MINORITIES IN THE PHILIPPINES

MINORITIES IN THE PHILIPPINES

By one count there are 75 different ethnic groups in the Philippines. The main ethnic and regional groups are: Tagalog (28.1 percent), Cebuano (13.1 percent), Ilocano (9 percent), Bisaya/Binisaya (7.6 percent), Hiligaynon Ilonggo (7.5 percent), Bikol (6 percent) and Waray (3.4 percent). To give you some idea how diverse and fragmented the Philippines is ethnically other groups make up 25.3 percent of the population. [Source: 2000 census]

The dominant ethnic group both politically and culturally is the Tagalogs. There are social division between the Christian majority in the lowlands and the indigenous people in the highlands. The Christian lowlanders are found mostly on Luzon, Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Panay and Negros islands. Most Christian Filipinos on Mindanao are recent immigrants.

Minority Etiquette: 1) Many hill tribes fear photography. Don’t photograph anyone or anything without permission first. 2) Show respect towards religious objects and structures. Don’t touch anything or enter or walk through any religious structure unless you are sure it is okay. If in doubt ask. 3) Don’t interfere in rituals in any way. 4) Don’t enter a village house without permission or an invitation. 5) Error on the side of restraint when giving gifts. Gifts of medicine may undermine confidence in traditional medicines. Gift of clothes may encourage them to abandon their traditional clothes.

Regional Differences in the Philippines

Identification with one’s group is regarded as strong and remains strong even when the groups go over seas. Tagalogs are regarded as proud, boastful and talkative. Pampangans are considered independent, self-centered and materialistic. Ilocanos are seen as hardworking, aggressive and worried about the future. And Visayans are seen as fun-loving, musical and courageous. Batangueños are known as the "salesmen of the Philippines."

Filipinos have a strong sense of regionalism. Strong ties bind those who come from the same province or those who speak the same dialect. They support each other because they consider themselves as "brothers or sisters". Sometimes, it is whom you know that counts when facilitating papers or when trying to get quick and positive results. [Source: Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning+++]

There are strong ties between Filipinos of the same area of origin and ethnic group and language. In Metro Manila, businesses and settlements may be organized in such groups. Although most Filipinos can converse in Tagalog (the basis of the national Filipino language), the majority of Filipinos grow up speaking other Malay based languages. It is only at the high school level that Filipino (Tagalog) becomes the common language of instruction and at the tertiary level English is the normal language of instruction. While most major Malay based ethnic groups do accept each other well, people prefer to interact socially and live close to workers from their own ethnic group. +++

Although many Chinese Filipinos do not speak any Chinese dialects or are not aware of their Chinese genealogical origins, there is some resentment of the success of Chinese-Filipino business and commercial enterprises and, in particular, of the Chinese community’s support for financing its own businesses and the high rates of interest some frequently charge on informal loans and loans for consumption purposes. +++

There are many diverse pockets of indigenous tribal groups in the remote hilly and mountainous areas of the Philippines. These peoples speak languages unrelated to Malay and have different ethnic origins than mainstream Malay culture Filipinos. In the Cordillera mountain provinces of Northern Luzon they are collectively known as Igorots; elsewhere in Luzon there are Aeta communities; in Mindoro Mangyan communities live in much of the uplands; in the Visayan islands of the central Philippines these indigenous minorities are referred in somewhat derogatory fashion as "Negritos" +++

Diversity of the Filipino People

In 1912, Cornélis De Witt Willcox wrote in “The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon”: “It is convenient to speak of the Filipino people, just as it is convenient to speak of the Danish people, or of the English; but whereas, when we say “Danish” or “English” we mean one definite thing that exists as such, when we say “Filipino” we should understand that the term stands for a relatively great number of very different things. For example, confining ourselves for the moment to the Christianized tribes, it may be asserted that the inhabitants of the great Cagayan Valley, the tobacco-growing country, are at least as different from those of the Visayas, the great middle group of Islands, as are the Italians from the Spanish. Precisely similar differences, increasing, roughly, with the difference of latitude, may be drawn almost at random between any other pairs of the elements constituting the Filipino population. The Ilokanos, to give only one more illustration, have almost nothing more, in common with the Bicols than the fact that they both probably come from the same original stock, just as the English and the Germans have the same ancestors. All these subdivisions speak different languages, and the vast majority do not speak Spanish at all. [Source:“The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon” by Cornélis De Witt Willcox, Lieutenant-Colonel U.S. Army, Professor United States Military Academy, 1912 <>]

