Kin Groups and Descent. The Maguindanao kinship system is basically bilateral, as is common throughout the Philippines. It is unusual, however, because it is modified by a system of social rank, certain rules of descent, and distinctive marriage patterns related to these. Social rank is determined by one's maratabat, or social status. For those of higher rank, maratabat is based on real or imputed descent from Sarip Kabungsuwan. Higher-ranking families maintain elaborate genealogies to validate their claims to this line of descent. From the highest rank come the datus and the central political leaders who hold the title sulutan, or sultan. The precise social rank of those of lower status is often unclear but is said to be a factor in selecting an appropriate marriage partner. For most purposes, social rank is less important than degree of blood relationship. It is this relationship that is emphasized, and the personal kindred is the most important social group beyond the nuclear family.
Kinship Terminology. Consistent with the bilateral kinship system, terms for male and female relatives traced through either the father's or the mother's line are equivalent. Aside from the nuclear family, all members of one's kindred and often even strangers are addressed by formal male and female generational terms that may be translated as grandparent, uncle, aunt, sibling, or child.