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Gumbay Piang (21st Century Crisis)

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Tun Sri
Gumbay Piang

ڬومباي ڤياڠ
Esmael kiram 2
1st Governor-General of Mindanao
President Ferdinand Marcos
Succeeded by Wali Rahim
Leader of the Parti Kebangsaan
Succeeded by Salipada Pendatun
President of Mindanao and Sulu
Succeeded by Salipada Pendatun
Personal details
Born Flag of the Philippines Dulawan, Philippines
Died Flag of the Philippines Manila, Philippines
Resting place Flag of the Philippines Datu Piang, Philippines
Nationality Flag of the Philippines Filipino
Ph mnlf-tripoli Moro
Religion Islam
Military service
Allegiance Flag of the Philippines Philippines
20px Mindanao Republic
Service/branch Mindanao Regional Defense
Years of service 1968-1979
Rank Governor-General
Tun Sri Ahmad Gumbay Piang (Jawi: تون سري احمد ڬومباي ڤياڠ, Chinese: 戰士都皮昂, September 1, 1905 - December 1, 1985)  also known by his Islamic name Hajj Ahmad Salam al-Salah al-Din (Arabic: الحاج أحمد صلاح صلاح الدين) was a Filipino and Moro politician, nationalist, military leader, activist and polymath who founded the Parti Kebangsaan Mindanao or the "Mindanao Nationalist Party". He led Mindanao and Sulu's independence struggle, he found and served as the first President of the de facto Republic of Mindanao and Commander-in-Chief of the Mindanao Free Army, the armed wing of the de facto republic.

Born into Maguindanaoan and Chinese descent in Kota Batu, Gumbay Piang fought the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and led well-coordinated insurgencies against Japanese forces in Mindanao. Piang was a close friend of pan-Malayan activist Wenceslao Vinzons, whom he admired for trying to restore Malay language in the Philippines. In 1945, he refused to acknowledge Mindanao as Philippine territory, and thus-began the insurgencies against Filipino occupation. 

Influenced by Indonesia's independence movements, Piang spent a portion of his time in the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia) to gain inspiration where he eventually received counsel from Sukarno as the two traded ideas, including a mutual interest in Malay language.

Upon his return to Mindanao, he declared an independent republic and in 1946 after his return from the Dutch East Indies, and in 1949 eventually united the peoples of Mindanao whether they be Muslim, Christian or any religion to establish the Mindanao Nationalist Party. 

Fighting through four Philippine presidencies, the Republic of Mindanao was ended in 1967 during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos when the Mindanao Free Army was defeated, and thus signed a limited treaty with the Philippine government, brokered by Indonesia. However, he retained political influence in the Southern Philippines. In 1968, he was elected to become the Governor-General of Mindanao. He was the first Muslim to attain a high position such as this. 

Though failing to gain independence from the Philippines, Piang was and is still regarded as a cultural and political hero for people of the Southern Philippines. Therefore, the Piang clan is considered Mindanao's most powerful political family. He is known as being the protecting father of native southern Filipino culture, who resisted attempts to Latinize the south. In 1985, he died of old age and his funeral was attended by thousands of people which he requested at will for the commoners to be at his funeral. He was buried in his home city of Marawi City where a mausoleum was built in his honor. Even Villa Ortiz, the former leader of the Conservative Party (a political enemy of the Southern Nationalist Party), attended his funeral to pay his respects. Ortiz even post-humously gave him the honorific title of "don", giving him the honorific Spanish title: Don Gumbay de Piang, much to the dismay and disgust of his fellow party members.

He was a polyglot, and was fluent in his native Maguindanaon, as well as Malay, English, Chinese, Arabic, Chavacano and Filipino. He was also a skilled fighter that had atttended many martial arts and army schools in the Philippines, China, Indonesia and the United States. Although a Muslim, he was given a temple name and venerated according to Buddhist traditions in China as he himself, contained Chinese descent from his mother, as well as providing much-needed help for the Chinese resistance against Japanese occupation.