“But this is not all. The Filipino peoples are divided into two great classes, the Christian and the non-Christian. Now, these non-Christians number over a million, and are themselves broken up into many subdivisions, not only differing in language, customs, habits and traditions, but until very recently bitterly hostile to one another, and so low in the scale of political development that, unlike our own Indians, they have never risen to any conception [217] of even tribal government or organization. Moreover, in Moroland, in the great island of Mindanao with its neighbors, the situation is further complicated by the fact that the dominant elements are Mohammedan. Over most of these non-Christians the Spaniards had not even the shadow of control. <>

“The appellation “Filipino people” is therefore wholly erroneous; more than that, it is even dangerously fallacious, in that its use blinds or tends to blind our own people to the real conditions existing in the Archipelago. It is correct to speak of the Filipino peoples, because this expression is, geographically, accurately descriptive; but it is absolutely misleading to speak of the Filipino people, because of the false political idea involved and conveyed by the use of the singular number. Similarly, there is no objection to the term “Filipino” or “Filipinos,” so long as we understand it to mean merely an inhabitant or the inhabitants of the Philippine Archipelago, more narrowly the Christianized inhabitant or inhabitants; but it is distinctly wrong to give to the term a political or national color. It may be remarked now that the divisions, both Christian and non-Christian, of which we have been speaking, determined as they are by natural conditions, are likely to survive for many generations to come.” <>

Upland Tribal Groups of the Philippines

There are more than 100 upland tribal groups and they constitute approximately 3 percent of the population. As lowland Filipinos, both Muslim and Christian, grew in numbers and expanded into the interiors of Luzon, Mindoro, Mindanao, and other islands, they isolated upland tribal communities in pockets. Over the centuries, these isolated tribes developed their own special identities. The folk art of these groups was, in a sense, the last remnant of an indigenous tradition that flourished everywhere before Islamic and Spanish contact. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Technically, the upland tribal groups were a blend in ethnic origin like other Filipinos, although they did not, as a rule, have as much contact with the outside world. They displayed great variety in social organization, cultural expression, and artistic skills that showed a high degree of creativity, usually employed to embellish utilitarian objects, such as bowls, baskets, clothing, weapons, and even spoons. Technologically, these groups ranged from the highly sophisticated Bontocs and Ifugaos, who engineered the extraordinary rice terraces, to more primitive groups. They also covered a wide spectrum in terms of their integration and acculturation with lowland Christian Filipinos. Some, like the Bukidnons of Mindanao, had intermarried with lowlanders for almost a century, whereas others, like the Kalingas on Luzon, remained more isolated from lowland influences. *

There are ten principal cultural groups living in the Cordillera Central of Luzon in 1990. The name Igorot, the Tagalog word for mountaineer, was often used with reference to all groups. At one time it was employed by lowland Filipinos in a pejorative sense, but in recent years it came to be used with pride by youths in the mountains as a positive expression of their separate ethnic identity vis-à-vis lowlanders. Of the ten groups, the Ifugaos of Ifugao Province, the Bontocs of Mountain and Kalinga-Apayao provinces, and the Kankanays and Ibalois of Benguet Province were all wet-rice farmers who worked the elaborate rice terraces they had constructed over the centuries. The Kankanays and Ibalois were the most influenced by Spanish and American colonialism and lowland Filipino culture because of the extensive gold mines in Benguet, the proximity of Baguio, good roads and schools, and a consumer industry in search of folk art. Other mountain peoples of Luzon were the Kalingas of KalingaApayao Province and the Tinguians of Abra Province, who employed both wet-rice and dry-rice growing techniques. The Isnegs of northern Kalinga-Apayao Province, the Gaddangs of the border between Kalinga-Apayao and Isabela provinces, and the Ilongots of Nueva Vizcaya Province all practiced shifting cultivation. Negritos completed the picture for Luzon. Although Negritos formerly dominated the highlands, by the early 1980s they were reduced to small groups living in widely scattered locations, primarily along the eastern ranges of the mountains. *

