Pagdaloy, Flow of Life

picture of Manobo


To Be Manobo

The Manobo form the largest of the ethnic groups of the Philippines in terms of relationships and number of linguistic divergences. The microsystemic environmental niches result in a wide distribution of the group, covering core areas from Sarangani Island to the Mindanao mainland in the provinces of Agusan del Sur, Davao, Bukidnon, Cotabato, and South Cotabato. Some of the groups occupy such a wide area that localized groups have assumed distinctive characters and formed separate ethnic grouping, such as the Bagobo, the Higaonon, and the Atta.

A tentative—but more specific—classification that needs attention divides the Manobo into major groups that are then divided into subgroups as follows: (1) Ata subgroup: Dugbatang, Talaingod, and Tagauanum; (2) Bagobo subgroup: Attaw (Jangan, Klata, Obo, Giangan, Guiangan), Eto (Ata), Kailawan (Kaylawan), Langilan, Manuvu/ Obo, Matigsalug (Matigsaug, Matig Salug), Tagaluro, and Tigdapaya; (3) Higaonon subgroup: Agusan, Lanao, and Misamis; (4) North Cotabato: Ilianen, Livunganen, Pulenyan; (5) South Cotabato: Cotabato (with subgroup Tasaday and Blit), Sarangani, Tagabawa; (6) Western Bukidnon: Kiriyeteka, Ilentungen, and Pulangiyen; (7) Agusan del Sur; (8) Banwaon; and (9) Bukidnon. The various subgroupings are not precisely defined as of yet, except among the members themselves.

Settlements are generally kin-based nuclear groups located on the ridges near the swidden fields. The communities are widely dispersed and placed on high ridges above mountain drainage systems. In some areas, long houses accommodate several families, usually including extended family memebrs. Leadership is entrusted to a highly skilled and socially powerful individual who builds up his following through various modes of alliances, including marriage. In a grouping, which usually comprises a traditional kindred community, one datu is recognized as the head. Datus are further grouped under a more sovereign datu, up through a political pyramid with a sultan and a rajah muda holding sway in a larger territory. Although the kin relationship is bilateral, a bias favors males for decision-making and leadership while women hold subordinate positions in society.

However, the structure of leadership is gradually changing, with an overlay of the contemporary civil structures applied from the governor of the province down to the level of the sitio councilman, positions often assumed by better educated, younger-generation members of the community. The groups are largely Christianized though some local belief systems also survive. The national education system has largely penetrated the more concentrated areas and minimally the more inaccessible rural areas. Distinctly characteristic ethnic dress has mostly given way to commercial clothing, with ethnic materials retreating to the antique trade.

▶ Play Video 6. To Be Manobo

This episode was first aired on Filipino television on June 6, 1996. This episode has been modified from its original format.

Animals were offered in the context of the Manobo cultural ritual.