Alternate History

Republic of Mindanao (21st Century Crisis)

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Republic of Mindanao
Republik Mindanao
Flag of the Philippines (1943-1945).svg
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg
1946–1967 Flag of the Philippines.svg
Flag of Mindanao.png Mindanao National Emblem copy.jpg
Flag Coat of arms
Satu Bangsa, Satu Bangsa Kuat
Perjuangan Kami
"Our Struggle"
Southern philippines.jpg
The Republic of Mindanao (in dark green)
Capital Cotabato City
Languages Malay (national)
English (official)
Arabic, Tausūg, Maguindanaoan, Maranaoan, Sama-Bajau, Sabah Malay, Iranun, Chavacano, Cebuano, T'boli, B'laan, Bukidnon, Manobo, Butuanon, Tagalog, Chinese
Religion Islam
Government Presidential republic
 -  1946-1956 Gumbay Piang
 - 1956-1964 Salipada Pendatun
 - 1964-1967 Karim Piang
 -  Established 1946
 -  Disestablished 1967
Today part of Flag of the Philippines Philippines
Warning: Value not specified for "common_name"
The Republic of Mindanao and Sulu (Malay: Republik Mindanao dan Sulu, Jawi: ريڤوبليک ميندانااو دان سولو, Chavacano: Republica de Mindanao y Sulu) also known as the Republic of Mindanao or Mindanao and Sulu in short, was a de facto state that existed in the southern Philippine islands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago from 1949 to 1967. It was found shortly after World War II, mostly by those who fought the Japanese invasion, and the formation of the Parti Kebangsaan Mindanao who declared independence from the Philippines. 

It was dissolved under the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, when Mindanao's leaders signed a limited surrender treaty with Marcos. It is currently known as one of history's more successful unrecognized states. 

Party leader Ahmad G. Piang was its first president. Though the Republic of Mindanao didn't receive enough recognition to be considered independent, its history and influence is still strongly felt in the southern Philippines and Salahuddin is still considered a national hero. Its flag is still flown all over the southern Philippines, and it has a status comparable to that of the historical Confederate States of America.


The origins of the Mindanao Republic lie during the course of World War II's ending, with those who fought against the Japanese invasion, independent of the Philippine cause. Gumbay Piang, a Magindanaoan-Chinese datu organized an insurgency militia known as the Mindanao Free Army that fought insurgencies against the Japanese forces. The MFA was supported by the U.S. Armed Forces, and incorporated some of the native branches of the U.S. Armed Forces such as the Moro-Bolo Battalion and the Central Mindanao Force.

The Japanese surrendered to the American forces in 1945, and Mindanao was declared part of the newly-independent Philippines. The Moros and Lumads of Mindanao, however, did not recognize Philippine ownership of Mindanao and declared a state of sovereignty. 

Gumbay Piang was very influenced by the Indonesian independence movement, and traveled to the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia) to gain insight and inspiration from politicians, he eventually met face-to-face with Sukarno who would one-day, become the president of Indonesia. Sukarno and Salahuddin spent a lot of time trading ideas, and both also shared a mutual interest in choosing the Malay language as the languages of their new republics.

First Cotabato City Convention - 1946

In 1946, Piang returned to Mindanao, particularly Cotabato City with other Moro chiefs in an event known as the Cotabtao City Convention (Malay: Konvensyen Bandar Kota Batu) on January 4, 1946 in which they discussed the Constitution of Mindanao, as well as the would-be national language, and political bodies that would govern the state.

They eventually declared that Malay was the language of independence, and had to re-educate the people of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago to speak Malay, as 300-years of Spanish colonization as well as decades of American occupation had nearly eliminated Malay from the archipelago. 

Second Cotabato City Convention

Over the next couple of years, Gumbay Piang went around Mindanao and Sulu to give speeches and gain support for an independent Republic. On January 3, 1947, the Second Cotabato City Convention was held, as Piang wanted a unified party - of all Mindanao natives whether they be Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist. This convention was by-far larger than the first. It was not only attended by Moro chiefs, but also by Lumads, Hindus, Buddhists and event Visayan Catholics who lived in Mindanao. Several people proposed different names. Salipada Pendatun, who would come the Vice President of the new republic, proposed the "United Mindanao Army". Juan Sagun, a Lumad Protestant from Zamboanga City proposed the Mindanao Democratic Party. However, it is Musinal Islam's proposal, the "Mindanao Nationalist Party" that won most of the votes. It is here that the Mindanao Nationalist Party was finally formed. 

The next discussion was the name of the new independent state. Many people considered naming the island "Malaysia" or "North Malaysia", but 57% of the datus and chiefs agreed with keeping the name "Mindanao" and the official name would become the Republic of Mindanao. 

The people of the Sulu Archipelago, however, sought to reform the Sultanate of Sulu rather than become part of the Republic. Piang respected Abirin's political wishes. Under Sultan Jainal Abirin, while he and a group of other Tausūg chief leaders attended the convention, it was finally decided that two independent, yet allied polities would be formed: the Republic of Mindanao and the Kingdom of Sulu. The Republic of Mindanao would control the entire island of Mindanao, the Kingdom of Sulu would be given control of the Sulu Archipelago. 

