Yakan - Sociopolitical Organization

The sultan of Sulu once claimed Basilan as his property, and it must be because of this claim that there were a small number of datus among the Yakan. They were all Tausug and apparently representatives of the sultan. Neither sultanate nor datuship is part of Yakan traditional culture. On the whole the sultan's influence seems to have been rather limited. Now, of course, the Yakan are under the Philippine government.

Social Organization. The settlements are small political units based on mosque affiliation. At the head of the community are the imam and a council. Wealth or leading position is respected, and so is age. But on the whole there is no pronounced social stratification. It should be mentioned that although the Yakan are Muslims, there is no segregation of women. Formerly young women were said to have had more limited freedom of movement, but that is no longer the case. Veiling has never been practiced.

Political Organization. There are two sorts of political organization: the traditional, with parishes centered around the langgal and a council taking a role in local matters, and the modern organization of the government of the Republic of the Philippines. Basilan is a province with a city and municipalities headed by mayors, and, more important to the Yakan, barrios (which are composed of several smaller communities called sitios ) headed by barrio captains.

Social Control and Conflict. Formerly fighting among Yakans was not uncommon. Conflicts may still occur. As far as possible they are handled by the council and the imam, though it seems that nowadays it is most often the imam and the barrio captain who handle the cases. This goes also for marriage quarrels, though more serious affairs may be brought before the sultan. Serious matters, such as killings, are settled at the official courts.

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