Four different indigenous

Different Indigenous groups

Manila, Luzon



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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.

Lumad, the collective name

On Mindanao there are in total 18 indigenous groups. The collective name for the 18 indigenous groups on Mindanao is "Lumad". It is just another word for 'indigenous' .These ethnic groups distinguish themselves by their language and culture.

Old and new elements in their life

The cultural heritage is visible in their clothes and ornaments they wear. Housing, economic activities, cultural habits and often religion are all very traditional. Some groups learned to know tourism as a good alternative to earn extra money. In general however, the indigenous groups still live like in the past

The T'boli and their subsistence activities

The T'boli (pronounce "Tiboli") people live in the southern part of the province Cotabata, in the environment around lake Sebu, west of the city General Santos. It is estimated that are between 100000 and 150000 T'boli. In the past the T'boli practiced the primitive way of agriculture "slash and burn". "Slash and burn" means that the people will clear a part of the forest by cutting the big trees and burning the lower and smaller trees and bushes, after which they use the cleared plots as arable land for some years without any fertilization. Rice, cassava and yams were the most important agricultural products. Next to that, the people went hunting or fishing for additional food.

For years slash and burn is no longer possible. The forests are gone by intensive economic activities as foresting. At present The T'boli live in the mountains. Agriculture is the only source of income. Some foreigners, in cooperation with the aid organization Cord Aid, succeeded in developing some hectares of arable land in the last few years. Nevertheless, the T'boli live in poor circumstances; a struggle for live.

Image © Claus Qvist Jessen

Image © Jens Peters

The T'boli distinguish their selves, like all other "tribal Filipinos", by their colorful clothes and specific ornaments like rings, bracelets and earrings.

Religion and culture

Only a few T'boli are Christian or Islamite. More than 95 percent of The T'boli people still has their animistic religion. They were hardly influenced by the spread of the Islam on the island. The Spaniards too, didn't succeed to Christianize the T'boli during the Spanish colonial period. Main reason was that the T'boli withdrew to the hinterlands in the uplands.

The T'boli and members of other indigenous tribes like the Higaunon, still believe in spirits who live on several places in the natural environment.

Indigenous tribes and Animism

There is a strong belief in the power of the spirits of ancestors and in the influence of more than one god. More information.

way of life ornaments

Threats to their way of living

Last decades there are threats of land problems. The steady population growth of their own people and especially the pressure on the lands by lowland farmers and foreign and local companies. The lowland farmers (often landless) are seeking for arable land. The companies are most of the time interested in the natural resources in these areas. Mining, new plantations and logging, are the threats to the T'boli and their homelands.

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