by: Jo Anne Fontanilla
The Jama Mapun or literally “people of Mapun,” occupy the island
of Cagayan de Sulu in southwestern Philippines. They call their island Tana
(land) Mapun and their language, Pullum Mapun. The Jama Mapun are closely related
to the Samal, and they are often referred as to the Samal Cagayan by the Tausog
of Sulu or as the Samal Cagayan by the Tausog of Sulu or as the Badjao or Orang
Cagayan by the coastal Muslim of Borneo (Casino 1976:8). Related to the Samal
are the Yakan, the Badjao, and the Jema Mapun. The Jama Mapun can also be found
in the islands of Bugsuk, and the small island in between. Cagayan de Sulu
municipality today consists of a main island and eight islets-Kinapusan, Pambelikan,
Bisu Bintut, Bohan, Manda, Bulisuan, Muligi, and Mambahenan. In 1970, the
Jama Mapun were estimated to be around 25000 (Casino 1976:12)
Some fatures of the main island of Cagayan de Sulu which stand out are the two freshwater lakes—Ernestine and Singuwag—and a crater bay—Jurata Bay—which lie at the southern end of the Banga range. The two lakes are found to be 10 m above sea level. Near the center of the island lies the hill Tabuli’an which is 300 m above sea level.
History and legends suggest that Cagayan de Sulu was visited by Arab trader-missionaries as early as the 13th century. The Jama Mapun considered he Arabs as belonging to a higher culture, and hence, conversion to Islam was equated to cultural advancement (Casino 1976:117). From the 15th century onwards, the principal Muslim groups were regrouped into larger collections. The
Maguindanao, Maranao and Sanngil were oriented towards the Maguindanao sultanate, while the Tausug, Samal, Badjao, Yakan, Molbog, Palawon, and the Jama Mapun were more oriented to the Sulu sultanate. This geopolitical setup helped shape the economic and political instiutions of the Jama Mapun. For instance the Sulu sultanate can be said to have consisted of three concentric circles each representing a political category. The innermost circle belonged to theTausug frm which the nobility came. The middle circle belonged to the Tausug from which the nobility came. The middle circle was dominated by the Samal speakers, and the outer circle by the non-Muslim traditionalist who were
regarded as uncivilizied slaves. The Jama Mapun, being a Samal people, belonged to the second circle. Although not part of the nobility, the Jama Mapun developed their own version of the local gentry or “notables” who had atteined prestige through wealth or sociopolitical position (Casino 1976:11, 27-28).
With political and economic ties more oriented towards the Sulu sultanate, the history of the Jama Mapun during the Spanish era can be told in terms of the hostility between the Spanish colonial government and the Sulu sultanate. The Sulu sultanate. The Sulu sultanate escaped colonial dominance at the onset of Spanish rule, for total conquest was not a goal of early colonial policies. In the mid-19th century, the colonial government south to conquer the Muslim sultanates, especialy that of Sulu. By then the british and the Dutch were extending their influence over the Southeast Asian world, and the Spaniards felt they had to secure their rapidly deteriorating empire. Spanish authorities explained their new policy as a reaction to the piratical activities of the Samal group. Thus, the Spaniards launched their campaign of 1851 to devastate the Samal settlement of Tungkil as
well as to punish the Sulu sultanate. The campaign ended in 1876 when the Spaniards launched an offensive against the Sulu sultanate to finally settle the issue of Spanish sovereignty over Sulu. In
1878 the beleaguered sultan, Jama ul-Azam, entered into a peace treaty with the Spaniards. The treaty made Sulu a protectorate of Spain, but guaranteed the sultanate autonomy over internal matters and commercial activities (Majul 1973:283-299).
When the Americans came, they intruded to the core of the Jama Mapun political system. Guns were confiscated and slavery, the source of Jama Mapun power and prestige, was abolished. Villages and districts were reduced to the status of barrios; headmen and chiefs became mere barrio captains.
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