Revival of the Office of North Borneo Affairs

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History – Part 1




H.E. Tuan Wakil Kesultanan Reverend Father Deacon
Hadzi Nenad M. Jovanović GCPS
Royal House of Sulu Representative to Republic of Serbia

Published by Author


Sultanate of Sulu – Notes from the past and present times

Aleksandar Bačko

Reverend Father Deacon Nenad Miodragov Jovanovic

Author of the cover
Katarina Bačko

Published by Author

All rights reserved by
HM Sultan Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram
and Author

ISBN 978-86-912425-5-8

Dedicated to

His Majesty, Ampun Sultan Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, 35th Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Head of the Royal House of, The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, Grand Sayyid and Hereditary Sovereign of The Royal and Hashemite, Order of the Pearl etc. etc.


The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo was through most of its history located at the island of Jolo, at the part of
Borneo, and numerous other islands, representing the southernmost part of the Philippine Islands and the northernmost part of the Borneo.

It has remarkable history. The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo is founded in 15th century and remained independent state until 20th century. All of this time, it was ruled by members of one dynasty, which became known by name Kiram.

Current head of The Royal House of The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo is His Majesty Sultan Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, 35th Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Grand Sayyid (Grand Master) and Hereditary Sovereign of The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl.


His Majesty Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, 35th Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo was born on 28 August 1966 in Jolo, Sulu. His Majesty is the oldest son of late Sultan Moh. Mahakuttah A. Kiram of Sulu (reigned 1974–1986) and his first wife Dayang Dayang Farida Tan-Kiram.

Ancestors of His Majesty Ampun Sultan Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram of Sulu and North Borneo, by straight male line, are following:

  • Sultan Moh. Mahakuttah Kiram (father of His Majesty)
  • Sultan Moh. Esmail E. Kiram (grandfather of His Majesty)
  • Sultan Mawallil Wasit Kiram
  • Sultan Jamalul A’Lam
  • Sultan Moh. Polalun Kiram
  • Sultan Jamalul Kiram I
  • Sultan Alimud Din II
  • Sultan Sharapud Din
  • Sultan Alimud Din I.

As a child on 24 May 1974, His Majesty Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram was crowned as Raja Muda (Crown Prince, heir to the Throne) of the Sultanate of Sulu. It was on the same day, when His Majesty’s father was crowned as the Sultan of Sulu. This acts were supported by H.E. Ferdinand Marcos, President of Republic of Philippines. In official Memo Order 427 issued at that time, it was stated, that “The Government has always recognised the Sultanate of Sulu as the legitimate claimant to the historical territories of the Republic of Philippines”. In that way, Sultan Moh. Mahakuttah A. Kiram and (then) Crown Prince Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram became last bearers of these functions, officially recognized by the Government of the Republic of Philippines.

After passing away of late Sultan Moh. Mahakuttah A. Kiram of Sulu and Nort Borneo, His Majesty Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram became Head of The Royal House of Sulu and North Borneo (Kiram Dynasty), on 16 February 1986

His Majesty Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram studied at Universidad de Zamboanga (Zamboanga City, Philippines), becoming Bachelor of Arts. His Majesty continued higher studies in Lahore (Pakistan), during 1995 and 1996.

In 2011, His Majesty used sovereign rights of legal “fons honorum” (fount of honour), by founding The Royal and Hashemite Order of the Pearl of Sulu, and becoming Grand Sayyid (Grand Master) of this distinguished Order.

His Majesty Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram was crowned as 35th legitimate Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, on 16 September 2012. Coronation process took place in Mainbung (Sulu), in presence of dignitaries of Sultanate, foreign guests, as well as large number of people of Sulu.

In marriage with Her Majesty Ampun Babai Mellany S. Kiram, His Majesty Ampun Sultan Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram has seven children: HRH Raja Muda (Crown Prince) Moh. Ehsan S. Kiram, HRH Datu Nizamuddin S. Kiram, HRH Dayang-Dayang Rahela S. Kiram, HRH Datu Jihad S. Kiram, HRH Datu Mujahid S. Kiram, HRH Dayang-Dayang Redha S. Kiram and HRH Datu Mahakuttah S. Kiram.

His Majesty is also member of highest ranks of distinguished foreign Orders of Chivalry, such as: Grand Cross of The Royal Order of the Drum of Rwanda, Grand Cross of The Order of the Eagle of Georgia and the Seamless Tunic of Our Lord Jesus Christ of Georgia, Grand Cordon of The Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam of Vietnam, Grand Cordon of The Order of the Ethiopian Lion and Royal Order of the Engabu of The Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara.




In the history of the Sultanate of Sulu, there was a number of important and often epochal events that have significantly influenced the state system and the people of the island monarchy. Neither the 18th century is no different from other periods of the past of the Sultanate of Sulu. Among the important events during this period were the conflicts of the Sultanate with the Republic of Holland.