South of Luzon, upland tribal groups were concentrated on Mindanao, although there was an important population of mountain peoples with the generic name Mangyan living on Mindoro. Among the most important groups on Mindanao were the Manobos (a general name for many tribal groups in southern Bukidnon and Agusan del Sur provinces); the Bukidnons of Bukidnon Province; the Bagobos, Mandayas, Atas, and Mansakas, who inhabited mountains bordering the Davao Gulf; the Subanuns of upland areas in the Zamboanga provinces; the Mamanuas of the Agusan-Surigao border region; and the Bila-ans, Tirurays, and T-Bolis of the area of the Cotabato provinces. Tribal groups on Luzon were widely known for their carved wooden figures, baskets, and weaving; Mindanao tribes were renowned for their elaborate embroidery, appliqué, and bead work. *

The Office of Muslim Affairs and Cultural Communities succeeded in establishing a number of protected reservations for tribal groups. Residents were expected to speak their tribal language, dress in their traditional tribal clothing, live in houses constructed of natural materials using traditional architectural designs, and celebrate their traditional ceremonies of propitiation of spirits believed to be inhabiting their environment. They also were encouraged to reestablish their traditional authority structure in which, as in Moro society, tribal datu were the key figures. These men, chosen on the basis of their bravery and their ability to settle disputes, were usually, but not always, the sons of former datu. Often they were also the ones who remembered the ancient oral epics of their people. The datu sang these epics to reawaken in tribal youth an appreciation for the unique and semisacred history of the tribal group. *

Contact between primitive and modern groups usually resulted in weakening or destroying tribal culture without assimilating the tribal groups into modern society. It seemed doubtful that the shift of government policy from assimilation to cultural pluralism could reverse the process. James Eder, an anthropologist who has studied several Filipino tribes, maintains that even the protection of tribal land rights tends to lead to the abandonment of traditional culture because land security makes it easier for tribal members to adopt the economic practices of the larger society and facilitates marriage with outsiders. Government bureaus could not preserve tribes as social museum exhibits, but with the aid of various private organizations, they hoped to be able to help the tribes adapt to modern society without completely losing their ethnic identity. *

Ethnic Groups of Luzon

There are ten principal cultural groups living in the Cordillera Central of Luzon in 1990. The name Igorot, the Tagalog word for mountaineer, was often used with reference to all groups. At one time it was employed by lowland Filipinos in a pejorative sense, but in recent years it came to be used with pride by youths in the mountains as a positive expression of their separate ethnic identity vis-à-vis lowlanders. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Of the ten groups, the Ifugaos of Ifugao Province, the Bontocs of Mountain and Kalinga-Apayao provinces, and the Kankanays and Ibalois of Benguet Province were all wet-rice farmers who worked the elaborate rice terraces they had constructed over the centuries. The Kankanays and Ibalois were the most influenced by Spanish and American colonialism and lowland Filipino culture because of the extensive gold mines in Benguet, the proximity of Baguio, good roads and schools, and a consumer industry in search of folk art. Tribal groups on Luzon were widely known for their carved wooden figures, baskets, and weaving

Other mountain peoples of Luzon were the Kalingas of KalingaApayao Province and the Tinguians of Abra Province, who employed both wet-rice and dry-rice growing techniques. The Isnegs of northern Kalinga-Apayao Province, the Gaddangs of the border between Kalinga-Apayao and Isabela provinces, and the Ilongots of Nueva Vizcaya Province all practiced shifting cultivation. Negritos completed the picture for Luzon. Although Negritos formerly dominated the highlands, by the early 1980s they were reduced to small groups living in widely scattered locations, primarily along the eastern ranges of the mountains. *

The Itneg is a general term that refers to speakers of the Itneg languages. These groups live in Luzon and most also peak Ilocano. The Gaddang is a group that lives in northern Luzon. Also known as the Gadan, Ga’dang, Gaddanes, Iraya, Pagam Gaddang, Yrraya, they have largely been assimilated into Ilocano or general Filipino society .

Tagalogs

Tagalogs are the dominant ethnic group in the Philippines both politically and culturally. Also known as Pilipino, they have traditionally lived in the central Luzon Plain around Manila Bay. Their language is the basis of Pilipino, the national language and the primary language taught in schools. The word Tagalog is derived from taga ilog, meaning “inhabitants of the river.”

Before the arrival of the Spanish the Tagalogs had a writing system based on Sanskrit and an advanced metallurgy technology and lived in loose “confederations” under a complicated social system with hierarchical ranking and religion system that varied regionally. Chinese traders passed through the region with some regularity and Islamic sultanates had been established in area. Under the Spanish, the Tagalogs converted to Christianity and adopted more Western ways.

