The Second Front
Moro Resistance Wars 
(July 2, 1902 -March 15, 1915)
Continuing Moro Resistance
(March 22, 1915 -January 14, 1936)

The term "Moro", imported by the Spanish from North Africa, blurred the distinctions between about ten different ethnic groups that shared little more than the Islamic faith and a dislike of Christians and Tagalogs.

The Moros had always rejected Aguinaldo's claim to sovereignty over their islands, and when insurrectos from Luzon began to recruit successfully among Christian minorities on these islands, Moslem leaders struck up an alliance of convenience with the Americans.  In return for nominal rule, the U.S. agreed to continue the Spanish system of governance over their islands, including payoffs to sultans and lesser rulers, and assured the Moros that outside rule would be minimal and in no way interfere with their customs.

Actually, the Americans had little choice in the matter as there were too few soldiers to occupy these islands. Hence, only token garrisons under the command of Colonel Sweet were maintained on Jolo and Mindanao.

      • Stuart C. Miller, Benevolent Assimilation: The Philippine 
      Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903, p. 197

Taking advantage of the Moro dislike of Christians and Tagalogs, and worried of its own insufficient number of troops to occupy the islands, the United States convinced the Sultan of Jolo to sign the Bates-Sultan Treaty on August 20, 1899. Although the purpose of the Bates Treaty was for mutual protection between the two countries, the signing of the treaty at the very height of the Independence War in effect divided the country in two fronts --the "Christian front" (Independence War) and the "Moslem front" (Moro Resistance Wars).

Whatever was the real motive and purpose of the Bates-Sultan Treaty, other than what appeared as provisions of the treaty itself, may perhaps never be known except that the treaty was a clear tool of "divide and conquer" strategy of the United States. This assertion is clearly evidenced by the  following:

President Theodore Roosevelt's proclamation ending the Philippine "Insurrection" on July 4, 1902 , in its preamble states:

"Whereas, the insurrection against the authority and sovereignty of the United States is now at an end, and peace has been established in all parts of the archipelago except in the country inhabited by the Moro tribes, to which this proclamation does not apply;"

The account John Foreman, a British historian who lived in Manila for many years and author of the book The Philippine Islands, when he wrote: 

 ". . .in the Report of the Secretary of War for 1902, p. 19, there is a paragraph beginning thus: 

"Now that the insurrection has been disposed of we shall be able to turn our attention, not to the slave trade, but to the already existing slavery among the Moros." 

Based on the above facts, there can be no doubt that the purpose of the Bates-Sultan Treaty was to simply to neutralize the Moslem Filipinos while the Americans were fighting the Christian independence war thereby avoiding themselves the burden of having to fight two war fronts at the same time.

      • P.A.W.C.I.

War Legends of the Morolands
The "Last Sultan"

The Sultan of Sulu, was in royal person, His Highness Padukka Mahasari Manulana Hadji Mohammed Jamalul Kiram II, the heir of a dynasty that dates back to Mohammed with a genealogy of five centuries. During the Aguinaldo's Independence War he signed the Bates-Sultan Treaty of 1899 establishing a mutual alliance of convenience between the the Sultanate and the U.S. which was unilaterally abrogated by the U.S. in 1904.  After the Moro wars, he was forced to sign the Carpenter-Sultan Agreement renouncing  his "pretentions of sovereignty" over the Sulu archipelago and reduced his "Government of the Sultan" status to a mere religious symbol.  His living was mainly supported by contributions from his subjects and the lease rental from the British North Borneo (Sabah) and his domestic life was shared by many wives but was saddened because they presented him with no heir when he died in 1936.  At one time he visited the United States and had a good time on New York's Broadway.  He even offered to marry Alice Roosevelt Longworth.  This rare photo of the Sultan  was taken in 1910.

Evidence of the Power of the Sultan

Facsimile of the Grant Deed of 1878 leasing the Sultan of Sulu's lands in Sabah (North Borneo) to Hong Kong-based traders Gustavaus Baron de Overveck (Swiss) and Alfred Dent (British). 

