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Tausūg people

Tausūg people
Suluk people
Sulu people
Nur Misuari
Juhar Mahiruddin
Maria Lourdes Sereno
Wahab Akbar
Mustapha Harun
Total population
c. 1.3 million
Regions with significant populations

 Philippines        1,235,000[1]
(Basilan, Palawan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Manila, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga)

 Malaysia        209,000[2]
(North-eastern part of Sabah, Kuala Lumpur, Johor)
 Indonesia        21,000[3]
(North Kalimantan)


Tausūg, Zamboangueño Chavacano, Cebuano, Filipino, English, Malay, Indonesian
Predominantly Sunni Islam, small Christian minority (particularly Roman Catholicism)
Related ethnic groups
Moros, Lumad, Visayans, Malay people,
Filipino people, and other Austronesian people

The Tausūg or Suluk people are an ethnic group of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Tausūg are part of the wider political identity of Muslims of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan known as the Moro ethnic group, who constitute the third largest ethnic group of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan. They originally had an independent state known as the Sulu Sultanate, which once exercised sovereignty over the present day provinces of Basilan, Palawan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, the eastern part of the Malaysian state of Sabah (formerly North Borneo) and North Kalimantan in Indonesia.


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
    • Sultanate era 2.1
    • Modern era 2.2
      • Philippines 2.2.1
      • Malaysia 2.2.2
  • Demographics 3
    • Religion 3.1
  • Languages 4
  • Cultures 5
  • Notable Tausūgs 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
    • Notes 8.1
  • External links 9


"Tausug" means "the people of the current", from the word tau which means "man" or "people" and sūg (alternatively spelled sulug or suluk) which means "[sea] currents".[4] The term Tausūg was derived from two words tau and sūg (or suluk in Malay) meaning "people of the current", referring to their homelands in the Sulu Archipelago. Sūg and suluk both mean the same thing, with the former being the phonetic evolution in Sulu of the latter (the L being dropped and thus the two short U's merging into one long U). The Tausūg in Sabah refer to themselves as Tausūg but refers to their ethnic group as "Suluk" as documented in official documents such as birth certificates in Sabah, which are written Malay.


Sultanate era

The history of Sulu begins with Karim-ul Makhdum, a Muslim missionary, who arrived in Sulu in 1380. He introduced the Islamic faith and settled in Tubig Indangan, Simunul, until his death. The Mosque's pillars at Tubig-Indangan, which he built, still stand. In 1390, Rajah Baguinda Ali landed at Buansa, and extended the missionary work of Makhdum. The Johore-born Arab adventurer Sayyid Abubakar Abirin arrived in 1450, married Baguinda's daughter, Dayang-dayang Paramisuli. After Rajah Baguinda's death, Sayyid Abubakar became Sultan, thereby introducing the sultanate as a political system (the Sultanate of Sulu). Political districts were created in Parang, Pansul, Lati, Gitung, and Luuk, each headed by a panglima or district leader. After Sayyid Abubakar's death, the sultanate system had already become well established in Sulu. Before the coming of the Spaniards, the ethnic groups in Sulu — the Tausug, Samal, Yakan, and Bajau - were in varying degrees united under the Sulu sultanate, considered the most centralised political system in the Philippines. Called the "Spanish–Moro conflict", these battles were waged intermittently from 1578 till 1898, between the Spanish colonial government and the Bangsamoro people of Mindanao and Sulu.

In 1578, an expedition sent by Gov

External links

  1. ^ a b Most of the native Suluks in Sabah have lived since before the formation of Malaysia. When Malaysia was formed, all of them who lived in the Malaysian soil automatically gained citizenship (like the other races in Sabah) compared to their newly arrival relatives who lived in the Philippines soil at the time and only came to Malaysia after the country been formed.
  2. ^ In Sabah when there is a theft or a murder, people will say that it was a Suluk who did it. Almost everyone blamed the Suluks every time when there is armed intrusion and kidnapping in Sabah. When the newest incident happened in 2013, most people in Sabah has started to labelled the Suluks as bad guys.