Tagalogs are regarded as proud, boastful and talkative. They are dominate in business, government and the media. Many of their customs involving marriage , death and life events are rooted in Catholic traditions.

In 1912, Cornélis De Witt Willcox wrote in “The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon”: “Tagálogs, the subdivision or tribe of the Filipinos (we are using the word here and elsewhere as a convenience merely) inhabit Manila and the adjacent provinces. We speak in all kindliness when we say that they are distinguished by a certain restlessness of disposition, by a considerable degree of vanity. They are not so given to labor as some others—for example, the Ilokanos, to whom they are measurably inferior in point of trustworthiness. More numerous than any other tribe except the Visayans, they are also wealthier and better educated. Some of them have therefore earned and achieved distinction, but these are exceptions, for in general they are characterized by volatility and superficiality. They are more mixed in blood than other tribes. [Source:“The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon” by Cornélis De Witt Willcox, Lieutenant-Colonel U.S. Army, Professor United States Military Academy, 1912 <>]

If independence were granted “in all probability, a Tagálog oligarchy would be formed; for the capital, Manila, is Tagálog, the adjacent provinces are Tagálog, the wealthy class of the Islands on the whole is Tagálog, and there is no middle class anywhere. The mere fact that the capital is situated in the Tagálog provinces would perhaps alone determine the issue, apart from the fact that the Tagálogs are the dominant element, of the native population. <>

Tagalog Language

Tagalog is the predominant dialect of the Luzon mainland. Filipino, based on Tagalog, is related to Malay and Indonesian and is part of the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Austronesian language family. Filipino is the common language used between speakers of different native languages, which are closely related but not mutually intelligible. Pilipino, a language based in Tagalog, is technically the national language of the Philippines but in actuality it is primarily the local language of people in the Manila area and the plains of Luzon. Many people outside of Luzon and Manila understand it because newspapers, film scripts and magazines are written in Tagalog and radio and television shows are broadcasts are broadcast in the language.

Tagalog speakers in the Philippines have many ways of greeting other people. It is common also to hear them say "Hi" or "Hello" as a form of greeting, especially among close friends. There are no Tagalog translations for these English greetings because they are basically borrowed terms. Below are a few Tagalog greetings that are importart to learn if one wants to endear himself/herself to Filipinos. [Source: Philippines Department of Tourism]

Tagalog Creation Story

The Tagalog are the dominate ethnic group in the Philippines. Summarizing their creation story, Mabel Cook Cole wrote in “Philippine Folk Tales” (1916): “When the world first began there was no land, but only the sea and the sky, and between them was a kite (a bird something like a hawk). One day the bird which had nowhere to light grew tired of flying about, so she stirred up the sea until it threw its waters against the sky. The sky, in order to restrain the sea, showered upon it many islands until it could no longer rise, but ran back and forth. Then the sky ordered the kite to light on one of the islands to build her nest, and to leave the sea and the sky in peace. [Source: pitt.edu/~dash, Mabel Cook Cole, Philippine Folk Tales (Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company, 1916), pp. 187-188]

Now at this time the land breeze and the sea breeze were married, and they had a child which was a bamboo. One day when this bamboo was floating about on the water, it struck the feet of the kite which was on the beach. The bird, angry that anything should strike it, pecked at the bamboo, and out of one section came a man and from the other a woman. Then the earthquake called on all the birds and fish to see what should be done with these two, and it was decided that they should marry. Many children were born to the couple, and from them came all the different races of people.

After a while the parents grew very tired of having so many idle and useless children around, and they wished to be rid of them, but they knew of no place to send them to. Time went on and the children became so numerous that the parents enjoyed no peace. One day, in desperation, the father seized a stick and began beating them on all sides. This so frightened the children that they fled in different directions, seeking hidden rooms in the house -- some concealed themselves in the walls, some ran outside, while others hid in the fireplace, and several fled to the sea.

Now it happened that those who went into the hidden rooms of the house later became the chiefs of the islands; and those who concealed themselves in the walls became slaves. Those who ran outside were free men; and those who hid in the fireplace became negroes; while those who fled to the sea were gone many years, and when their children came back they were the white people.

