Ethnic groups in the Philippines

Ethnic groups in the Philippines


The islands of the Philippines are inhabited by more than 175 Ethnolinguistic Nations, the majority of whose own languages are Austronesian languages in origin. Many of these nations converted to Christianity, particularly the lowland-coastal nations, and adopted many foreign elements of culture. Ethnolinguistic nations include the Ivatan Ethnic Nation, Ilocano Ethnic Nation, Pangasinan Ethnic Nation, Kapampangan Ethnic Nation, Tagalog Ethnic Nation, Bicolano Ethnic Nation, Visayans (Masbateño Ethnic Nation, Ilonggo Ethnic Nation, Cebuano Ethnic Nation, Waray Ethnic Nation, Butuanon Ethnic Nation, Romblomanon Ethnic Nation, Kamayo Ethnic Nation, Cuyunon Ethnic Nation and Surigaonon), Zamboangueño Ethnic Nation, Subanon Ethnic Nation and a lot more.

In western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, there are ethnolinguistic nations who practice Islam. The Spanish called them Moros after the Moors (despite no resemblance or cultural ties to them apart from their religion). In the Agusan Marsh and the highlands of Mindanao, there are native ethnic groups collectively known as the Lumad. Unlike the Moros, these people do not practice Islam, and maintain their animistic beliefs and traditions though some of them have converted to Christianity as well.

The Negrito are a pre-Austronesian people who migrated from mainland Asia and were one of the earliest human beings to settle the Philippines, around 90,000 years ago.[citation needed] The first known were the people of the Callao Man remains. The Negrito population was estimated in 2004 at around 31,000.[1] Their tribal groups include the Ati, and the Aeta. Their ways of life remain mostly free from Western and Islamic influences. Scholars study them to try to understand pre-Hispanic culture.

Most Filipinos are Malayo-Polynesian, a major family within the Austronesian language family. Other ethnolinguistic nations form a minority in the Philippine population. These include those of Japanese, Chinese particularly the Hokkien Ethnic and Cantonese Ethnic, Indians particularly the Punjabi Ethnic, Tamil Ethnic and Kerala Ethnic, English, Castilian, and other ethnolinguistic nations from other countries. Mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity individuals are known as mestizo.


The Philippines consist of a large number of upland ethnic groups living in the country. The highland tribes have co-existed with the lowland Austronesian tribes for thousands of years in the Philippine archipelago. The primary difference is that they were not absorbed by centuries of Spanish and United States colonization of the Philippines, and in the process have retained their customs and traditions. This is mainly due to the rugged inaccessibility of the mountains, which discouraged Spanish and American colonizers from coming into contact with the highlanders.[1]



In the 1990s, there were more than 100 highland tribal groups constituting approximately 3% of the population. The upland tribal groups were a blend in ethnic origin, like those in lowland areas of the country, although the upland tribal groups do not interact nor intermingle with the latter.

Because they displayed a variety of social organization, cultural expression and artistic skills. They showed a high degree of creativity, usually employed to embellish utilitarian objects, such as bowls, baskets, clothing, weapons and spoons. The tribal groups of the Philippines are known for their carved wooden figures, baskets, weaving, pottery and weapons.

Ethnic groups

Northern Philippines

These groups ranged from various Igorot tribes, a group that includes the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Isneg, Kalinga, Kankana-ey and Tinguian, who built the Rice Terraces. They also covered a wide spectrum in terms of their integration and acculturation with lowland Christian and Muslim Filipinos. Native groups such as the Bukidnon in Mindanao, had intermarried with lowlanders for almost a century. Other groups such as the Kalinga in Luzon have remained isolated from lowland influence.

There were several upland groups living in the Cordillera Central of Luzon in 1990. 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 native groups in the mountain region as a positive expression of their ethnic identity. The Ifugaos of Ifugao province, the Bontocs, Kalinga, Tinguian, the Kankana-ey and Ibaloi were all farmers who constructed the rice terraces for many centuries.

Other mountain peoples of Luzon are the Isnags of the province of Apayao, the Gaddangs of the border between Kalinga, and Isabela provinces and the Ilongots of Nueva Vizcaya province and Caraballo Mountains all developed hunting and gathering, farming cultivation and headhunting. Other groups such as the Negritos formerly dominated the highlands throughout the islands for thousands of years, but have been reduced to a small population, living in widely scattered locations, primarily along the eastern ranges of the mountains.

