The land of the Maguindanaos, or 'people of the flood plains', lies in a fertile valley of the longest river in Mindanao, the Pulangi or the Rio Grande de Mindanao. The province of Lanao del Sur bounds the province to the northwest, Cotabato lies to the northeast and Sultan Kudarat to the south. The coast is regular with a few good anchorages like Polloc Harbor and Linao Bay. The land is generally flat and low, with marshes in the vicinity of Libungan. Mountains rise to the southwest. Maguindanao receives little precipitation through out the year, but the rains that do fall swell the tributaries and flood the plains.



Muslim traders from the nearby Malay states traded with the Maguindanaos and influenced the culture of the region. It is believed that Islam first came to the region in 1460, with the arrival of Sharif Awliya, who married a Maguindanao. The introduction of Islam and its institutions has been credited to Sharif Mohammed Kabungsuwan, a Johore Muslim who established the Sultanate of Maguindanao sometime in 1515. Over the years, several sultanates were established to rule over the region, the most significant of which are the sultanates of Cotabato, Buayan, and Kabuntalan.

The Spaniards tried to conquer Maguindanao as early as 1596 but were thwarted by the stiff resistance of the Maguindanaos. From 1600-1650, the Sultan of Maguindanao, Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat expanded the realm subject to the Maguindanao Sultanate and at its height of power, it held sway over the regions from the Gulf of Davao all the way to Dapitan. Upon his death, however, the sultanate was fragmented into several rival sultanates and towards the middle of the 19th Century, Maguindanao power had waned considerably.

In 1851, Spanish forces attacked and seized Polloc. A naval base was established in the town and in 1854, a separate politico-military district was created. In 1861, following more expeditions by the Spaniards, the Sultan of Maguindanao recognized Spanish sovereignty. Resistance continued in the upper Pulangi directed by Datu Ugto but superior Spanish arms allowed the Spaniards to remain in Maguindanao until 1899. In that year, following the evacuation of Spanish forces from the region, Upper Pulangi datus attacked and occupied Cotabato until the Americans arrived.

The district of Cotabato was created in 1860 following the reorganization of Spanish government in Mindanao. In 1903, following the establishment of the Moro Province, Cotabato became one of its districts. Maguindanao continued to be a part of the province of Cotabato until November 1973 when the province was divided into the three provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 341.

Maguindanao was the scene of clashes between government forces and Bangsa Moro secessionists during the height of the armed struggle to create a Moro homeland forcing thousands to seek refuge in more secure settlements. Maguindanao remains a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In 1979, the province became part of an autonomous regional government for Central Mindanao. Ten years later, the people of Maguindanao voted to be included in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.


People, Culture and the Arts

The Maguindanaos are called the ‘people of the flood plain’ because they inhabit the low plains and marshes of the Pulangi River. The Maguindanao language is closely related to Iranun and Maranao and they share a common religion with these groups in their practice of Islam. The Maguindanaos form a majority of the people in the province. The Cebuanos, Tirurays and Manobos comprise smaller communities within Maguindanao.

Traditionally, the Maguindanaos are rice farmers who live in the valley. Those near the coasts have become fishermen and traders. They also produce fine handicrafts such as brassware, hand-woven malongs, mats and baskets.

The Maguindanaos have a rich tradition of music and dance. Their principal instrument is the kulintang, an ensemble of eight, nine or eleven gongs of graduating sizes suspended horizontally on a frame. Melodious sounds are produced by the gongs tuned differently from each other but all weaving in and out of a pentatonic scale. The kulintang is usually suspended by three other gongs: the balmdir for a metallic sound, the agong for short cut off sounds, and the gandingan for long low sounds. The ensemble is completed by a vertical drum called abakan, which has an animal skin top. The kulintang is almost always played by women. The people also have a "ring flute" or suiling, a wind instrument.

