Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines and one of the three island groups in the country, with Luzon and Visayas being the other two. It is home and the historic stronghold to almost all of the country's Muslim or Moro population, comprising many ethnic groups such as the Maranaos and the Tausugs. Contrary to the common belief, not all parts of Mindanao have been conquered by the Muslims. In fact, most of northern Mindanao people, especially the people of Butuan , were animistic before they were converted to Christianity.
A bitter independence struggle has been waged by various Muslim factions for five centuries against successive occupiers. Spanish, American, Japanese and Filipino government forces failed to quell their desire to separate from the largely Christian nation. Due to decades-long land-grab schemes and the subsequent influx of emigrants to the region, the majority of Mindanao's population is now predominantly Christian, a regional issue that fuels the anger of poor and displaced Mindanaoan Muslims and the separatist movements that had been fighting for hundreds of years.
In recent years, the area has come under scrutiny with the rise of Islamic terrorist organizations tied to the Middle East conflict. Mindanao is a staging ground for such terrorist groups as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah that undermine the more moderate and nationalistic aspirations of independence seekers like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
As an island in the southern part of the country, Mindanao is the second largest at 94,630 square kilometers, only about 10,000 km² smaller than Luzon. The island is mountainous, and is home to Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the country. To the west of Mindanao island is the Sulu Sea, to the east is the Philippine Sea, and to the south is the Celebes Sea.
The island group of Mindanao encompasses Mindanao island itself, plus the Sulu Archipelago to the southwest. The island group is divided into six regions, which are further subdivided into 25 provinces.
See also Geography of the Philippines.
Island Group of Mindanao
The island group of Mindanao is an arbitrary grouping of islands in the southern Philippines which encompasses six administrative regions. These regions are further subdivided into 25 provinces, of which only four are not on Mindanao island itself. The island group includes the Sulu Archipelago to the southwest, which consists of the major islands of Basilan, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi, plus outlying islands in other areas such as Camiguin, Dinagat , Siargao , Samal , and the Sarangani Islands .
The six regions are listed below and each is individually discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.
Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX), formerly Western Mindanao, is located in the landform of the same name. It consists of the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, and two cities—Zamboanga City and Isabela City—which are independent of any province. Isabela City is the only territory not on Mindanao island itself and is located on Basilan. The region's administrative capital is Zamboanga City and the whole region used to be a single province named Zamboanga.
Northern Mindanao (Region X) consists of the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, and Misamis Oriental. The province of Camiguin is also an island just of the northern coast. The administrative center of the region is Cagayan de Oro City.
Davao Region (Region IX), formerly Southern Mindanao, is located in the southeastern portion of Mindanao. The region is divided into the provinces of Davao Oriental, Davao, Davao del Sur, and Compostela Valley; plus Davao City. The region encloses the Davao Gulf to the south and includes the island of Samal in the gulf, and the Sarangani Islands further to the south. Davao City is the region's administrative center.
SOCCSKSARGEN (Region XII), formerly Central Mindanao, is located in the south-central portion of the island. It consists of the provinces of Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat, plus Cotabato City. The names of the provinces together with General Santos City spell the name of the region which is an acronym. Cotabato City, geographically located in, but not part of Maguindanao province, is the region's administrative center.
Caraga (Region XII) is located in the northwestern part of Mindano. Its provinces are Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur. The administrative center is Butuan City in Agusan del Norte. The region also covers the outlying islands of Surigao del Norte such as Dinagat Island , Siargao Island , and Bucas Grande Island .
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is a special region which covers the territories predominantly populated by Muslims. ARMM has its own government unlike almost all the other regions in the country. It consists of almost the whole of the Sulu Archipelago (Isabela City of Basilan is part of the Zamboanga Peninsula region) and two provinces in the mainland. The provinces located in the Sulu Archipelago are Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Basilan and Tawi-Tawi are themselves the main islands of their respective provinces, while the main island of Sulu is Jolo Island. The mainland provinces are Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao. Cotabato City, which isn't part of the ARMM, is the region's administrative center.
See also Regions of the Philippines, Provinces of the Philippines, Luzon, and Visayas.