Southern Philippines

In the southern Philippines, upland and lowland tribal groups were concentrated on Mindanao and western Visayas, although there are several upland groups such as the Mangyan living in Mindoro. Among the most important groups found on Mindanao are collectively called the Lumad, and includes the Manobo which is a bigger ethnographic group such as the Ata-Manobo and the Matigsalug found in Davao City, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon Province; the Langilan-Manobo in Davao del Norte; the Agusan-Manobo in Agusan del Sur and southern parts of Agusan del Norte; the Pulanguiyon-Manobo of Bukidnon Province; the Ubo-Manobo in southwestern parts of Davao City, and northern parts of North Cotabato Province that is also to include the Arumanen-Manobo of Carmen (N. Cotabato); the Dulangan-Manobo in the Province of Sultan Kudarat; the Talaandig, Higaonon and Bukidnon of Bukidnon province, Bagobo, Mandaya, Mansaka, Tagakaulo in Davao region who inhabited the mountains bordering the Davao Gulf; the Kalagan lives particularly in lowland areas and seashores of Davao del Norte, Compostella Valley, Davao Oriental and some seashores in Davao Del Sur, the Subanon of upland areas in Zamboanga; the Mamanua in the Agusan-Surigao border region; the B’laan, Teduray and Tboli in the region of the Cotabato province, and the Samal. Samal is synonymous with Luwa’an. Yakan is the indigenous tribe in the hinterlands of Basilan Province. In the lowland lives the Sama Banguingui tribe while in coastal areas there leave the nomadic Luwa’an. Sulu lowland areas are also home of the Sama Banguingui. The Sama or the Sinama and the Jama Mapun are the indigenous tribes in the province of Tawi-Tawi. [2]

Lowland Ethnolinguistic Nations

Ethnolinguistic Nation(s) Image Description(s) Notes
Bicolano Native Warrior.jpg The Bicolanos originated in Bicol Region in Southern Luzon. There are several Bikol languages of which there is a total of about 3.5 million speakers.[10] The most widespread Bikol language is Central Bikol comprising Naga, Legazpi, Daet and Partido dialects (Virac is sometimes considered as a separate language). They are known for their cuisine heavily using chili peppers and coconut milk.
Gaddang The Gaddang number about 25,000. They are known to have inhabited the upper Cagayan Valley, particularly Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya since before the Spanish arrived. Their language is distantly related to Ibanag and Yogad; it is also spoken by ethnically-related highland Ga’dang in the provinces of Ifugao and Mountain Province.
Ibanag The Ibanags are a predominantly Christian lowland ethnic group numbering around half a million people and who primarily inhabit the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela in the Cagayan Valley of northern Luzon. They speak the Ibanag language, which is distantly related to Ilocano.
Ilocano Gabriela Silang.jpg The Ilocano people are a predominantly Christian group who reside within the lowlands and coastal areas of northwestern Luzon.[11] Minor pockets of Ilocanos are also found in scattered parts of Central Luzon, such as Zambales, northern Nueva Ecija and Aurora, in Metro Manila and in some municipalities in Mindanao, mainly in Sultan Kudarat.[11][12] They speak Ilocano and they form the third largest ethnolinguistic group in the Philippines at about 8.1 million.[13] Their foremost folk literature is Biag ni Lam-ang (The Life of Lam-ang), an epic poem with similarities with the Ramayana.
Ivatan Ivatan Woman.png The Ivatan (also spelled as Ibatan) are the predominant ethnoliguistic group in the Batanes islands of the Philippines. They have close cultural links with the Taiwanese aborigines.