There are many places and parks in Mindanao named after him, and built in his honor. A memorial park, known as the Gumbay Piang Merdaka Memorial Park was built in honor of Mindanao's independence struggle. The Gumbay Piang International Airport in Cotabato City was built in his honor as well. In February of 2012, under the presidency of Gilbert Teodoro, he was proclaimed a national hero. 

Under executive order of then-president Corazon Aquino, he, along with Jainal Abirin are considered founding fathers of the Mindanao Constabulary, the southern branch of the Philippine National Constabulary of the Armed Forces.


Gumbay was of Maguindanaon and Chinese descent. His surname "Piang" is actually a Chinese surname, which he inherited from his paternal grandfather. He was born to Datu Piang and his sixth wife Polindao on September 1, 1905 in in Dulawan, Cotabato in the Moro Province. The family was largely agrarian, and his father, Datu Piang was a wealthy landlord and a chief, and he was to inherit the throne. Datu Piang was also a close friend of Datu Kalun, a Cavite native that defected and joined the Royal Sulu Army in their war against Spanish occupation. He was the undisputed Moro leader at the time of U.S. administration od Central Mindanao. Dulawan would later be named after he and his father in their honor.

Militancy and Military career

American occupation

Gumbay was involved in militancy at the age of 18, and was recruited as part of the Central Mindanao Force. Piang's uncle was killed in a fight with American soldiers. Rather than fighting the Americans, Gumbay and his father collaborated and worked out peace treaties with the Americans, having shared a mutual hate for Spanish influence. The Central Mindanao Force was integrated as a second within the Moro Battalion of the U.S. Armed Forces. The latter favored English over Spanish to become the predominantly-spoken language in the archipelago.

World War II

In 1933, Datu Piang passed away, and Gumbay became the next Datu of the House of Piang. In 1941, Japanese forces invaded the Philippines. Piang led the Central Mindanao Force against the invading Japanese forces. However, the U.S. forces surrendered the Philippines in 1942 following the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. Piang's men refused to surrender, and he quickly organized a militant force known as the Pejuang Kebebasan Mindanao, or PKM which is Malay for "Mindanao Freedom Fighters". Through the four-year course of the Japanese occupation, Piang led successful insurgencies against Japanese bases in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

In 1943, Gumbay Piang set foot in Manila to help guerrilla leader and pan-Malay activist Winceslao Vinzons, one of the only few Malay-speaking Filipinos at that time. The two closely befriended each other, and maintained a prominence within the guerrilla insurgency movement against Japanese occupation. After successfully saving Vinzons and his family from being executed by the Japanese, Gumbay Piang returned to his southern homeland. As the Americans swept their way throug the Pacific, the viewed Gumbay Piang as essential to the war efforts against Imperial Japan.

Eventually, Gumbay ended up in China, helping the Chinese resistance against the Japanese. Piang hadn't forgotten about his Chinese descent, and viewed the Chinese as his brethren. He was involved in sabotage operations against Japanese bases in Manchuria. Eventually he was given the honorific temple name Zhanshi Piang literally meaning "warrior Piang" in Chinese.

Hideki Tojo, the military commander of the Japanese Empire commenced a public concern in Tokyo, stating that the Japanese forces had met their match in the Moro rebels of Mindanao. Eventually, Gumbay become one of the most wanted of the Imperial Japanese Army. In 1945, the Japanese surrendered the Philippines to the Americans. However, Gumbay refused to recognize Mindanao as Philippine territory, thus starting a new independence struggle. Piang felt betrayed, feeling that helping the Filipinos gain freedom would earn respect and understanding between the two nations to spawn an independent Mindanao.

During a speech he said, "Those Filipinos, they are the descendants of those hired to slay my forefathers. They worked as foot soldiers for the evil Spanish Empire. In a very mature and kind gesture, I helped them gain independence from another evil empire. Yet, they cannot understand the nature of giving back, they used me. They used us. That, is the biggest mistake of their lives. They [Filipinos] are traitors, thieves, we, the people of Mindanao must do what we must do."

