Who Were the Major Figures in the Moro Rebellion?

The Moro Rebellion was a noteworthy armed conflict that happened in the southern Philippines between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It began with the resistance of the Moro people, who were predominantly Muslim, against colonial powers such as Spain and later the United States. The American government wanted the Moro people to accept American administration and colonial rule. However, the Moro people refused, and under the leadership of the Sultan of Sulu, they began to fight against the American soldiers arriving in their territories.

Their conflicts led to many battles, and even when the Philippine-American War officially ended in 1902, the Moro people continued their struggle, and the American colonial administration slowly made movement in the Moro area. But who were the major people involved in the rebellion? It is vital to understand the main figures involved in the Moro Rebellion in order for us to get some insights into the dynamics, strategies, and outcomes of the conflict. That is why in this article, we are going to provide you with more information on the key figures in the Moro Rebellion from both the Philippines and the United States.

Major Filipino Figures in the Moro Rebellion

When we talk about the Moro Rebellion, most of us are very aware that it was a conflict between the Moro people and the United States military after the conclusion of the Philippine-American War. There were also a lot of events, even as far back as the Spanish colonial era, that led to the Moro Rebellion. However, the question is, who were the leaders of the rebellion, and what were their contributions? To answer these, below are the major Filipino figures in the Moro Rebellion:

Muhammad Kudarat

From 1619 to 1671, Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat served as the 7th Sultan of Maguindanao. During his reign, he led the Moro resistance against Spanish colonial forces in the region. He launched numerous attacks and engaged in guerilla warfare. He employed strategic alliances with other Moro groups to make their resistance movement stronger and increase their military skills. Some of his tactics included hit-and-run attacks, ambushes, and the effective use of the terrain to counter the Spanish forces. He also implemented a defensive strategy to protect Moro territories through fortifications and employing strategies that made it difficult for Spanish occupation.

Muhammad Kudarat is viewed as one of the most significant figures in Moro history. He symbolized the resistance and resilience of the Moro people against colonial powers. His legacy has influenced succeeding generations of Moro leaders, shaping their approaches to resistance, autonomy, and preservation of their cultural heritage.

Sultan Jamalul Kiram II

The Sultan Muhammed Jamalul Kiram II, of the Sultanate of Sulu, in the southwestern Philippines

From 1894 to 1915, Jamalul Kiram II ruled as the Sultan of Sulu. During his long reign, he signed treaties with different nations, and he served both under Spain and America. He hailed from the royal lineage of the Sultanate of Sulu, which was a Muslim kingdom in the southern Philippines. He assumed the sultanate’s leadership during a crucial period marked by Spanish colonial expansion.

Sultan Jamalul Kiram II organized and helped mobilize the Sulu people’s resistance to the Spanish invasion of their lands. He led his people in armed conflicts, employing strategies to defend the autonomy and cultural identity of Sulu. He also encountered challenges from both Spanish and American colonial powers. He was subject to military and diplomatic pressure from the Spanish to submit to their rule, but he strongly rejected both.

When the American forces arrived after the Spanish-American War, Sultan Jamalul Kiram II Sultan Jamalul Kiram II planned and engaged in negotiations to advance the Sulu Sultanate’s interests. During the rebellion, his leadership had a profound impact on the Moro resistance movement. Future generations of Moro leaders were motivated by his unwavering support for Sulu’s independence and his efforts to unite other Moro groups against colonial powers.

Datu Ali

Moro Chief Datu Ali

Datu Ali, also known as Datu Piang, was from a prominent Muslim noble family in Mindanao, Philippines. He was a datu, which indicated that he was the leader of his tribe and had control over the people in his village. During the Moro Rebellion, he aligned himself with the American colonial administration. He understood the potential advantages of working with the Americans and saw a chance to advance his community and safeguard the interests of his tribe.

The American colonial government formed the Moro Province, uniting several Moro territories under a single administrative body, and Datu Ali played a significant role in its establishment. With regard to the administration and government of the province, he collaborated closely with American officials.

However, his collaboration with the American authorities drew criticism from some Moro leaders and communities as they view it as betrayal or collaboration with foreign occupiers. With this, he faced scrutiny and doubt concerning his representation of Moro’s interests and the rightfulness of his leadership. Datu Ali’s involvement in the Moro Rebellion and his cooperation with the American government left a complicated legacy. Others applaud the practical method he adopted to safeguard his community’s interests in a difficult and changing political environment, while some saw his actions as opportunistic.

Hadji Butu

During the Moro Rebellion, Hadji Butu was a known Muslim religious leader. He was a respected member of the Moro community who served as a spiritual leader and counselor. He was popular for his advocacy for peaceful coexistence between the Moro people and the colonial powers. He highlighted the value of communication, mutual respect, and understanding between Moros and non-Moros.

Hadji Butu made an organized effort to communicate with the American colonial authorities. He fought for the acknowledgment of Moro rights and autonomy and worked to resolve Moro issues and problems in a peaceful manner. His efforts to promote peaceful coexistence and negotiation had a great impact on the Moro Rebellion as his advocacy helped shape alternative approaches to resistance and conflict resolution. Even though his attempts were not always successful, his efforts showed the importance of peaceful dialogue in resolving conflicts.