Kapampangan Paragua.jpg The Kapampangan or Capampañgan people are the seventh-largest ethnolinguistic group in the Philippines. They originate from Pampanga in the central plains of Luzon, stretching from northeastern Bataan and southeastern Zambales, all the way up to southern Tarlac and southwestern Nueva Ecija. They are predominantly Christian. They primarily speak and use the Kapampangan language, which is spoken by more than 1.4 million people. In the Spanish colonial era, Pampanga was known to be a source of valiant soldiers. There was a Kapampangan contingent in the colonial army who helped defend Manila against the Chinese Pirate Limahon. They also helped in battles against the Dutch, the English and Muslim raiders.[14]:3 Kapampangans, along with the Tagalogs, played a major role in the Philippine Revolution.[15]
Pangasinan Crayon sketch of Leonor Rivera by Rizal.jpg The Pangasinan people or the Pangasinense are the eighth-largest ethnolinguistic group in the Philippines. They are predominantly Christian and they originate from the northwestern seaboard of Luzon, mainly in the province of Pangasinan, northern Tarlac and southwestern La Union,[16] as well as Benguet, northwestern Nueva Ecija, northern Zambales and western Nueva Vizcaya. They primarily speak and use the Pangasinan language, which is spoken by more than 1.2 million people.
Sambal Zambals 3.png The Sambals are the inhabitants of the province of Zambales and the independent city of Olongapo. They are also found in the municipalities of Bolinao and Anda in Pangasinan. Sambals currently make up a large proportion of the population in the municipalities of Zambales province north of Iba. Their language, Sambal, is related to Kapampangan.
Subanon T'nalak Festival Subanen.jpg Subanon or Subanu (also called Subanen or Subanun) is a Subanon word meaning “from the river.” The term is derived from the root soba or suba (meaning “river”) and the suffix -nun or -non which indicates locality or place of origin. Subanon are also known in the Anglicized form as “Subanen”. The Subanon people are the largest lumad group (non-Muslim or -Christian indigenous cultural community) on the island of Mindanao.[17] This ethnic group were the aborigines of western Mindanao particularly in Zamboanga Peninsula areas which are divided into different provinces such as Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan, Misamis Occidental and extended to the province of Misamis Oriental. The Subanon people speak the Subanon language.
Tagalog A family belonging to the Principalia.JPG The Tagalogs, the settlers of Manila and its surrounding areas, are one of the most widespread groups of people in the Philippines.[18][18][18][19] The Tagalog language was chosen as an official language of the Philippines in the 1930s. Today, Filipino, a de facto version of Tagalog, is taught throughout the archipelago.[20] As of the 2000 census, there were about 21.5 million speakers of Tagalog in the Philippines, 23.8 million worldwide.[18][21]
Visayan Visayans 3.png The Visayans are an ethnic group native to the whole Visayas, to the southernmost islands of Luzon and the northern and eastern coastal parts of Mindanao. They are speakers of one or more Visayan languages, the most widely spoken being Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray-Waray.[22] Other groups speak smaller languages such as Capiznon, Kinaray-a, Aklanon, Masbateño, Romblomanon, Surigaonon and Butuanon. They comprise the largest ethnic group in the country, numbering at around 33 million as of 2010.
Zamboangueño Zamboangueño Ethnic.jpg The Zamboangueño people are an ethno-linguistic group of Austronesian descent speaking a Spanish-based creole and they number almost a million people. The Zamboangueño people (Zamboangueño/Spanish: Pueblo Zamboangueño) are a creole ethnic group of the Philippines and Malaysia originating in Zamboanga City (formerly, República de Zamboanga). Spanish censuses record that as much as one third of the inhabitants of the city of Zamboanga possess varying degrees of Spanish and Hispanoamerican admixture.[23] In addition to this, select cities such as Iloílo, Bacólod, Cebú and Zamboanga, which were home to military fortifications or commercial ports during the Spanish era also hold sizable mestizo communities.[24] The Zamboangueño constitute an authentic and distinct ethnic identity because of their coherent cultural and historical heritage, most notably the Zamboangueño language, that distinguishes them from neighbouring ethnic groups.


