Ethnic groups in the Philippines

Ethnic groups in the Philippines
Map of the ethnic groups of the Philippines by province. Shade per province is determined on which group has the highest number of people; several provinces may be split into several ethnic groups.

The Philippine islands are inhabited by number of different ethnic groups. The majority of the population is composed of ethnolinguistic groups whose languages are Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) in origin. Many of these groups converted to Christianity, and adopted many foreign elements of culture. These ethnic groups include the Cebuano, Ilocano, Pangasinense, Kapampangan, Tagalog, Bicolano, and Waray.

In Mindanao, there are people who practice Islam. The Spanish called them Moros after the Moors. In some highland areas of Mindanao, there are mountain-dwelling ethnic groups collectively known as lumad. These people do not practice Islam, and maintain their animistic beliefs and traditions.

The Negrito are a pre-Mongoloid people who migrated from mainland Asia and were one of the earliest human beings to settle the Philippines, around 30,000 years ago.[citation needed] (The known first being that of the people of the Callao Man remains) The Negrito population are estimated to number around 30,000. Their tribal groups include the Ati, and the Aeta. Their ways of life remain mostly free from Western and Islamic influences. Scholars study them to try to understand pre-Hispanic culture.

Most Filipinos are part of the Austronesian group, a group of Malayo-Polynesian speaking people often known as Malay race. Other ethnic groups form a minority in the Philippine population. These include those of Spanish, American, Chinese, Europeans, and other ethnic groups from other countries. Mixed-race individuals are known as Filipino mestizo.

Many Filipinos use English in the public sphere, and also speak Filipino and other Philippine languages. Spanish was the official language in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period from the 16th century to the late 19th century. The government continued to use it as one of the official languages until 1987.


Ethnic identity

In the Philippines there are individuals of different languages, ethnic cultures, and ancestries. The majority of Present day Filipinos come from a group of Taiwanese aborigines who evolved into Malay people who populated a large part of Southeast Asia.[1]

Population history

The first human remains discovered by anthropologists in the Philippines were that of the Prehistoric Tabon Man, found in Palawan. Archaeological evidence indicates similarities with two early human fossils found in Indonesia and China, called the Java Man and Peking Man.

The Negritos arrived about 30,000 years ago and occupied several scattered areas throughout the islands. Recent archaeological evidence describe by Peter Bellwood claimed that the ancestors of Filipinos, Malaysians, and Indonesians first crossed the Taiwan Strait during the Prehistoric period. These early mariners are thought to be the Austronesian people (Malayo-Polynesian). They used boats to cross the oceans, and settled into many regions of Southeast Asia, the Polynesian Islands, and Madagascar.

By the 14th century, the Malayo-Polynesian ethnic group had dominated and displaced the Negrito population in most areas. Traders from southern China, Japan, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, also contributed to the ethnic, and cultural development of the islands.

By the 16th century, Spanish colonization brought new groups of people to the Philippines. Many settled in the Philippines, and some of them intermarried with the Malay population, although intermarriage was slight. This gave rise to the Filipino mestizo or individuals of mixed Malay and Spanish descent. Far more numerous were Chinese immigrant workers, known as sangley, as many were traders. They married native women. Their children and descendants were called mestizo de sangley. The mestizo de sangleys were far more numerous than mestizos of Spanish descent. By the 19th century, the more successful among them had risen to become wealthy major landowners. They could afford to have their children educated in elite institutions in the Philippines and Europe.

By the opening of the Suez Canal in the 1800s, the Spanish opened the Philippines for foreign trade. Europeans such as the British, Germans, and French settled in the islands to do business. By the end of the Spanish colonial period, the native ethnic groups of the Philippines began calling themselves Filipinos, a term that had begun as self-identification for persons of Spanish descent born in the Philippines.

Following its victory in the Spanish-American War, the United States created a colonial authority in the Philippines in 1898. Military troops and businessmen made their way to the country, bringing in new ethnic groups, culture and language. In the late 19th century, some Americans proposed resettling African Americans in the Philippines, because of discrimination against them in the South, particularly. Post-American Civil War violence against the freedmen had gone on as southern whites struggled for political and economic dominance. The resettlement idea did not get implemented.[2]

The Philippines has over 180 indigenous ethnic groups, over half of which represent unique linguistic groups.

Indigenous ethnic groups


The Bicolanos originated in Bicol, Luzon. There are several Bicolano languages, of which there is a total of about 3.5 million speakers.[3] Their language is referred to as Bikol or Bicolano.


The Ibanags are an ethnic group numbering around half a million people, who inhabit the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya.


The Ibanag, Ivatan, the Ilocano people are the inhabitants of the lowlands, and coastal areas of northern Luzon.[4] Ilocano are also found in central Luzon, Metro Manila, and some towns in the Visayas, and Mindanao.[4][5]

There are about 8 million speakers of Ilocano,[6] and most of these individuals are Christians.