Major American Figures in the Moro Rebellion

After learning about the major Filipino figures in the Moro Rebellion, we will also take a look at the people who led the American Military during those times. Below are the major American figures in the Moro Rebellion:

General Leonard Wood

Major General Leonard Wood

In 1903, General Leonard Wood became a major general in the regular army of America, and he was appointed governor of Moro Province in the Philippines where he served until 1906. After that, he commanded the Philippine Division from 1906 to 1908. During the Moro Rebellion, he received criticism for his handling of the 1906 First Battle of Bud Dajo, where hundreds of Moro women and children were killed.

To put down the Moro Rebellion, General Wood employed a comprehensive counterinsurgency plan. He combined military actions with an emphasis on influencing the Moro people’s hearts and minds through development projects, educational programs, and cultural awareness. He also prioritized the establishment of a stable civil administration in Moro Province. His efforts in governance and development set the stage for the following American policies in the Moro Province.

General John C. Bates

portrait of General John C. Bates

General John C. Bates was an American military officer who also played a significant role during the Moro Rebellion. The American colonial government appointed him as the military governor of the Moro Province. With this, he led American forces in their efforts to suppress the Moro Rebellion and establish control over the region.

He implemented a strategy focused on military pacification and consolidation of American authority. In addition to that, he also employed a combination of infrastructure development, military operations, and political measures to suppress the rebellion and win the loyalty of the local population. His leadership and strategies had a profound impact on the outcome of the Moro Rebellion as his policies and approaches set the foundation for the subsequent administration and governance of the Moro Province.

Governor Frank Carpenter

Governor Frank Carpenter was an American civilian official who served as the governor of Moro Province. The American colonial government also appointed him to oversee the civil administration of the region. During the Moro Rebellion, he focused on implementing policies aimed at promoting stability, development, and American influence in the province. In order to solve challenges of governance, public services, and infrastructure development, he sought to construct a productive and successful civil administration.

The goal of Governor Carpenter was to establish a good rapport with the Moro people in order to get their cooperation and support for American goals. To close the gap between the American government and the Moro people, he engaged in diplomatic endeavors, cultural exchanges, and community outreach. His tenure as governor contributed to the transformation of the Moro Province under American rule.

Colonel J.W. Duncan

Another American military officer who played a key role in the Moro Rebellion was Colonel J.W. Duncan. He commanded American forces in different military operations against the Moro rebels. One of these was the First Battle of Bud Dajo. On March 2, 1906, Major General Leonard Wood ordered Colonel J.W. Duncan to lead an expedition against Bud Dajo. With this, 750 men and officers under his command assaulted the volcanic crater of Bud Dajo, which was populated by 800 to 1,000 Tausug villagers.

Colonel J.W. Duncan led campaigns aimed at suppressing Moro resistance and maintaining the control of America over strategic areas. In order to defeat the Moro rebels, Colonel Duncan combined traditional military strategies with innovative ones, such as focusing on disrupting rebel networks, conducting reconnaissance, and coordinating with local allies to get information and combat the rebellion.

The entire American pacification efforts during the Moro Rebellion benefited from Colonel Duncan’s military operations and direction. His military operations had an impact on later American military operations and counterinsurgency methods in the area.

Governor John J. Pershing

portrait of General John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing

General of the Armies John Joseph Pershing, also known as “Black Jack,” was a senior United States Army officer. In 1909, he was assigned to the Philippines where he served until 1913. While in the Philippines, he served as Commander of Fort McKinley near Manila. Aside from that, he was also appointed as the governor of the Moro Province during a crucial period of the Moro Rebellion.

While he was governor of Moro Province, he aimed to improve administration and governance by implementing policies aimed at enhancing infrastructure, education, healthcare, and economic development in the region. He adopted a policy of engagement with the Moro community to build trust and cooperation. In addition to that, he also recognized the cultural and religious sensitivities of the Moro people and worked towards promoting understanding and mutual respect.

Governor John J. Pershing’s tenure as governor left a lasting impact on Moro Province. His emphasis on good administration, infrastructure construction, and community involvement created the groundwork for the region’s long-term stability and growth. The Moro Rebellion was eventually put down, and the region came under American rule as a result of his leadership and policies.


The Moro Rebellion involved various major figures from both the Philippines and America. Each of them played a significant role in shaping the course of the rebellion. These major figures have left lasting impacts on the history of the region. Their actions, strategies, and policies influenced the relationship between the Moro people and the American colonial authorities, and the legacy of their roles continues to be remembered and debated.

This rebellion is a tragic reminder of the difficulties associated with colonial occupation, resistance, and cooperation. These prominent characters’ viewpoints and deeds reveal the various drives, plans, and tactics people have used to deal with a difficult and developing conflict. Understanding their roles helps shed light on the historical dynamics of the Moro Rebellion and its lasting effects on the Philippines. We hope this article helped you learn more about the major figures in the Moro Rebellion.