Story of Bathala, Malakas and Maganda

Bathala is the supreme God of Tagalogs. In ancient times, Bathala was the caretaker of the Earth, and he often thought of creating living beings. But, the Earth was empty, and so he couldn't create any mortals. One day, Bathala met Ulilang Kaluluwa, another God in the form of a serpent, who lived in the clouds. After fighting for three days and three nights, Ulilang Kaluluwa was defeated and killed. Bathala did not give him a proper burial and instead, burned his body on earth. [Source: buzzle.com +/+]

After a few years, Galang Kaluluwa, a winged God, who loved to travel, wandered into the house of Bathala. Galang Kaluluwa and Bathala got along well and lived happily as good friends for many years. But one day, Galang Kaluluwa suffered from a terrible illness and couldn't recover. He expressed his desire to be buried in the place where Ulilang Kaluluwa was burned. From the grave of these two mighty Gods emerged a tall tree, bearing a big, round nut. The trunk of the tree reminded Bathala of Ulilang Kaluluwa's body, whereas the leaves reminded him of Galang Kaluluwa's feathers. He husked the nut, and was surprised to find that the hard nut was full of sweet water and nourishing meat. Bathala realized then, that he was ready to create the mortals and he made the vegetation, animals and human beings.

Another creation myth is the story of Malakas and Maganda - the Filipino version of Adam and Eve. At one time, there was just the sky, the sea, and a crow flying between them. The crow got tired of flying, but could find no place to sit, and stirred up the sea. When the waters of the sea reached the sky, it threw rocks, to keep it down. These rocks then became the islands of the Philippines. The crow flew down and lived peacefully on one of the islands; when one day a bamboo struck its feet. Hurt and angry, the crow started pecking the bamboo until it split in two - thus Malakas, meaning strong, and Maganda, meaning beautiful, were born. Malakas and Maganda married and had numerous children. One day, fed up with the constant racket of the children, they started beating them up. Terrified, the children fled all over the place, and became the different people living on the Islands.

Ilocano

The Ilocano ethnic group is one of the largest in the Philippines. They are people originally from the Hiligayon region and the Ilocos coast of northwest Luzon. Ilocano and Ifugao women have traditionally worn short, tight-fitting. hand-woven skirts with colorful horizontal stripes, and white short-sleeve blouses and loose striped jackets. They went barefoot and sometimes tied a colored bad around their head. Ilocanos are seen as hardworking, aggressive and worried about the future.

Filipinos in the Ilocos regions of the Philippines also have their own funeral and burial traditions, known as the pompon or "burial rites". An example would be how a dead husband is prepared by the wife for the wake, known in Ilocano as the bagongon. Typically, only the wife will cloth the corpse, believing that the spirit of the spouse can convey messages through her. Placement of the coffin is also important, which is to be at the center of the home and must be corresponding to the planks of the floorboards. Lighting a wooden log in front of the house is also customary because the smoke assists the spirit of the dead towards heaven. This log is kept in flames during the wake to repel wicked spirits. The ceremonial attire of the female family members for the vigil is clothing with black coloration. Their heads and shoulder area are shrouded with a black handkerchief known as the manta. +++

Funeral Burial superstitions of the Ilocano people include closing all windows first before taking the casket out of the home, preventing any part of the coffin to hit any part of the dwelling (to prevent the spirit of the dead from loitering to bring forth dilemmas to the household; to some Filipinos, a coffin hitting any object during a funeral means that another person will soon die, and washing the hairs of family members with a shampoo known as gogo (to remove the influence of the spirit of the departed). rice cakes and basi to attendees after each prayer offering session. On the ninth night, a feast is held after the praying or novena. They will again recite prayers and a feast after one year. +++

Ilocano Wedding Customs

Among the Ilocano an unmarried man is looked upon with great pity. Traditionally, marriages have been arranged by parents with the emphasis on being of high status and being a harder worker placed over good looks. Meetings are held between the families of the groom and bride and the prospective groom does some house chores at the girl’s home to prove he is sincere. These days love matches are the norm and boys have traditionally wooed girls by serenading them, often around harvest time. The girls is supposed to play hard to get even if she likes a boy to test his sincerity and desire. If a couple gets engaged snail shells and dried hua-hungya leaves are hung to make sure the couple doesn’t rush to have sex before the get married,

Wedding ceremonies are usually held in a church and are presided over by a priest. The couple closes their eyes when the rings are placed on their fingers to symbolize their desire to overcome the hard times of married life and the groom steps on the feet of the bride to show he will be boss. A veil is placed over the bride and groom while the groom presses the bride’s hand, signifying harmony.