  1. ^ "Tausug, Moro Joloano in Philippines".  
  2. ^ "Tausug, Sulu in Malaysia".  
  3. ^ "Tausug, Joloano Sulu in Indonesia".  
  4. ^ Jim Haskins (1982). The Filipino Nation: The Philippines : lands and peoples, a cultural geography. Grolier International. p. 190.  
  5. ^ Cf. also Paulo Bonavides, Political Sciences (Ciência Política), p. 126.
  6. ^ a b "Sabah's People and History".  
  7. ^ "Suluk Sabah bukan Sulu" (in Malay).  
  8. ^ "Local Suluks told: Reject extremists".  
  9. ^ "Sabah Suluk community urged to reject extremists".  
  10. ^ Philip Golingai (26 May 2014). "Despised for the wrong reasons".  
  11. ^ "Former Sabah chief minister urges police to stop destroying Suluk identity cards".  
  12. ^ "Lahad Datu: Nothing to fear, Musa Aman assures Suluk community". The Star. 23 March 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  13. ^ Neldy Jolo. "Suluk: Do Not Afraid To Speak Your Language".  
  14. ^ Fausto Barlocco (4 December 2013). Identity and the State in Malaysia. Routledge. pp. 77–85.  
  15. ^ Languages-of-Indonesia


See also

Notable Tausūgs

Tausūgs are experienced sailors and are known for their colourful boats or vintas. They are also superb warriors and craftsmen. They are known for the Pangalay dance (also known as Daling-Daling in Sabah), in which female dancers wear artificial elongated fingernails made from brass or silver known as janggay, and perform motions based on the Vidhyadhari (Bahasa Sūg: Bidadali) of pre-Islamic Buddhist legend.

Tausug woman in a pangalay dance.


English Tausug Surigaonon Cebuano
What is your name? Unu in ngān mu? Unu an ngayan mu? Unsa ang ngalan nimo?
My name is Muhammad In ngān ku Muhammad An ngayan ku ay Muhammad Ang ngalan nako kay Muhammad
How are you? Maunu-unu nakaw? Ya-unu nakaw? Na-unsa na ka?
I am fine, [too] Marayaw da [isab] Madayaw da [isab] aku (Tandaganon)/Marajaw da [isab] aku (Surigaonon) Maayo ra [usab] ko
Where is Ahmad? Hawnu hi Ahmad? Hain si Ahmad? Asa si Ahmad?
He is in the house Ha bāy siya Sa bay siya/sija Sa balay sya
Thank you Magsukul Salamat Salamat
‘I am staying at’ or ‘I live at’ Naghuhula’ aku ha Yaghuya aku sa Nagpuyo ako sa
I am here at the house. Yari aku ha bay. Yadi aku sa bay. Niari ako sa balay.
I am Hungry. Hiyapdi' aku. In-gutom aku. Gi-gutom ko.
He is there, at school. Yadtu siya ha iskul. Yadtu siya/sija sa iskul. Diadto sya sa iskul
Fish ista'
Leg Siki
hand Lima
Person Tau Tau Tawo
(Sea/River) current Sūg/Sulug/Suluk Sūg Sūg/Sulog

Malaysian Tausūg, descendants of residents when the Sulu Sultanate ruled the eastern part of Sabah, speak or understand the Sabahan dialect of Suluk, Malaysian language, and some English or Simunul. Those who come in regular contact with the Bajau also speak Bajau dialects. By the year 2000, most of the Tausūg children in Sabah, especially in towns of the west side of Sabah, were no longer speaking Tausūg; instead they speak the Sabahan dialect of Malay and English.

The Tausug language is called "Sinug" with "Bahasa" to mean Language. The Tausug language is related to Bicolano, Tagalog and Visayan languages, being especially closely related to the Surigaonon language of the provinces Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur and the Butuanon language of northeastern Mindanao specially the root Tausug words without the influence of the Arabic language, sharing many common words. The Tausūg, however, do not consider themselves as Visayan, using the term only to refer to Christian Bisaya-language speakers, given that the vast majority of Tausūgs are Muslims in contrast to its very closely related Surigaonon brothers which are predominantly Roman Catholics. Tausug is also related to the Waray-Waray language. Tausug also speak Zamboangueño Chavacano, other Visayan languages (especially Cebuano language because of the mass influx of Cebuano migrants to Mindanao), and Tagalog in the Philippines; Malay in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia; and English in both Malaysia and Philippines as second languages.


Most assimilated Filipino celebrities and politicians of Tausūg descent also tend to follow the Christian religion of the majority instead of the religion of their ancestors. For example, Maria Lourdes Sereno, the 24th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines is of patrilineal Tausūg descent is a born-again Christian. Singer Sitti is of Tausūg and Samal descent (she claims to be of Mapun heritage, also native to Sulu), is also a Christian.

