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Tausug Resistance to American Occupation ( 1898 - 1913 )

by Madge Kho
July 22, 1878 Last treaty signed by the Sultan Jamlul Alam with Spain after another defeat by Spain in 1876. This treaty had the same translation flaws as the one entered into in 1851, where the Spanish version stated it had sovereignty over Sulu whereas the Tausug version had the description of the relationship as being a protectorate rather than a dependency and Sulu customs, laws, religion were not subject to Spanish jurisdiction.

The differences are material and would have repercussions in 1899 in the territories that Spain ceeded to the U.S. (Treaties and Other International Acts of USA, edited by Hunter Miller, Vol. 4, 1836-1846, p. 355; also History of Sulu by Najeeb Saleeby, pp.124-129 ) This treaty made Jolo a sort of protectorate of Spain (Muslim in the Philippines, Cesar Majul, p. 299) while retaining a great deal of autonomy. The Sultan didn't have much interest in Jolo at this point and relocated his seat to Maimbung.

Dec. 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris signed over Philippines to the U.S. for $20 million. Spain considered possibility of withholding Mindanao and Sulu from the treaty by arguing that it didn't have sovereignty over those territories. The Americans were also deciding whether to take only Luzon or the whole archipelago.
May 1, 1899 Spaniards departed Jolo and on same day Americans occupied Jolo.
August 20, 1899 Sultan Jamalul Kiram II hesitatingly signed treaty with Gen. J.C. Bates. (Bates Treaty or Senate Document No. 136, 56th Congress, lst Session, Serial 3851) (Bates Treaty text available at the site) Terms included:
  1. Mutual respect
  2. Americans not to interfere with religion, social and domestic customs or internal economic or political affairs of Moros unless requested to do so.
  3. Americans not to give or sell Sulu or any part of it to any other nations
  4. continuation of the money payments initiated by the Spaniards, a monthly allowance of $250.00.
  5. Abolition of slavery through purchase of their freedom
  6. Protection of Sulu from foreign interference
  7. Suppression of piracy, fly American flag and stop rifle purchases.

It was obvious that the U.S. signed this peace treaty as a way of stemming any resistance to its occupation in the South while it was suppressing the resistance in the north.

According to Sixto Orosa, the District Health Officer in Sulu during the American occupation "The people did not wish to come under American sovereignty; but Hadji Butu, 'recognizing the folly of armed resistance,' exerted all his influence to prevent another useless and bloody war." (The Sulu Archipelago and Its People, Sixto Orosa, p. 108-109)

November 7, 1900

The U.S. pays Spain another $100,000 to incorporate the islands stretching as far as Sibutu to Cagayan de Sulu. (U.S. Statues at Large, 56th congress, 1899-1901, Vo. 31, U.S. Gov't Printing Office, 1901)

The southernmost outlying islands of the Philippines--Turtle Island and Taganak were incorporated at a much later time period. They were part of the territories originally "ceded" (leased according to Tausug translations of the documents) by the Sultan Jamalul Alam to the North Borneo Company since 1763.

1901 Policy of Disarmanent implemented by Gen. Pershing met with resistance that culminated in the Battle of Bud Dajo on March 7, 1906
June 1, 1903

Moro Province, of which Sulu was a part of, was created under Gen. Leonard Wood, the first governor of that province.

Gov. Gen. Wood imposed a head tax of P2 for each person. This created resentment and dissatisfaction among the Tausugs which led to a series of Cotta (trench) wars against the Americans led by Panglima Hassan. (Orosa, p. 37)

March 2, 1904 The Bates Treaty was unilaterally abrogated by the U.S. Payments to the Sultan stopped. (Orosa, p. 37)
Nov. 12, 1904 U.S. Philippine Commission reissued annual payments to the Sultan of 6000 pesos and 1800 pesos to Hadji Butu and 900 pesos to each of his 6 advisers. Carpenter Agreement abolished slavery. Prior to its abolition, the Sultan owned 500 slaves (Orosa, p. 114).
March 7, 1906 900 Moros killed in Bud Dajo. (Mark Twain wrote about it in his autobiography, later reprinted in Jim Zwick's Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire, Anti-Imperialist Writings on the Philippine American War)
Jan-June 1913 Battle of Bud Bagsak. 5000 Tausugs fortified themselves in a cotta in Mt. Bagsak. 300 were killed, 100 rifles captured by the Americans when General Pershing attacked from June 11-June 16. (Orosa, p. 37)
August 13, 1913 People in Talipao municipality on island of Jolo refused to pay road tax. They fortified themselves in Mt. Talipao. On Oct. 22, 1913, engagement ensued and the Moros were defeated. (Orosa)
July 24, 1913 Dept of Mindanao and Sulu created. (Orosa)
September 1, 1913 Moro Province becomes history. (Orosa)
December 16, 1913 Officially ended military rule and civilian rule begins. Frank Carpenter, a civilian governor of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu and Guy N. Roher was the governor of Sulu.

Article by Madge Kho of Somerville, MA


  • The Sulu Archipelago and Its People. Sixto Orosa
  • Muslim in the Philippines. Cesar Majul
  • Treaties and Other International Acts of USA. Edited by Hunter Miller, Vol. 4, 1836-1846
  • History of Sulu. Najeeb Saleeby

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