As the couple leaves the church often a bolo dance is performed. Before the wedding feast the couple are showered with rice to ensure prosperity and welcomed by parents of many children to ensure they too will have many children. Often the wedded couple has their hair combed to symbolize a smooth marriage. Inside the bride’s house the couple kneels and prays before the family alter and the groom’s family gives a cash gift to the bride’s family. After the couple welcomes guests and kisses the bride’s mother, the bride changes into ordinary clothes and the feasting begins.

A young man’s love is sometimes broached in a song, as in the so-called Tapat of the Ilocanos, which is simply serenading. A more elaborate or romantic form of this type of courtship is also of Ilocano vintage and it is generally practiced in Rosario, La Union, a place better known as "the gateway to Ilocandia." The custom is locally known as suayan, and it is simply a kind of balagtasan-in-song. In other words, its mechanics follows. A young man unburdens his feelings and passion in song and his lady love also answers in song. The young man again counters with another song and his heartthrob gives her reply in a different song. This process goes on for as long as they don't arrive at an understanding. When they do, then its certain that church bell will soon toll for them. [Source: kasal.com *^*]

In olden times in the province of Ilocos, one of their modes courtship was the so called "rooster courtship" which involved a rooster. An old man with a rooster was delegated to serve as go-between. The procedure consisted of his visiting the prospective bride's house with a rooster in tow. To probe into the purpose of the visit, the prospective bride's father inquired from the visitor what he was going to do with the rooster. Whereupon, the old man answers: "I want to make it crow here, if you please." Then he was asked again about the pedigree of the rooster, whether it was domestic or wild. "Domestic" as an answer signified "one of us,' or a prospective bridegroom belonging to the place, while "wild" denoted something foreign or not coming from the same place; one that belongs to a different ethnic group like Pampango, Pangasinese, Bicolano, Ilongo, Cebuano, Batangueno, Chavacano or any other. An elaboration of this lead to the identity of the prospective bridegroom. Tradition requireed the old man to leave a rooster with the prospective bride's father if the match was encouraged. *^*

Visayans and Other Ethnic Groups of the Central Islands

Visayan is a general term used to describe the people who live on the central islands of the Philippines around the Visayan Sea. Also known as the Bisaya, Bizayan, Bisayan and Pintado, they make up one forth of the Philippines population The Spanish used to call them the Pintados because they painted their bodies. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993)]

The Visayans include the Samarans, Panyans and Cebuans, who live on Samar, Panay, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Masbate, Negros and Siqijor. Many live outside the region, particularly in Manila and on Mindanao.

Visayans are seen as passionate, fun-loving, musical and courageous. They are mostly Roman Catholic. They make up a proportionally high number of professional fighters in the Philippines military and have played a major role in fighting the Islamic groups in Mindanao. They have traditionally been farmers who cultivated corn and wet rice.

South of Luzon, upland tribal groups are concentrated on Mindanao, although there was an important population of mountain peoples with the generic name Mangyan living on Mindoro.

The Sulod are a mountain people that live on the banks of the Panay River on central Panay island. Also known as the Buki, Bukidnon, Mondo, Mundo and Putian, they are primarily agriculturist but also do some hunting and fishing. They live in small settlements on raised one-room bamboo and wood houses. They hold 16 annual ceremonies to honor their pantheon of spirits. The oldest man in each settlement is the chief. When Bukidnon girls and boys reach the age of puberty, they are believed to be old enough to chew betel nut and file their teeth. From then on they are considered mature.[Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993), Teresita R. Infante, kasal.com *^*]

Cebuan Wedding Customs

Cebuans have traditionally attended a big party at the bride’s house before the wedding day. The groom’s’ family pays for it and it often goes on through the night. The bride usually wears a white satin wedding gown and carries a bouquet of white flowers, usually butterfly orchids. The groom wears a white barong-tagalog camisa. Elaborate weddings of the wealthy feature music by a choir, bells and aisles decorated with candles and flowers.

