Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Filipino Martyr: SULTAN DIPATUAN KUDARAT
SULTAN DIPATUAN KUDARAT
Defender of Islamic Faith and Philippine Liberty
In about 1580, just a few decades after the Spaniards landed in the Philippines, the son of
Rajah Buisan and Princess Imbeg of Jolo, Dipatuan Kudarat, was born in Lanao del Sur.
In 1619, he succeeded the throne from his father. Trained in leadership and warfare during
his childhood, the new Sultan proved to be brave, intelligent, and cunning in leading his people
and enlarging the territory of his kingdom. By 1626, he gained control in most part of Mindanao
except for Dapitan, Cagayan de Oro, and Caraga while Misamis and Bukidnon became his
tributaries. A cunning Sultan, he controlled the lucrative slave market and he refused to sell slaves
to the Dutch traders on the principle that people converted to Islam could not be sold as slaves.
One who could not be pressured by interference, he made treatise with the Dutch for them to
recognize his sovereignty. He did the same thing with the Spaniards many years later.
When the Spaniards built a fort in Zamboanga in 1635, Sultan Kudarat knew that it would
be deterrent to his absolute rule. He felt that he had to forestall the massive invasion of the
Spaniards in Mindanao, thus, he attacked that coastal villages in the Visayas and forged a stronger
tie with other Muslim leaders by marrying one of his sons to the daughter of the Rajah of Sulu.
The Spaniards, realizing Sultan Kudarat’s power, sent out expeditionary forces to stop him.
Governor Hurtado de Corcuera led the first expedition in 1637 and attacked Lamitan, Kudarat’s
capital, but the sultan retreated to Ilihan. There the pursuing Spanish forces caught up with him.
Consequently, a fierce battle, which lasted for two days, ensued. Kudarat was wounded in the battle
so he retreated with his remaining warriors to seek refuge in Sabanilla, which, however, fell to the
Spanish forces under Major Pedro del Rio in 1639. The Spanish forces failed, however, to capture
Sultan Kudarat, who managed to seek refuge in Maranao and had rallied other Muslim datus to
fight the Spaniards.
In 1642, Major Agustin de Marmolejo, a Spanish naval officer, led an attack Kudarat’s
forces in Simuay but was strongly repulsed. Only him and six of his soldiers survived after the
battle. Because of this, the Spanish governor, shamed and infuriated, ransomed Marmolejo and
had him tried by the military court on alleged disobedience to military orders. The trial resulted to
Marmolejo’s public execution at the presidio of Zamboanga.
Sultan Kudarat remained unfazed. He became more powerful when other Muslims pledged
him allegiance. The Iranun datus pledged him support; the Basilans were invited to make
settlements in Sibuguey; the Malanaos upheld his leadership; the people of Sagir, Sarangani and
along the Davao Gulf became his vassals. The seafaring people in Barong, Suaco and the Kuran
area in Northeast Borneo also paid him tributes.
On June 25, 1645, Spanish Governor Fajardo, tired of waging war that were all
unsuccessful, signed a treaty with Sultan Kudarat through Father Alejandro Lopez. The pact
allowed the Spaniards to trade and the missionaries to minister to the needs of Christians at
Tamontaka, which is within the Sultan’s domain. The pact also recognized his rule over the whole
of Southern Mindanao except for the settlements of Bansayan, Taraka, Didagun and the Lanao
As a pandita or a spiritual leader, it was his moral responsibility to protect his religion,
claiming that a person could attain salvation whether he was a Muslim or a Christian; the opposite
of what Jesuit Father Alejandro Lopez was proselytizing that only Christians could be saved. This
issue on salvation was one of the factors why Father Alejandro was killed in 1655. Three years after
the priest died, Sultan Kudarat declared a jihad or holy war against Spain for its deliberate actions
to crash the Islamic faith. During his reign, he bravely defended and maintained the independence
of his people from the Spanish authorities. His kingdom boomed in agriculture, trade and
The great and respected Sultan of Southern Mindanao died before 1660.
Hundred of years since then, Sultan Kudarat is still remembered not only in history books
but also by the structures or places that were named in his honor. In 1973, a town in Cotabato was
created and was named Sultan Kudarat. In the same year, his monument was erected in Ayala
Circle in Makati, Manila and part of its inscription reads: “Unable to conquer Kudarat, the Spanish
Governor signed a pact with him that led to several years of peace. He was a fearless fighter and
Filipino Hero in Defense of the Islamic Faith and Philippine Liberty.”
Eminent Filipinos. Manila: National Historical Commission, 1970.
Filipinos in History. Manila: National Historical Institute, 1989.
Quirino, Carlos. Who’s who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1995.