Rajah Silonga



  One of the paramount rulers of the Mindanao was Silonga (also called Silongan, Sirongan or Sirungan), the rajah of Buayan. Available sources show that he was in the seat of power during the latter part of the 16th century and in 1638 he was mentioned as a petty-king.                                                                                                    

  Silonga traced his lineage to a pre-Islamic ancestor, Mamu, the first datu of Buayan. Mamu’s grandson by Budtul, Pulwa, married Putri Mamur, a daughter of Sarip Kabungsuwan (he introduced Islam in Mindanao). Thus, he became the Moslem datu of Buayan. Silonga was begotten from this marriage and declared his superiority by assuming the Hindu title rajah, becoming the first rajah of Buayan.                                          

  The powerful people of Buayan, at the time of the arrival of Kabungsuwan, controlled the upper Pulangi territory, exerting strong influence northwards to the watershed of the Cagayan River and eastwards as a far Mount Apo.                                          


The rule of this expanse must have been handed down to Silonga with his seat of government at Buayan near the present town of Dulawan in Cotabato.                               


During his reign, Silonga was the most powerful chief of the Pulangis and also the head of the Magindanao confederacy compsed of Buayan, Maguindanao and Tamontaka. The Spanish governor-general, Pedro Bravo de Acuna, perceiving Silonga’s leadership and superiority in the Magindanao world over the other chieftains, especially in military affairs, entered into a peace treaty with him. He was the first Magindanao ruler to deal with the Spaniards.                                                                                                    

  Silonga could muster a great fighting force. With Buisan, the admiral of the Magindanao fleet and a subordinate of Silonga for many years, he gathered “great fleets” of caracoas (rowing barges) and jungas, sometimes numbering over 100 and even 150 vessels and armed them with “several large guns, many culverins, a large number of arquebuses and muskets and many other arms; and manning them so heavily, that they could land six to eight thousand soldiers”.                                                                            

  In 1956, a large force under the command of Captain Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroas was sent, under contract, to colonize Magindanao. It was the first serious effort of the Spaniards to conquer it. At Buayan, he was struck fatally on the head with a campilan by a brother of Silonga named Ubal.                                                       


When the Spaniards succeeded in establishing a fort in Tampakan between the Magindanao and Buayan settlements, Silonga and other Buayans sent a chieftain to Ternate for help to dislodge the Spaniards. In spite of Buayan-Ternate alliance, the Spaniards gained victory, but problems of logistic forced them to withdraw to La Caldera at the southern tip of the Zamboanga peninsula.                                                             

  In 1599, two years after the withdrawal of the Spanish contingent from La Caldera, Silonga and Sali, the “pilots of the Mindanao River”, with 50 vessels and 3,000 warriors attacked the coastal towns of Panay, Negros and Cebu carrying back with them about 800 Visayan captives. This attack started the period of Moslem raids on the Visayas which was interpreted as the Moslem offensive against the Spanish presence in the Philippines. In 1602, Silonga and Rajah Muda raided Calamianes and gathered about 700 captives.                          


The next year, Magindanao prince Buisan attacked Leyte and captured the Jesuit Melchor Hurtado. This priest was brought to Silonga in his Buayan court where at that time were gathered the datus of the Pulangi, the ambassadors from the Sultan of Brunei and the young heir of the Rajah of Sulu. Silonga retained Hurtado for a year in Buayan and treated him with utmost cordiality. He provided him and the other Spanish captives their own separate lodging and slaves for their service. He sent them food from his own table, but since he ate no pork and drank no wine, according to Moslem custom, he arranged that they should be provided with these things.                                               


Silonga, who was steeped in Islamic law and was curious about Christianity, often sent for the Jesuit for discussions about religious matters. Although some Visayan Christians had become Moslem in his territory, he did not force them to do so. Before Hurtado’s release in 1604, Silonga presented him with a complete new suit of clothes.                  


Silonga’s toleration of the Christian religion and regard for its priests was also attested to by Fr. Pedro Chirino, who narrated the following episode:                              


The Spaniards had their camps and garrisons along the Mindanao River, and several ships in it. When it chanced that a friendly chief was to be married to the daughter or sister of another chief farther upstream, in token of our friendship the General of this field did the groom the honor of offering two galliots to bring his bride to him. Silonga was then along route, and learning that our vessels had sailed by. When they were returning though he was then at war, did nothing to molest the passage back wth bride. Instead he came ut unarmed to the river-bank, in full attire and with measured step and a fan in his hand, and watched the galliots and their men with great deliberation and dignity. Upon recognizing him, our soldiers driven by youthful bravado and hatred for their enemy set their fuses and fired a few arquebuses at him, whose bullets (aimed at his feet for chivalry’s sake) fell nearly but did not him, but he stood there motionless throughout, as if he regarded what was happening as a mere joke.                                    


On September 8, 1605, Silonga signed a peace treaty in Buayan with the Jesuit Hurtado, who was once a captive and now the envoy of Governor Acuna. The Spanish government promised to recognize and support Silonga as paramount lord of Magindanao. In return, he was to swear allegiance to the King of Spain, not to make war except in self defense against any other faction in the Pulangi, to stop all raids in Spanish territory, to return all Christian captives and plundered church property, to give armed assistance to Spain upon request and not o aid Spain’s enemies. Regarding religion, Silonga agreed that he would not be compelled to abandon Islam but would allow any Moslem to embrace Christianity I his own free will.                                                              


This treaty was an effective ploy advanced by the Spaniards in order to prevent the Moslems from helping the people of Ternate during the Spanish conquest of the Moluccas. The negotiations for the agreement even started with the Spaniards bribing the Magindanao princes with several bolts of taffeta cloth for Silonga and other goods. Nonetheless, the Silonga-Hurtado treaty was never ratified by Spain with the death of Govenor Acuna                                                                                                 

  On July 22, 1606, when the Moslems learned of the capture of Ternate by a Spanish fleet, the chiefs of the Pulangi- Silonga, Rajah Muda and Buisan- sent a letter to the Spanish governor in Manila asking for forgiveness for their previous alliance with Ternate. At the same time, they offered their subjection to Spain.


A complete change of heart, however, occurred two years after Silonga went to Ternate and organized an offensive alliance composed of Magindanao, Sulu and Ternate against th0e Spaniards. It was a wise move indeed, because some Spaniards had planned to assassinate Silonga together with Buisan and Raja Muda.


In 1609, these three Pulangi rulers again tried to invade the Visayas with a force of 2,000 men. When they were trapped, however, inside the Pangil Bay by Spaniards, they sued for peace terms. This agreement brought to the Visayas undisturbed peace for three years.


By 1634, the Magindanao confederacy headed by Silonga disappeared. An account in 1638 says that Buisan had come to rule all the coast, while Silonga was pretty –king (reyezuelo) of the river valley region.


Rajah Silonga had eight children, Datu Maputi, Tambingag, Tangkwag, and the daughters Kdaw, Banitik, Malilimbun, Duni and Libu.