Monday, November 18, 2013

Mindanao: Land of Promise


Basic Data: (, 2013)
                Location: Southeast Asia, Philippine Archipelago
                Total Area: 97,530 km² (37,657 sq.mi)
                Highest Point: Mt. Apo (2,954 m)
                Largest City: Davao City
                Population: 25,275,527 (as of 2010)
                Density: 221.3/
-          Home of the Tri-People: 13 Islamized groups (Moro), 18 IPs (Lumad) and at least 9 ethnic groups from Luzon and Visayas (migrants)
-          The Philippine economy depends on Mindanao for:
o   25% rice, 67% cattle and tuna, more than 50% corn, fish and chicken, 100% pineapple, rubber and banana exports, 90% plywood and lumber
o   63% nickel reserves, 48.5% gold reserves, 38.5% forest, 38% farmlands
-          Yet, of the 20 poorest provinces in the Philippines 13 are in Mindanao including all ARMM provinces
-          Named after the Maguindanaons meaning “Land of Many Lakes”

-          Surrounded by seas: Sulu Sea to the west, Philippine Sea in the east and Celebes Sea to the south
-          High, rugged, faulted mountains; almost isolated volcanic peaks; high rolling plateaus and broad, level, swampy plains are found 
-          The island group of Mindanao encompasses Mindanao island itself, plus the Sulu Archipelago to the southwest.

Political Divisions

The island group of Mindanao is an arbitrary grouping of islands in the southern Philippine which encompasses six administrative regions. These regions are further subdivided into 26 provinces, of which only four are not on Mindanao island itself. The island group includes the Sulu archipelago to the southwest, which consists of the major islands of Basilan, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi, plus outlying islands in other areas such as Camiguin, Dinagat, Siargao, Samal and the Sarangani Islands.

The six regions are listed below and each is individually discusses in the succeeding paragraphs (as of 2004). Each province headed by a Governor. A governor is elected by popular vote and can serve a maximum of three terms consisting of three years each. As for representation in the Philippine, Mindanao os represented by 46 Congressmen elected the same manner as the governors.

a.       Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX)
b.       Northern Mindanao (Region X)
c.       Davao Region (Region XII)
d.       SOCCSKSARGEN (Region XI)
e.       CARAGA (Region XIII)
f.         Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

Zamboanga Peninsula  (Malay word “jambangan” meaning a pot or place of flowers) Peninsula is formerly Western Mindanao, is located in the land form of the same name. It consists of the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and two cities ---Zamboanga City and Isabela City ---which are independent of any provinces. Isabela City (“Devoted to God”) is the only territory not on Mindanao island itself and is located on Basilan. The region's new administrative capital is Pagadian City and the whole region used to be a single province named Zamboanga (Ciudad Latina de Asia or Asia’s Latin City).

Northern Mindanao consist of the provinces of Bukidnon (“Food Basket of Mindanao”), Camiguin, Lanao del Norte with Iligan City (“City of Majestic Waterfalls”), Misamis Occidental (Subanen word “Kuyamis” meaning sweet coconut), Misamis Oriental, plus Cagayan de Oro City. The province of Camiguin is also an island just of the northern coast. The administrative center and the capital of region is Cagayan de Oro City (City of Golden Friendship, City of the River of Gold).

Davao Region, formerly Southern Mindanao, is located in the southeastern portion of Mindanao. The region is divided into the provinces of Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte (Banana Capital of the Philippines), Davao del Sur and Compostela Valley: plus Davao City. The Region encloses the Davao Gulf to the south and includes the island of Samal in the gulf, and the Sarangani Islands further to the south. Davao City is the region's administrative center.

SOCCSKSARGEN, formerly Central Mindanao, is located in the south central portion of the island. It consists of the provinces of Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato (which was used to be part of Region XI), and Sultan Kudarat, plus Cotabato City. The names of the provinces together with General Santos City spell the name of the region which is an acronym. Cotabato City (Maguindanaon term “kuta wato” meaning stone fort), geographically located in, but not part of Maguindanao province, is the region's former administrative center. Koronadal City, in South Cotabato, is the new administrative center of the newly formed region.

CARAGA is located in the northwestern part of Mindanao. Its provinces are Agusan (“agasan” meaning “where the water flows”) del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte (Gateway of Mindanao) and Surigao del Sur. The administrative center is Butuan City in Agusan del Norte. The region also covers the outlying islands of Surigao del Norte such as Dinagat Island, Siargao Island and Bucas Grande Island.

The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is a special region which covers the territories predominantly populated by Muslims. ARMM has its own government unlike almost all other regions in the country. It consists of almost the whole of the Sulu Archipelago (Isabela City of Basilan is part of the Zamboaga Peninsula region) and two provinces in the mainland. The provinces located in the Sulu Archipelago are Basilan (Treasure Islands of the Southern Seas), Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Basilan and Tawi-Tawi (Malay word “jauh” meaning far) are themselves the main island of their respective provinces, while the main island of Sulu is Jolo Island. The mainland provinces are Lanao (Maranao word “ranao” meaning lake) del Sur and Maguindanao. Cotabato City, which isn’t part of the ARMM, is the region's administrative center.

A Brief Historical Geology (Burton)

Mindanao has undergone several geological era (Mesozoic and Cenozoic), period (Cretaceous) and Epoch (Pliocene and Miocene), as follows:

1.       Cretaceous Period (Mesozoic Era): 135 million years ago, the Philippines was part of the Asian continent as indicated by the presence of some land mass including the peneplains of Mindanao. However, at the end of the period and towards the middle Tertiary Period (around the Miocene epoch) a rift separated the Philippines from Formosa or Taiwan.
2.       Miocene-Pliocene Epoch (Tertiary Period, Cenozoic Era): between the Miocene (16 million years ago) and Pliocene epoch (11 million years ago) of the Cenozoic Era, many geological events took place within the region. There was an intense volcanism that resulted in more building and pushing up of new lands. Many geologists believed that these events led to the birth of Mindanao wherein the plain was uplifted as much as 50 to 500 meters.
3.       Pleistocene Period: towards the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene or Ice/Glacial Age, around 2 million years ago, Mindanao may have been five distinct islands: the Zamboanga Peninsula, the long narrow island east of Agusan Valley, the land south of the Cotabato river, the land near Lake Lanao, and the land between Bukidnon and Agusan Valley. These islands were brought together and became Mindano during the late post-Pleistocene uplift. Moreover, the ocean level was very low which exposed continental shelves and low islands around Southeast Asian region; thus land bridges were formed. There were two distinct land connections: the Palawan-Borneo land bridge and Sulu-Mindanao-Borneo linkage. These land connections permitted certain fauna such as stegodon and elephas and some flora to migrate from the Asian mainland down to Java, Celebes thence to Mindanao and perhaps northward.
Around 10,000 years ago, world climactic condition changes which led to the melting of the ice sheets up in the northern hemisphere. This resulted in the rising of the ocean level up to around 300 meters or more inundating and submerging low islands and continental shelves as well as coastlines. Thus, the once linked land bridges were disconnected, so Mindanao, Borneo and Sulu archipelago became distinct and separate islands until the last phase of the Pleistocene.


Burton, L. (n.d.). Gimba Vol. II No. 2. (2013, November). Mindanao.

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