HADJI BUTU ABDUL BAGUI
Hadji Butu, scholar-statesman and first
Muslim to become senator of the Philippines, was born in Jolo, in 1865. He was descended
from Mantiri Asip, the great minister of Rajah Baguinda.
Since early boyhood, Hadji Butu showed
great intelligence. He was six years old when he began to study and to
eventually master the Koran and the Arab language. In 1876, political conditions
in Jolo obliged him to reside in Maimbung. When he was 12, he was recalled to
Jolo by the Spanish Governor of Sulu, Carlos Martinet who asked him to draft
and sign a treaty with the Spanish government on behalf of the sultan and his
people. Hadji Butu readily acceded to the request and wrote the document which
was accepted by both parties. Among the provisions of the treaty were: that the
Moros should recognize the Spanish flag; that the Spaniards should not
interfere with the Mohammedan religion, and should not settle in the southern
half of the island of Jolo; that the Moros would not guarantee safety of travel
to the missionary priests; and that the sultan would not give any form of aid
to the Spanish government if a group of less than 300 Moros stage a
revolt. From that time on Hadji Butu's talent and ability were
recognized both by the Spanish government and by his people.
At a young age of 16, he was appointed
Prime Minister of Sultan Badarudin. Three years later, he accompanied Badarudin
on a pilgrimage to Mecca, as one of the advisers. While in the holy city, Hadji
Butu acquired a deeper knowledge of the Arabic language and laws, and of the
Mohammedan customs and religion. He availed himself, too, of the opportunity to
associate with pror?inent Arabian religious leaders.
After the death of Badarudin, Jamalul
Kiram (brother of the
sultan) became the new ruler of Sulu.
Kiram's succession to the throne was made possible after Hadji Butu convinced
the other contending chiefs and datus to recognize the deceased sultan's
brother as the rightful heir. Hadji Butu served as prime minister under the new
sultan and also acted as secretary of war and generalissimo of the sultanate;
he took charge of all transactions for the sultan and gave orders to all
When he was 24, the Spanish authorities
asked him and the sultan to come to Manila. However despite their willingness
and desire to heed the request the people did not allow them to go. The
Spaniards, instead, brought Datu Haron to Manila in exchange for Hadji Butu and
the sultan, and when Haron returned to Jolo, the Spaniards proclaimed him
sultan. War immediately erupted between the two sultans and it was the
bloodiest war Sulu had ever witnessed. Maimbung, Jamalul Kiram's residence was
burned and the deposed sultan and Hadji Butu had to flee to the mountains of
The Spaniards, who realized the great
influence of Hadji Butu on the people, sent out to search for him. At Talipao,
he was taken by surprise and was brought back to Jolo where Haron did his best
to gain Hadji Butu's friendship by inviting the latter to be his prime
minister. Hadji Butu accepted the position after the sultan promised to comply
with his two requests: that the sultan would follow his (Hadji Butu's) wishes
with respect to the Mohammedan religion, and that the sultan would stop waging
war against Jamalul Kiram.
Shortly after, Governor General Bianco
came to Jolo and conferred with Hadji Butu on the prospect of settling the
conflict between the two sultans. The Governor General promised to end the war
if the people would recognize Haron as their sultan. Hadji Butu, who had always
advocated peace, assured Governor General Bianco that he would use his
influence to work for the settlement of the conflict. He at once began to plead
with all the datus including Jamalul Kiram to recognize Sultan Haron.
In 1892, while Hadji Butu was at
Sandakan, Borneo settling some land questions with the British government,
Jamalul Kiram's mother secretly conferred with the Spanish Governor of Sulu and
told the officiai that if her son was reinstated by the Spaniards the people
would pay taxes to the government. The meeting was never known by the sultan.
Governor Arolas consulted Governor General Bianco about the deal and the
Governor General -- who was supportive of the plan demanded from Sultan Haron
taxes frorn his people. The sultan, however, refused to comply. He was then
forced to sign an agreement in which he gave up the sultanate and agreetl to
settle in Palawan.
Hadji Butu. recalled from Sandakan. was
informed of what had been going on. He tried to persuade Haron to make the
people pay taxes but it was too late as the sultan had already signed the paper
of banishment. Haron, also, reasoned out that it was against his conscience to
exact taxes from the people, and that he would rather go to Palawan.
Sultan Haron asked Hadji Butu to join him
in exile. Preparations for departure were made but before they could sail, an
order from Governor General Blanco requiring Hadji Butu to remain in Jolo was
received by the boat captain. Haron expressed great sorrow at seeing his friend
and counsellor left behind. After a few years, the exiled sultan died in
Jamalul Kiram was reinstated by the Spanish
government as sultan, and Hadji Butu was again made prime minister. In 1896
Hadji Butu accompanied the sultan to Mecca as the latter would not make the
pilgrimage to the sacred city without him.
In May, 1899, a year after the return of
the sultan's party to Jolo, the Americans occupied the town. The sultan was at
in Siasi, and Hadji Butu ably negotiated
and signed the Bates Treaty for Kiram, recognizing American sovereignty. He
then concentrated his efforts in pacifying his people, who were angry at their
having to serve a new government and to pay taxes. It was largely through his
efforts and influence that another bloody war was prevented.
After the Americans occupied Sulu, they
abolished slavery, which was then rampant in Sulu, and began to levy taxes upon
the people. Again, Hadji Butu did all he could to prevent or lessen bloodshed.
He saw the advantages of civil government and was glad for the change from
During the American regime, he was
successively given the following appointments; assistant to the governor of the
Moro Province on October 10, 1904; deputy district governor of Sulu on June 30.
1913 by General Pershing; assistant to the provincial governor of Sulu on
January ]. 1915 by Department Governor Carpenter; and lastly. Senator for the
12th District. representing Mindanao and Sulu on October 13, 1916 by Governor
He was blessed with four sons and eight
daughters. Among them was Hadji Gulamu Rasul (elected in 1935 as member of the National
Assembly of the Commonwealth of the Philippines).
On February 22, 1938, a year after his
appointment by President Quezon as member of the Board of National Language
representing Mindanao and Sulu Hadji Butu, aged 73 died of a kidney ailment at
his residence in Jolo.