Datu Makunay and Datu Bhutto

Brother Felix Bravo, missionary to Tarlac.

DATU MAKUNAY of Buluan must have been a rebel datu,” said brother Felix Bravo. He and I were both having coffee that afternoon of my arrival in his home at Teresa Homes Subdivision, Tarlac City. Scheduled to preach at his congregation the next day, Sunday, December 12, I spent the afternoon and evening of  Saturday bonding with him and getting him familiarized with his blog site which I put up for him years ago.

“But he’s not the most powerful datu in Buluan at that time,” he added. “The most powerful ruler of Buluan was Datu Bhutto.”

I braced myself up for this additional tidbit of history.

Brother Felix’s comment came about when we saw each other this year (the last time we met was in Sunrise, in 1996!), and this after he had read the 4th installment of the History of the Churches of Christ in Mindanao published in my blog, where a certain Datu Makunay is a character, albeit one who had a flawed personality.

But concerning other things about Makunay, brother Felix did not have much information.

Brother Felix said that the Bravo and the Abubo families had befriended this most powerful Muslim datu back in frontier days. And even to this day, his family and the descendants of this datu are still very close. These descendants have now found their own niches in the present-day political tapestry of Mindanao.

THE FIRST AND EARLIEST government of Cotabato, and in fact of the whole Mindanao, was at the hands of the Sultanate of Maguindanao. From the days when this sultanate flowered up to the days of the Philippine Commonwealth, there were only two towns, Cotabato (which was to become a city later) and Buluan. The American war of expansion that started when Admiral Dewey bombarded Intramuros walls, which resulted to a truce with Spain and the US purchase of the Philippine archipelago for $25 million, and another war to domesticate the insurrectos which culminated in the defeat of the army of the first Philippine Republic under Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo in the 1900s, became also a war to take a foothold over the whole Mindanao. One by one the Muslim datus were defeated, their rule becoming a non-issue, and the whole Mindanao archipelago was absorbed into the Commonwealth.

It was Gen. Paulino Santos, whose name later became a city, who took charge of the Philippine Commonwealth’s program of inviting settlers from Luzon and Visayas to populate Mindanao and exploit its rich natural resources. When goes the migrant, so goes the Commonwealth government. Many came, including them whose names later played a great role in expanding the Restoration Movement in the hinterlands of Mindanao.

Photo from wiki.tell.com

From Pagadian, the Bravos and the Abubos landed in Cotabato town. They did not mean to stay here. They were told that vast lands lay unclaimed in the interior of Cotabato province. So they proceeded to Buluan, aboard the lantsa plying the Rio Grande de Mindanao. The Rio Grande then was Cotabato’s only highway.

The Bravos and the Abubos landed by the bank of Buluan river. Tall-standing trees abounded in the area. They saw no road but they could see footpaths. These they followed. They passed by Muslim settlements.

The surprise of their life, however, was seeing a Muslim or two speaking Tagalog, Ilocano, Cebuano and Ilonggo. Which gave them an idea that they were not the first migrants of the place.

They asked for directions, and they were told to keep going. They asked for the datu and they were told they would soon see him.

Indeed. For they soon heard the sound of bells, and saw a white horse and one who was riding on it. By his manners and the way he dressed, he appeared noble; the people who heard his coming stopped what they were doing, took to the side of the footpath, and bowed their heads upon seeing him.

“Magandang araw sa inyo, mga kapatid!” (“Good day to you, brothers!”). The man spoke fluent Tagalog. “Ano ba ang maipaglilingkod ko sa inyo?” (“What can I do for you?”).

They had just met Datu Bhutto, said to be the most loved ruler of Buluan. This was in 1941.

Datu Bhutto then dispensed his role as a good citizen of the Commonwealth and the de facto ruler of this part of the country. He assigned a plot of land to each of the Abubos and the Bravos, about ten hectares for each family, like he did to other families who migrated to Buluan. That area in Alip where the Bravos and Abubos settled later came to be known as “Malingon.” I heard that in Maguindanao dialect, the word means “peaceful place.”

A year after their arrival in Malingon, the Abubos and the Bravos became Christians. They were taught by the team of evangelists from the Lord’s church (Belo, Alegre, and Villanueva) who had also settled in Alip, which was near Malingon. This was about 1942. It was in Alip that the Belo, Alegre, Villanueva and other Christian families were imprisoned by Makunay.

In Malingon, there were Luzonians and Visayans who had also staked their claims to the land over which Datu Bhutto ruled. In Buluan there was no merging of Christian and Muslim communities, in order to preserve the peace and allow both groups to practice their religions. Each community was protected by virtue of the decree issued by Datu Bhutto: No Muslim could enter into Christian villages without the Datu’s permission; and vice versa. But brother Felix said he and other sons of the Abubos were free to visit the house of Datu Bhutto, and play with his sons.

