Jamamapun | Jama Mapun | Forgiving People

First, the word "Jama" is an Arabic language ( الجماعة / Jama'a ) which means community / people that was being borrowed from the Arab trader-missionaries an Islamic scholar who came from the south to introduce Islam. Second, the word "Mapun" is a Malay term from root word "maaf" meaning forgive. Thus, Jama Mapun or Jamamapun can be named as the Forgiving People?

Mapun occupies the island of Cagayan de Sulu in southwestern Philippines. They call their island as Tanah (land) Mapun and their language, Pullum Mapun. The Jama Mapun are closely related to the Bangingih, Sinama, Bajau and the Samal, and they are often referred as to the Sama of Cagayan by the Tausug of Sulu or as the Bajau/Badjao or Orang Cagayan by the coastal Muslim of Borneo (Casino 1976:8). Related to the Samal are the Yakan, the Badjao, and the Jema Mapun. The Jama Mapun can also be found in the islands of Bugsuk, and the small island in between. Cagayan de Sulu municipality today consists of a main island and eight islets-Kinapusan, Pambelikan, Bisu Bintut, Bohan, Manda, Bulisuan, Muligi, and Mambahenan. In 1970, the Jama Mapun were estimated to be around 25000 (Casino 1976:12)

Some fatures of the main island of Cagayan de Sulu which stand out are the two freshwater lakes—Ernestine and Singuwag—and a crater bay—Jurata Bay—which lie at the southern end of the Banga range. The two lakes are found to be 10 m above sea level. Near the center of the island lies the hill Tabuli’an which is 300 m above sea level.


History and legends suggest that Cagayan de Sulu was visited by Arab trader-missionaries as early as the 13th century. The Jama Mapun considered he Arabs as belonging to a higher culture, and hence, conversion to Islam was equated to cultural advancement (Casino 1976:117). From the 15th century onwards, the principal Muslim groups were regrouped into larger collections. The Maguindanao, Maranao and Sanngil were oriented towards the Maguindanao sultanate, while the Tausug, Samal, Badjao, Yakan, Molbog, Palawon, and the Jama Mapun were more oriented to the Sulu sultanate. This geopolitical setup helped shape the economic and political instiutions of the Jama Mapun. For instance the Sulu sultanate can be said to have consisted of three concentric circles each representing a political category. The innermost circle belonged to theTausug frm which the nobility came. The middle circle belonged to the Tausug from which the nobility came. The middle circle was dominated by the Samal speakers, and the outer circle by the non-Muslim traditionalist who were regarded as uncivilizied slaves. The Jama Mapun, being a Samal people, belonged to the second circle. Although not part of the nobility, the Jama Mapun developed their own version of the local gentry or “notables” who had atteined prestige through wealth or sociopolitical position (Casino 1976:11, 27-28).

With political and economic ties more oriented towards the Sulu sultanate, the history of the Jama Mapun during the Spanish era can be told in terms of the hostility between the Spanish colonial government and the Sulu sultanate. The Sulu sultanate. The Sulu sultanate escaped colonial dominance at the onset of Spanish rule, for total conquest was not a goal of early colonial policies. In the mid-19th century, the colonial government south to conquer the Muslim sultanates, especialy that of Sulu. By then the british and the Dutch were extending their influence over the Southeast Asian world, and the Spaniards felt they had to secure their rapidly deteriorating empire. Spanish authorities explained their new policy as a reaction to the piratical activities of the Samal group. Thus, the Spaniards launched their campaign of 1851 to devastate the Samal settlement of Tungkil as well as to punish the Sulu sultanate. The campaign ended in 1876 when the Spaniards launched an offensive against the Sulu sultanate to finally settle the issue of Spanish sovereignty over Sulu. In 1878 the beleaguered sultan, Jama ul-Azam, entered into a peace treaty with the Spaniards. The treaty made Sulu a protectorate of Spain, but guaranteed the sultanate autonomy over internal matters and commercial activities (Majul 1973:283-299).

When the Americans came, they intruded to the core of the Jama Mapun political system. Guns were confiscated and slavery, the source of Jama Mapun power and prestige, was abolished. Villages and districts were reduced to the status of barrios; headmen and chiefs became mere barrio captains.


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