The Moro "Pacifier"

As a young captain of the U.S. Army, John J. "Black Jack" Pershing served in Mindanao from 1899 to 1903. He distinguished himself by conducting a Lanao expedition in 1902 by inflicting a crushing defeat to the Marawi Moros. For his bravery he was promoted as Brigadier General bypassing many senior officials. He served as Governor of the Moro Province from 1909 to 1913 during which the .45 Colt pistol gained fame among the U.S. soldiers as an effective weapons against juramentado [fanatical Moslems] Moros.

His "Pershing approach" in handling many Moro problems won him admiration by the Moros for which he was quoted to say:

"As far as is consistent with advancement, a government by a Sultan, or a Datu, as the case maybe, should be disturbed as little as possible; that is, the people should be managed through the Datus themselves."

Upon his return to the U.S., he led a punitive expedition to Mexico in 1915 to capture Pancho Villa which turned out to be a futile manhunt for the illusive enemy. In 1917 he was appointed to command the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.

["Click" to link to Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing.]

The "Administrator"

General Leonard Wood was a medical graduate when he joined the U.S. Army, distinguishing himself during the Indian Wars particularly in the manhunt and capture of Apache chief Geronimo.  As a young colonel of the U.S. Army, Wood at the instance of his friend Theodore Roosevelt, who was then the Navy Undersecretary organized and trained the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry known as the "Rough Riders" in the Cuban Campaign during the Spanish-American War. He became the governor-general of Cuba in 1899 before he assumed various commands in the Philippines, notably as a Military-Governor of Moro Province during the 1903-1905 period, during which he recommended to the U.S. President the unilateral abrogation of the Bates-Sultan Treaty for the main reason that the treaty was a hindrance to effective colonial administration of Sulu. His final career ended as a governor general of the Philippines during the 1921-1927 period until his death in 1927.

Distribution Map of Moro Ethnic Groups
The numbers shown in shaded area of the map indicates the distribution of two major ethnic groups in Mindanao: the Non-Christian Filipinos and the Muslim Filipinos. "Click" map to view larger image.

Muslim Ethnic Group:

A) Maranao in the Lanao Province 
B) Maguindanao in the Cotabato Province 
C) Sangil in the Sarangani Island
D) Yakans  in Basilan Island
E) Tausugs in Jolo and Sulu Province 
F) Samals  in Sibutu and Tawi Tawi Islands 
G) Badjaos are scattered all throughout the Sulu archipelago. They are considered the modern-day sea gypsies, migrating themselves to many islands of the Visayas.

Not shown in the map:

H) Jama Mapuns in Cagayan de Sulu Island
I) Malebugnon (Molbog)in Balabac Island (South of Palawan)

Other Groups: [Researched by PACI]

J) Iranun
K) Kalagan
L) Kalibogan
M) Palawanon

[ Source:  Aijaz Ahmad, 400 Year War --Moro Struggle in the Philippines, Southeast Asia Chronicle, Issue No. 82.]

Moro Resistance Then and Now
Sulu natives in the early 1900s selling fruits in the Jolo marketplace. Popular bladed weapons of the Moros to compliment their spears.  At right is the ceremonial sword kris. Not shown in the photo is the kampilan. 
Photo of Moro warriors armed with knives and spears during the Moro Resistance Wars in the early 1900s. Their resistance to Christian domination is anchored on their ancient hatred against the Spaniards who tried to subjugate them with the aid of Filipino Christian allies-mercenaries.


 Articles and Publications Related to Moro Resistance
Text of the Bates-Sultan Treaty
Treaties Between the Philippines and the U.S.
100 Years of Moro Resistance: Chronology of Historical Events  by Madge Kho
Presidential Proclamation of aTreaty to Purchase Additional 
Former Spanish Territory in the Philippines, March 23, 1901
Sultan's Letter to Governor-General Luke E. Wright, April, 1904
Carpenter-Sultan Memorandum Agreement, March 22, 1915
The Philippines: Muslims Fight for an Independent State by Lela Noble
Links to related articles:
PAWCI's works in progress
  • Analysis of the Bates-Sultan of Jolo Treaty 


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Philippine-American War Centennial Initiative (P.A.W.C.I..)