Devaluing the Sultanates: A Cultural Threat Facing the Bangsamoro

​Guest author:

    Regional Director, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos-National Capital Region (NCMF-NCR)


An event spread like wildfire on social media on March 18, 2023, when an enthronement ceremony called “the General Enthronement and Re-Enthronement of the Sultanate of Phangampong A Pilipinas” happened at the Cuneta Astrodome wherein several Muslim Filipinos were declared as heads of sultanates. Titles that were bequeathed include “Datu Imam Sa Manila,” “Bae a Labi Sa Quiapo,“ and the most questionable of all, “Sultan Sa Pilipinas.”

The author

The sultanates of the Philippines are not officially recognized as being part of the conventional Philippine government system but are part of the traditional governance system in Muslim Mindanao. There are three major sultanates which are the Sultanate of Sulu, Sultanate of Lanao and Sultanate of Maguindanao.

The Sultanate of Lanao

The “phangampong” (pengampong/pangampong) is a Maranao state or principality which describes a governance system consisting of a central unit with several subunits. According to Saber and Tamano (1985-1986), this has sociocultural roots and is based on “common ancestry or origin, territorial unity, and some valued cultural traditions.” There are four recognized states in Pat-a-pengampong ko Ranao, namely Mayabao, Masiu, Unayan and Balo-I, and these are headed by the respective Sultans, Datus, and Baes.

Claiming the right to these titles are traced to lineage, meaning the rights and duties including privileges, such as ceremonial payments and seating claims in the mosque, are inherited. One must be able to trace his ancestry to a founding ancestor. Buat (1977) stated that ideally, the sultan is a datu and comes from the royal class of Maranao society (Pidtaylan), his lineage being traceable to the first sultan. Leadership in Maranao society can be formal or informal, wherein some are untitled. These titles are not based on educational attainment; in fact, Maranao society still places a value on titles, and it is the legitimate ancestral claims that are given premium rather than the level of education or training one has attained in his lifetime.

What then is the role of a Sultan in Maranao society? Benitez (1968) and Buat (1977) state that a Sultan acts as the chief judge and the chief executive of his state by doing the following: maintenance of peace and order through settling of disputes; assistance to needy or indigent community members; presiding duties over religious, traditional, and social affairs; supervision over communal mosques; and the effective use of the salsila (tarsila, genealogical accounts), taritib (ordered ways), and igma (legislated ordinances).

It is though the salsila that a Maranao can trace his lineage, as well as his connection to the sultanate in terms of his ancestry. The identification of the classes of people, meaning the nobility, commoners or slaves, is done through the salsila.

Preserving Bangsamoro Culture

The concern about the legitimacy of the enthronement ceremony was questioned by many Bangsamoro on social media, as well as through private messages sent to my personal account. Some had even inquired about the involvement of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos regarding the event. There was no resolution done in the Commission either endorsing or rejecting the claims. However, I feel that we should be mindful of the consequences that such pronouncements make, particularly in the preservation of the culture that defines us as a people.

The knowledge about the salsila, igma, and taritib is not mainstream among the Maranaos, particularly among the youth. If we are not careful, we might one day find ourselves losing the connection we have to our rich culture, one that remains untarnished by colonizers that had influenced the rest of the Philippines. The royal houses that are held in high regard by Maranao society will become the laughingstock of non-Bangsamoro. Ceremonial enthronements will become circus acts with colorful garb and meaningless speeches.

Sultanates should not be for sale to the highest bidder. Rather, we should take pains in preserving everything that distinguishes us from other cultures by investing on the truth rather than in fantasy. (/)
Source: Nolasco, L. 2004. Philippine Journal of Public Administration, Vol. XL VIII, Nos. 1 & 2 (January-April 2004): The Traditional Maranaw Governance System: Descriptives, Issues and Imperatives for Philippine Public Administration.


Opinion (words and statements) in the Commentary is solely the author’s own and not necessarily of SDN — SciTech and Digital News.

Don't be shy, comments are welcome! Thank you.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: