The Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) and the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies (UP-IIS) are collaborating on a research project that aims to shed light on the plight of Muslim converts or the so-called Balik-Islam in the Philippines.


Following the signing of partnership agreement during the inception workshop in Makati City on 6 March 2020, IAG and UP-IIS are set to begin fieldwork in selected areas in Luzon, Metro Manila and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).


Based on the 2015 Census of Population (POPCEN), the Philippine Statistics Authority reported a total of 6,064,744 followers of Islam or six percent of the country’s total population. A 2011 National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) unofficial data, however, pegged the Muslim population in the Philippines at around ten million or seven percent of the entire population. Mindanao is home to 93 percent of the entire Islamic population, based on the 2015 POPCEN. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)—now BARMM—where majority of Mindanao’s Muslims reside, nine out of ten of the region’s population are followers of Islam.


Initial research on the Balik-Islam phenomenon suggests at least four categories of Muslim converts in the Philippines: those who converted to Islam by marriage; Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who converted to Islam while working in the Middle East; those who converted to Islam for personal conviction; and those who converted to Islam because of social media influence.


The study hopes to identify pressing concerns or issues faced by Muslim converts, especially in the context of living in Muslim-minority areas as against Muslim-majority areas. By understanding their current situation, the study will attempt to draw out possible solutions and recommend better programs or policies to public institutions and agencies that can provide help and services to Balik-Islam individuals and groups in both Muslim-minority and Muslim-majority areas.


A homegrown policy institute based in Cotabato City in the southern Philippines, IAG has a robust research portfolio spanning various human security and development issues in the region. IAG researches not only ensure that its  programming and implementation of projects are evidence-based but inform public policies as well.


A government partner in attaining progress and development in the country, the UP-IIS is the face of the scholarly and academic Muslim community in the Philippines. It has produced graduates that are now actively employed in various academic institutions in Mindanao and Metro Manila. Other graduates hold top rank positions in the government.


The IAG and UP-IIS research on Balik-Islam in the Philippines is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).