The Bangsa Moro

Bangsa Moro is a relatively new term. It means the Moro Nation to distinguish itself from the Filipino nation. It was coined by student and youth leaders in the late 1960s.

The word Moro came from the Spaniards. It was the name they called the Muslims who conquered and ruled Spain for more than 700 years. In English, it is translated as Moor. Later, they called all Muslims by the same name.

The Christianized Filipinos’ (or Indios’) historical experience with the Moros was fret with horrors. Caught between the Moros and the Spaniards, the Indios suffered terribly from both parties. Forced to side with the Spaniards, they bore the brunt of Moro retaliatory raids in their communities. And to ensure their coperation against the Moros, the Spaniards demonized the Moros in their literature, church semons and stage plays like the moro-morowhere the Muslim is always the villain.

When America gave Moroland to the Filipinos in 1946, the Indios found themselves, at least theoretically, masters of the Islands. The Colonization of Mindanao Act was immediately past into law. Finally, the Indios became colonizers.

Filipino leaders promoted the slogan, “Go South, Young Man!” imitating the slogan “Go West, Young Man” which the Americans used to promote the colonization of the Western United States which belonged to the American Indians. And to make the analogy even stonger, the Indios referred to the Moros as Tribes just like the Navajo or the Iroquois.

But the young Moros of the 1960s turned a derogatory word into a badge of honor. This is similar to what Filipino heroes Jose Rizal, Juan and Antonio Luna, etc. did to the word Indio. Rizal et al were proud to call themselves Indios, a term used by the Spanish with derision. But today, the Christian Filipinos still refuse to call themselves Indios unlike their heores. For the Moro people, many, especially the young and the intellectuals, are proudly calling themselves Moros


While there is a Bangsa Moro, it must be kept in mind that there are several nations within the Moro Nation.

The people or peoples of the Sultanate of Sulu has / have a totally different set of cultures, traditions and history than say, the people/s of the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Buayan. The same goes with the people/s of the Lake, the Maranaos / Iranuns (I-ranao-nen).

The Sultanates of Sulu, Maguindanao and Buayan were recognized by several European powers as sovereign nation-states. The Sultanate of Sulu had treaties even with the United States of America. In contrast, no foreign power or state recognized the Philippine Republic of 1898.

Forcing the Maguindanao to identify with the Tausug or vice versa is almost like forcing both to identify with the Filipino or vice versa. But the Moro nations can certainly relate more to each other than to the Filipino nation because they share religion and have much shared history, customs and traditions as well as closer linguistic ties.

The Bangsa M’Ranao (Maranao Nation), the Bangsa Maguindanao (Maguindanaon Nation), etc. all belong to the Bangsa Moro (Moro Nation), which in turn belongs to Bangsa Malayu (Malay Nation) which belongs to the Bangsa Islam or Ummah (the Islamic Nation or Community)


The Bangsa Moro is composed of the various indigenous peoples of Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan and North Borneo. These peoples belong to different ethno-linguistic groups. Historically, while many of these groups have not become Muslims, they had always been part of the various Muslim sultanates’ political and territorial domains.

There are no Christian indigenous peoples of Mindanao and Sulu. While Spain occupied a few forts in Mindanao and Sulu, their local staffs were composed of Christianized people from Luzon and Visayas.

When the Dutch asked Sultan Qudarat if it were true that Spain owned Zamboanga, the Maguindanao sultan answered that the Spaniards can claim any territory they want as long as they did not touch the people. Qudarat said that the people belonged to him and the Sultanate. This highlights the difference in the concept of rulership between the Moros and the Spaniards. Territory is of prime importance for the West while the people reign supreme for the Moros.

Throughout the Spanish colonization of Luzon and Visayas, the non-Muslim indigenous peoples like the Manobos, Tagakaolos and the Badjaos had always fought on the side of the Moros against the Spanish invaders and their Indio subjects.

But in 1986, some academics at the University of the Philippines started calling the non-Muslim indigenous peoples of Mindanao LUMAD. It is a Visayan word meaning native. And the Christian settlers in Mindanao started calling themselves Mindanaoans.

Thus, the Bangsa Moro is a nation with no land to call their own. It is high time therefore to call Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan the name the Americans gave to it: MOROLAND.


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