Thursday, September 08, 2005

IRANUN: A Dynamic Ethno-linguistic Tribe in Southern Philippines

This study[1] shows that there exists a dynamic ethno-linguistic tribe known as Iranun even prior to the advent of Islam in mainland Mindanao, and affluent in terms of indigenous culture and civilization. The dynamic characteristics and transformation of this ethno-linguistic tribe is the main focus of this research work aside from proving her being a distinct tribe, although interrelated, from the M’ranao and Tau-saraya (the present-day Maguindanaon) and other ethno-linguistic tribes in Southern Philippines. Moreover, the Iranuns occupy a substantial portion of historic places in Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan, Sabah and other places of the Malay world.

Up to this present juncture, no comprehensive study is conducted about the Iranun as an ethno-linguistic tribe, especially by an Iranun himself who knows the language and local history, and who has access to some primary and secondary sources from local---tarsilas, kitabs, and tudtulan---and foreign data to establish his claim. In the light of colonial resistance, this dynamic people was termed by the Spanish authorities as Illano, Ilano, Ilana, Hilalones, Illanum, Illanun, or simply Moros and Mohametanas, being the defenders of the present day Illana Bay (Moro Gulf), and by US colonial writers in an over-simplistic manner as Moros, Mohamedans, marauders, pirates, raiders, slave traders, and “lords of the eastern seas.”

Historical methodology (oral and local history method through interviews transcribed by the proponent) with content analysis as well as linguistic and other anthropological methodologies were used in this study. The role of the Iranuns in the Maguindanao and Sulu Sultanates and other Islamic-inspired social institutions and their relations with foreign colonial powers was uncovered as a contribution to the body of knowledge. This modest study by an insider, although limited, tries to widen the horizon of the people in the social arena by paving the road towards understanding the Iranun as a people, their language, places of origin, way of life, and relations with other peoples in the Philippines and the Malay world.

[1] A paper presented by Esnaen M. Catong at the 4th National Philippine Studies Conference on September 17-18, 2004 at the Golden Pine Hotel and Restaurant, Baguio City sponsored by the Philippine Studies Association and the University of the Philippines-Baguio.