Sultan Kudarat, A Mindanao Hero, Mindanao's Most Powerful Ruler

Nine years after the coming of the Spanish colonizer and Captain General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi to the Philippines, precisely, in the year 1580, Sultan Mohammad Dipatuan Kudarat was born. This great Muslim leader ruled over his Sultanate of Maguindanao (now Mindanao) in a span of 52 years (1619-1671). His career as a ruler was considered one of the most colorful in Philippine history. He was married to one of the daughters of Sultan Mawallil Wasit of the Sulu Archipelago, who ruled over his sultanate during the early part of the 17th century. Sultan Kudarat was the contemporary of both Raha Bongsu and the latter's son Sultan Salah Ud-Din Bakhtiar. Sultan Kudarat died at the ripe age of 91 years.

Sultan Kudarat's domain was situated in the mainland of Mindanao covering what are now known as the three Cotabato provinces, the provinces of Bukidnon and the two Lanaos. Sultan Kudarat had also some ties with the Sulu Sultanate, he being the son-in-law of Sultan Mawallil Wasit. His prestige and influence was not only confined within his own domain. He was also widely known and respected in the ancient Sulu Sultanate as far as Sabah. He was mainly influential in creating a pervading consciousness of the Islam religion among the Muslim inhabitants of the different sultanates reaching as far as the Moluccas. Sultan Kudarat was also titled Nasir Uddin and in the 1650's he was recognized as the most powerful Muslim ruler in the Philippines.

When Sultan Kudarat's father, Sultan Buisan, died in 1602, he ascended to the power as Ruler of the Maguindanao Sultanate. During the reign of his father, Mindanao experienced the first attack of the Spaniards. Sultan Kudarat himself had armed encounters with the Spanish conquistadors who wanted to wrest from him the possession of his sultanate. He successfully repulsed them.

In the early part of the year 1637, Hurtado de Corcuera, Captain and Governor General of the Philippines, led personally the combined Spanish Indio forces and attacked the Muslim citadel at Lamitan near Lake Lanao. Sultan Kudarat with 2,000 native warriors met the enemy in what was considered as the bloodiest and one of the biggest battles of his career. The Muslim leader and his warriors including women and children, fought great vigor and bravery, many of them heroically dying in the struggle. Kudarat sustained a bullet wound in one arm, fought his way through the Spanish lines and escaped. His wife, clasping her baby at her breast, also ran through the Spanish lines, jumped over a cliff and eluded capture.

Sultan Kudarat rallied the other Muslim leaders to maintain their hold on the Islam Faith and to defend their respective enclaves from foreign incursions. When some of the Maranao chieftains collaborated with the Spaniards in the construction of a walled fort in the midst of the Muslim settlements, he convened them at a place and lectured to them emphasizing that they should realize the serious consequences of their collaboration with the Spaniards.

It was known that Sultan Kudarat, in his lectures to his countrymen, had the power to penetrate their innermost feelings. He said

"What have you done? Do you realize what subjection would reduce you to? A toilsome slavery under the Spaniards! Turn your eyes to the subject nations and look at the misery to which such glorious nations had been reduced. Look at the Tagalogs and the Visayans! Do you think that the Spaniards would consider you of better stuff? Have you not seen how the Spaniards have trampled them under their feet? Do you not see how they are obliged to work at the oars and at the factories everyday with all their might and rigors? Can you tolerate anyone with a little Spanish blood to beat you up and grasp thefruits of your labor? A Hlow yourselves today and tomorrow you will be at the oars. I, at least, will be a pilot, the biggest favor they will allow in a ship. Do not let their sweet words deceive you. Their promisesfacilitate their deceits, which, little by little, will enable them to control everything. Reflect on how they dishonored even the minor promises they made to the heads of other nations until they had become masters of them all. See now what is being done to these heads and how they are being led by a rod!"

It took about three hundred years to pass before due recognition and honors were given to this very great and most valiant Muslim leader - Sultan Mohammad Dipatuan Kudarat. To honor and glorify him, President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared him a national hero to be enshrined in the National Hall of Fame side by side with the other great national heroes for all generations to emulate.

Source:
Philippine history : reassessed, Abeto, Isidro Escare, University of Michigan Digital Library

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