Republic of Mindanao 1949-1967

In 1949, Gumbay Piang and Jainal Abirin declared their independence,. This was the same year that Indonesia had gained independence. Piang received the support of Indonesians for the independence of Mindanao and was pronounced the President of the Republic of Mindanao, Salipada Pendatun his Vice President and Juan Sagun - who was the Prime Minister.

Piang sent the declaration to Manila and Jakarta. However, the Philippines did not recognize them as an independent state, and sent Filipino troops to the south to consolidate Mindanao and Sulu's status as Philippine territory. This would begin the Mindanao Independence War. Indonesia, however, recognized them but did not send troops, being that the country was new, impoverished and Sukarno wanted to maintain neutral relations with the Philippines - whom he considered a great friend and ally. 

Dissolution of the Republic of Mindanao

The Moro nationalist held out through four presidencies, until Ferdinand Marcos strengthened the presence of Philippine soldiers in Mindanao. In 1967, Karim Piang and Ferdinand Marcos signed the Mindanao Peace Treaty, in which the Philippine government would protect the native culture of Mindanao if they surrendered, effectively ending the Republic of Mindanao.

However, Marcos' inner circles turned back on his promise and began government resettlement programs, sending swarms of Ilocano, Visayan and Tagalog migrants en masse to Mindanao. Therefore, the insurgencies continued and the Filipino Armed Forces had actually given light on the idea of granting Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago their independence. However, Marcos refused. Eventually, the migrants began to outnumber the natives in many cities. By 1986, they formed the majority in General Santos City, Cagayan de Oro and Davao City. 

Legacy and Continuation of Culture

Though despite the Republic being dissolved, its political influence remained nearly untouched in the southern Philippines, the Parti Kebangsaan remained intact and the most powerful political party in the southern Philippines. They helped and played a role in the passage of laws that would protect the native cultures of the southern Philippines. Corazon Aquino, the following President after Ferdinand Marcos supported the native culture of Mindanao and established ties with the Parti Kebangsaan. With help of the Lakas-CMD, a fellow right-wing political party in Mindanao, Republic Act No. 5422 was
Filipino-moro flag

Filipino flag and the 1949-version Republic of Mindanao flag flown side by side at the Cotabato City Police's HQ

passed which set limitations and restrictions of migrations of people to Mindanao. Migration was temporarily suspended for two years. This law was known to have saved Mindanao's native culture from becoming a minority. 

August 4, which is the date of Mindanao's independence is still celebrated in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. It is celebrated as Moro Heritage Day. 

Moro flag controversy

In the southern Philippines, historical flags of the Republic of Mindanao, as well as
MNLF holds prayer rally in Cagayan de Oro-L

A native soldier in Mindanao holds the Philippine and Mindanao Republic flag

the Kingdom of Sulu flags, are still flown on people's vehicles, and even businesses and private property. It is often compared to the status of the Confederate flag and its association with southern American culture. It is also flown by Moro communities living elsewhere in the Philippines, particularly in cities like Manila or Cebu City where large communities of Tausūg and Maranaoan people live. The Conservative Party, in the wake of the 2013 Zamboanga City Crisis, introduced a bill that would ban all Moro flags, and have them taken down from provincial capitol grounds in the southern Philippines. They argued that Moro flags stand for hate and terrorism. Rodrigo Duterte, the Mayor of Davao City supported such a ban. The bill failed to become law. Duterte later retracted during his 2016 presidential run, saying he misunderstood and completely supports the right of Moros and Lumads to fly the flags of their heritage.

There were some protests to have the flags removed from the campus grounds of Mindanao State University. 

Nur Misuari said, "The Moro flag, as well as the historical flag of the Sulu Sultanate represents our heritage here in the southern Philippines." 

Government and politics

The founders of the Republic of Mindanao met in Cotabato City to discuss the constitution, in the event known as the First Cotabato City Convention. Piang, having returned to Mindanao from the Dutch East Indies, modeled Constitution of Mindanao after Sukarno's Pancasila, consisting of five main points. On January 2, Piang finalized the Constitution of Mindanao, known as the Perlembagaan Mindanao, and was drafted on January 3, 1946.

Here 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 founders of the Kingdom of Sulu also adopted this Constitution as the governing body of the Kingdom, with the exception of Point 4 which was changed to, "Loyalty to the Sultan, loyalty to the people" which pointed towards a constitutional monarchy.

As such, the President was the head of state, who formed part of the Executive Branch, consisting of the President and the Vice President. The President acted as the Commander-in-Chief of the Mindanao Free Army, the official fighting force of the Republic of Mindanao. The government of Mindanao also contained a bicameral legislative branch. 