The Tirurays are basically of Malay origin whose culture is distinguished by communal households, polygamy, and an effective moral-legal system. They live in rectangular houses built on posts above the ground, and still practice slash and burn farming, hunting, and gathering as means of livelihood. The Tirurays are unique in their arts and crafts. Their basketry is among the most intricately woven in the country, often lavishly covered with characteristic design motifs. Their horse-hair ornaments: earrings, pendants, neck pieces, etc., are very representative of the material culture.

The richness and variety of the people's culture are reflected in the various festivals that are celebrated in Cotabato City. Every December 19, Maguindanao celebrates the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival. It is a colorful commemoration of Shariff Kabunsuan's arrival in the Rio Grande de Mindanao more than 500 years ago to introduce Islam. This festival is highlighted by a fluvial parade along the river followed by the re-enactment of his arrival. The Christian community of Cotabato City also celebrates one of their chief feasts in December. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception draws pilgrims and devotees to honor the patroness of the city.


Trade and Investments

Maguindanao is one of the provinces carved out of old Cotabato. Located at the northwestern side of the old Cotabato province, Maguindanao has a land area 5,066 square kilometers of generally flat terrain and scattered hills with fertile valleys and isolated mountain ranges. The local climate experiences an even distribution of rainfall throughout the year and a hot season falling on the months of March to June. The province has 18 municipalities, a component city and a population of 661,180. The labor force stands at 273,000. Maguindanao is predominantly an agricultural economy that produces palay, corn, coconuts, bananas and cassava. Areas suited for inland fishing are also present in the province.

Maguindanao is accessible by plane through the Awang airport in Datu Odin, Sinsuat municipality. An international port located at Polloc, Parang and a sub-port located across the Polloc port, also makes access by sea possible. The province has a total road network of 1,943 kilometers long that links Maguindanao to its neighboring provinces of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, and Cotabato. Of the 18 municipalities, 15 are supplied with electricity by a local electric cooperative. The local water facilities servicing the province include three pumping stations, and deep and shallow wells. The province has 13 communication stations and 26 post offices. The province of Maguindanao is the site of the Regional Industrial Center for the ARMM and is strategically located at the center of two growth areas in Mindanao, the Cagayan Iligan Industrial Corridor and the South Cotabato-Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat- General Santos City Project.

The business opportunities in Maguindanao are enhanced by the rich agricultural lands, the strategic location of the province and the plans of the local government unit to industrialize its agricultural based economy. The present set of investment options include yellow corn production for industrial use, development of inland fishing, processing of agricultural products into industrial raw materials like feeds, and consumer products like snack foods.







Shariff Aguak


Datu Andal Ampatuan

Income/Financial Resources (1999)

P488.3 M

Income classification (1996)


Expenditure (1998)

P96.3 M

Population (2000 projection)


Voting population


Labor Force (1998)


Land area

6,880 sq. kms.

Major Dialects/ Languages

Maguindanao, Iranun, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Filipino

No. of Barangays




Municipalities/ Towns

(20) Ampatuan, Barira, Buldon, Buluan, Datu Piang, Datu Paglas, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, SHARIFF AGUAK (Maganoy), Matamog, Pagalungan, Parang, South Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Sa Barongis, Talayan, Upi, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Mamasapano, Talitay

Infrastructure Facilities

Paved road network; 85 irrigation system; power plant serving 16 out of 18 municipalities; 1 trunkline airport; established telephone systems throughout the province; 20 postal stations; water treatment plant, deep and artesian well

Major Products

Agricultural (corn, rice, bananam mango, lanzones, durian, coffee, cacao, cotton, rubber); industrial (plywood, veneer, cooking oil, coco coir, textile

Major Industries

Food processing, rubber plant, wood based industries

Natural Resources

Vast (Liguasan) marshlands, agricultural lands, timber, fishing grounds, copper, gold, silver, nickel, iron, lead, zinc, clay, limestone

Indigenous People

Maguidanao, Iranun, Tiruray, Manobo


Development Initiative Highlights:

  • To improve the agricultural production of the province
  • To develop infrastructure facilities such as power, communications and irrigation network
  • To accentuate its people development program