Prayer Profile
The Tuboy Subanon of the Philippines

[IMAGE] The Tuboy Subanon live on the island of Mindanao, the second largest island of the Philippines. They generally live in scattered farm settlements in the forested, mountainous interior of the Zamboanga Peninsula. The Tuboy Subanon are a small branch of the Subanon ethnic group and speak various Subanon dialects.

The history of the Subanon is obscure until the 1600's, when they are mentioned in the writings of Spanish Jesuit missionaries. Prior to the twentieth century, their only contact with the outside world was with Muslim merchants who lived along the coast of the peninsula. The Muslims exploited them economically, setting the pattern for Subanon relations to this day.

Since World War II, Christian and Muslim ethnic groups of the Philippines have often clashed. The Subanon, who are polytheists (believe in many gods), have been caught in the crossfire, victimized by one side, then the other.

What Are Their Lives Like?
All of the Tuboy Subanon are farmers who practice "slash and burn" agriculture. This is a type of farming in which a section of forest is cut down, the debris is burned, and various crops are planted on the clearing. Every year a new field is cleared. After one or two years of use, the field must lie fallow for up to 15 years. The Subanon also raise various types of livestock, including pigs, chickens, cattle, and water buffaloes.

Rice is by far the most important crop, although various other grains are raised. If there is any extra rice, it is sold at a lowland market for cash, which is needed to purchase clothing, utensils, and tools.

Subanon houses usually have some distance between them. Their homes are typically rectangular, raised on stilts, and have thatched roofs. They are generally situated on hillsides or ridges that overlook the family fields. Every three or four years the Subanon move to a new location to clear more forest for fields.

Unlike most of the world's peoples, the Tuboy Subanon have virtually no division of labor based on sex. Men and women work in the fields together, and men cook and care for the children when necessary. They have little social stratification. Everyone is on an equal level in Subanon society because everyone has the same occupation and has almost the same economic level and lifestyle.

The Subanon permit polygamy (multiple wives), but nearly all marriages involve only one man and one woman. Families usually arrange marriages, and the groom's family is expected to pay a bride price. Occasionally, the groom will work for the bride's family for a few years rather than paying a full bride price.

What Are Their Beliefs?
In sharp contrast to the surrounding peoples who have adopted Christianity or Islam, the Tuboy Subanon cling to their ancient polytheistic religion. They believe that man shares the universe with a variety of gods, spirits, demons, and ghosts. These supernatural forces are said to have the ability to harm humans. However, humans supposedly have the power to harm them as well. At various times of the year, the Subanon give offerings of rice, meat, and wine to the gods and ancestral spirits. Witch doctors, or shamans, play a large role in Subanon religion. The people depend on the shamans to hear and understand the wishes of the gods and ancestral spirits.

What Are Their Needs?
The Tuboy Subanon have long been exploited and victimized by their neighbors, binding them to a history of servitude and poverty. Their physical needs are great, but their spiritual needs are even greater. For generations they have been bound to false religion. Most of them have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel message.

Although there are several missions agencies working among the Tuboy Subanon, audio recordings of the Gospel are the only Christian resource currently available to them. No Christian broadcasts are being aired in their language, and the Bible has not yet been translated into Subanon.

Prayer Points
  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the Philippines.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Tuboy Subanon.
  • Ask God raise up linguists to translate the Bible into the Subanon language.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Tuboy Subanon through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that God will give the Tuboy Subanon believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Tuboy Subanon bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of the Philippines through worship and intercession.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Tuboy Subanon church for the glory of His name!

See also the following related group:
The Subanon of the Philippines.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Tuboy Subanon
  • Country: Philippines
  • Their language: Tuboy-Salog Subanon
  • Population: (1990) 11,000
    (1995) 12,300
    (2000) 13,500
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionist 98%
  • Christians: 2%
  • Church members: 245
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 5
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 3,400 (28%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,000 (9%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 2,400 (19%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 8,900 (72%)
  • Country: Philippines
  • Population: (1990) 60,779,000
    (1995) 67,581,300
    (2000) 74,575,400
  • Major peoples in size order: Tagalog 20.5%
    Visayan 19%
    Ilocano 11.1%
    Hilgaynon 9.3%
    Waray-Waray 4.6%
  • Major religions: Christian (all types) (92.2%)
    Muslim 6%
    Ethnic religionist 0.6%
  • Number of denominations: 151

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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