Piang rejected an honorary position as a Colonel with the Philippine Army. Piang sent in a grievance letter to Manila, "I will not become a colonel for your army. I will become the Commander in Chief of my nation."

Independence struggle

Life in Indonesia

In 1945, Piang paid close attention to the independence movements in Indonesia and spent nearly an entire year in the Dutch East Indies. He had British naval vessels take him to the Dutch East Indies, posing as a journalist since they had suspicions that he would influence the independence movement in Indonesia. His goal was to gain wisdom, insight and inspiration from the Indonesian nationalists, and he met eventual-first president of Indonesia, Sukarno. Piang closely observed Sukarno's works and resided in Batavia (modern-day Jakarta).

It is in Jakarta on June 23, 1945 that Gumbay Piang and close-friend Salipada Pendatun recorded a copy of Sukarno's five-point Pancasila, and other parts of the Jakarta Charter. 

On August 17, 1945, Piang attended the the Indonesian Proclamation of Independence in the city of Bandung, where Sukarno and his wife lived. Mohammad Hatta, Sukarno's speaker helped Piang and Pendatun's proficiency in Malay, seeing that he spoke rather broken and creole-like Malay.

First Cotabato City Convention - 1946

Piang returned to Mindanao via Indonesian naval escorts on January 1, 1946, and re-incorporated the ideas and inspiration from Indonesia's independence movement. He gathered tons of Moro chiefs from all over the southern Philippines, to gather in Cotabato City, in which they discussed the future Constitution, government, and political bodies. This historical event in Philippine history is known as the First Cotabato City Convention (Malay: Konvensyen Bandar Kota Batu).

On January 2, it is then that Salahuddin wrote his own version of Sukarno's Pancasila. These were the points: 

  1. Religious freedom
  2. Civilized and just humanity
  3. Unity of Mindanao
  4. Democracy through inner-wisdom and representative consensus-building
  5. Social justice for all people of Mindanao and Sulu

The Moro chiefs also agreed that Malay needed to be the language of unity, as it did in Indonesia. This proposal had already existed via Piang's choosing. They had also decided that they need a unified armed wing to protect the interests of the the peoples of Mindanao and Sulu from foreign military threat, which included the Filipino army. 

January 3, the Constitution of Mindanao (Malay: Perlembagaan Mindanao) is completed, and announced for the future Republic.

Propaganda Mission

After the First Cotabato City Convention, Parent and his colleagues, which included co-militant Salipada Pendatun and brother-in-law Musinal Islam, began the Misi Untuk Menyatukan, which is a Malay phrase for "mission to unify".

This was a propaganda move, in which Piang and Pendatun conducted independence rallies and speeches around the island, as well as the Sulu Archipelago to gain support. 

They were successful, partly due to the lack of presence of Filipino forces in the islands. 

Second Cotabato City Convention - 1947

Having gained the full support of Mindanao and Sulu's people, Piang announced a second convention on January 3, 1947 in Cotabato City. This time, the crowd was twice as larger, and not only confined to Moro Muslim chieftains but also of Hindu, Buddhist, Lumad and Visayan Catholic leaders and barangay datus. This second convention focused on creating a unified political party and governing body for the natives of Mindanao and Sulu. One of the noted non-Muslim attendees was a Lumad chief and Protestant, from the Subanon tribe of Zamboanga by the name of Juan Sagun, who shared a mutual hate for the Roman Catholic Church and showed full solidarity for the people of Mindanao. 

In this convention after several naming proposals, Pendatun's name for the party, the Partai Kebangsaan Mindanao ("Mindanao Nationalist Party") was chosen, and therefore became the main representing political governing body of Mindanao. In this convention, it was also decided that the Mindanao Free Army (Malay: Mindanao Tentera Percuma) would the unified armed-wing of the future republic of Mindanao. However, they also decided that natives have the freedom to establish independent armed groups to ensure protection and safety of their communities. 

