HADJI BUTU ABDUL BAGUI                   

(1865-1938)

 

 

          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 followers.

 

          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 Talipao.

 

          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 Palawan.

 

          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 the time

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 military rule.

 

          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 General Harrison.

 

          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.

 

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