SONS OF DATU BHUTTO. Brother Felix remembered Datu Bhutto’s son named Pua. He was the fastest running athlete of Maguindanao, and had good promise as a national athlete. Pua later became mayor of Buluan.

But one other son of Datu Bhutto was special to the Abubos and the Bravos, and his name was Pakung. When Pakung was an infant, his mother, one of the wives of Datu Bhutto, died. An Abubo mother, brother Felix’s aunt, suckled the infant until he was strong and healthy enough to eat normal food.




Datu Pax Mangudadatu, congressman of Sultan Kudarat. Photo from people.nfo.ph


Pakung later became governor and then congressman of Sultan Kudarat. Brother Felix remembered that when he went to Cotabato for his family affairs, Pakung would send his chauffeur to fetch him at the airport. Pakung, the son of Datu Bhutto, is actually congressman Pax Mangudadatu. Mangudadatu became their surname; the word means “younger datu.”

Pua, Felix’s other friend, is the father of Esmail Mangudadatu, whose political ambition to become governor of Maguindanao became the target of the ire of the Ampatuans. His wife, an Ilongga named Genalyn Tiamzon, was one of the fifty-seven victims who perished in the celebrated Maguindanao massacre of November 23, 2009.


EFFORT TO REACH OUT TO MUSLIMS. Brother Felix had tried preaching in Cotabato when he had the opportunity. In a past gospel meeting he had conducted in Malingon, one of those who consistently attended was Datu Saipula Guialudin, a relative of Datu Bhutto. But Saipula was never converted, neither were the other Muslims who attended brother Felix’s meetings. When the barrio site of what would be baranggay Malingon expanded on the property of brother Felix, he donated half a hectare of his land for the school site of Malingon Elementary School. His cousin Eligio Abubo also donated another half hectare. Brother Felix sold another hectare of his property in Buluan to both Muslims and Christians who wanted it; both groups of people now live together there. This harmonious relationship was a legacy from the days of Datu Bhutto.


Datu Esmail Mangudadatu, newly elected governor of Maguindanao. Photo from 2space.net.

ORIGIN OF THE MANGUDADATUS. Datu Bhutto was said to be a descendant of Shariff Kabungsuan, who first introduced Islamic teaching in mainland Mindanao. Shariff Kabungsuan was a native of Johore, married a native princess and became the first sultan of Maguindanao.



THE CHURCH OF CHRIST in Malingon is one church close to Muslim settlements that does not seem to be affected by clashes between Christians and Muslims in other parts of Mindanao.  No chapel of other “Christian” sect or denomination, nor a Muslim mosque, has been built in Malingon. There is no need for another church. The Malingon church of Christ is a vibrant testimony to the harmony that prevails in this part of Buluan, Maguindanao.

DEATH OF DATU PUA. Not very recently, brother Felix visited his friend Datu Pua who was dying because of diabetes. He rode a kuliglig passing through Muslim villages beside Buluan Lake. They reminisced together their early years as schoolmates from 1945 till 1951 at Buluan Central School.

FRIENDSHIP THAT LASTS. Brother Felix said he still could count the Mangudadatus, including Pax the incumbent congressman of Sultan Kudarat and Esmail Mangudadatu, the newly elected governor of Maguindanao as friends the Bravos and the Abubos could rely on. Thanks to Datu Bhutto. Thanks to God for this enduring friendship.

Brother Felix now has a growing mission work in Tarlac City.


One Response

  1. Pax Mangudadatu was first elected governor and then elected congressman of Sultan Kudarat. Datu Pax and Datu Esmael continue to serve as signs of our “friendship” with the Muslims to this day. We can go to them anytime, and they receive us with the “friendship and accommodations” of the original Datu Bhutto. My brothers, relatives and friends of Malingon also treasure that enduring friendship.

    The datu who attended my gospel meeting in Malingon is Datu Saipula Guialudin, then barangay chairman of Malingon, a relative of Datu Bhutto. When the barrio site of Malingon finally was designated in my land I donated one half hectare for the elementary school while my cousin Eligio Abubo donated the other one half of his land to be added as school site. I also sold about one hectare to interested residents which included the Muslim and Christians living together in Malingon.

    The Church of Christ in Malingon stands [as the] the only religious organization from 1944 to this day untouched by the passing of problems. I visited Datu Pua one day before his death due to diabetes by riding a kuliglig cart passing through the residents of the Muslim along the Buluan lake. Datu Pua was very friendly and cordial offered me coffee and merienda as we related our experiences during our school days in 1945 to 1951at the Buluan Central School.

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