The Ivatan are predominant in the Batanes Islands of the Philippines. They have close cultural links with Taiwanese aborigines.


The Kapampangan or Capampañgan (English: Pampangan; Spanish: Pampangueño or Pampango) people originate from the central plains of Luzon, starting from Bataan up to Nueva Ecija. The Kapampangan language is spoken by more than two million people. In the Spanish colonial era, Pampanga was known to be a source of valiant soldiers. There was a Kapampangan contingent in the colonial army who helped defend Manila against the Chinese Pirate Limahon. They also helped in battles against the Dutch, the English and Muslim raiders.[7]:3 Kapampangans, along with the Tagalogs, played a major role in the Philippine Revolution.[8]


The Moros comprise of various ethnolinguistic groups in southern, and western Mindanao who are the same as other Filipinos, but whose religion is Islam. The largest of these are the Tausug, the Maguindanao, the Maranao, the Samal, the Yakan, and the Banguingui. These ethnolinguistic groups are different in terms of culture, religion, and have been politically independent.[9] Muslim Filipinos have an independent justice, and education system based in Cotabato City. They form about 5% of the Philippine population,[10] making them the sixth largest ethnic group in the country.


Pangasinense are the ninth largest Filipino ethnic group. They originated from the northwestern seaboard of Luzon.[11]


The Sambal are the inhabitants of the province of Zambales, and the city of Olongapo in the Philippines. Sambals currently make up a large proportion of the population in the municipalities of Zambales province north of Iba.


The name Subanon (also spelled Subanen or Subanun) means "river people", which is derived from the word "suba" or river. The Subanon, also known in the Anglicized form as "Subanen," is a tribe indigenous to the Zamboanga Peninsula area, particularly living in the mountainous areas of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental. The Subanon people speak the Subanon language.

As the name implies, these people originally lived along riverbanks in the lowlands, however due to disturbances and competitions from other settlers like the Moslems, these peace-loving tribe are now found to be residing in the mountains.

The Subanons regularly move from one location to another to clear more forest for fields. They cultivate crops, with rice as the most important crop, but they are also known to raise livestock including pigs, chickens, cattle, and water buffaloes. Subanon houses are built along hillsides and ridges overlooking family fields. The homes are usually rectangular and raised on stilts with thatched roofs.


The Tagalogs, the first settlers of Manila and its surrounding areas, are one of the most widespread groups of people in the Philippines.[12][12][12][13] The Tagalog language was chosen as an official language of the Philippines in the 1930s. Today, Filipino, a de facto version of Tagalog, is taught throughout the islands.[14] As of the 2000 census, there were about 21.5 million speakers of Tagalog in the Philippines, 23.8 million worldwide.[12][15]


The term Visayans refer to several ethnolinguistic groups living in the Visayas region. Some of these individuals are also found in some parts of Mindanao. There are various Visayan languages spoken in the Central Philippine region. They include Cebuano,[16] Ilonggo,[17] and Waray-Waray.[18]

There are some ethnolinguistic groups that have languages which are classified as Visayan, but do not identify themselves as Visayan, such as the Tausug, which speak a Visayan language yet are predominantly Muslim. Some of these only use the Visayan identity to refer to those who are Christian.[19][19][19]

Ethnic groups include the Hiligaynon, Cebuano, Waray, Romblomanon, Masbateño, Karay-a, Aklanon, Cuyonon, etc.


The Chavacanos are an ethnic group numbering around a million people, who inhabit the provinces and cities of Cavite(the Cacviteño Chabacano), Zamboanga City(Zamboangueño or Chavacano), Zamboanga Provinces(Zamboangueño), Basilan (Basileño), Ternate(Ternateño Chabacano), Ermita(Ermiteño Chabacano), Cotabato(Cotabateñ Chavacano), Davao(Castellano Abakay) and Malaysia(Zamboangueño).

Tribal group

There are more than 100 highland, lowland, and coastland tribal groups in the Philippines. These include:


The Badjao are found in the Sulu Archipelago.


The Igorot (Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Isneg, Kalinga, Kankana-ey, Kalanguya), live in the highlands of Luzon. They are primarily located in the Cordillera Administrative Region.[20]


The Ilongot are a headhunting ethnic group found in the Caraballo Mountains.


The Lumad of Mindanao includes several tribes such as the Manobo, the Tasaday, the Mamanwa, the Mandaya, and the Kalagan. They primarily inhabit the eastern parts of Mindanao such as the Caraga, and Davao Regions.


The Mangyan are found in Mindoro. they are 13% in the population.

Negrito groups

The Negrito, Aeta, Batak, and Mamanwa live in remote areas throughout the islands.

