The cradle of Maguindanao civilization (2) | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

The cradle of Maguindanao civilization (2)

/ 04:06 AM November 08, 2021

DATU PIANG, Maguindanao — In Datu Piang’s municipal profile is a brief historical account of the town’s origins. Rajah Buayan is considered the founder of the old town; he is believed to have descended from Shariff Kabunsuan, the Arab missionary who introduced Islam to the different ethnic groups in Mindanao in the early 12th century. The introduction of Islam predated the coming of the Spaniards and the introduction of Catholicism in the country and in Mindanao in the early 1500s (1521).

Rajah Buayan ruled Dulawan until the latter part of the 18th century. At that time a young Chinese-Magindanawn charismatic leader emerged, Amai Mingka, also known as Datu Piang. While he was not a datu based on his lineage, he was “enthroned” as a datu for his brilliance, generosity, and overall leadership qualities. He was orphaned at an early age, and was sent to the care and tutelage of Datu Uto, one of the Magindanawn leaders at that time.


The town’s brief historical profile noted that Dulawan was the first settlement of Chinese merchant-migrants to Mindanao; many of the present generation of Chinese-Magindanawn Muslims in Datu Piang are descendants of Chinese settler families. Consequently, Dulawan became a provincial trading hub where merchants from different areas in the then Empire Province of Cotabato sold and bought a variety of goods. The town was also considered one of the safest places in the empire province to live and do business in.

On June 12, 1954, Republic Act No. 1035 renamed Dulawan to Datu Piang in honor of Amai Mingka, who rose to become a highly influential leader especially during the American colonial period.


Sadly, Dulawan or Datu Piang as it is called today, is a poor shadow of its glorious past. Over the years of its existence as a municipality, its territory has shrunk several times.

In 1959, part of the southern barangays of Datu Piang became the municipality of Ampatuan (currently divided into two local government units, that of the old Ampatuan town, and the new town of Datu Abdullah Sangki or DAS). Four years later, the municipality of Maganoy (now Shariff Aguak) was carved out of the remaining southwestern barangays of Datu Piang, merged with some other barangays from other neighboring municipalities.

On July 1, 2003, the municipality of Datu Saudi Ampatuan was carved out of the 14 southeastern barangays of Datu Piang. This was in honor of the memory of a former Datu Piang mayor, Datu Saudi Ampatuan. Together with 12 others, Datu Saudi was killed in a bomb blast on Dec. 24, 2002, that took place within his residential compound; this happened on the third day of prayer for another Ampatuan sibling, Datu Hoffer, who was killed in Cotabato City the week before.

Datu Saudi was perceived to be the “kindest” and more educated among the sons of Datu Andal, the feared and imperious Magindanawn leader, considered the “brains” behind the tragic Ampatuan massacre in 2009, where 57 people were killed. Thirty-one of the victims were local journalists, two of them used to be reporters for The Mindanao Cross, a regional tabloid published in Cotabato City.

Datu Piang’s areas of jurisdiction continued to shrink in 2009, when the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) passed Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Acts 225, 252, and 253 creating the municipalities of Shariff Saidona Mustapha and Datu Salibo. Five barangays of Datu Piang were taken to be part of these two new small towns, merged with some barangays from Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak.

Last week and early this week, I came back to Damabalas and Datu Piang poblacion where I did my 1978 fieldwork. From that time, many changes in the geophysical layout of the town and of barangay Damabalas have taken place. The changes have created a totally different environment of the area: a much wider wetland part of the barangay, and of Datu Piang as a whole. The dry trails and barangay roads where I used to walk to go to Damabalas from the poblacion are mostly underwater most of the year, especially during the monsoon season.

(To be concluded)

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TAGS: Kris-Crossing Mindanao, Maguindanao history, Rufa Cagoco-Guiam
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