of Jolo's most able sultans, Muhammad Alimuddin, (variously spelled Alimud Din,
Al Mudin, Alimuddin, Alim ud Din) is also commonly referred to as Don Fernando
de Alimuddin I inasmuch as he was a Catholic.
young Alimuddin was brought up in the school of his father and sent to Batavia
(now Djakarta) to complete his education. There he became proficient in Arabic
and Malayan and gained mastery of the Koran.
was such a wise and enlightened ruler that he was said to have attained among
his subjects "an authority almost supreme." To him also was accorded
the title of "Chief of Pandita" on account of his erudite and precise
explanations of the Koran.
One of the earliest events in the reign of
Alimuddin was his ratification of the Treaty of 1737. He was represented in
Manila by Datu Mohammad Ismael and Datu Ja'far, who both signed the document.
The treaty, drawn in January, 1737 by Governor-General Fernando Valdes y Tamon,
contained five articles: first, the preservation of permanent peace between the
two states; second, the provision for alliance and mutual aid against any
foreign foe; third, free trade between the two states; fourth, responsibility
of each state for all infractions of the peace; and fifth, provision for the
exchange of captives and return of all church images and ornaments.
I was a man of peace and a reformer, besides he kept his part of the treaty
faithfully and piracy was actually obliterated during the whole period he held
the reigns of government. He revised the Sulu code of laws and its system of
justice. He caused parts of the Koran and several texts on law and religion to
be translated into the local language. He strongly urged his people to observe
their religion faithfully. He wanted all panditas to learn Arabic and initiated
the drafting of an Arabic-Sulu vocabulary as a preliminary step into making
Arabic the official language of the state. He coined money, organized a small
army, and tried to establish a navy. His name is foremost in the memory of the
Sulus, partly because of his able administration and partly on account of the
fact that he was the ancestor of all the present principal datus of the Sulus.
July 12, 1744, King Philip V of Spain sent him a letter requesting permission
for the Jesuits missionaries to propagate Christianity in Sulu. When his
panditas learned that he had given his consent, they raised fierce opposition.
A party was formed under the leadership of Prince Bantilan. Alimuddin's brother,
for the purpose of, expelling the missionaries and deposing Alimuddin.
Hostilities increased and civil war became imminent.
an effort at assassination, Bantilan thrust a spear at Alimuddin and inflicted
a severe wound on his side or thigh. During the disturbances and the confusion
that followed, it became too dangerous for the missionaries to remain at Jolo.
Overpowered, disheartened, and grieved, Alimuddin left Jolo with his family and
numerous escorts and went to Zamboanga to seek the aid of Spain against
Bantilan who had taken over the government without opposition. Bantilan did not
send away the Jesuits but he gave them no opportunity to accomplish their
mission. As sultan, he took the name M'i'zzudin, Defender of the Faith.
landed in Cavite on 2 January 1749. In Manila, Governor Juan de Arechederra
gave him royal reception, one befitting a Prince of high rank. The Sultan was
publicly received in the Hall of the Audiencia. But instead of immediately
getting down to the main purpose of his visit, he told Arechederra - to that
man's great joy - that he wanted to be
instructed in the Christian faith preparatory to receiving baptism. The
governor-bishop refused to believe this, anxious though he was to see a
Christian on the throne of Jolo. He appointed a board of experts to examine
Alimuddin. After the examination, all but the two Jesuits on the board
recommended that he be baptized.
governor sent him to his own diocese and baptized him in Paniqui, then a part
of Pangasinan, on the 29th of April 1750. He was baptized Don Fernando de
Alimuddin I, and became the first Christian Sultan of Jolo. His son Israel and
his daughter Fatimah were likewise converted to Christianity and both were
given a Spanish education in Manila.
July, 1750, Governor Francisco de Obando, Aredhederra's successor, sent an
expedition to Jolo to restore Alimuddin to his sultanate. On May 19, 1751
Alimuddin and his retinue were sent on board the Spanish friagate San Fernando
and were conveyed by a squadron composed of seven vessels under the command of
Field Marshall Antonio Ramon de Abad. The San Fernando docked at Iloilo where
Alimuddin changed boats. Meeting with contrary winds the sultan's party was
carried off course to Dapitan. From there they set sail again for Zamboanga.
Before Alimuddin left Manila, he
addressed a letter to the Sultan of Mindanao, at the instance of the Spanish
Governor-General. The original was written by him in Sulu. A version in Spanish
was dictated to him and he signed both. These documents reached the governor of
Zamboanga, but he had the original in Sulu retranslated and found out that it
did not at all agree with the Spanish version. This letter was pronounced
a result, the year 1753 was said to have been the bloodiest in the history of
the Moro wars. Priests were slain, whole towns destroyed, and thousands of
captives carried into slavery. Alimuddin petitioned the governor to allow
Princess Fatimah to go to Jolo for the purpose of arranging a peace with Bantilan.
The princess succeeded and Bantilan agreed to stop his raids and return
Christian prisoners and church property. He declared his wish and true desire
for peace. He expressed deep regret for Alimuddin and for the hostility and
gave strong assurances regarding the reestablishment of peace with Spain. He
also gave assurances that the sultan was not a traitor at all but a man of good
intentions who was simply unable to carry out some of his plans and promises
because of the determined resistance of many of the principal datus. But
Alimuddin was not released.
1754, Pedro Manuel de Arandia succeded Obando as governor general. The new
governor treated Alimuddin with more kindness and consideration, gave him a
monthly pension and allowed his family and friends to return to Jolo.
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