The overwhelming majority of Tausūgs follow Islam, as Islam has been a defining aspect of native Sulu culture ever since Islam spread to the southern Philippines. They follow the traditional Sunni Shafi'i section of Islam, however they retain pre-Islamic religious practices and often practice a mix of Islam and Animism in their adat. A Christian minority exists. During the Spanish occupation, the presence of Jesuit missionaries in the Sulu Archipelago allowed for the conversion of entire families and even tribes and clans of Tausūgs, and other Sulu natives to Roman Catholicism. For example, Azim ud-Din I of Sulu, the 19th sultan of Sulu was converted to Roman Catholicism and baptised as Don Fernando de Alimuddin, however he reverted to Islam in his later life near death.


The native Tausūgs who had lived since the Sulu Sultanate era in Sabah had settled in much of the eastern parts, from Kudat town in the north, to Tawau in the south east.[6] They number around 300,000 with many of them had intermarried with other ethnic groups in Sabah, especially the Bajaus. Most prefer to use the Malay-language ethnonym Suluk in their birth certificates rather than the native Tausūg to distinguish themselves from their newly arrived Filipino relatives in Sabah. Migration fuelled mainly from Sabah also created a substantial Suluk community in Greater Kuala Lumpur. While in Indonesia, most of the communities mainly settled in the northern area of North Kalimantan like Nunukan and Tarakan, which lies close to their traditional realm. There are around 12,000 (1981 estimate) Tausūg in Indonesia.[15]

The Tausūg currently number about 953,000 in the Philippines. They populate the Filipino province of Sulu as a majority, and the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Palawan, Cebu and Manila as minorities. Much of these Filipino-Tausūgs have work in neighbouring Sabah, Malaysia as construction labourers in search for better lives. However, many of them have violate the law by overstaying illegally and involved in criminal activities. The Filipino-Tausūgs are not recognised as a native to Sabah.[note 1][14]


Various Malaysian leaders including the former and the current Chief Minister of Sabah such as Harris Salleh and Musa Aman has assured that native Sabahan Suluks will be protected.[11][12] Prime Minister Najib Razak also announced that the native Suluk community will be protected under the Malaysian law.[13]

For example, the Tausūgs from the Southern Philippines call us (the pre-1963 Suluks in Sabah) cowards as we are peace-loving people whereas they came from a culture of war. In general, Suluks who are illegal immigrants are more vocal and aggressive as they come from an environment which is difficult to survive.[10]

He reminded that Sabahan Suluks should reject extremism and said that the attempts by extremist groups from the Southern Philippines to create tension in Sabah are futile and would not serve to benefit to the local Suluk community.[8][9] Another native Suluk told that there is a real difference between the Suluks who lived in the state before Malaysia was formed and those who came after 1970s. He quote:

I give an example of my relative, he is a Malaysian citizen. One of his son married with the Kiram family. When the standoff occur in Lahad Datu, he said it was okay, it is nice that Sabah will be taken back by the Sultanate of Sulu. I asked why? He said that's good because we are Suluks. This state is ours, if the Sultan of Sulu take it, it will be so easy for us to govern this place. I then replied by saying that this state is not ours, not belonging to any race, it is jointly owned. If you want to live together, get rid of that perception. We now lived in the modern era and there is a law and everyone know there is borders between country. We even know when someone intruding into our house, we will get mad. This is what I told when some Suluks citizen still have their heart loyal to the Sultan of Sulu, let alone when one of his children married with Kiram families, if Sabah belonged to Kiram then he thought that he would be an important person in the society. We should be grateful that we have become Malaysian citizens. Compared to the Tausūgs in the Southern Philippines, we are far better off and living peacefully here.[7]
— Zaki Harry Susanto, Representative of the native Suluks people in Sabah.

When Sabah been intrude several times by Tausūgs from the Philippines, this has caused madness to most native Suluks in Sabah as other races in Malaysia have been badmouthing them for the bad attitude done by their Southern Philippines relatives and some people have mistakenly considered them as an enemy in the state. Since the intrusion in 2013, most of the native Suluks in Sabah faced even more discrimination.[note 2] Thus to clear the situation, a Sabah Suluk Solidarity Council Secretary Mohd Zaki Harry Susanto as the representative of native Suluks people in Sabah pointed out his statement:


