ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: The Lumads are Our People, Too! (1)


First of seven parts

(Editor’s note: This article is a slight revision of the lectures the author delivered between the years 1999 and 2000 to two major audiences — the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility in Metro Manila and the Bishops-Ulama Forum, now known as Bishops-Ulama Conference, in Davao City.)


The Lumads are the indigenous peoples of Mindanaw. They constitute approximately five percent, clearly the minority, of the total Mindanaw population in the 1990 census. The rest of the inhabitants in the region are Muslims, also indigenous, estimated at 20 percent; settlers and their descendants roughly make up the balance of 75 percent. It should be pointed out that a good portion of or assimilated into the latter segment are descendants of native inhabitants who were converted to Christianity in the Spanish period, mostly from northern and eastern Mindanaw.

How they became minorities is the story of this paper. Not only have they been reduced to a numerical minority in their own lands, they have also been marginalized in other aspects of our national life. Their minoritization involved mainly the state machinery, with unwitting participation from the major segments of the population. It is not our intention to find fault, merely to lay down the facts in the hope that we may be able to help secure for them a well deserved social space in the Filipino nation. Their situation is not beyond help.

The Lumad Communities and Their Ancestral Domains in Mindanaw 

The Lumads are the Indigenous Cultural Communities of Mindanaw, namely, in alphabetical order: the Ata, Bagobo, Banwaon, Bla-an, Bukidnon, Dibabawon, Higaunon, Mamanwa, Mandaya, Mangguwangan, Manobo, Mansaka, Matigsalug, Subanen, Tagakaolo, Talaandig, T’boli, Teduray and Ubo.

We have 19 in the list but there can be more because aside from distinguishing themselves by their ethno-linguistic identity, they also, and more commonly, refer to each other by their geographic names or their place of habitation. It can easily increase to 35, using their own definition of tribu (tribe).

Origin of the Name Lumad and its Significance

The name Lumad grew out of the political awakening among them during the martial law regime of President Ferdinand Marcos. In June 1986, representatives from 15 tribes agreed to adopt a common name in a congress, which also established Lumad Mindanaw. This is the first time in their history that these tribes have agreed to a common name for themselves, distinct from the Moros and from the migrant majority.

Lumad is a Cebuano word meaning indigenous. The choice of a Cebuano word may be a bit ironic — Cebuano is the language of the natives of Cebu in the Visayas — but they deemed it to be most appropriate considering that the various tribes do not have any other common language among themselves except Cebuano. Lumad Mindanaw, the organization, is no longer intact, but the name remains and is, from all indications, gaining more adherents. The use of Cebuano Bisaya in northern-eastern Mindanaw has been there, already noted by the Spanish missionaries when they got there in 1590s. This is easily observed that east of Cebu as far as Bohol, Leyte and Samar and northern-eastern side of Mindanaw, their languages are heavily influenced by Cebuano; on the west, that part of Negros is Cebuano-influenced but that portion facing Panay, it is heavily Ilonggo-influenced. It is very important to note that this phenomenon took place prior to the resettlement programs imposed by the American colonialists and carried over by the Republic of the Philippines. In short, contact via trade and language easily travelled across the sea. But notice that large islands like Mindanaw and Luzon, contact in between communities was extremely more difficult by overland travel, thus, more languages emerged as a result. Linguist experts can tell us more about this reality on the ground.

Lumad-Mindanaw’s main objective was to achieve self-determination for their member tribes, meaning self-government within their ancestral domains and in accordance with their customary laws under the sovereignty of the Republic. The decision to have a common name was crucial and historic. This was a first in Lumad history.

Earlier, they were called by various names by outsiders, which they shared with other indigenous groups all over the country. They were labeled paganos by the Spaniards or referred to simply by their tribal identities. They were tagged Wild Tribes or Uncivilized Tribes or non-Christian Tribes by the Americans. They were officially named the National Cultural Minorities or just Cultural minorities or simply Minorities by the Philippine Government. They were renamed Cultural Communities in the 1973 Constitution; this was revised to Indigenous Cultural Communities in the 1987 Charter. Bisayans call them nitibo; Tagalogs call them taga-bundok or katutubo. Christian churches used to prefer the name Tribal Filipinos but today they are among the more active users of the name Lumad, and in a more respectful tone. Except for paganos, all these denominations also included the Moros.

Commonality Among Lumad Communities and Other Inhabitants of Mindanaw

Although the different Lumad communities do not have a common language, they actually have so much in common among themselves and with the other indigenous inhabitants of the region as well. Firstly, like the rest of the Philippine population, they share a common origin in the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages. Secondly, among themselves, according to a recent linguistic study,  a large segment or fully 17 groups belong to the Manobo subfamily of languages, thus pointing convincingly to a common origin among them.

Thirdly, this similarity of origin is acknowledged, each in its own way, among the Moro people and the Lumad by their folk tradition. For example, among the Kalibugan/Kolibogan of Titay, they speak of two brothers as their ancestors, both Subanen. Dumalandalan was converted to Islam while Gumabon-gabon was not. Among the Subanen of Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur, they talk of four brothers as their ancestors. Tabunaway was the ancestor of the Magindanaw; Dumalandalan the Meranaw; Mili-rilid of the Teduray, and Gumabon-gabon of the Subanen.

The Manobo of Cotabato and the Magindanaw say that brothers Tabunaway and Mamalu are their common ancestors, although they differ on which of the two was converted to Islam. In the Manobo version, it was Mamalu who became Muslim; in the Magindanaw version, it was Tabunaway. The Manobo version further states that they share the same ancestor with the Ilyanun, the Matigsalug, the Talaandig, and the Meranaw.

In the Teduray tradition, the same brothers Tabunaway and Mamalu are acknowledged as their ancestors.

