The Yakan of the Philippines
The 71,700 Yakan make up less than half of Basilan's population. In some respects, they are culturally related to the other South Philippines Muslim groups, not merely in religious affiliation. However, they still have their own identifiable culture.
Although the Sultan of Sulu once claimed Basilan as part of his possession, Christian occupation started in 1842 when the Spanish government established a fort on Basilan's northwest coast. Today, there is still a sizable Christian population on the island. During the 1970's, unrest in the southern Philippines hit the Yakan, and many were evacuated.
What Are Their Lives Like?
There are no major Yakan villages. Instead, the Yakan live in settlements that are based on mosque affiliation. The mosque is considered the center of the community. Yakan houses are usually scattered among the fields, and it is difficult to see where one settlement ends and the next begins. The inhabitants of a settlement may or may not be of the same clan.
Nuclear families usually live together in rectangular-shaped homes built on stilts. Homes were traditionally built with thatched roofs, but, today, corrugated iron may be used. A house usually has only one large room with no special quarters for the women. A kitchen adjoins the house.
There is no marked division of labor among the Yakan. The men usually cultivate the gardens while the women tend to household chores. However, the women also help with the farming and the men help with the household duties.
As Muslims, the Yakan are allowed to have as many as four wives, but this practice is becoming rare. Formerly, marriages were arranged, but now the children's wishes are considered. A bride price is still paid to the bride by the groom or his family. Newlyweds usually live with the parents of the bride or the groom. Later, they form their own household on land belonging to either of them. Divorce is common, and may by initiated by either the man or the woman.
The nuclear family, which consists of the husband, his wife, and their unmarried children, is the most common domestic unit. Property is divided equally between children, in spite of teachings in the Koran, which state that a daughter should only inherit half as much as a son.
The Yakan enjoy playing musical instruments. Flutes, Jew's harps, and percussion instruments are played at births, weddings, and funerals. Music is also played toward the growing rice in hopes of "making it happy." The Yakan believe that this will help them have a bountiful harvest.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Yakan have incorporate many of their traditional animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects have spirits) into their Islamic rituals. They believe in evil spirits that sometimes attack people. One such devil is believed to attack and torture people during the second month of the Muslim year.
What Are Their Needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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