The indigenous people of Mindanao

There are more than 40 different ethnic groups in the Philippines. 
Each group has a distinct culture and language. Several of these ethnic groups can be distinguished as “tribal groups”. They are ‘indigenous groups’ who still live in a rather traditional way. Each group lives in a specific region on one of the islands. You can meat them in parts of Luzon, on some of the Visayas islands and on Mindanao.

The T’boli and B’laan,

Two indigenous groups on Mindanao live 18 tribal Filipino groups. The most well known are the T’boli and the B’laan (or “Bla-an”).  The other groups are the Ata, Bagobo, Banwaon, Bukidnon, Dibabawon, Higaunon, Kalagan, Mamanwa, Mandaya, Mangguwangan, Manobo, Mansaka, Subanen, Tagakaolo, Teduray and the Ubo.

Most characteristic of these ‘indigenous groups’ is that they live  in a traditional way, comparable with how the ancestors lived centuries ago.

The Higaunon people of Northern Mindanao

The Higaunon is one of the mountain tribes in the Philippines. Most  Higaunon  still have a rather traditional way of living. Farming is the most important economic activity.The belief in the power of the spirits of ancestors and in the influence of more than one god, is strongly rooted in the hearts and minds of many Higaunon.

Tasaday people

The Tasaday (tɑˈsɑdɑj) are an indigenous people of the Philippine island of Mindanao. They are considered to belong to the Lumad group, along with the other indigenous groups on the island. They attracted widespread media attention in 1971, when a journalist of the Manila Associated Press bureau chief reported their discovery, amid apparent “Stone Age” technology and in complete isolation from the rest of Philippine society. They again attracted attention in the 1980s when some accused the Tasaday living in the jungle and speaking in their dialect as being part of an elaborate hoax, and doubt was raised about their isolation and even about being a separate ethnic group. Further research has tended to support their being a tribe that was isolated until 1971 and that lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers. The Tasaday language is distinct from that of neighbouring tribes, and linguists believe it probably split from the adjacent Manobo languages 200 years ago.


The Manobo are an Austronesian, indigenous agriculturalist population who neighbor the Mamanwa group in Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur (Garvan, 1931). They live in barangays like the Mamanwa; however, population size is dramatically larger in the Manobo settlements in comparison to those of the Mamanwa. The two groups interact frequently although the amount of interaction varies between settlements and intermarriage is common between them (Reid, 2009).

Manobo is the hispanicized spelling of Manuvu. Its etymology is unclear; in its current form it means ‘person’ or ‘people’.

The Manobo are probably the most numerous of the ethnic groups of the Philippines in the relationships and names of the groups that belong to this family of languages. Mention has been made of the numerous subgroups that comprise the Manobo group. The total Manobo population is not known, although they occupy core areas from Sarangani island into the Mindanao mainland in the provinces of Agusan del Sur, Davao provinces, Bukidnon, and North and South Cotabato. The groups occupy such a wide area of distribution that localized groups have assumed the character of distinctiveness as a separate ethnic grouping such as the Bagobo or the Higaonon, and the Atta. Depending on specific linguistic points of view, the membership of a dialect with a supergroup shifts.

The Manobo are genetically related to the Denisovans, much like the Mamanwa.

Representatives from 15 tribes agreed in June 1986 to adopt the name; there were no delegates from the three major groups of the T’boli, the Teduray. The choice of a Cebuano word was a bit ironic but they deemed it appropriate as the Lumad tribes do not have any other common language except Cebuano. This marked the first time that these tribes had agreed to a common name for themselves, distinct from that of the Moros and different from the migrant majority and their descendants.