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Indonesians in the Philippines

Indonesians in the Philippines
Orang Indonesia di Filipina
Mga Indones/Indonesiano sa Pilipinas
Total population
43,871 (2000)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Various languages of Indonesia and of the Philippines[2]
Sunni Islam,[2] Christianity[3]

Indonesians in the Philippines go back during the ancient histories of both countries, where migrants from Indonesia helped form many historical dynasties in the Philippines. According to the 2000 Philippines census, there were 43,871 Indonesians in the Philippines, making them the 5th-largest group of foreigners in the Philippines.[1] Most reside in the Muslim-dominated region of Mindanao.[2]


  • Migration and settlement 1
    • Ancient and Islamic eras 1.1
    • Modern-day 1.2
  • Registration, residency, and deportation 2
  • Education 3
  • Religion 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7

Migration and settlement

Ancient and Islamic eras

Migrations between the peoples of Indonesia and the Philippines were extremely common during the ancient-era. The people of Indonesia are descendants of a common migration from the Philippines and Taiwan. Certain tribes, mostly from Sumatra and Borneo back-migrated to the Philippines, particularly to the central and southern parts. According to Visayan legend, Sri Lumay, a Malay-Tamil prince from Sumatra was among one of the earliest major settlers to Visayas. He found the Rajahnate of Cebu, and his descendants played a key role in the Spanish conquest of the Philippines.

The Sulu Archipelago was under the jurisprudence and sphere of influence of the Javanese Majapahit Empire. The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, the Philippines' oldest document found, also records interactions between the Classical Tagalog kingdoms in Luzon to that of those in modern-day Indonesia. The people of the two countries also spoke the Malay language as a lingua franca.

During the age of Islamic sultanates and states, preachers from Sumatra helped spread Islam. Rajah Baguinda, a Minangkabau prince from Sumatra, spread Islam to the people of the Sulu Archipelago. He became a founding father for the Sultanate of Sulu.

During the Spanish colonial era, most if any migrants or descendants of migrants from modern-day Indonesia were assimilated either into the Hispanized Catholic population or the Moro Muslim population. For a while, the Spanish had tried to colonize eastern Indonesia, particularly the Maluku Islands, sharing it with the Portuguese. In 1606, the Spanish conquered the Ternate Sultanate, deporting the Sultan and his family to Manila. The Spanish colonists shared it with the Dutch, and abandoned it in 1663.


From 1925 to 1926, famous Indonesian national hero and ex-PKI member Tan Malaka had lived in Manila. There he became a correspondent of the nationalist newspaper El Debate, edited by Francisco Varona. Publication of Malaka's works, such as a second edition of Naar de Republiek Indonesia (December 1925) and Semangat Moeda (Young Spirit; 1926) might have been supported by Varona. There Malaka also met Mariano de los Santos, José Abad Santos, and Crisanto Evangelista.[4][5]

Some Indonesians came to Mindanao as early as the 1970s, settling down and married local women.[6] However, the largest influx, consisting of fishermen and petty traders, began settling illegally in the early 1980s.[7] They continue to maintain consciousness of their separate ethnic identity, as well as material links with Indonesia.[2] Illegal entry and settlement is easy due to the Philippines' long coastline and insufficient personnel in the Border Crossing Office. More recently, many of the fishermen in fact have landing permits which allow them to move freely around the area where their boats are docked.[8]

Registration, residency, and deportation

As early as 1999, the Philippine government had been attempting to get Indonesians to register with the authorities, holding out the possibility that they might be granted citizenship as an incentive.[9] However, a survey the next year, which counted 7,200 Indonesians living illegally in the area, found that few wanted to be naturalized in the Philippines, though they hoped to obtain permanent residency in order to regularize their living situation, while 30-35% hoped to be repatriated to Indonesia. That survey found the largest community of Indonesians in Sarangani province, with others in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, and North Cotabato. At that time, they planned to deport 1,738 of them.[6] In 2002, the Philippine government, alarmed by the number of Indonesian nationals implicated in recent Jemaah Islamiyah bombings in the Philippines, drew up a plan to deport a further 12,000 Indonesians from Mindanao; however, the implementation of the plan stalled due to disagreements between the Philippine and Indonesian governments over who would pay for it.[7] Indonesians in the Philippines are often stereotyped as terrorists as a result.[10]

The militants responsible for the 2005 beheadings of Christians were also trained in the southern Philippines.