Sultanate of Sulu

A number of islands that are surrounding the Sulu Sea, as well as parts of larger islands of Mindanao and Borneo, are the territories that have historically belonged or still belong to the Sultanate of Sulu. This area is populated by Tausug people (or: Joloano, Sulu, Suluk), which mostly belongs to the Islamic religion. Today most of these people lives in Sulu Archipelago (Sulu, Basilan, Tawi – Tawi, and many other smaller islands). There are also Tausugs in other parts of the Philippines: in the city of Manila, as well as on the islands of Palawan, Cebu (Segbu) and Mindanao. There is a certain number of this people in the province of Sabah in Malaysia. At the turn of the 20th and 21st century, there was total number of about 1 100 000 Tausugs. These people speak the language, which belongs to Austronesian language group, more precisely the Central – Philippine languages

Jolo (Sulu) appeared in Chinese historical sources as early as 13th and 14th century. At that time, trade was developed between the islands of Sulu and China. It is considered, that the Islamization of Sulu by the Chinese Muslims and Arabs began in that period. Prominent explorer and Islamic religious teacher of Arabic origin, Said Abubakar Abirin, was born in Johor on Malay
Peninsula (in the present-day Malaysia). During the first half of the 15th century, he came on the islands of the archipelago of Sulu. There he married a local princess Paramisuli. After the death of his father in law Raj Baguinde, about 1450, Said Abubakar founded the powerful Sultanate of Sulu. As its first sultan, he took the ruler name Sharif Ul – Hashim.

Sulu Archipelago and North Borneo (detail of the Map of Southeast Asia, 1801).

When in the year 1571, Miguel López de Legazpi on behalf of the Spanish crown won Manila, there was a establishment of colonial power in much of the Philippine Islands. However, the Spanish power and influence were not equally represented throughout the archipelago. Military units of the Sultanate of Sulu and Mindanao defeated the Spanish troops and maintain independence in the long term. Also, many mountain areas in the interior of the Philippine Islands remained virtually untouched. Spanish colonies in the Philippines were ruled by the governor, who was responsible to Viceroy of Mexico. The Spaniards considered Philippines, in administrative terms, a branch of its colonies in Latin America.

Dutch Republic

In times of conflict between the Dutch Republic and the Sultanate of Sulu in the 18th century, this European country was a confederate republic and officially called the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (Dutch: Zeven Verenigde Republiek der Nederlanden). The Dutch Republic was founded in year 1581, after the liberation from Spanish authorities. The Dutch provinces were previously ruled by the Habsburg Spain. In 1568. Dutch people led by William I of Orange (Willem van Oranje) revolted against the Spanish King Philip II of Habsburg. This was the beginning of a very long Eighty Years War (1568 – 1648), also called the War for Dutch independence. In 1580, some of the Dutch provinces signed the Union of Utrecht, which laid foundations for their unification. The formal declaration of independence was signed on 26 July 1581. Spain did not recognize Dutch independence until the signing of a twelve year truce in 1609.

Despite to conflicts with the Spaniards, the Dutch in that period were able to develop a very advanced state, in economic, political and military terms. It is the 17th century called the Dutch Golden Age (Dutch: Gouden Eeuw). Netherlands at that time established trade links with many overseas countries and provinces, which further led to the establishment of its colonial policies. In this way, Dutch Republic was ranked among the world powers of 17th century.

The Dutch East India Company (Dutch: West-Indische Vereenigde Compagnie, VOC for short), was established in 1602. At that time, the Dutch parliament awarded the company for the first time a monopoly on 21 years of state colonies in Asia. The Dutch East India Company thus became the second international company in the world, after two years earlier had founded the British East India Company. The Dutch company had primarily commercial function, but it owned and substantial (quasi) state elements, such as the ability to wage war, and negotiates peace, establish new colonies, perform judicial functions (including the execution of convicts), minting money, etc.

East India Company managed the Dutch colonies in what is now Indonesia (Dutch East India), Taiwan, Sri Lanka(Ceylon Dutch), some parts of the Indian subcontinent, South Africa and elsewhere. The first Dutch colonies on the Indonesian islands were established in the early 17th century (in Java Banten in 1603. and Jayakarta or Batavia, on the same island in 1611). Batavia, later Jakarta, was the center of the colonial Dutch East India Company.

The Dutch also founded the West India Company (Dutch: Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie, abbreviated WIC) in 1621. It has administered in the similar way their possessions in South America, the Caribbean, North America and in parts of Africa.

The Spanish Empire

The third important factor in the Sulu – Dutch conflicts was the Spanish Empire. One of the first colonial European powers, began its overseas expansion during the 15th century. When Christopher Columbus in 1492 discovered America, he immediately proclaimed the Spanish rule in the new territory. The so-called Spanish Golden Age (Spanish: El Siglo de Oro) began right after the end of the Reconquista (1492), and the unification of Castile and Aragon. In the early 16th century Habsburgs came to power in Spain. They ruled the country at the time of its greatest progress.

During the 16th and 17th century the Spanish were significantly expanding their overseas possessions. They were the leading European colonial power of that period. Under their rule was large part of the South American continent, Central America, as well as substantial parts of North America. From America, across the Pacific, their power spread to the Philippines. There were also Spanish colonies in Africa. There were some of European countries and regions under the supreme authority of the Spanish crown in certain times, for example: Netherlands, Milan and Kingdom of Sicily.

