Indigenous Peoples/Indigenous refer to a group of
people sharing common bonds of language, customs,
traditions and other distinctive cultural traits.
Indigenous peoples’ communities can be
found in the interiors of Luzon,
Mindanao, and some islands of Visayas.
The population data regarding the indigenous peoples in the country vary
according to who has conducted the research. The Episcopal Commission on
Tribal Filipinos (ECTF) distinguishes approximately 40 ethno-linguistic groups
with a population of about 6.5 to 7.5 million (10-11% of the country’s population
in 1995). The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)
estimates some 60 such groups. The National Commission on Indigenous
Peoples (NCIP) identifies 95 distinct tribes, which includes the Islamic or Muslim
groups, in 14 regions of the country with an estimated population between 12-15
million members (17-22% of the total population in 1995).
The indigenous peoples in the Philippines continued to live in their
relatively isolated, self-sufficient communities, at the time when most
lowland communities had already been integrated into a single colony
under Spain in the 1700s and 1800s.
They were able to preserve the culture and traditions of their
“ethnos” or “tribe” as reflected in their communal views on land,
their cooperative work exchanges, their communal rituals, their
songs, dances, and folklore. Instead of hierarchical governments,
each of these communities had its own council of elders who
customarily settled clan or tribal wars to restore peace and unity.
But with the long years of colonial rule in the Philippines,
from the 1700s to the early 1900s, and the influx of migrants into
indigenous peoples’ territories, many influences have been
introduced that gradually changed the indigenous way of life
Indigenous communities at present are still characterized by
these phenomena but are definitely no longer in their pure and natural
state, showing varying degrees of influence from outside culture
Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines
There are various indigenous Filipino
ethnic groups and tribes in the
Luzon the “IGOROT”
People from the Cordillera
Mountains in Luzon are broadly known as
Cordillera Peoples: This is the indigenous population of
the Cordillera mountain range, which covers six provinces in the middle of
Northern Luzon – Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain
Province. They are collectively called Igorots, meaning “mountain
people” .There are eight ethno-linguistic groups in the Cordillera, namely,
Bontoc,, Isneg, Kalinga, Kankanaey, Tingguian, and Yapayao, Ibaloi,
Caraballo Tribes: These are the five ethnolinguistic
groups – Ibanag, Ilongot, Gaddang, Ikalahan and
Isinai – who together with the Agta peoples inhabit the
Caraballo mountain range in Eastern Central Luzon. This range
connects the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Nueva
The Negrito also come from Luzon.
Negrito: The term Negrito is a Spanish word, a diminutive of the word
Negro. In this case, Negritos refers to a large group of indigenous tribes in
Philippines. It includes the subgroups called the Agta, Aeta, Ati, Ayta, Dumagat
and 25 more tribes from the Philippines. Although the Negritos of the
Philippines possess some physical similarities with the pygmies of Africa, they
are completely unrelated in terms of genetics.
Agta and Aeta/Negrito: These short, dark-
skinned and kinky-haired peoples are considered the
earliest inhabitants of the Philippines. Aside from having
been perpetually pushed into the hinterlands of Central
Luzon, mainly in the provinces of Zambales, Bataan and
Pampanga, and in other parts of the country, they also
suffer from racial discrimination. With a population of
about 160,000, they are the most widely distributed
among indigenous peoples.
Visayas The “Manyan” People
The indigenous groups in the Visayas –mostly
in Mindoro – are called Mangyan. Again, there are
many ethnic groups such as the Tadyawan,
Tagbanwa, Palawano, Molbog and Kagayanan.
Mangyan: It is a common name used to refer to eight
ethnic tribes in Philippines. The Mangyan people come
from the Mindoro islands and their population is around
100,000. The Mangyan people practice subsistence
agriculture and they cultivate a number of varieties of the
sweet potato along with taro and rice. They follow a
religion called Animism.
Mangyan of Mindoro: This is a generic name for
the six ethno-linguistic groups spread over the mountains and
foothills of Mindoro, an island southwest of Luzon, namely,
Batangan, Iraya, Hanunoo, Alangan, Ratagnon, Buhid, and
Tadyawan. They are described as the first inhabitants of the
island, and until today, they are one of the few groups that still
practice a pre-Spanish form of writing. Their present
population is about 150,000.
Palawan hill tribes: These are the non-Muslim
tribal people of Palawan island located further west of
Mindoro. This group is composed of four ethnic groups –
Tagbanua, Batak, Kalamianes,Cuyonin, and Ken-uy, and
they number at least 120,000.
Mindanao The Lumad and Moro
There is some differentiation of the indigenous people in
Mindanao. The Moro and the Lumad. The Moro practice Islam
and the Lumad do not. Moro is Spanish for the word Moor.
Lumad means indigenous or native.
Mindanao Lumad: This is a generic term embracing all non-Muslim hill
tribes of Mindanao. Lumad is a Visayan term that means “born and grown in the
The Lumad peoples are composed of some eighteen ethnic groups and they form
the largest grouping of indigenous peoples in the country. They have a total
population today of 2.1 million and are concentrated in varying degrees in the hilly
portions of the provinces of Davao, Bukidnon, Agusan, Surigao, Zamboanga,
Misamis, and Cotabato. They can be found in almost all provinces of Mindanao
and they include the Subanen, Manobo, B’laan, T’boli, Mandaya, Mansaka,
Tiruray, Higaonon, Bagobo, Bukidnon, Tagkaolo, Banwaon,
Dibabawon, Talaandig, Mamanua, and Manguangan.
The Moro or Muslim Groups: These are the Muslims in Mindanao
composed of fourteen groups, namely, Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug,
Samal, Yakan, Sangil, Palawani, Badjao, Kalibugan, Jama-Mapun,
Ipanun, Kalagan, Molbog, and Muslim.