Hadji Butu Abdul Bagui
Hadji Butu was born in the Islamic city of Jolo in the year 1865. The exact date of his birth cannot be ascertained because the Muslim Filipinos do not keep track of time by the Gregorian calendar and also, customarily, they do not keep written records of births. Hadji Butu was of distinguished ancestry, for he was a descendant of Mantiri Asip, famous minister minister of Raja Baginda, Muslim prince from Sumatra who conquered Jolo in 1390. True to the finest tradition of his family, he served as prime minister to various sultans of Sulu.
Since early boyhood, Hadji Butu manifested his prodigious intellectuality. He began to study the Arabic language and the Qu’ran (Koran) at the age of six and mastered them in four years time. Despite the turbulence of his time, highlighted by the bloody wars against the Christian Spaniards and Christian Filipinos, he never lost his passionate love for knowledge and peace. He witnessed Spain’s desperate attempts to conquer the Islamic Sultanate of Sulu and the successful resistance of his fighting people - the fearless Taosug warriors. On February 29, 1876, when he was barely 11 years old, a might Christian armada under the personnel command of Admiral Jose Malcampo (concurrently Governor-General of the Philippines) attacked Jolo and captured it after a ferocious combat. Sultan Jamalul Kiram I and his Taosug army evacuated the city and continued their resistance to Spanish power in the moutains.
The Taosugs were beaten in various battles, but they were never conquered.
As the war against Christian Spain raged, Sultan Jamalul Kiram died and was succeeded by Jamalul A’lam I. On January 22,1878, Sultan Jamalul A’lam, who needed funds to carry on the war against the Christian invaders, signed an agreement with two foreign adventurers - Baron Gustave von Overbeck (Austrian consul in Hongkong) and Alfred Dent (British trader) - wherein he leased his territory in North Borneo, called Sabah, for an annual rent of 5,000 Malayan dollars (U.S. $1,600).
On April 8,1818, Sultan Jamalul A‘lam died, and was succeeded by Badarud Din II. Butu was then only 16 years old. Despite his tender age, he was designated prime minister to the new sultan because of his knowledge of the Arabic language and the Qu’ranic law. A years later (1882), he accompanied Sultan Badarud on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Holy City of Islam in Saudi Arabia. This was his first visit to Mecca, and from this time on till his death he enjoyed the title of Hadji.
In Mecca, Hadji fraternized with the learned priests and scholars of Arabia, thereby improving his knowledge of the Arabic language, religion, and jurisprudence. Upon his return to Jolo (together with Sultan Badarud) in January, 1883, he came to be recognized as the foremost Taosug authority on Islamic law and theology.
On February 22, 1884, Sultan Badarud Din I died. The sultanate was plunged into the maelstrom of civil war, waged by rival claimants to the vacant throne - Raja Muda (Crown Prince) Amirul Kiram (half-brother of the deceased sultan), Datu Alipud Din, and Datu Harun al Raschid. Hadji Butu persuaded the majority of the Taosug datus to support Amirul Kiram.
The Spanish authorities intervened in the dynastic struggle and asked Raja Muda Amirul Kiram and Datu Harun to go to Manila. Amirul Kiram ignored the Spanish invitation, for he was advised by Hadji Butu not to heed the Spanish summon. “Remember what happened to Sultan Alimud Din I in 1749,” he reminded Amirul Kiram.
Datu Harun went to Manila. Governor-General Joaquin Jovellar, irked by the absence of Amirul Kiram, proclaimed him sultan. In exchange for Spanish support to his dynastic ambition, Harun pledge allegiance and friendship to Spain.
Most of the Taosug people, angered by Harun’s subservience to the hated Spaniards, recognized Amirul Kiram as their legitimate sultan. The civil war continued: this time it was between two sultans - Sultan Harun and Sultan Jamalul Kiram II (dynastic name of Amirul Kiram). With the help of Spain, Sultan Harun won the bloody fight. he captured Maimbung (Kiram’s prime minister) remained at the coast to guard the pass to the mountain stronghold.
The Spanish authorities, realizing the influence of Hadji Butu, launched a vigorous campaign to capture him. Eventually, after several weeks of jungle fighting, the elusive Hadji Butu was taken alive and brought to Jolo, where Sultan Harun cordially welcomed him and asked him to become his prime ministerwith the condition that the Sultan will stop the war against Amirul Kiram and rule the people in accordance with the noble tenets of Islamic faith.
