lanao

The original number of the ruling Royal Sultans of Lanao was only fifteen (15). It is now increased to seventeen (17) with the creation of Sultan a Domalondong sa Butig Hence, it was recently renamed as the 17 "Panoroganans of Lanao". A "Pangampong" is a principality where the head is addressed as His Royal Highness (HRH).[1][2]

The Panoroganans are the ones entitled to approve or disapprove the Taritib, Ijmas and Adats in their respective Pangampong. This gave them the title as "His Royal Highness" or now localized as "Panoroganans". They also created the 28 "Piakambaya ko Taritib" (ruled by a Sultan but not Royal Sultan) that is seemingly similar to a legislative council or body that formulates the Taritib and Ijma which are distributed by pangampong.

Map of the 4 sovereign states of Lanao as described.

The places under each of the "Pat a Pangmpong a Ranao" (Four Principalities of Lanao) are:

The Sixteen Royal Houses of Lanao


  • The Royal House of Butig (Dianaton Naim). The source of genealogy in Ranau Pangampong.
  • The Royal House of Pagayawan
  • The Royal House of Bayang
  • The Royal House of Dumalondong


  • The Royal House of Masiu
  • The Royal House of Datu a Cabugatan


  • The Royal House of Bansayan
  • The Royal House of Rogan
  • The Royal House of Taporog


  • The Royal House of Minitupad
  • The Royal House of Borocot
  • The Royal House of Bacolod
  • The Royal House of Maribo


  • The Royal House of Ramain
  • The Royal House of Ditsaan


  • The Royal House of Baloi

Short history about Kalangit of Unayan and Bataraan di kilaten of Maciu formerly Zainun, the first founding ancestor of Masiu Pangampong, his later descendant were Pondag and Amaloya Thopaan. Thopaan was married to Potri Kaizadan daughter of Aloyodan son of Sarip Kabunsuan of Johore (Malaysia) who in turn descended from Fatimah, the daughter of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Thopaan and Kaizadan begot Angkaya of Masiu, Manzang of Molondo, Dayansalong of Binidayan and Ambo of Lumba a Bayabao,

Angkaya married to Potre Ayowa of Taraka and begot Datu Onggor (father of Balindong bsar), Bayora and Bae Kayowa. Bae Kayowa was married to Datu Sandor of Baloi son of Sarip Bato Lakongan begot Panimbang in Talagian of Maguindanao from a Baloi royal princess, Datu Sandor and Bae Kayowa bore Maruhom Kaharoden and Samar known as Datumaas of Watu and Taraka municipality,

Maruhom Kaharoden first married to Omera in Unayan daughter of Datu Calipa and second married to Gunup sister of Alanak of Baloi and bore Olan (wife of Pagayawan in Sedepan a Unayan) and his brother Radia Palawan, first Sultan of Raya and the famous saber sa Radapan, who died a martyr in 1759 in Radapan Linamon Lanao del norte, in defense of freedom, homeland and Islam against the Spanish invaders,

Radia Palawan a Maranao hero, married to the grand daughter of Balindong bsar and begot four Maruhoms (Pat a Datu sa Raya) namely; Maruhom Salam, Maruhom Bsar, Maruhom Datu a Simban, Maruhom Sidic, and the Bae sa Raya who was married to Maruhom Sidic son of Diwan of Bayang.


  1. "Executive Order No. 602, s. 2007 | GOVPH", Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. (in en-US) 
  2. Rutchie Cabahug-Aguhob. (2007-08-07). Lanao Advisory Council members sworn in. Philippines Information Agency Retrieved 2011-05-05.
  3. (Txt message The nine princess of Unayan are:[1.]Andong in Macadar [2.]Ayor in Linindingan [3.] Dadaob in Biabi [4.] Engkini in Tubaran [5.] Inoda in Ganassi [6.] Ongklan in Bita [7.] Oyoda in Madamba [8.] Sanaul in Dago-ok [9.] Togon in Kadingilan and number ten is Datu Orowa in Pagayawan)