In the wedding ceremony, rings are exchanged and, as is the Spanish custom, there is a coins ceremony in which the groom places silver or gold coins in the cupped hands of the bride. In the Laso ceremony, after the priest reads a nuptial mass he places a veil on the bride’s head and the groom’s shoulders and chord of silk or flowers is strung around their necks

The newlyweds are greeted with banners and branches of coconut palms and pillars made from banana plants and when they exit the church and ride away in a decorated car. The traditional transferring of the bride to the bridegroom’s house is often accompanied by costumed dancing to live music.

The thing that really makes traditional Cebuan marriage a breed distinct and apart from all other majority ethnic group practices is the so called Balusay and Luka-Ay, or "marriage by pair." The first is usually a marriage between a brother and sister tandem of one family and a brother and sister team of another family, while the second is one between two brothers of one family and two sisters of another family. [Source: kasal.com *^*]

Hanunoo

The Hanunoo is a group that lives in southern Mindoro. Also known as the Bulakakao, Hamangan, Hanono-o, Mangyan, they have their own Indic-derived script which they say has traditionally written on bamboo. For a long time they had little contact with outsiders other than to trade forest products for metal and European-made glass beads, which are sometimes exchanged like money and used to settle disputes. Their villages are autonomous and have no chiefs. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993)]

The Hanunoo live in wood, bamboo and thatch houses that are joined end to end and share a veranda. Their granaries look like houses but are smaller and lack a veranda. Their villages tend to be small, with only two to twelve semipermanent houses. They are primarily slash-and burn agriculturalists who plant corn, beans, sugar cane, bananas, papayas and other crops and hunt monkeys, wild pigs, deer and wild water buffalo with poisoned arrows, traps, dogs and fire surrounds. They use scrap metal and bamboo double piston bellows to fashion metal tools.

Some Mangyans still wear loincloths. They traded beeswax and honey for goods with the Spaniards after they arrived. Catholic missionaries are working to protect Mangyan land rights and preserve their culture.

Hanunoo Customs

Young men and women have traditionally courted each other at panludan feasts by exchanging love songs accompanied by guitars, nose flutes and Jew’s harps. Marriage takes places after an agreement has been reached between families. There is no ceremony, bride price or exchange of gifts. Most couples reside with the bride’s family.

The Hanunoo do not practice warfare but family members of murder victims are allowed to take revenge. Sometimes an ordeal with hot water is used to determine the truth at judicial proceedings. The dead are buried for a year and their bones are exhumed and taken to a feast and danced with in an elaborate ceremony and then placed in a niche in a cave. The Hanunoo believe that if this is not done the spirits of the dead may come back to haunt them.

The Hanunoo believe in guardian spirits and ghosts of the dead. The guardian spirits are appeased with periodic offerings of rice, pig blood and betel nut and strings of glass beads. Should these duties be ignored, the Hanunoo believe, the spirits may become angry and allow evil spirits to bring disease and misfortune. Illnesses are treated with herbs, massages and rituals involving mediums ( balyanan) who call on spirits that live in stones to cast out the evil spirits.

Indigenous Groups on Palawan

The Palawans are the native people Palawan as opposed to other Filipino groups that have moved there. They have traditionally lived in the central part of the island. Also known as the Ira-an, Palwano, Palwanon, Paluanes, Palawanin, the Palwan have traditionally cultivated upland rice and built their homes in their fields. About 10 percent are Muslims, mostly those who live on the coast, and remainder practice traditional religion. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993)]

The Tagbanuwa are one of the indigenous people of Palawan. Also known as the Tagbanoua and Tagbanua, they have traditionally grown rice, maize, millet, taro, cassava and sweet potatoes and fished and hunted. They are known as the primary harvester of Manila copal—a gum found in the bark of a kind of pine tree. Their religion focuses on deities, evil spirts and spirits of relatives but does not involve ancestor worship.

Tagbanuas residing in the Calamianes fish only with hook and line, grow cashew nuts, collect coconuts and gather nests for bird’s nest soup. Few have access to Western medicine. Instead they use things like guava leaves to treat upset stomachs. They know how to treat poisonous sweet potatoes to make them edible. They have also found a substance that stuns fish without cyanide.

Tagbanuas residing in the Calamianes islands north of Palawan have been granted land and water rights to several islands. Some of the islands are left untouched because they are sacred and have burial grounds. Others are open to tourists who pay a small fee to enter. The money from the frees is used to buy food and goods they need.

The Batak are a group of hunters that live on Palawan. Other groups indigenous to Palawan include the Kenoy, Moro, Klamain. Agutayano. Kuyono and Kagayano.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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