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Don Cristóbal I de Sulu (originally born as Salim ud-Din, c. 1790) was a native Tausūg chief leader that helped the Spanish fight the Sultanate of Sulu and the Sultanate of Brunei. He was native to the Sulu Archipelago, and went to live as an tribute to the Sultan in the Zamboanga Peninsula, as recorded by Spanish historians.
Originally born as Salim ud-Din (Jawi: سالم-محي الدين), he was converted to Roman Catholicism and given the name Cristóbal, after the priest that converted him, and became part of the Principales, the native elite class of the Spanish-Filipino hierarchy. He administered the Zamboanga Peninsula for Spain, as its newly-conquered territory. After the Spanish forces were forced to retreat, he was given an escort to Manila where he married a Spanish mestiza. He returned shortly to Zamboanga, where he was given control and governorship of the peninsula for Spain, and to oversee activities and protect the peninsula from Moro raiders.
After his conversion, he also convinced his two older brothers (Omar and Muhammad), and three sisters (Saloma, Hura and Mariam) to become baptized Roman Catholics. They became high-ranking military commanders and leaders of barangays.
He was fluent in Malay, Tausūg, Arabic and was taught Spanish by the colonists. He worked as an avid translator. He taught the Catholic missionaries Malay and Tausūg which played a key role in enabling them to convert entire clans of Tausūgs to Christianity.
Childhood and history
Cristóbal was originally born as Salim ud-Din, and his childhood origins are semi-obscure. He was born in the Sulu Archipelago as a Muslim, during the Moro-Spanish Wars and his father was thought to have fought the Spanish forces. He grew up with two older brothers, who were datus (native chieftains) and three sisters.
His family did have some prominence, as he evidently had met face to face with Sultan Sharapud-Din. In 1810, Sultan Aliyud-Din I assigned him to administer and govern the Zamboanga Peninsula to protect the Sultanate's territory and take it back from the Spanish conquerors.
Conversion to Christianity and Service to Spain
Around 1811, Salim ud-Din encountered a mix of Spaniards and Christian Filipinos in what is today Zamboanga City. He nearly drew his sword, but got along well with the Spaniards and Christian Filipinos as they shared their cultures with one another.
Feeling extreme sympathy, and seeing the benefits of serving the Spanish monarch, Salim ud-Din eventually asked to be converted to Roman Catholicism. He was taken to a local church, and baptized with the name Cristóbal, likely after the priest that converted him.
He was recruited into service into the Spanish Army, and given the high-rank of gobernadorcillo. He became part of the Principalía, and was given a tour of Manila, Cavite where he received high praise from the native Catholic population.
He was returned to the Zamboanga Peninsula, to help Spanish Catholic missionaries spread Christianity in the Muslim south. He was an avid speaker of Malay, Tausūg, Arabic and was later taught Spanish and Tagalog. He received Spanish-language educations.
In the Zamboanga Peninsula, he convinced his two older brothers, Omar and Muhammad to become baptized Roman Catholics. They were baptized as Juan and Fernando. His sisters were also converted, as Maria, Alejandra and Christa.
He was given control over many barangays, and became the administrator of the Zamboanga Peninsula. He commanded entire groups of Spanish guards and Christian Filipino guards, to protect the fortress from Moro armies.