Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why does some of the iranun tribe of the Philippines moved to Sabah Malaysia?

The existence of the Iranun in Sabah, Malaysia is one of the untold episode or history of the Iranun as Nation of the world, way back from the Uranen Kingdom of the prehistory period. Iranun tarsila narrates that the original inhabitants of the Island was Iranun. During the prehistory period of the Iranun, immigration was already observed. The Iranun was used to sail and navigate going west and southwest direction for socio-economic-political objective. They reached Java, Sumatra, Makassar, Johore, Borneo (Brunie) and other places/nations. Iranun tarsila narrates that the mother of Princess Pagunguwan (daughter of Rajah Urangguwan) was the daughter of the last Emperor of the Sri Vishaya Empire. It happened that Borneo was then one of the naval bases and tributary to the Sri Vishaya Empire. Therefore, there was a social relationships established between the two sovereigns through marraige. From then the two sovereign nations interacts in all aspects of statehood or nationhood. Until finally history period came. The whitemen (Spaniards) arrived in the shores of the Island in 1521.
During the height of the realm of Sultan Kudarat at Ramitan, the first seat of Sultanate; his neighbor Sultan, the Sultan of Brunie faced a heavy problem in his realm. There was an uprising organized by some group of people who can not accept the sovereignty of the Sultan. Thus there was rebellion in his Sultanate. The Sultan of Brunie requested a reinforcement from Sultan Kudarat to augment his royal army to protect and defend his sovereign nation from the rebellion. Sultan Kudarat answered the request in favor of his neighbor sultan of Brunie. Sultan Kudarat sent a big military expedition to Brunie. According to the Iranun tarsila, the military expedition was composed of twelve (12) vessels. Each vessel was composed of forty (40) army (warrior). Therefore, there were four hundred eighty (480) armies (warriors) who were sent to Brunie to help the Sultan of Brunie. To compensate the assistance extended to him by the Iranun armies (warriors) of Sultan Kudarat, and for owing his gratitude, the Sultan of Brunie offered them some portion of his sovereign state to the Iranun armies. Majority of the Iranun armies accepted the offer with the consent of Sultan Kudarat. They lived there with their families with harmony and prosperity. They are the descendants of the Iranuns in Sabah, Malaysia.
The present situation wherein many of the people from different nations migrate to other nation for the reason of green pasture is common to nations which are economically unstable. In the case of the people of Mindanao, especially Iranuns migrated to Sabah because they are seeking greener pasture for them to sustain the basic nessessity of their families. They are adventuring to Sabah with a hope that they can be able to strengthen their economic capability.
Therefore, the presence of the Iranuns in Sabah, Malaysia can be described into two plausible reasons. The first reason is historical. The first wave of migration of the Iranuns in Sabah, Malaysia was attributed to the socio-political relationships of the the two nations: Iranun and Malaysia during the 16th century. Second reason is economy. At present time many people in the Philippines not only Iranuns but other tribes migrate to Sabah, Malaysia for economic reason. Many Iranuns at present time seek greener pasture to Sabah, Malaysia. Malampayan, Likas, Lahd Datu, and Tbok are identified Iranun communities in Sabah, Malaysia.

IRANUN: A Dynamic Ethno-linguistic Tribe in Southern Philippines

This study[1] shows that there exists a dynamic ethno-linguistic tribe known as Iranun even prior to the advent of Islam in mainland Mindanao, and affluent in terms of indigenous culture and civilization. The dynamic characteristics and transformation of this ethno-linguistic tribe is the main focus of this research work aside from proving her being a distinct tribe, although interrelated, from the M’ranao and Tau-saraya (the present-day Maguindanaon) and other ethno-linguistic tribes in Southern Philippines. Moreover, the Iranuns occupy a substantial portion of historic places in Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan, Sabah and other places of the Malay world.

Up to this present juncture, no comprehensive study is conducted about the Iranun as an ethno-linguistic tribe, especially by an Iranun himself who knows the language and local history, and who has access to some primary and secondary sources from local---tarsilas, kitabs, and tudtulan---and foreign data to establish his claim. In the light of colonial resistance, this dynamic people 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.”

Historical methodology (oral and local history method through interviews transcribed by the proponent) with content analysis as well as linguistic and other anthropological methodologies were used in this study. The role of the Iranuns in the Maguindanao and Sulu Sultanates and other Islamic-inspired social institutions and their relations with foreign colonial powers was uncovered as a contribution to the body of knowledge. This modest study by an insider, although limited, tries to widen the horizon of the people in the social arena by paving the road towards understanding the Iranun as a people, their language, places of origin, way of life, and relations with other peoples in the Philippines and the Malay world.


A paper presented by Esnaen M. Catong at the 4th National Philippine Studies Conference on September 17-18, 2004 at the Golden Pine Hotel and Restaurant, Baguio City sponsored by the Philippine Studies Association and the University of the Philippines-Baguio.