Palawan Tribes

The tribes of Palawan are a diverse group of tribes primarily located in the island of Palawan and its outlying islands. These tribal groups are widely distributed to the long strip of mainland island literally traversing Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Palawan is home to many indigenous peoples whose origins date back thousands of centuries. Pre-historic discoveries reveal how abundant cultural life in Palawan survived before foreign occupiers and colonizers reached the Philippine archipelago.

Today, Palawan is making its best to preserve and conserve the richness of its cultural groups. The provincial government strives to support the groups of indigenous peoples of Palawan.


The Batak is a group of indigenous Filipino people that resides in the northeast portion of Palawan.


The Palawans are tribal people found in Southern Palawan particularly Quezon, Palawan.


The Kagayanen are from the municipality of Cagayancillo in Palawan province. There are about 36,000 Kagayanen in the Philippines.


The Molbog (referred to in the literature as Molebugan or Molebuganon) are concentrated in Balabak island and are also found in other islands of the coast of Palawan as far north as Panakan. The word Malubog means "murky or turbid water". The Molbog are probably a migrant people from nearby North Borneo. Judging from their dialect and some socio-cultural practices, they seem to be related to the Orang Tidung or Tirum (Camucone in Spanish), an Islamized indigenous group native to the northeast coast of Sabah. However, some Sama words (of the Jama Mapun variant) and Tausug words are found in the Molbog dialect. This plus a few characteristics of their socio-cultural life style distinguish them from the Orang Tidung. Molbog livelihood includes subsistence farming, fishing and occasional barter trading with the Sulu Bangsa Moro and nearby Sabah market centers. In the past, both the Molbog and the Palawanon Muslims were ruled by Sulu datus, thus forming the outer political periphery of the Sulu Sultanate. Intermarriage between Tausug and the Molbog hastened the Islamization of the Molbog. The offsprings of these intermarriages are known as kolibugan or "half-breed".


The Tagbanwas are found in the western and eastern coastal areas of central Palawan. Their name means "people of the world". They are concentrated in the municipalities of Aborlan, Quezon and the City of Puerto Princesa. Two other ethnic groups called "Tagbanwa" (i.e. the Central Tagbanwa and the Calamian Tagbanwa) are from a different family of languages and should not be confused the Tagnbanwas discussed here. These are found Coron Island, Northern Palawan, Busuanga Island and the Baras coast. The Central Tagbanwa language is dying out as the younger generations are learning Cuyonon and Tagalog.

The Tagbanwas speak the Tagbanwa language and has several sub-dialects. They are able to comprehend Tagalog, and, depending on their proximity to neighboring groups, Batak, Cuyonen and Calamian languages. They usually dress like the non-tribal lowlanders. However, elder men prefer to wear G-string while tilling or fishing. Houses are built from available forest materials. Bamboo and wood are used for the house's frame anahaw leaves are used to create walls and the roof and bamboo slats are used as flooring. Their basic social unit is the nuclear family which is composed of a married couple and their children.

Taaw't Bato

The Taaw't Batos' name means "people of the rock". They are not actually a separate language or ethinic group, but rather a small community of traditional S.W. Palawanos who happen to reside in the crater of an extinct volcano during certain seasons of the year, in houses built on raised floors inside caves though others have set their homes on the open slopes. They are found in the Singnapan Basin, a valley bounded by Mount Mantalingajan on the east and the coast on the west. North of them is the municipality of Quezon and to the South are the still unexplored regions of Palawan. As of 1987, their population was about 198.

Note that the common-seen spelling "Tau't Bato" or "Tau't Batu" is a misspelling based on the Tagalog word for "human" (tao). The Palawano word is "taaw."

The men of the tribe wear G-strings while the women cover their lower bodies with bark or cloth that is made into a skirt. The upper half is left exposed although some now wear blouses that are bought from the market.

The people practice agriculture with cassava as the major source of carbohydrates. They also plant sweet potatoes, sugarcane, malunggay (Moringa oleifera), garlic, pepper, string beans, squash, tomatoes and pineapples. Others practice fishing, hunting and industrial arts.

Their social organizations are based on family (kin ties), band (type of substinence activity) and settlement (geographic location).


The Tumandok people are an indigenous group who live between Capiz and Lambunao on Panay island. They are the only Visayan group to have fully retained their pre-Hispanic way of life and customs into the modern day, mostly due to their isolation in the mountainous interior of Panay.

Non-indigenous ethnic groups

  • The Philippine Statistics Department does not account for the racial background or ancestry of an individual. The official number of all types of Filipino mestizos who reside inside and outside of the Philippines remains unknown.


Filipinos of Hispanic ancestry form a minority in the Philippine population. Their official population is unknown. Most of these are descendants of the Spanish and Mexican settlers who settled in the islands during the Spanish colonial period. Most were of either pure Spanish ancestry or Amerindian-Spanish ancestry (The term 'Mestizo' originated in Latin America). The first groups of Hispanics sailed in 1565 with Miguel López de Legazpi from New Spain, in what is now Jalisco state, Mexico to conquer the Philippines islands.


