Ethnic Minority Groups In The South

In the South, minority groups can be found in Mindoro, Palawan and in Mindanao. The Mangyan group, which is counted 55,000 inhabiting the island of Mindoro, is subdivided into several groups- Iraya, Alangan, Hanunoo, Batanga, Tagaydan, Ratagnon and Buid. Their main livelihood is from the sea but due to inevitable migration of local and foreign settlers most of them moved to the inner districts of Mindoro. They are all are talented weavers, making bags, belts, and baskets out of forest plants such as nito, bamboo and buri.

The Hanunoo, a mangyan group, has an interesting musical instrument called git-git, which they use for composing and playing ancestral music. It looks like violin with strings made of human hair. They also practice ancient literature in their carvings. Ancient poems called Ambahan are etched on bamboo tubes in an indict script language that differs from what they use normally.

The Pala’wan is the minority group strewn widely in the inlands of southern Palawan. Their religion is based on Islamism and Hinduism. They have dancing; singing and drinking rituals to basically please their God, Ampo, and as well to attract good fortune.

The Tagbanuas are brown-skinned slim straight-haired ethnic group. Women wear bright body ornament and brighty colored clothes. They believe in a fairy called “Diwata”, which they account for they lives. Marriages are arranged from the age of 12 and polyandry is common. Women with several husbands are considered to be in demand, thus, worthy of high dowries. Both the Tagbanuas and the Bataks developed their own written language like the Mangyans of Mindoros that are inscribed mostly on bamboo tubes.

The Tau’t batu are the cave dwellers found in the Signapan Basin. Because of their unique and extreme difference from ordinary beings, the government declared their area off limits to strangers to prevent them from unreasonable exploitation. These tribe subsist on hunting, gathering fruits and planting crops and rice near the forest.

The Mandaya and Masaka tribe are groups gathered together along the coastal areas of Davao Bay. The Mandaya who were basically from the highlands of northeastern Mindanao, practice their animism and are famous for their silver belongings.

The T’boli tribe, who are the inhabitants of the Tiruray highlands, southwest of Mindanao, are known for their colorful body ornaments consisting of earrings, lush necklaces, and handcrafted bracelets. They wear a unique outfit called t’nalak, made from woven abaca, which turned out a beautiful mixture of red, brown and beige designs- an extra ordinary work of art that attracted people from all over the world. They are one of those many tribes that have maintained and evolved an artistically rich cultural practices evidently shown in their musical performances. Bamboo tubes, wooden guitar-like instruments, mouth harps, bronze gongs, drums and many more are some of their wide array of musical intruments made out of their own wood products. They are remarkable balladeers singing about their lives and legends, and dance is an essential part of their festivities.

The Tasaday tribe is cave and forest dwellers from South Cotabato. They were kept unidentified for 50,000 years until their discovery in 1960. Because of some confusion concerning their authenticity as an ethnic group, they had to be rediscovered several times and thus, leading to a final confirmation of their authentic roots.

The Maranaw, commonly known as people living in the lake, are first inhabitants of the shores of Lanao del Sur, north of Mindanao. They are Muslims who are able to preserve their traditional practices until now. They survive mainly from wood sculpting, weaving fabrics and metal and brass making. Their products are known for its good quality and artistic designs.

The Subanon, were among the earliest settlers around the long peninsula of Zamboanga centuries ago and now sparingly scattered throughout the Zamboanga province to Misamis Occidental. They live in small group of farming community. The term Subanon means “upstream” referring to the areas they have inhabited.

The Tausug is the largest tribe inhabiting the area of southwestern Mindanao. Due to their expertise in clothing and jewelry trading, they are considered wealthier than other minority groups. They are commonly seen in the island of Jolo, Sulu.

The Yakan is a tribe found in Basilan Island, while others have moved to Zamboanga. They are exceptionally skilled in weaving as well as great farmers and cattle raisers.

The Badjaos are gypsies whose main livelihood is the richness of the sea. They live in houseboats by the shore.

The Negritos

The Aetas or Negritos are the aborigines of the Philippines who were called negritos by the Spaniards at the time of their reign in the Philippines because of their darker skin color. It is the tribe inhabiting the eastern parts of Luzon and called in different names: Agta, Ita, Ati, or Aeta. About 20,000 of them are spread throughout the country. Their majority can be seen in Pampanga and Zambales while others inhabit the coastal fringes of Northern Luzon, and the mountains of Negros, Samar, Panay and Leyte. As a result of their nomadic life, they live in houses built out of grass and tree branches to easily vacate upon scarcity of surrounding food. They don’t have social rules and live according to their ancient customs , which is most evidently shown in the way they dress.

Their distinguishing features are shorter stature, darker skin and curly hair. And because of their strong adaptation to tropical jungles, they are compared with the pygmies in the equatorial jungles of Africa.

Aeta or negritos according to anthropologists and archeologists, are descendants of the earliest settlers of the Philippines. They were predicted to migrate in the country through land bridges that connects the country to Asian mainland 30,000 years ago. It may have occurred when the Malay Peninsula was still connected with Sumatra and other Sunda Islands. Their boundless journey around the Malay Peninsula that spread as far as The Philippines resulted to their widespread existence in the country. This is evident from the failed attempt of the Spaniards to settle them in one area.