In 2003 and again in 2005, the Philippine government initiated another survey and registration drive; that one registered 2,448 Philippine-born Indonesians, including 247 in General Santos, 371 in Glan-Sarangani, 265 in Davao del Sur, 108 in Davao City, 339 in Kiamba, Tupi and Malapatan, another 253 in Sarangani Island, 341 in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat and Kidapawan, and an additional 154 in Sarangani and Davao del Sur.[11] The Indonesian government is also attempting to convince them to register with the local Indonesian consulate and with the Philippine government, and offered to pay their registration fees for identity documents.[12]


The Philippines is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Indonesian international students, both those in short term courses, and those studying for university degrees. English as a foreign language courses are one well-known draw for students from all over Asia, but other subject areas are gaining in popularity as well. In particular, flight training courses are much cheaper in the Philippines than in Indonesia.[13] The Asian Institute of Management also attracts many Indonesian students.[14] There is also an Indonesian school (with dormitory for boarding students) and Indonesian Cultural Center in Davao City.[15]


Most Indonesians in the Philippines are Muslims, as the majority tend to settle with their Muslim brethren in Mindanao since it has a cultural environment that suits them well. However, many of them are also Christians since a large handful of the overseas Indonesians originated from Manado, of Minahasan-speaking ancestry.

See also


  1. ^ a b Population by country of citizenship, sex, and urban/rural residence; each census, 1985–2004,  
  2. ^ a b c d e Miralao, Victoria A.; Makil, Lorna P. (2007), Exploring transnational communities in the Philippines (PDF), Philippine Social Science Council, pp. 18–19,  
  3. ^ Minahasan people#Cultural revival
  4. ^ Jarvis 1987, p. 46.
  5. ^ McVey 1965, p. 206.
  6. ^ a b Ramirez, Jun (3 August 2000), "1,738 Indons to be repatriated", Manila Bulletin, retrieved 2008-10-07 
  7. ^ a b "Manila to send back 12,000 Indonesians", Gulfnews, 22 September 2002, retrieved 2008-10-08 
  8. ^ Regalado, Edith; Mendez, Christina (11 April 2003), "300 JI members operating in RP", The Philippine Star 
  9. ^ Canuday, Jowel F. (11 July 1999), "RP citizenship proposed for Indons", Philippine Daily Inquirer 
  10. ^ "Jangan Labelkan Kami Teroris", Kompas (Indonesia), 21 July 2003, retrieved 2008-10-07 
  11. ^ "Native-born Indonesians in Mindanao Registered", Official Government Portal of the Republic of the Philippines, 11 May 2005, retrieved 2008-10-07 
  12. ^ Gerundio, Aurea A. (27 January 2005), "Most Indonesians in Mindanao are illegal residents", Sun.Star Davao, retrieved 2008-10-07 
  13. ^ Dagooc, Ehda M. (2011-04-25), "Indonesians prefer to study in PHL", Philippine Star, retrieved 2011-06-20 
  14. ^ Mozo, Malou M. (2011-04-29), "PHL seen as ideal education destination in ASEAN", Manila Bulletin, retrieved 2011-06-20 
  15. ^ Regalado, Edith (2003-02-04), "Fire hits Indonesian Cultural Center in Davao City", Philippine Star, retrieved 2011-06-20 

Further reading

  • Tan-Cullamar, Evelyn (1991), "The Indonesian diaspora in Southern Philippines", Proceedings of the Conference of International Association of Historians of Asia 12,  
  • Masalah warga negara Indonesia di Mindanao, Pilipina Selatan/The problem of Indonesian citizens in Mindanao, southern Philippines, Jakarta: Direktorat Jenderal Bina Bantuan Sosial, Departemen Sosial,  
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