Filipinos of Chinese ancestry form a minority in the Philippine population.[21] Most migrations of Chinese to the Philippines started even before the Spanish colonial period, when foreign trade with other countries were opened to the Philippines.[22][23][24] The ethnically Chinese Filipinos comprise 1.3% (1.1 million) of the population.[25]


Filipinos of American ancestry form a minority in the Philippine population. Some of these multiracial individuals are descended from Americans who settled in the Philippines during the United States colonial period, and others from tourists who have settled in the Philippines in the contemporary period. As of 2011, the U.S, State Department estimated that there are an estimated four million Americans of Philippine ancestry in the United States, and more than 300,000 American citizens in the Philippines.[26]


Arabs form a minority in the Philippine population. Their official population is unknown.[citation needed]


Indians form a minority in the Philippine population with an estimated population of 38,000 people, the majority settling in Manila. Most of them belong to either Sindhi or Punjabi ethnic groups, and are largely businessmen and traders. A smaller population of Indians belonging to the Marathi ethnic group form part of the clergy of Roman Catholic dioceses in the country.[27][28]


People of Japanese descent form a minority in the Philippine population. According to the Ministry of Foreign affairs of Japan, there are 12,913 Japanese nationals residing in the Philippines as of October 2005.[29] However, some estimates put the number of Japanese residing in the Philippines at around 120,000.[30] Japanese have been settling in the Philippines for centuries, therefore there has been much cultural and genetic blending. The Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa, etc...) also had heavy trade and mixing in the Phillipines, particularly in Northern Luzon.


Jews form a minority in the Philippine population. Their official population is unknown.


As of 2007, approximately 72,000 Koreans are living in the Philippines. Most of them are transient students and expatriates.[31] Most are tourists or students studying in the Philippines.[32]


Other ethnic groups and/or nationalities include various European ethnicities, Brazilian, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, and other ethnic groups from other countries.

See also


  1. ^ Tourism Promotions Board
  2. ^ "Senator John Tyler Morgan and Negro Colonization in the Philippines". JSTOR. JSTOR 274085. 
  3. ^ "Bicolano, Central". Ethnologue: Languages of the world. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  4. ^ a b CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Peoples of the Philippines, Ilocano
  5. ^ "The Filipino Community in Hawaii". University of Hawaii, Center for Philippine studies. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  6. ^ "Ilocano". Ethnologue: Languages of the world. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  7. ^ CCP Encyclopedia or Philippine Art, Peoples of the Philippines, Kapampangan
  8. ^ Joaquin & Taguiwalo 2004, p. 236.
  9. ^ Joaquin & Taguiwalo 2004, p. 226.
  10. ^ "Muslim Filipinos". U.S. Library of congress: Country Studies. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  11. ^ "The Provincial Profile of Pangasinan". Archived from the original on 2009-10-26. 
  12. ^ a b c d CCP Encyclopedia or Philippine Art, Peoples of the Philippines, Tagalog
  13. ^ Joaquin 1999.
  14. ^ Rubrico, Jessie Grace (1998): The Metamorphosis of Filipino as National Language,
  15. ^ "Tagalog: A language of Philippines". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Retrieved 2010-11-24. 
  16. ^ "Cebuano". Ethnologue: Languages of the world. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  17. ^ "Hiligaynon". Ethnologue: Languages of the world. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  18. ^ "Waray-Waray". Ethnologue: Languages of the world. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  19. ^ a b c CCP Encyclopedia or Philippine Art, Peoples of the Philippines, Cebuano
  20. ^ Igorot Ethnic Groups
  21. ^ Agoncillo 1990, p. 24.
  22. ^ Joaquin & Taguiwalo 2004, p. 42.
  23. ^ Benedict Anderson, ‘Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams’, New Left Review, 169 (May–June 1988)
  24. ^ Gavin Sanson Bagares, Philippine Daily Inquirer, A16 (January 28, 2006)
  25. ^ :: Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission, R.O.C. ::
  26. ^ Background Note: Philippines. U.S. Department of State. June 2011. 
  27. ^ Mansigh, Lalit. "Chapter 20: Southeast Asia, Table: 20.1". Ministry of External Affairs. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  28. ^ "Overseas Indian Population 2001". Little India. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  29. ^ "Japan-Philippines Relations". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  30. ^ "A glimmer of hope for castoffs. NGO finding jobs for young, desperate Japanese-Filipinos". The Japan Times. 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  31. ^ "Koreans in the Philippines". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  32. ^ "Smart launches text service in Korean". Archived from the original on 2008-04-12. Retrieved 2008-04-27 


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