Posted by: luvin | August 26, 2008

Who Are The Ilaga?

“…tatay ko ‘longgo ‘laga, di dut-lan bala tingga…..” (my father is an ilonggo-ilaga, bullets can’t pierce their skin). For those in Mindanao who grew up in the 70’s war between the government forces and the muslim rebels, the phrase is actually a part of a song that young ilonggo boys would sing while at play. Who are these ilagas? News and rumors are rife that they are alive again. It is in the national papers, discuss in talk shows, the word is often mentioned in the MILF web site. Reading through it, it appears that the moro group have some deep seated hatred to these ilagas.

Many stories have come out of this militias, and this is my story. It may not be true, but maybe it is true.

I was one of the boys who sung that song so I knew it is true. I knew of someone from Upi, Maguindanao so I will begin my story in Upi, where for all we knew was the birth place of Ilaga. Many knew the leader was a man named Feliciano Losis, aka, Kumander Toothpick. But he is now buried in Barangay Tawan-tawan in Mlang-where the current vice governor of Cotabato province was once a mayor.

Kumander Toothpick gained his notoreity as a bandit. He marauded traders plying the route of Upi and Cotabato City. His antics did not left unnoticed, both christians and muslims are afraid of him and his group. However, during the time when the notorious ilonggo wrecked havoc in that part of this forgoten land of promise, the Mindanao Independent Movement was boiling up, that the attention of the government was then focus on how to contain the secessionist group of moros.

One man, Anong Doruelo,  was on the forefront of defense. Together with other men in uniform who were in Central Mindanao to neutralize the secession movement, on the instigation of Doruelo, they gathered some civilians to combat the rebel group. One of them is Feliciano Losis. He was choosen to lead a small group, because of his already noted fierceness, and also because they see him as dispensable. Thus the ilaga movement was born.

As the group grew in number,they  however became not only a defense force, but an attacking force. They have no qualms in killing and burning homes of perceived enemies. So not to be outdone, the moro group organized the Black Shirt in Central Mindanao and the Barracudas in Lanao to counter the Ilagas. Many encounters followed with stories of how they would cut the ears of every muslim caught, of how they would burn houses of every muslims in the community.

The government supplied them with guns and bullets, which the enterprising man who is always seen with a toothpick between his lips, would also sell to interested buyers. He is also know to sell that amulet inside the bottle of a perfume with a brand of X7. People during that time believe in the powers of those amulets as long as it is worn properly and the mantra recited during the military encounters or what we now term as tactical engagement.

The ilagas became the defender of the civilians because they are always in the forefront of every encounters. They and the BHDU (Barangay Home Defense Unit) renamed later as CHDF (Civilian Home Defense Force) formed the first line of defense. Every town, every barangay in Cotabato have their own CHDF, and the Ilagas are always there when needed. They are the roving rangers of the civilian defence.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard. Dogs will always be dogs, even when dressed up, there is always the dog inside. The Ilagas fortunately died of natural death. However when the people feel insecure, they would naturally revert to the tried and tested formula of survival. And this is happening again.



  1. ….i may hate these lawless base commands of the milf and would be happy in seeing that theses two commanders who started this atrocities against civilians killed not captured. i would say no to the reformation of the ilaga. it will only promote more violence that may spread throughout mindanao…

  2. Peace!

  3. – Peace!

  4. I agree with you JR. The existence of Ilaga will instead worsen the already problematic situation. I am a Muslim Moro and I am for Peace. But in situation where, the ills of the society which I enumerated in some of my responses will regrow, and to add one, the inhuman atrocities committed by the Ilaga before will be repeated, a true Muslim prefers to die with honor.

    But I hope it will not reach that point. I love both the peace loving Muslims and Christians.


    • ILAGA will not go back if you can assure the safety of the christian people from the hostile hands of the moros. If you only see how did the moros do to the christian people in one occasion at Cabacan, they plugged down a passenger bus and separated the christian passengers from the muslims, they massacred the christians. Can u protect them? If so, then, ILAGA will not go back…

      And who started the atrocities? You planted the seed of hate, and surely, you will reap the fruit of hate… Do not do to others what you do not like to do unto you… “You started, we finish…”

  5. I am from Nuro Upi Maguindanao and Ilaga’s Birthplace is not in Upi but it all begun there.

    Toothpick is not a bandit, he does not kill because he has no reason, His reason is Justice for his family that was killed by the Muslims trying to extort them with there land. Upi is not a Moro territory for it is the home of the Te’duray a peaceful tribe.

    After his family decline to give to there demands they were killed. (His fathers ears were hacked and the breast of his sister and mother was removed, so as there nails. This mutilation was then became the trademark of toothpick)

    He then went to the Te’duray’s to seek aid, after convincing the Te’duray that he was God sent they proceed with there revenge. And he is not the only one that the Moro exploited or offended, so it easily spread like wildfire and inspired the formation of Ilaga. And the story continues

    If you don’t believe it go to Notre Dame University and they have reference about Ilaga and toothpick


  7. I was born in Sitio Boom, South Upi Maguindanao. An adjacent to “Kuhan” a small village part of Timanan,Upi, Maguindanao.
    Kuhan is the birthplace of Ilaga. I believe in modern days now ,atrocities will be more severe if these sightings and resurfacing of Ilaga will come into fruition….I will support them. As an ex-serviceman who happened to live here abroad, my heart still belongs to my motherland., and willing to serve and join Ilaga if needed in the future.This Muslims asking for autonomy is unrealistic idea which holds back the progress of some part of mindanao.,Take Malaysia as an example of free separatists groups and gained it’s worldwide progress.

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