HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 61 no. 1 (2015)

Revisiting the Sulu Sultanate, 1450-1936 Calbi A. Asain x

Calbi A. Asain



This paper underscores the need to reminisce about the Sulu Sultanate because of its contribution to the political history of the Philippines. What is revisited in this paper involves only the highlights of events that occurred during the period from 1450, the establishment of the Sultanate by Sultan Abu Bakr up to 1936, to the end of the rule of Sultan Jamal ul-Kiram II. It must be recalled that prior to the advent of colonial regimes, notably the Spanish and American occupations, the Sulu Sultanate had long been in existence as early as the 15th-century. If the Spanish and American colonizers had not curbed its expansion, the whole Philippines could have been under the Sulu Sultanate altogether. In fact, if there is such a thing as a heritage political institution in the country, the honorific title should go to the Sulu Sultanate. And it richly deserves such an honor. The first in the country to exercise self-government and self-determination is no other than the Sulu Sultanate. Economically, Jolo, now Sulu’s capital, had been a well-known center of trade in Southeast Asia and other countries prior to the economic transformation of present-day commercial centers in the country such as Cebu and Manila. It is also the Sulu Sultanate that strengthened the spread of Islam as one of the major religions in the country and its institutions, and the first to establish diplomatic relations with other countries such as China. Likewise, it was under the Sulu Sultanate that the fight for freedom first began and persisted the longest and the hardest. And finally, the Sulu Sultanate is an enduring political institution in the country that is still existing up to the present – a legacy that helps make our national Filipino cultural and historical heritage truly unique in Southeast Asia.