The Tausūg in Sulu Nur Misuari was invited to chair the provisional government, but he refused. The referendum was boycotted by the Muslims themselves. The talks collapsed, and fighting continued. On 1 August 1989, Republic Act 673 or the Organic Act for Mindanao, created the Autonomous Region of Mindanao, which encompasses Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

A "policy of attraction" was introduced, ushering in reforms to encourage Muslim integration into Philippine society. "Proxy colonialism" was legalised by the Public Land Act of 1919, invalidating Tausūg pusaka (inherited property) laws based on the Islamic Shariah. The act also granted the state the right to confer land ownership. It was thought that the Muslims would "learn" from the "more advanced" Christian Filipinos, and would integrate more easily into mainstream Philippine society. In February 1920, the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives passed Act No 2878, which abolished the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, and transferred its responsibilities to the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes under the Department of the Interior. Muslim dissatisfaction grew as power shifted to the Christian Filipinos. Petitions were sent by Muslim leaders between 1921 and 1924, requesting that Mindanao and Sulu be administered directly by the United States. These petitions were not granted. Realising the futility of armed resistance, some Muslims sought to make the best of the situation. In 1934, Arolas Tulawi of Sulu, Datu Manandang Piang and Datu Blah Sinsuat of Cotabato, and Sultan Alaoya Alonto of Lanao were elected to the 1935 Constitutional Convention. In 1935, two Muslims were elected to the National Assembly.


Modern era

In the northern area of Borneo in Sabah, most of the recognised citizens have lived in the area since the rule of the Sultanate of Sulu.[6][note 1] During the British administration of North Borneo, a recognised Bajau-Suluk warrior in the Malaysian history help to fight off the British in a battle known as Mat Salleh Rebellion and gained many supports from other natives. During the Second World War when the Japanese occupied the northern Borneo area, the native Suluks once again involved in a struggle to fight off the Japanese where many of them including women and kids been massacred after their revolt with the Chinese been foiled by the Japanese.

Mat Salleh (marked with an "X"), a Bajau-Suluk warrior widely known in North Borneo (present day Sabah).

In 1893, amid succession controversies, Amir ul Kiram became Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, the title being officially recognised by the Spanish authorities. In 1899, after the defeat of Spain in the Spanish–American War, Col. Luis Huerta, the last governor of Sulu, relinquished his garrison to the Americans. (Orosa 1970:25-30). Prior to modern times, the Tausūg were under the Sultanate of Sulu. The system is a patrilineal system, consisting of the title of Sultan as the sole sovereign of the Sultanate (in Tausūg language: Lupah Sug, literally: "Land of the Current"), followed by various Maharajah and Rajah-titled subdivisional princes. Further down the line are the numerous Panglima or local chiefs, similar in function to the modern Philippine political post of the Baranggay Kapitan in the Baranggay system. Of significance are the Sarip (Sharif) and their wives, Sharifah, who are Hashemite descendants of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. They are respected as religious leaders, though some may take up administrative posts.

In 1737, Sultan Alimud Din I for personal interest, entered into a "permanent" peace treaty with Gov Gen F. Valdes y Tamon; and in 1746, befriended the Jesuits sent to Jolo by King Philip. The "permission" of Sultan Azimuddin-I (*the first heir-apparent) allowed the Catholic Jesuits to enter Jolo, but was argued against by his young brother, Raja Muda Maharajah Adinda Datu Bantilan (*the second heir-apparent). Datu Bantilan did not want the Catholic Jesuits to disturb or dishonor the Moro faith in the Sulu Sultanate kingdom. The brothers then fought, causing Sultan Azimuddin-I to leave Jolo and head to Zamboanga, then to Manila in 1748. Then, Raja Muda Maharajah Adinda Datu Bantilan was proclaimed as Sultan, taking the name as Sultan Bantilan Muizzuddin. He was a "saviour" to the Sulu Sultanate kingdom in 1748. If he had not fought against his brother for permitting the Catholic Jesuits to enter Jolo and spread their "Catholic Doctrine" throughout Sulu, it might have become a Catholic area today.

), until they had to abandon the region as a consequence of their defeat in the Spanish–American War. Sultanate of Maguindanao in 1705 and over Basilan in 1762. In the last quarter of the 19th century Moros in the Sultanate of Sulu formally recognised Spanish sovereignty, but these areas remained partially controlled by the Spanish as their sovereignty was limited to military stations and garrisons and pockets of civilian settlements in Zamboanga and Cotabato (the latter is under Spain to Palawan But later Sultanate of Sulu totally gave up its rule over south [5]

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