Understanding 19th century Magindanao
Magindanao, 1860-1888: The Career of Datu Utto of Buayan
By Reynaldo C. Ileto
Reviewed by Aram A. Yengoyan
University of Michigan
Confusions in the literature of the area have made it difficult for social anthropologists to utilize historical documentation for ethnographic purposes.
The importance in reconstructing historical process among the Muslim Sultanships and Datoships in Mindanao also has an important bearing on the study of the upland, non-Christian, non-Islamic tribal populations.
This volume is a most welcome addition to Magindanao history of the latter half of the 19th century when the domain of Dato Utto of Buayan evolved to its maximum power along with the Spanish subjugation of the Sultanate of Cotabato.
Magindanao is divided into two spheres of competing power blocs, the sa-ilud (in the lower valley) and the sa-raya (in the upper valley).
By the 1860s the Spaniards had reduced the Cotabato Sultanate in the sa-ilud to a puppet vassalage in which economic, military, and symbolic strength came from Spanish domination. But settlements in upriver Cotabato such as Batak, Datu Piang, Tumbao, and Maticauan were all controlled by local datos of different political and military strength.
By the 1870s, Dato Utto was the dominant political leader throughout the sa-raya. Ileto rightfully maintains that the evolution of his political supremacy was due to the number of slaves he possessed which were translated into prestige and power terms, the monopoly over military power, and the manifestation of personal qualities such as valor, skill, and strength.
Furthermore, all of these factors operated along an axis of shifting dyadic ties and marriage alliances through which datos of differential political levels were integrated into larger more complex sets of social and military loyalties.
By the early 1880s the network of marital and military alliances between Buayan and its allies elevated Dato Utto to the Sultanship, symbolizing not only his military and political prowess, but the ability to mediate the supernatural basis of social being to his followers. To paraphrase Ileto, an active personage in the 1860s soon became a passive and pensive leader in the 1880s.
By the middle 1880s the unity of Magindanao under Utto and Islamic tradition was ended by Spanish military conquest only after the basis of his support – slaves and controlling river trade – was curtailed.
By 1902 Utto was dead, Magindanao unity lapsed to Datu Piang, and Spain lost the Philippine colony.
Slavery was a pivotal process in maintaining power and prestige for the Magindanao datos. lIeto notes how tribal peoples adjacent to Magindanao were attacked for slaves, who were traded to other Islamic groups. However, the influence of slavery did not end with the adjacent upland groups such as the Tiruray.
Throughout eastern Mindanao slavery was common, whereby stronger groups always sought out weaker neighbors to attack for slaves, who in turn were traded or sold to local Muslim populations. The Mandaya periodically raided the less powerful Mangguangans for slaves which eventually found their way to the Davao Gulf datoships.
The total effects of slavery and long distance trade on the internal structure of Mindanao tribes – Islamic and pagan – requires a detailed examination of which this small but impressive volume is an initial step.
About Rey Ileto
Born and raised in Manila, Rey Ileto did his bachelor’s degree at the Ateneo de Manila, combining engineering and humanities subjects. He earned his MA and PhD at the Southeast Asia Program of Cornell University where he studied history, cultural anthropology, and literary criticism. He taught at the University of the Philippines from 1977-1985 before moving to James Cook University and the Australian National University, where he continues to hold an Adjunct Professorship. Among the other positions he has held are the Tañada Chair at De La Salle University (Manila), the Burns Chair in History at the University of Hawaii, and senior fellowships at Kyoto University and Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. His writings have won him the Benda Prize, the Ohira Prize, the Philippine National Book Award, and the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize.
Book review copy: Courtesy of Vic Romero