Political Career

Head of the Mindanao Nationalist Party 1947-1955

On January 4, 1947 Gumbay Piang was pronounced as the Head of the Mindanao Nationalist Party, with Salipada Pendatun being the President and Juan Sagun as the Spokesperson. Gumbay Piang served as this position for two terms, until Salipada Pendatun took the position. 

President of the de facto Republic of Mindanao 1949-1959

Sukarno and salim

Sukarno (left) and Piang in Zamboanga City

In 1949, Indonesia gained its independence. In Cotabato City, Piang finally announced the Declaration of Independence for the Republic of Mindanao. Though the Philippine government did not recognize it, the declaration went essentially unopposed due the lack of Filipino troops in the south. This ended in 1950, when president Elpidio Quirino began to send soldiers to put down the uprising. Piang spear-headed the armed resistance, emerging as a "people's leader". Indonesian president Sukarno expressed his support for the nationalists, and personally visited Zamboanga City to see Piang. However, he also viewed the Philippines as an important ally, and soon visited Quirino in Manila to try to act as a mediator in the dispute.

The will of Piang's nationalists proved to be too strong and stubborn, that the Filipino army had to repeatedly withdraw its forces from Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. In 1953, political speaker Juan Sagun sent a personal letter to Manila stating that more Filipino soldiers were going to die if they did not cease to stop sending soldiers to interfere in Mindanao's political wishes. 

The Philippine government continued to reject Mindanao's declaration of independence, and sent more untrained soldiers to the de facto republic. Piang's independence war lasted through four presidencies, with three of those presidents failing to consolidate Philippine occupation of Mindanao.

Governor-General of Mindanao and Sulu 1968-1979

In 1967, President Ferdinand Marcos consolidated Philippine occupation of Mindanao and declared martial law in Mindanao and Sulu. Due to the strong leadership of Marcos, the Filipino forces defeated the Mindanao Free Army. This had effectively ended the Republic of Mindanao. However, it only ended it by name and the anti-Philippine government sentiments and insurgencies continued. 

Marcos wanted to establish a Governor-General for Mindanao, and leader for the Mindanao Constabulary. He hosted the 1968 Regional Elections for Mindanao and Sulu. Piang won a landslide victory over the other candidates, in which Visayan and non-Mindanaoan natives formed the majority. Marcos himself preferred a Moro or Lumad to lead the Mindanao Constabulary. Gumbay Piang became the first Muslim Governor-General of the Philippines and the first Muslim to attain the second-highest ranking position from a President. 

In 1969, Gumbay Piang's son, and (last) president of Mindanao and Sulu - Karim Piang; and Ferdinand Marcos worked out a compromise, in which the people of Mindanao would have their culture and religion protected if they surrendered. Piang demanded a condition, stating that the people of Mindanao and Sulu keep their weapons whilst ending the armed resistance. Marcos reluctantly accepted the condition, and the Mindanao Peace Treaty was signed. Many of the former fighters of the Mindanao Free Army became part of the new Mindanao Constabulary, much to the dismay of the other Filipinos. But Marcos supported the idea of Moros, Lumads and other natives of the south to lead the Mindanao Constabulary.

In a speech to address the upset of Filipinos, Marcos stated, "A lot of Filipinos, even those in my inner circles are just plain distressed over the predominance of Moros in the new Mindanao Constabulary. But, they deserve it, and I do not share that same distress. They are the ones who fought and defended their land against invaders. Why should a Luzon-born or Visayan-born person lead it? They [natives of Mindanao and Sulu] have done it before, they can do it again. Let the Moros, Lumads, Chavacanos and all the indigenous peoples of the south lead their forces."

In addition to this, Ferdinand Marcos didn't see Gumbay Piang as an enemy, as in fact, both leaders had shared a mutual hatred of Spanish influence. Marcos in fact, wanted to demote Spanish language and culture and had bought a lot of Moro artwork for his place.

