Subanun - History and Cultural Relations

The Subanun first enter recorded history in the accounts of seventeenth-century Spanish Jesuits, who described them as living in scattered settlements with "scant social life." Jesuit attempts to bring the Subanun together into nucleated villages were unsuccessful. Until the time of the American conquest and occupation of the southern Philippines in the years prior to World War I, the major outside relations of the Subanun were with Muslim traders and raiders who came both overland from the east and by sea along the coasts. Muslims settled along the coasts and set up trading centers to collect Subanun forest and agricultural products, as well as slaves, in exchange for Chinese porcelains, gongs, beads, and iron. This trade was highly exploitative and it set the pattern for outsider relations to this day. The Subanun never developed any effective political organization to counter outside exploitation, nor have they attempted to resist it militarily. During the American period, warfare and raiding in the southern Philippines was fairly well suppressed, but since World War II, and especially during the Marcos regime, Christian-Muslim hostilities became increasingly violent. In several areas of the Zamboanga Peninsula, the Subanun have been caught in the cross fire and have been victimized by the marauding bands that flourish under such conditions.

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