Ferdinand Magellan landed in the Philippines in 1521 and declared the supremacy of the Spanish king Charles I of Habsburg over these islands. Magellan was killed shortly after, at Philippine Island Mactan, in conflict with the army led by the local ruler, Datu Lapu – Lapu (Datu is noble or ruler title in Southeast Asia). Spaniards did not returned to the Philippines until 1543, when they were led by Lopez de Villalobos. Then they actually established their power on the part of the archipelago, which they called after king Philip II of Habsburg.

The background of the conflict

The military conflict between the forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and the Netherlands is necessary to consider in broader historical context. Firstly, it was caused by Dutch colonialism,which was typical for European powers of that time.

Sultanate of Sulu was among rare non-European countries that were strongly resisted European colonialism in the mid-18th century. It controlled the trade routes and waterways in the Sulu Sea and the Celebes Sea, which are linking Sulu Archipelago, north coastal areas of Borneo, southern coast of the island of Mindanao, and rest of Philippine Archipelago. These waterways were of great trading and strategic importance.

Long wars and the struggle for colonial supremacy in the East between the Netherlands and Spain, were of great importance for the Dutch – Sulu conflict. These Dutch – Spanish wars were dating, with occasional interruptions, ever since the establishment of the Dutch Republic.

There were different kinds of relationships between the Sultanate of Sulu and the Netherlands. It is known that the Dutch in the in 17th century attacked Jolo, but at that time as allies of the Sultanate of Sulu. The attack was directed against the Spanish occupation troops, which were located in the Jolo. The Dutch, along with troops of Sulu, in July 1645 conducted a combined artillery and infantry attack on a Spanish fort in the town. This action led to the withdrawal of the Spaniards from Jolo.

The course of the conflict

In the period leading up to the clash with the Dutch, Sultan Alimud Din I originally had capital in the island Dungun Tawi – Tawi (Sulu Archipelago). In year 1736, the seat of his court was transferred from there to Jolo, the old capital of Sultanate of Sulu.

There are recorded opinions of some historians, whose assurance we could not find in other sources, that in 1744. and 1746. the Dutch East India Company attacked Jolo by cannons from its ships. on the island of Basilan in the Sulu Archipelago. Soon after, in 1746, they have established their base in Maluso, the fortress which they called Port Holland. The Dutch attacked Taguima on the island of Basilan in 1747, with two of their ships. Their troops were defeated by one of the commanders of the Sultan of Sulu, known to the sources by name Bantilan. He was able to permanently oust the Dutch East India Company troops from Port Holland. On this occasion, fort was completely burned, but its name is still known as part of the settlement Malusa. The rest of the Dutch withdrew in Batavia on Java.


Shortly after the victory over the Dutch, namely in 1749, Datu Bantilan overthrows his elder brother Alimud Din I and became the new Sultan of Sulu. His ruler name was Muizud Din I. The former sultan was forced to withdrew to the Taguima on the island of Basilan, together with members of his immediate family and loyal followers. After that, in 1750, Alimud Din I moved to Manila, where he was greeted with all royal honors. At his return to Sulu, in Zamboanga on Mindanao island, because of the alleged conspiracy, he was captured by the Spaniards, and sent into captivity in Manila, specifically in the local Fort Santiago. Alimud Din I returned on the throne in 1764. and held position of Sultan of Sulu until 1773.

Because of the decisive struggle Sultanate of Sulu and its people for freedom and independence, the pressure of the Dutch on this monarchy was significantly reduced. The Dutch held their own territory in the Dutch East Indies long after these events, until the Second World War and the period immediately after it.

Clashes between the Spaniards and the Sultanate of Sulu continued shortly after this period. Both sides were attacking and devastating the enemy strongholds. Further developments in relations between the Sultanate of Sulu and the Spanish Empire are beyond the scope of this paper.


The conflict between the Sultanate of Sulu and the Netherlands in the 18th century had its main roots in the expansionism of the European powers in previous centuries. This expansionism was reflected not only by winning the non European territories and the capturing of local government and tribal organizations, but also in intense fighting between the colonial powers at the global level. A significant influence on the background of this war had a long, intense conflict of interest between the Netherlands and the Spanish Empire.

During the period of a few years, as the conflict lasted, there were two main phases. The first is the Dutch attack on the Sultanate of Sulu, when the initiative was in the hands of the Dutch East India Company. The culmination of this phase was the establishment of the Dutch fort and base on the island of Basilan. The second phase, in which the forces of the Sultanate of Sulu had the initiative, led to the defeat of the Dutch East India Company forces in the Sulu archipelago, destruction of Port Holland, expulsion of the Dutch, and minimizing of their impact on the area.

Internally, this conflict to some extent influenced the temporary change of government of Sulu. Only after a number of years, and the great difficulties, Sultan Alimud Din I managed to return to the throne of this island monarchy.