Other activities

In 1972, Gumbay Piang made the hajj, or the holy pilgrimage to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, he became known as Hajj Ahmad Salahuddin (Arabic: الحاج أحمد صلاح الدين). While in the Middle East, he learned Arabic. He wanted to go Israel, but could not due to the situations with the Arab-Israeli conflict. While in Kuwait, he stated his support for the Palestinians and the Arab people, a public speech done in Arabic. 

In 1975, he visited the United States, his first visit to a western nation to address the Muslim-American community. From there, he traveled to Canada and Mexico. He visited Egypt afterward and finished his world tour by visiting Andalusia in southern Spain before returning to the Philippines.   

Piang often viewed his nationality as a point of internal conflict. During a speech at a Filipino-American event in Chicago, he said, "I'm a Filipino by citizenship, Moro by heritage and nationality". Other than that lone incident, Piang often kept his national identity concealed and avoided discussions about it, and never fully decided whether he considered himself a Filipino or not, as the term Filipino is often an epitath to the Christian and Catholic natives, as well as submission to foreign powers in the eyes of the Moro people. The same can be said vice versa, in which the term Moro represents a savage enemy in the eyes of Filipino Christians, thereby making it impossible to harmonize or synonymize the two terms. Earlier he would often reject being called a Filipino, even saying during an earlier 1973 interview, "Calling me a Filipino, or in fact, calling a Moro a Filipino, is like calling a crab a lobster, or [calling] a goat a lamb. It is honestly almost slanderous and ridiculous. We are nothing like Filipinos. The Filipinos are a people who submitted to King Philip II, and that is why they call themselves Filipinos. They are slaves and proud to be so. However, we Moros fought against that king, that king called us Moros, we embrace it because we owed nothing and showed no allegiance. Our ancestors had their own kings. We fought proudly. I don't dare call myself a slave." 


On December 2, 1985, while on a visit to Manila, Gumbay died of a heart failure and of old age. The news of his
Natives funderal

Hundreds of natives of Mindanao attend Salahuddin's funeral in Marawi City

death went nationwide in the Philippines, and caused a sense of shock and grief in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. He was buried on December 5, 1979 in his hometown of Cotabato City. Politicians from all over the Philippines attended his funeral, and as per his will, commoners attended his funeral. He died with the respect of many Filipinos, even Villa Ortiz and other members of the Conservative Party, a strong political enemy of the Parti Kebangsaan. Other prominent politicians included Ferdinand Marcos, his wife First Lady Imelda Marcos, Indonesian president Suharto, and King Khalid bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. 

His grandson and then-president of the Parti Kebangsaan gave the funeral speech in English. 

"Two days ago, we lost the beloved leader, my grandfather Datu Gumbay Piang. It is he who allowed and worked to the lengths to protect the people of Mindanao and of the Sulu Archipelago, keeping our cultures untouched from harm. We will celebrate the accomplishment he has made for us. Had it not been for his courage, his strength and his will, Mindanao would be nothing more but a victim of assimilation. May he Rest in Peace."



Salahuddin International Airport

Gumbay Piang, along with Salipada Pendatun and Juan Sagun, is seen as a political, cultural and religious hero for many people of the southern Philippines, since he is regarded as being the ever-lasting protector of Mindanao and Sulu's native culture. 

On December 2, 1987 under the presidency of Corazon Aquino, a memorial park in Cotabato City, known as the Gumbay Piang Merdaka Memorial Park was built in order to commemorate the cultural struggle of Mindanao's natives. 

On December 2, 1993 president Fidel Ramos renamed the Cotabato City Airport, to the Gumbay Piang International Airport as part of its expansion. He also conducted a public speech in Cotabato City, honoring Mindanao's fallen and calling them "true warriors of the Philippines."

He said in his speech, "Gumbay Piang was one living example of the warrior spirit and unending willingness of Mindanao's people to defend their country. These natives defended their land against the Spanish conquerors, the Americans and the Japanese. I believe that their accomplishments are underrated by most Filipinos today, for they really were the true warriors of the Philippines. Mabuhay and Merdaka Mindanao!" 

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