The Higaunon communities recognize a common ancestry with the Meranaw in their folklore especially in the border areas of Bukidnon and Lanaw. They also believe that the Talaandig belong to their same ethnolinguistic group. Common Higaunon-Meranaw ancestry is pronounced in the Bukidnon folklore where they speak of two brothers Bowan and Bala-oy, one of whom is said to be the ancestor of the Meranaw.

Among the Talaandig of Bukidnon, their great ancestor Apu Agbibilin is acknowledged as the common ancestor of the Talaandig, Magindanaw, Malanao (their pronunciation) and Manobo tribes who were saved at the highest peak of Mt. Kitanglad during the great flood.

Among the Bla-an (pronounced by them as two syllables, accent on the second syllable) of Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanaw and Cotabato, they speak of common ancestry with other ethnolinguistic groups. In an interview with a Bla-an tribal leader of Danlag, Tampakan, South Cotabato, this author got the following account, which should be quoted here lengthily:

“It was Almabet, their creator, who gave them that name. Almabet created eight people, first the Bla-an, then the others, namely, Tabali (T’boli), Ubo (Manobo), Alnawen (Maguindanaw Muslim), Teduray, Klagan, Matigsalug, and Mandaya. He called them by these names. They would later be the ancestors of ethnic groups of the same names. Lands were assigned to them. Kolon Nadal (Koronadal) was given to the Bla-an. Almabet ascended from Melbel (Marbel). From here they (Bla-an) went to Kolon Bia-o (Columbio), to Buluan which they partly share with the Alnawen (Maguindanaw Muslim), to other parts of the present South Cotabato, and to Datal Pitak in Matanao in the present Davao del Sur. The Tabali went to Lake Sebu. The rest went to their respective places. Although they claim common ancestry with these other groups, their languages are not mutually intelligible.”

The Kalagan and the Tagakaolo belong to the same ethno-linguistic group.

Ancestral Domains of the Lumad of Mindanaw

Traditionally, the Subanen have inhabited the Zamboanga peninsula, with larger concentrations in the following specific areas: Dapitan or Illaya Valley, Dipolog Valley specifically in Diwan, Punta and Sinaman, Manukan Valley, Sindangan, Panganuran in the present town of Gutalac, Coronado in the present town of Baliguian, Siocon, Kipit in the present town of Labason, Malayal and Patalun (now Lintangan) both in the present town of Sibuco, Bolong Valley, Tupilak and Bakalan Valleys in the town of Ipil, Lei-Batu Valley, Sibugai-Sei Valley, Dumankilas Bay, Dipolo Valley, Lubukan Valley, Labangan Valley and Mipangi Valley. Other concentrations are also found in the present towns of Katipunan, Roxas, Sergio Osmeña, Sr., Leon Postigo, Salug, Godod and Siayan.

The Higaunon, also known as the Bukidnon, traditionally speaks of their territories as the Walu Ha Talugan, the eight territories named after big rivers: Odiongan (Gingoog), Agusan, Kabulig (Claveria), Tagoloan, Lanaw, Cagayan, Pulangi (Bukidnon) and Balatukan (Balingasag). Roughly, these would be from the Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur west of Agusan river across Misamis Oriental and northern Bukidnon as far as Rogongon in Iligan City.

Sharing a common ancestry with the Higaunon, the Talaandig are concentrated mainly around the Mt. Kitanglad area in the province of Bukidnon. Their chieftain lives in Songco, Lantapan, Bukidnon. In their tradition, their great ancestor Apu Aliga, was recognized as the keeper of the territorial boundaries of the ancestral domains of the early Talaandig, Magindanaw, Manobo and Malanao tribes.

The Manobo are traditional inhabitants of several portions of Mindanaw: at the east side of Agusan river in the Agusan river valley as far as the region below Tago river in Surigao del Norte down to Surigao del Sur; in Bukidnon south; in Sigaboy north of the Cape of San Agustin in Davao Oriental; along the coastal stretch from Padada in Davao del Sur down to Sarangani Bay in South Cotabato; in Sultan Kudarat, and in Cotabato.

The Banwaon also live in the Agusan del Sur south of the Higaunon territory.

The Mamanwa have been living in the area around Lake Mainit at the Agusan del Norte-Surigao del Norte down to Tago river in Surigao del Norte.

The Mandaya have traditionally occupied the stretch of territory from Tandag in Surigao del Norte down to Mati in Davao Oriental and in the area of Salug river valley in the interior of Davao del Norte. Within the Davao Oriental-Davao del Norte are also to be found the Mansaka, Dibabawon and Mangguwangan populations.

Starting from that part of Davao City bordering Davao del Norte down to Davao del Sur, we have in succession the Ata, the Bagobo, the Tagakaolo-Kalagan, and the Bla-an.

As we move into Cotabato from Davao del Sur, we run into the Bla-an again, then the Ubo, then the T’boli, then the Dulangan in Sultan Kudarat, and the Teduray in the province of Maguindanaw.

On the whole, using the territorial jurisdictions of the present — prior to the creation of Sarangani, namely, the 22 provinces and 16 cities that constitute the entirety of Mindanaw and Sulu, there is incontrovertible evidence that from 1596-1898, at least, the Lumad traditional habitat encompassed 17 provinces and 14 cities. Today, however, mainly because of the massive influx of settlers from Luzon and the Visayas and the corresponding displacement of the local population, determining the exact boundaries of Lumad tribal territories has become extremely difficult, especially in areas where Lumad population is heavily intermixed with or dominated by the settler population. This is the case in most parts of the above 17 provinces and 14 cities. We shall see more of this below.

Tomorrow Part II: Lumad Concept of Ancestral Domain

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. A peace specialist, Rudy Buhay Rodil is an active Mindanao historian and peace advocate)