Philippine Tribal Groups
A cluster profile covering 13 Philippine tribal groups.
Like most tribal groups, language is the chief distinguishing feature within their culture. Although many of the groups speak a language from the same family, their particular dialects may not be understood by neighboring tribes.
In the past, quite a number of these tribes practiced different forms of headhunting. Inter-tribal fights were common, often resulting from disagreements over territory.
Though the Philippines consists of over 7,000 islands, only about 700 are inhabited. It is the only country in Asia with a Catholic majority. Turmoil, suffering, and rapid changes in recent years have prepared millions to seek a personal faith in Christ. However, special efforts must be made to reach these remote tribes with the Gospel.
What are their lives like?
The most common method of farming is in "swidden" fields. (These are temporary gardening plots produced by cutting back and burning off the existing vegetation.) The plots usually lie adjacent to their homes. The farmers also depend heavily on irrigated rice terraces which are located on the mountain slopes. Since such primitive "slash and burn" techniques are still used, the crop yield is generally poor. In addition, many of the native forests in the Philippines have been destroyed.
Some of the tribes (such as the Manobo who live on the southeastern coast of Mindanao) have been heavily influenced by plantation agriculture. Others living in the mountainous areas are still primarily hunters and gatherers.
Most of the tribal villages are arranged in clusters around individual gardens. The basic unit of society among these tribes is the extended family. Marriages are most often arranged while the prospective bride and groom are still quite young. Since the tribes have strict taboos on sexual relations between relatives, most marriages are "exogamous," or with members of another tribe.
Depending on the influence of outside cultures, the clothing of the tribes varies. Some wear simple loin cloths, while others dress in modern style clothing.
There seems to be very little political organization within the tribes. However, most villages do have a "headman" or chief who acts as a judge and defender.
What are their beliefs?
The villagers believe that there are specific rituals that must be observed in order to ensure a successful journey into the next life. Some of the groups (such as the Itneg tribes) utilize female shamans, or mediums, in their elaborate rituals. They believe the shamans have power to cure the sick by magic, to communicate with the gods, and to control events.
There are other tribes (such as the Kalinga) who believe that the spirits, or anitos, may be their deceased relatives of whom the souls have not been properly sent to the after world.
In the Kankannaey tribes, the priesthood is led by men rather than women. The primary sacrifices used in their rituals are pigs.
Although the Manobo tribes believe in a supreme being that inhabits the "sky world," and the Binukid have had some exposure to Christianity, these tribes, like the others, remain unreached with the Gospel. They are a people living in deep bondage to senseless rituals and spirit worship.
What are their needs?
As well, many of the groups do not have a written language, which hinders Bible translation. Specific strategies must be developed in order to see these tribes reached with the Gospel.
See also the following related groups:
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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