The economy of the Republic of Mindanao was based heavily on agriculture. Merchants made a monopoly selling livestock and crops such as coconuts, durian (from the Davao Regency), kiwis, bananas and other means. One of the main goals of the Parti Kebangsaan, the ruling political party in the Republic was to protect farmers' rights. Durian producers refused to acknowledge the durian industry as part of the Philippine economy, and rejected Filipino companies, leading the Battle of Davao, or the "Durian War", which ended in a draw. The Philippine government was forced to rely on Malaysian and Indonesian durian exports at that point. The durian industry would flourish independent of Philippine control up the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos.


The Republic of Mindanao also supported some technological advancements in the islands, in order to ensure a safe society - especially for its military. Engineers, who often studied in the United Kingdom, recognized as Filipino citizens used their knowledge to mimic and built military equipment used by the U.S. Army and the British Army.


The currency of the Republic of Mindanao was the Mindanaoan kepeng, circulated in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 10,000. The name originates from an ancient currency used in the historical Majapahit Empire. The coins were known as the bilahs, the Javanese name for the blade of a kris sword. They were mostly made of copper and nickel. However, in 1960, the National Mint of Mindanao and Sulu began producing bilah coins made of silver. In 1961, the Filipino government had a crackdown on what they deemed "illegal" currencies, burning approximately ten million worth of kepengs during the Battle of Cotabato, and seizing over $500,000 worth of silver bilahs. The Republic's currency was actually backed by gold that was found in the Surigao Regency in northeastern Mindanao and Sarangani Regency in far southern Mindanao. The currency was officially stopped in 1967 via the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos.

However, in honor of Gumbay Piang in 2014, the Philippine government has authorized for the circulation of silver bilahs, replicas based on the original coins, on the anniversary of when he became a National Hero of the Philippines as a kind political gesture to enforce peace and understanding between Filipinos and Moros alike, as well as to show appreciation for the valiant resistance the Moros have shown for their fight against colonial powers.


Malay and English were the official languages of the republic. As part of the First Cotabato City Convention, it was decided that Malay was the designated national language, or the Bahasa Kebangsaan. It was the language used to write the Constitution of Mindanao. It also became the official language of the neighboring Kingdom of Sulu. In order to gain sympathy from British and Americans, in 1959, English was made a state official language, and designated as the Bahasa Rasmi simply to attract sympathy from British and American travelers to the revolutionary republic. English was also the predominant language, other than Filipino, that was widely understood and spoken.

While Arabic wasn't an official language, it was promoted by the de facto government, and a popular language taught in schools. Fluency in Arabic was often seen as a symbol of power and status. Another widely-spoken language was Chinese, as Mindanao had a large Chinese population whom the Moros considered brothers and allies. Gumbay Piang himself was of patrilineal Chinese descent. A lot of the Chinese assimilated into the native society, taking on the native titles such as datu

The Filipino language, or Tagalog was not considered a national or official language, and no mention of it was made in the Cotabato City Conventions, which were done in English. Due to the high presence of Spanish influence and lexicon in Tagalog, it was often discouraged. Though despite being fluent Tagalog-speakers themselves, Jainal Abirin and Gumbay Piang often referred to modern-day Tagalog as a "language of whores and slaves" and a "language completely foreign, but close to Mindanao and Sulu". 

Maguindanaoan, Maranaoan, Tausūg, Iranun, Subanon, Sugbunon and Surigaonon, were considered government-recognized regional languages. The Chavacano language, a Spanish Creole, was mentioned since it was and is still widely spoken in Mindanao, but it was decided that Chavacano would receive no recognition. 


Flag of Mindanao

The official flag of the republic. The six white stars represent the great kingdoms of Mindanao and Sulu (Maguindanao, Lanao, Sulu, Bukidnon, Buluan and Butuan)

Contrary to what most belief, the red flag with a kris and crescent-moon and Arabic calligraphy commonly used by Moro nationalists today, was not the official flag of the Republic of Mindanao. It was a battle flag, used by united groups of Moros throughout. The Republic had no official flag, its first initial design was very Islamic in nature, and only used for one year from 1949 to 1950. That flag consisted of a mostly green background, with a white stripe to the left, with white kris complemented by
Ph mnlf-tripoli

Official battle flag used by Moro groups, this flag is often mistaken as the official flag the republic used

Arabic calligraphy. However, Gumbay Piang, Juan Sagun and Salipada Pendatun wanted the native people of Mindanao, of all religions to be represented and while espousing Moro nationalism, not only confining the freedom of Mindanao to the Moro Muslim people.

Therefore, a new design was unveiled, by a group of both Moros and Lumads from central and northern Mindanao, which was chosen to become the official flag throughout the republic's existance.

The new flag featured a white stripe, red stripe - to symbolize the blood spilled on to the land defending it. Then it was followed by a green background, with five white stars across the center. Each star represents one of the great kingdoms of Mindanao, they are: the Sultanate of Maguindanao, Sultanate of Lanao, Sultanate of Buluan, Rajahnate of Butuan and Rajahnate of Bukidnon. During Spanish occupation, these kingdoms formed an alliance that battled against the Spanish Empire. In 1955, a sixth star was added to represent the Sultanate of Sulu after Sulu became integrated as part of the Republic. A gold kris is featured underneath the stars as the weapon is very symbolic to the native peoples of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

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