Titles of Nobility
There are three main social classes of title holder in the Royal Sultanate of Sulu according to traditional social customs. Aside from the sovereign right of The 35th Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo to bestow these titles, the rights of present day customary titles are protected by a special law in the Philippines known as “The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997” and the international resolution of the “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” passed by the United Nations in 2007.
In order of status and precedence from highest to lowest they are:
Datu (su-sultanun) which is acquired purely by inherited lineage or formal relationship to the Sultan. All recognized male members of the Royal House of Sulu hold this hereditary title and hold the style of His Royal Highness (H.R.H.). Their spouses, by virtue of marriage, automatically hold the title of Dayang Dayang (princess of first degree) and Her Royal Highness (H.R.H.). Adopted members of the Royal House of Sulu hold the style of His Highness (H.H.). Their spouses also hold the title of Dayang Dayang (princess of first degree) and have the style of Her Highness (H.H.).
Datu Sadja which may be acquired through the confirmation of the title (gullal) on a middleman or adviser of the Sultan. The gullal is made if a commoner has achieved outstanding feats or services in the line of duty through bravery, heroism, meritorious conduct, etc. Datu Sadja are mainly lifetime titles of nobility and the title holders hold the style of His Excellency (H.E.). Their spouses hold the title of Dayang and hold the style of Her Excellency (H.E.).
Tuan are those who are of minor nobility, roughly equivalent to lesser lords, who may have descended from higher nobility. The title holders have the style of Honourable (Hon.). Their spouses hold the title of Sitti and also have the style of Honourable (Hon.).