History of Mindanao and the Tībolis
|For over a thousand years, the island of Mindanao, the second largest island in the archipelago of the Philippine Islands, has been occupied by tribal
people, believed to have migrated from Indonesia and Malaysia. These people have lived for centuries in the same tribal customs, sustaining themselves in the rich tropical forest through hunting and foraging. Through these years they developed a very rich culture founded in the tribal traditions and in harmony with the nature around them. They remained untouched by Western Civilization and in contact only with other tribes living in similar fashion to theirs.
Six major tribes still exist in the province of South Cotabato. They no longer enjoy the freedom of their ancestral territories, but are in a constant struggle to retain their sacred lands. They must try to cope with an avaricious civilization intent on tribal destruction. Many of the rich agricultural lands, tropical forests and precious minerals found on ancestral lands, were depleted and destroyed, leaving the six remaining tribes, the Tboli, Blaan, Maguindanao, Ubo, Manobo, and Kalagan, to face imminent extinction.
Western encroachment began unsuccessfully four hundred years ago, with the Spanish traders and conquistadores, who had conquered other islands in the Philippines. In three hundred years of Spanish rule, they were unable to break through the Muslim tribes entrenched along the Mindanao coast. After the SpanishAmerican War, the Philippines were granted to the United States as a protectorate. It was during this time, (early 1900s), that the Philippines took a page out of American history and opened Mindanao for homesteaders. Landhungry settlers broke through the Muslim barriers, and grabbed up the island areas forcing the native tribes into the mountains.
Although Mindanao was occupied by both Japanese and American troops during the World War II, the mountain tribes of South Cotabato had a little or no contact with them and continued to exist in their ancient ways without disturbance. After the war, the Mindanao Island was declared resettlement area for the
people from the Visayan and Luzon regions. Many left their Visayan homes to settle in the still open land of Mindanao. The settling of the agriculturally rich flat lands of South Cotabato did not take long and contact with the mountain tribes more frequent.
In South Cotabato, there are some 500,000 Tribal Filipinos belonging to six tribes Kalagan, Ubo, Manobo, Blaan, Maguindanao Muslims and the most populous the Tboli tribe. All these six tribes are involved in the Santa Cruz Mission School, Inc. programs for development.