Several groups of Aetas have been recorded present in many parts of the archipelago. In Ilocos, they are called Pugot or pugut, a name designated by Ilocanos for anyone with dark skin. In their dialect, it also means “goblin” or “forest spirit”. In some areas of Mindanao, groups of Aetas are called Dumagat and in Bicol Region, they are named Agta.

Environmental changes and industrial developments have severely declined their existence. Depressed lowlanders have exploited the forests for food causing these tribes to migrate from places to places for survival. Major forest depletion displaced them to big cities as beggars and scavengers. When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, a volcano known to have been sleeping for 150 years, and the area where most Aetas’ ancestral habitat, caused for many of this group to migrate to many places and eventually lost their homes.
Early groups of Aetas showed resistance to any form of social modification, however, through years of irresistible forces of change, Aetas, then gradually adjusted to the country’s social, economic and political development.

Several groups of Aetas believe in supreme beings who rule over minor spirits. Mamanua has Supreme Magbabaya while the Aetas from the forest of Mt Pinatubo worship Apo Namalyari. Aside from Animism, Aetas also believe in environmental spirits such as what they call “anito or Kamana”. They believe that these spirits are the inhabitants of the rivers, sky, mountains, valleys and other places. The Ati of Negros island call their God of nature as “Taglugar or Tagapuyo” that plainly means “the inhabitant of the place”. They also consider spirits of disease and comfort.

Aside from a dance after a pig hunt, they don’t have special occasion for praying and ritual activities. Some of their dances are performed to apologize for their catch and to inspire their future hunt.
The Aetas are naturally skilled in weaving and plaiting. They produce excellent winnowing baskets, rattan hammocks, and other household containers like those works of Mamanuas. They also produce raincoats made of palm leaves with its bases surrounding the neck of the wearer, and whose topmost part spreads like a fan all around the body. However, only women exclusively weave winnows and mats and only men make armlets.

Aetas traditional clothing adapts to their simple life. Young women wear wrap around skirts, elder women wear bark cloth while elder men covers themselves with loincloths. The old women of the Agta group wear their bark cloth strip which passes between legs, and is attached to a string around the waist. Nowadays, however, due to inevitable influence of the lowlanders, most Aetas who have been in contact with them have adopted the casual clothing which are T-shirts, pants and rubber sandals.

Decorative disfigurement is a traditional art most Aeta groups practice to decorate their bodies. Scarification or intentionally wounding the skin to form a scar is a common visual art. They wound their skins on their backs, arms, legs, hands, calves, abdomen, and then irritating the wounds with fire, lime or other ways to create a visible scar. The Dumagats, another group who belong to the Aeta family, disfigure their teeth during late puberty and dye it black after a few years. Like other tribes, Aetas also decorate themselves with ornaments such as girdles, necklaces and neckbands of braided rattan fitted with pig bristles. Although in a quite different way, they use flowers and leaves as earplugs on some occasions.

Masters of life in tropical rainforests, some of them were employed by the US army during their occupation in the counrty to teach their soldiers how to survive in the jungle. Kalibo, their once inhabited island, showcases their existence and cultural practices in the world-famous Ati-atihan Festival.

Ethnic Minority Groups In The North

kalinga_natives_0.0.jpgIn the north, the cultural minority groups vary according to their districts. Tribes from the central cordillera are commonly called Igorots. They consist of the Apayao, Bontoc, Ifugao, Ibaloy, Kalinga, Kankanai or Tinguian. Despite of their common roots, it is still not proper to call them Igorots since they have different cultural practices.

They are known to be short, and have rosy complexion (due to the cold weather up in the mountains). Though short in stature, they are taller than Aetas, fairer and have big black eyes. They have stronger cheekbones, wider face, and straight, smooth and shiny hair.

Apayaos are called Isneg, who inhabit the shores of Matalang and Apayao rivers in the Ilocos and Abra provinces. They came from the roots of headhunters in the central Cordillera. They value farming more than anything and still express their spiritual beliefs through ceremonial feasts.

The Bontoc group also came from the roots of headhunters but more from a fixed territory. They are famous for bravery and strength. Wooden coffins and ancient burial caves derived basically from their sorrowful funeral practice, whereas a dead person is laid in a death seat (sungachil) and displayed in one part of the house for passers by to view easily.

kalinga_natives_5.0.jpgThe Ifugaos, whose name means “people of the earth”, are the carvers of the rice terraces, popularly known as the eight wonder of the world, and an amazing work of bare hands, ancient farming tools and primitive irrigation scheme that works even nowadays. Their life evolves basically from their ethnic beliefs and customs. A form of ritual- shown mostly in their dances and songs that represent every aspect of their life.

The Kalinga group although belongs to the headhunters of the north, lessened this practice due to the peace agreement with other tribes. As a substitute to beheading the captured enemy, an offering of food or animal is accepted as peace offering. These peace pact is followed nowadays by most of the tribes thus, a good reason for travelers to be safe in their area.

The Tinguians who call themselves Itneg reside in the province of Abra in the northwestern Luzon. Other groups inhabiting the Cordillera mountain provinces of Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya and Quirino call themselves Ikalahan. The Gaddangs, on the other hand live in Cagayan mountains in the northeastern corner of Luzon. They have separate ways of calling themselves but they all belong in the same ethnic group.