Mindanao is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country, which consists of the island of Mindanao and smaller surrounding islands. Mindanao is called “The Land of Promise”. It is the only area of the Philippines with a significant muslim presence.
The region was originally home to Philippine sultanates like that of Sulu and Maguindanao. In the late 16th to early 17th century, first contact with Spain occurred, with Spanish forces trying to occupy the area.
These days the region is home to the country’s Muslim or Moro populations, comprising of many ethnic groups such as the Maranao and the Tausug, the Banguingui (users of the vinta, and the collective group of tribes known as the Lumad. Contrary to common belief, only a portion of Mindanao was originally inhabited by the Muslims. In fact, most of the people in the northern and eastern part of the island practised native religions before they were converted to Christianity.
A bitter struggle for independence is being waged by various Muslim factions for five centuries against successive occupiers. With Spanish, American, Japanese and government forces had failing to quell the desire for separation from the largely Christian nation. Due to influx of migration, as well as evangelization, the majority of Mindanao’s population is now predominantly Christian. This caused anger among the poor and displaced Muslim which, in turn, fuels the separatist movements that has been occurring recently.
Mindanao is a staging ground for groups branded as terrorist such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah that undermine moderate organizations such as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Mindanao is the second largest island in the country with 94,630 square kilometers. The island is mountainous, and is home to Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the country. Mindanao is surrounded by seas: the Sulu Sea in the west, the Philippine Sea in the east, and the Celebes Sea in the south.
The island group of Mindanao encompasses Mindanao island itself, and the Sulu Archipelago to the southwest. The island group is divided into six regions, which are further subdivided into 25 provinces.
The island group of Mindanao is an arbitrary grouping of islands in the southern Philippines which encompasses six administrative regions. These regions are further subdivided into 25 provinces, of which only four are not on Mindanao island itself. The island group includes the Sulu Archipelago to the southwest, which consists of the major islands of Basilan, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi, plus outlying islands in other areas such as Camiguin, Dinagat, Siargao, Samal, and the Sarangani Islands.
The six regions are listed below:
- Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX)
- Northern Mindanao (Region X)
- Davao Region (Region XI)
- SOCCSKSARGEN (Region XII)
- Caraga (Region XIII)
- Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)
The native Maguindanaon and other native Muslim/non-Muslim groups of Mindanao have a fascinating culture that revolves around kulintang music, a specific type of gong music, found among both Muslim and non-Muslim groups of the Southern Philippines.