Shortly after Hadji Butu assumed the premiership under Sultan Harun, Governor-General Ramon Blanco visited Jolo and conferred with him on the restoration of peace and order in the sultanate. Convinced of the sincerity of the Spanish governor-general, Hadji Butu pleaded with Amirul Kiram and his followers to lay down their arms. Evidently, his peacemaking mission was successful because all hostilities ceased. Once more peace reigned over the wartorned sultanate.
Under the able advisership of Hadji Butu, Sultan Harun ruled widely and well. he consistently refused Spanish demands to levy taxes In the sultanate for Spain for which reason the Spanish authorities became hostile to him. In 1892, while Hadji Butu was in Sandakan settling certain land troubles with the British government, the energetic mother of Amirul Kiram secretly intrigued with the Spanish authorities to replace Sultan Harun and exiled him to Palawan.
Upon his return to Jolo, Hadji Butu was persuaded by Governor-General Ramon Blanco to became once more prime minister of Amirul Kiram, who took the name Jamalul Kiram II when he ascended the throne in 1894. Two years later he accompanied the new sultan on a pilgrimage to Mecca. This was Butu’s second visit to Islam’s Holy City, which lasted one year.
In April, 1898, shortly after Hadji Butu’s return to Jolo from Mecca, the Spanish-American War broke out. On May 1st, the American squadron under the command of Commodore George Dewy sank Admiral Montojo’s fleet in Manila Bay. On June 12, 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo, who had returned to the Philippines from exile in HongKong aboard one of Dewey’s vessels, proclaimed the Declaration of Philippine Independence at Kawit, Cavite, and urged his people to resume their libertarian struggle against Spain which was temporarily halted by the “Pact of Biak-na-Bato.” On August 13, the American land forces under General Wesley E. Merritt, supported by the Filipino troops, crushed the Spanish army and capture Manila. Finally, on December 10, the Spanish-American War ended, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. This treaty brought peace between Spain and the United States, but it ignited a more destructive conflict - the war from Philippine independence (1899-1902).
Hadji Butu watched the portentous events in Luzon with keen interest. on May 19, 1899, while the forces of the First Philippine Republic under President Emilio Aguinaldo were courageously resisting the American invaders, two American battalions occupied Jolo. The following month, on August 20, Hadji Butu, representing Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, concluded a treaty with General John C. Bates. According to this so-called “Bates Treaty,” the Sultan of Sulu recognized American sovereignty and, in return, the United states recognized the sultanate as an American protectorate and agreed to respect the Islamic religion and customs (including polygamy and slavery) of the Taosug people and not to cede or sell Sulu or any part of it to any foreign country.
A statesman of foresight and sagacity, Hadji Butu realized the futility of resisting American arms. For the sake of peace and to prevent unnecessary loss of lives and property in Sulu, he cooperated with the Americans and advised his people to accept American rule. On October 10, 1904, he was appointed by the American military authorities as assistant to the Military Governor of the province. Subsequently, on June 20, 1913, General John J. Pershing (Military Governor of the Moro Province) promoted him as Deputy District Governor of Sulu. In the same year the military rule in the Moroland was ended and the Department of Mindanao and Sulu was established.
In December, 1915, Hadji Butu was appointed by Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison as senator, representing the 12st Senatorial District (Mindanao and Sulu). He was thus the first Muslim to sit in the Philippine Senate. He proved to be an able parliamentarian so that he was re-appointed senator by Governor-General Henry L. Stimson in 1928.
The first bill sponsored by Hadji Butu in the Senate provided for the establishment of a Philippine Military Academy, a Philippine Naval Academy, and for compulsory military instruction in all schools and colleges in the Philippines.
As a senator, Hadji Butu worked hard for more appropriations for the construction of more schools, hospitals, roads, and bridges in Mindanao and Sulu.
One of Hadji Butu’s sterling qualities was his flaming love of the Philippines. He was a sincere advocate of Filipino nationalism - one country, one people, one flag.
Together with Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, and other Filipino patriotic leaders, he crusaded vigorously for Philippine independence during the American regime. He welcomed the Jones Law of 1916, for he considered it to be “a great step towards the attainment of the national ideal.” From 1919 to 1934, he campaigned for the independence cause in Mindanao and Sulu, urging the Muslim Filipinos to support their Christian brothers in the peaceful struggle for the restoration of Filipino freedom. He was senator from 1916-1931.
Hadji Butu was blessed with four sons and eight daughters.
On February 22,1937, a year after his appointment by President Quezon as member of the Board of National Language (representing Mindanao and Sulu), Hadji Butu. age 72, died of kidney ailment at his residence in Jolo.