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The Iranun is an ethno-linguistic tribe in the southern Philippines. The Iranuns occupy a substantial portion of historic places in Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan, Sabah, and other parts of the Malay world.

This group was termed by the Spanish authorities as Illano, Ilano, Ilana, Hilalones, Illanum, Illanun, or simply Moros and Mohametanas, being the defenders of the present day Illana Bay (Moro Gulf), and by US colonial writers in an over-simplistic manner as Moros, Mohamedans, marauders, pirates, raiders, slave traders, and "lords of the eastern seas."


Their population is estimated between 50,000 and 150,000 individuals. They continue to reside along the eastern shore of Ilana Bay, although some have also long inhabited the hill country lying between the coast and the southern edge of the Lanao Plateau. Since the middle of the century, intermarriages between the Iranun, Magindanaon, and Maranao have increased in frequency.


In early times, the Iranuns living at the coast adopted a typical maritime lifestyle of seagoing invaders, which went on for at least 150 years prior to the inception of American colonial rule at the turn of the century. The Iranun raided throughout the islands of Southeast Asia, from the Celebes in the south to Luzon in the north and as far west as the Straits of Malacca. In search for slaves and plunder, they attacked merchant shipping and coastal settlements in the Philippines, the straits of Malacca and the islands beyond Sulawesi.

Their primary targets were unprotected coastal settlements and sailing boats that traveled throughout Southeast Asia, bringing valuable commodities from China and the West back to the most remote parts of the archipelago. The entire coastline of Southeast Asia was affected by their maritime raids, crossing the South China Sea to attack undefended stretches of the coastlines of Thailand and Cochin China. The Iranuns made the most of the ill-defended seas and ravaged the coastal populations and commerce.

Many of these marauders were sponsored by rulers from the trading states of Cotabato, Sulu, Siak, and Sambas. They were soon described as 'Lanun' or 'Illanoon' (pirates) by those who suffered their attacks or either traveled with or hunted them and wrote about their widespread impact on the Southeast Asian world.

From the mid-1750's onward, the scale, ferocity and unexpected nature of the initial wave of Iranun attacks were deeply disturbing since thousands of Filipinos perished or were seized as captives. This terrifying period of Iranun slave-raiding activity, which lasted more than 70 years from roughly 1752 to 1832, severely hampered the overall social and material well-being and growth of the Philippine colonial state.

They continue their seafaring ways today, but now as fishermen and long-distance traders.




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