TAUSUG [People of the Current]

"History can never forget the Moro [Tausug],
for they did something in the 1500's, 1600's
1700's and clear down into 1800's that was
supposed to be impossible. They proved to
be too strong for the Spanish Conquestadores "
Vic Hurley Swish of the Kris,1935

It is therefore the purpose of this article to elucidate that Tausugs are real. We are bounty bound to clarify the authenticity of the historical Tausugs people so that others not in the academe will know.

The Tausugs are grand people. They have great historical legacy. Their lot had been etched in blood. Their struggle against the Spaniards alone, to maintain their freedom and independence of their homeland the superiority of their enemy militarily and resource-wise, they stood fat and remained. Their religion survived.

Art by Rameer Tawasil .. A Buranun Woman

Accordingly, the Tausugs are Muslims and the race of all ethnics in the Sultanate of Sulu. The Tausugs, by physical character and culture, belongs in general, to the Malay race and the Malay culture. In their literatures or tarsilas the Tausugs do not consider themselves as earthlings, but a higher form of life descended from god-like men.

In their traditional genealogy, the Tausug claimed high birth from Tuan Masha'ika, who is the son of a god and a goddes, Jamiyun Kulisa and Indira Suga, whose marriage rain fell and life was so imparted to the soil the plant grew.

Historically, the Tausug and their tribal kin in the Sulu Archipelago, including Palawan, Zamboanga Peninsula and Davao linked lineage to the Prophet through Sultan Shariful Hashim Sayyid Abubakar Ibni Zainal Abidin.

The present -day Tausug are descendants of different ethnic groups and nationalities that migrated to Sulu Archipelago over a span of time in the past. Sulu Salsilah and tradition speak of a Buranun, Taguimaha, Baklaya, Orang Dampuan and the Orang Banjar as the earliest migrants to the archipelago.

Art by Rameer Tawasil - The Badjao Ethnic

For one, the Tagimaha, (the Party of Protector) came from Basilan, but their origin was from Mindanao. They settled in Buwansa (present day Jolo), The Baklaya (sea Shore dwellers) settled in the area of what is Patikul. They were believed to be coming from the celebes (now Sulawesi) in Indonesia. Orang Dampuan were from Champa, an ancient Indo-Chinese kingdom formerly located in what is now Vietnam. The Orang Banjar, whose queen married the Sulu chief, came from Banjarmasin in what is today Kalimatan in Indonesia.

The Buranun (Mountain residents) are believed to be forerunners of the Sulu nobility today. Tuan Masha'ika, Datu Sipad and Datu Naruanga were the most notable descendants of the group who organized a proto-Tausug Sultanate form of government based in what is today Maimbung.

As traders, the Dampuans and the Banjarmasins may have just come and gone from Sulu, such that it will be very hard to trace their remnants today. However, it was believed that the settled Buranuns, Tagimaha and the Baklaya due to the fact that they lived in the same small Jolo island, were brought closely together assimilated each other and became the single Tausug ethnic group today – this is how the people of today understood.

The four tribes thus brought so closely together mixed very intimately and later lost their identity in the development of a single nation, which reached its maturity under the guidance of a Mohammedan master. In Spite of later immigration to the island and in spite of conquest and defeat, the national character thus formed has remained unchanged throughout history and the Sulu (meaning Tausug) of today will remain that same individuality which he acquired in his earlier days.

From this explanation, we can infer that the shaping of a single Tausug nationality out of different ethnic groupings was made possible through the works of centralized Muslim leadership- THE SULTANATE, and the unifying character of the religion- Islam.

The word Tausug signifies two things: first, it is the recognition of the geographic character of Suluano homeland- Sulu Archipelago which lies in the path of vigorous tidal currents flowing from the Sulu and china seas to the Celebes sea and vice-versa and the fact that practically all the ethnic groups in the Sultanate are sea oriented : sailor tarders, fishermen, pearl divers, seaweeds collectors and so forth.

Therefore, they should be named TAUSUG "THE PEOPLE OF THE CURRENT" second, it is an acknowledgement of the fact that they posses as unquestionable courage and bravery, therefore they are TAU MAISUG (Brave People)

The Tausug classify themselves into three geographical groupings- The Tau gimba (people of the interior) who occupy the interior of Jolo island where they are agriculturist cultivating upland rice, cassava, vegetables, fruit trees and coconut and abaca for cash crops. The Tau Higad (people of the coast) who live in the coastal area and port towns of Jolo Island, and the tau puh (people from the island) who inhabit the other islands in the archipelago beyond Jolo. Both Tau Higad and Tau puh engaged in fishing, farming and trading.

I once discussed theories on explaining the term Tausug to a dear friend, Prof Alling Arsad and he presented this:

Land of the current theory - Sulu being archipelagic, is sorrounded by strong sea-current especially along the coasts of the group Pilas islands and islets lying in the northwest.The Kapual group and islets lying in the northeast and the Tapiantana clusters of islands and islets where the sea current is said to eddying and quite dangerous for the uninitiated.

to be continued..

Dayang Naifah