The Moro, also called the Bangsamoro or Bangsa Moro, are the Muslim population of the Philippines, forming the largest non-Catholic[3] group in the country and comprising about 5 Million or  5.1% (as of August 2007) of the total Philippine population.[1] There are around 13 indigenous communities, of which the majority have converted to the religion of Islam and are now Muslims or Moros; most are the followers of Islam of the Shafi’i madh’hab.[2]

Ethnic divisions

Thirteen Philippine ethnic groups also referred to as indigenous peoples are as follows:

Highland Ethnolinguistic Nations

There are more than 100 highland, lowland, and coastland tribal groups in the Philippines. These include:

Sortable table
Name(s) Image Description Notes
Batak The Batak is a group of indigenous Filipino people that resides in the northeast portion of Palawan.
Bugkalot The Bugkalot are a 2,500-person tribe that lives in the southern Sierra Madre and Caraballo Mountains, on the east side of Luzon Island in the Philippines, primarily in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija.
Igorot Ifugaonon.png The Igorots/Cordillerans (Apayao, Itneg, Kalinga, Bontoc, Ifugao, Ibaloi, Kangkana-ey and Kalanguya) live in the highlands of Luzon. They are primarily located in the Cordillera Administrative Region.[25]
Ilongots The Ilongot are a headhunting ethnolinguistic nation found in the Caraballo Mountains.
Kagayanen The Kagayanen are from the municipality of Cagayancillo, Palawan province. There are about 36,000 Kagayanen in the Philippines.
Lumad Bagobo woman.jpg The Lumad of Mindanao includes several ethnolinguistic nations such as the Manobo, the Tasaday, the Mamanwa, the Mandaya, the B’laan and the Kalagan. They primarily inhabit the eastern parts of Mindanao such as the Caraga, and Davao Regions.
Mangyan Zambals 1.png The Mangyan communities are found in Mindoro. They are 13% in the population.
Molbog Young Ibans, or Sea Dayaks.jpg The Molbog (referred to in the literature as Molebugan or Molebuganon) are concentrated in Balabak island and are also found in other islands of the coast of Palawan as far north as Panakan. The word Malubog means “murky or turbid water”. The Molbog are probably a migrant people from nearby North Borneo. Judging from their dialect and some socio-cultural practices, they seem to be related to the Orang Tidung or Tirum (Camucone in Spanish), an Islamized ethnolinguistic nation native to the lower east coast of Sabah and upper East Kalimantan. However, some Sama words (of the Jama Mapun variant) and Tausug words are found in the Molbog dialect after a long period of exposure with those ethnics. This plus a few characteristics of their socio-cultural life style distinguish them from the Orang Tidung. Molbog livelihood includes subsistence farming, fishing and occasional barter trading with the Moros and neighbouring ethnolinguistic nations in Sabah. In the past, both the Molbog and the Palawanon Muslims were ruled by Sulu datus, thus forming the outer political periphery of the Sulu Sultanate. Intermarriage between Tausug and the Molbog hastened the Islamization of the Molbog. The offsprings of these intermarriages are known as kolibugan or “half-breed”.
Negrito ethnolinguistic nations Negritos.png The Negrito are several ethnic groups of the Australoid race who inhabit isolated parts of Southeast Asia.[7] Their current populations include 12 Andamanese peoples of the Andaman Islands, six Semang peoples of Malaysia, the Mani of Thailand, and the Aeta/Agta and Ati, and 30 other peoples of the Philippines. Genetically, Negritos are the most distant human population from Africans at most loci studied thus far (except for MC1R, which codes for dark skin). The Negrito, Aeta, Batak, and Mamanwa live in remote areas throughout the islands.
Palawan Ethnolinguistic Nations The tribes of Palawan are a diverse group of tribes primarily located in the island of Palawan and its outlying islands. These ethnolinguistic nations are widely distributed to the long strip of mainland island literally traversing Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.Palawan is home to many indigenous peoples whose origins date back thousands of centuries. Pre-historic discoveries reveal how abundant cultural life in Palawan survived before foreign occupiers and colonizers reached the Philippine archipelago. Today, Palawan is making its best to preserve and conserve the richness of its cultural groups. The provincial government strives to support the groups of indigenous peoples of Palawan.
Pala’wan The Pala’wan are a tribal people found in Southern Palawan particularly Quezon, Palawan.
Tagbanwa people The Tagbanwas are found in the western and eastern coastal areas of central Palawan. Their name means “people of the world”. They are concentrated in the municipalities of Aborlan, Quezon and the city of Puerto Princesa. Two other ethnic groups called “Tagbanwa” (i.e. the Central Tagbanwa and the Calamian Tagbanwa) are from a different family of languages and should not be confused the Tagnbanwas discussed here. These are found Coron Island, Northern Palawan, Busuanga Island and the Baras coast. The Central Tagbanwa language is dying out as the younger generations are learning Cuyonon and Tagalog.| The Tagbanwas speak the Tagbanwa language and has several sub-dialects. They are able to comprehend Tagalog, and, depending on their proximity to neighboring ethnolinguistic nations, Batak, Cuyonen and Calamian languages. They usually dress like the non-tribal lowlanders. However, elder men prefer to wear G-string while tilling or fishing. Houses are built from available forest materials. Bamboo and wood are used for the house’s frame anahaw leaves are used to create walls and the roof and bamboo slats are used as flooring. Their basic social unit is the nuclear family which is composed of a married couple and their children usually one girl and one boy.
Taww’t Bato The Taaw’t Batos’ name means “people of the rock”. They are not actually a separate language or ethnolinguistic nation, but rather a small community of traditional S.W. Palawanos who happen to reside in the crater of an extinct volcano during certain seasons of the year, in houses built on raised floors inside caves though others have set their homes on the open slopes. They are found in the Singnapan Basin, a valley bounded by Mount Mantalingajan on the east and the coast on the west. North of them is the municipality of Quezon, Palawan and to the South are the still unexplored regions of Palawan. As of 1987, their population was about 198. Note that the common-seen spelling “Tau’t Bato” or “Tau’t Batu” is a misspelling based on the Tagalog word for “human” (tao). The Palawano word is “taaw.” The men of the tribe wear G-strings while the women cover their lower bodies with bark or cloth that is made into a skirt. The upper half is left exposed although some now wear blouses that are bought from the market.

The people practice agriculture with cassava as the major source of carbohydrates. They also plant sweet potatoes, sugarcane, malunggay (Moringa oleifera), garlic, pepper, string beans, squash, tomatoes and pineapples. Others practice fishing, hunting and industrial arts. Their social organizations are based on family (kin ties), band (type of substinence activity) and settlement (geographic location).

Suludon The Tumandok people are an indigenous group who live in central Panay island. They are the largest indigenous people’s group in Panay, with a population As of 2011 of some 94,000. They are mostly slash-and-burn farmers with bisaya rice as the main crop, the Tumandok also engage in hunting, fishing, and foraging for fruits and root crops.[26]

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