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Mindanao is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines. It is also one of the three island groups in the country, along with Luzon and Visayas. Historically, the Island was also known as Gran Molucas or Great Mollucas.
Mindanao is name after the Maguindanaons. The region was originally home to Philippine sultanates like that of Sulu and Maguindanao. In the late 16th to early 17th century, first contact with Spain occurred, with Spanish forces trying to occupy the area.
These days the region is home to the country’s Muslim or Moro populations, comprised of many ethnic groups such as the Maranao and the Tausug, the Banguingui (users of the vinta), and the collective group of tribes known as the Lumad.
Contrary to common belief, only a portion of Mindanao was originally inhabited by Muslims. In fact, most of the people in the northern and eastern part of the island practiced native religions before they were converted to Christianity. Nonetheless, a bitter struggle for independence has been waged by various Muslim factions for five centuries against successive occupiers. Spanish, American, Japanese, and government forces failed to quell the desire for separation from the largely Christian nation. Due to an influx of migration, as well as evangelization, the majority of Mindanao’s population is now predominantly Christian. This has caused some resentment among the poor and seemingly displaced Muslims which in turn fuels the more violent and radical separatist movements that have been occurring recently. Mindanao is a staging ground for groups branded as terrorists such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah that undermine moderate organizations such as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Mindanao is the second largest island in the country at 94,630 square kilometers. The island is mountainous, and is home to Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the country. Mindanao is surrounded by seas: the Sulu Sea to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea to the south.
The island group of Mindanao encompasses Mindanao island itself and the Sulu Archipelago to the southwest. The island group is divided into six regions, which are further subdivided into 25 provinces.
The island group of Mindanao is an arbitrary grouping of islands in the southern Philippines which encompasses six administrative regions. These regions are further subdivided into 25 provinces, of which only four are not on Mindanao island itself. The island group includes the Sulu Archipelago to the southwest, which consists of the major islands of Basilan, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi, plus outlying islands in other areas such as Camiguin, Dinagat, Siargao, Samal,The Limunsudan Falls, is the Highiest water falls in the phillipnes located at Iligan City. It has an Approximate Height of 800 ft. The six regions are listed below and each is individually discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.
- Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX)
- Northern Mindanao (Region X)
- Davao Region (Region XI)
- SOCCSKSARGEN (Region XII)
- Caraga (Region XIII)
- Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)
Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX), formerly Western Mindanao, is located in the landform of the same name. It consists of the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, and two cities—Zamboanga City and Isabela City—which are independent of any province. Isabela City is the only territory not on Mindanao island itself and is a part of Basilan. The region’s new administrative capital is Pagadian City and the whole region used to be a single province named Zamboanga.
Northern Mindanao (Region X) consists of the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Cagayan de Oro City, and Iligan City. The province of Camiguin is also an island just of the northern coast. The administrative center and capital of the region is Cagayan de Oro City.
Davao Region (Region XI), formerly Southern Mindanao, is located in the southeastern portion of Mindanao. The region is divided into the provinces of Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, and Compostela Valley; plus Davao City. The region encloses the Davao Gulf to the south and includes the island of Samal in the gulf, and the Sarangani Islands further to the south. Davao City is the region’s administrative center.
SOCCSKSARGEN (Region XII), formerly Central Mindanao, is located in the south-central portion of the island. It consists of the provinces of Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato (which was used to be part of Region XI), and Sultan Kudarat, plus Cotabato City. The names of the provinces together with General Santos City spell the name of the region which is an acronym. Cotabato City, which is surrounded by, but is not a part of Maguindanao province, was the region’s former administrative center. Koronadal City, in South Cotabato, is the new administrative center of the newly formed region.
Caraga (Region XIII) is located in the northwestern part of Mindano. Its provinces are Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur. The administrative center is Butuan City in Agusan del Norte. The region also covers the outlying islands of Surigao del Norte such as Dinagat Island, Siargao Island, and Bucas Grande Island.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is a special region which covers the territories predominantly populated by Muslims. ARMM has its own government unlike almost all the other regions in the country. It consists of almost the whole of the Sulu Archipelago (Isabela City while remaining a part of Basilan is in the Zamboanga Peninsula region) and two provinces in the mainland. The provinces located in the Sulu Archipelago are Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Basilan and Tawi-Tawi are themselves the main islands of their respective provinces, while the main island of Sulu is Jolo Island. The mainland provinces are Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao. Cotabato City, while not a part of the ARMM, is the region’s administrative center.
The native Maguindanaon and other native Muslim/non-Muslim groups of Mindanao have a fascinating culture that revolves around kulintang music, a specific type of gong music, found among both Muslim and non-Muslim groups of the Southern Philippines