|10,000 (2000 census)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Aborlan Tagbanwa, Calamian Tagbanwa, Central Tagbanwa, Cuyonon, Tagalog|
|Roman Catholic, paganism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|other Filipino peoples, other Austronesian peoples|
The Tagbanwa or Tagbanua, one of the oldest ethnic groups in the Philippines, can be mainly found in the central and northern Palawan. Research has shown that the Tagbanwa are possible descendants of the Tabon Man; thus, making them one of the original inhabitants of the Philippines. They are brown-skinned, slim and straight-haired ethnic group.
There are two major classifications based on the geographical location where they can be found. Central Tagbanwas are found in the western and eastern coastal areas of central Palawan. They are concentrated in the municipalities of Aborlan, Quezon, and Puerto Princesa. Calamian Tagbanwa, on the other hand, are found in Baras coast, Busuanga Island, Coron Island and in some parts of El Nido. These two Tagbanwa sub-groups speak different languages and do not exactly have the same custom.
Tagbanwa live in compact villages of 45 to 500 individuals. In 1987, there are 129,691 Tagbanwas living in Palawan. At present, Tagbanwa tribe has an estimated population of over 10,000. 1,800 of these are in the Calamianes.
According to folk history, the Tagbanwa had an early relationship with Brunei, with the first sultan of Brunyu, from the place called Burnay.
Formal history of the Tagbanwa tribe began in 1521 when Magellan's ships docked in Palawan for provisions. Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan's chronicler, recorded that the Tagbanwa practiced the ritual of blood compact, cultivated their fields, hunted with blowpipes and thick wooden arrows, valued brass rings and chains, bells, knives, and copper wire for binding fish hooks, raised large and very tame cocks for fighting, and distilled rice wine.
Until the latter part of the 17th century, southern Palawan was under the jurisdiction of the Sultan of Brunei, leading to friction between Spaniards and the Sultan. During this time, and for almost three hundred years, the Spaniards and the Muslims of Sulu, Mindanao, Palawan, and north Borneo were at war.
In the 19th century, the Tagbanwa continued to believe in their native gods. Each year, a big feast is celebrated after each harvest to honor their deities.
When the Spanish regime ended and the Americans occupied the Philippines, some changes came to the island of Palawan, and to the Tagbanwa. In 1904, Iwahig became the site of a penal colony, which displaced the Tagbanwa as it expanded. In 1910, the Americans put up a reservation for the Tagbanwa. In succeeding years, internal migration from the Visayan islands and from Luzon, the dominance of the Christian religion, and the absorption of the island into economic and political mainstream marginalized the Tagbanwa people.
In 1998, the Tagbanwa of Coron Island were awarded a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) over more than 22,000 hectares of land and sea. CADT is the title to the land and the sea that have sustained the community for centuries. It gives the Tagbanwa the right to manage the area and preserve its rich marine and land resources.
The Coron Island Ancestral Domain of the Tagbanwa people covers the two villages of Banuang Daan and Cabugao, and the neighboring Delian Island. The ancestral domain is currently ruled by HM Tribal Chieftain Rodolfo Aguilar I, assisted by his Council of Elders.
The Tagbanwa people have their own native languages (Aborlan Tagbanwa, Calamian Tagbanwa, and Central Tagbanwa), however, they are also proficient in speaking the Palawano language and several other dialects like Tandulanon, Silanganon, and Baras in each locality, while a significant number of them can comprehend Tagalog, Batak, Cuyonon, and Calawian languages.
The Tagbanwa's relationship with the spirit world is the basis for their rituals, celebration, and dances. The many ceremonial feasts punctuating Tagbanwa life are based on a firm belief in a natural interaction between the world of the living the world of the dead. These ceremonies and rituals takes place on all levels, ranging from rituals perform within the family, to those led by the community's leader on behalf of the people. Such celebrations call for special structures to be built, such as ceremonial platforms and rafts. Rituals offering include rice, chicken and betel nut.
The Tagabanwa tribe has four major deities. The first, the lord of the heavens, was called Mangindusa or Nagabacaban, who sits up in the sky and lets his feet dangle below, above the earth. The god of the sea was named Polo and was deemed a benevolent spirit. His help was invoked in times of illness. The third was the god of the earth named Sedumunadoc, whose favor was sought in order to have a good harvest. The fourth was called Tabiacoud, who lived, in the deep bowels of the earth.
For these gods, the Tagbanwa celebrated a big feast each year, right after harvest, when there is much singing, dancing, courting, and conclusion of blood compacts. The babaylan (shaman) called for the people to converge at the seashore, carrying food offering of all kinds. The babaylan took the chickens and roosters brought for the ceremony, and hung them by their legs on tree branches, killing them by beating with a stick. They were allowed only one blow for each animal, and those who survive went free, never to be harmed again, because Polo, the sea god, took them under his protection. The fowl that died were seasoned, cooked and eaten. After eating, they danced and drank rice wine. At midnight, as Buntala, a heavenly body, passed the meridian, the babaylan entered the sea waist dipped, all the while dancing and pushing a raft made of bamboo, which had offering on it. If the offering was returned to the shore by waves and winds, it meant the sea god refused the people's offering. But if the raft disappeared, there was rejoicing. Their offering was accepted and their year would be a happy one.
Other spirits inhabit the forests and environment, and belief in their existence necessitates rituals to placate them or gain their favors. The babaylan performs rituals of life, from birth to death. It is believed that there is a deity who accompanies the soul of the dead to its final destination. Hunters invoke the assistance of the spirits of the dead relatives in asking the owners of the wild pigs to allow their hunting dogs to locate the prey. A mutya (charm) is commonly used to help its possessor succeed in the hunt.
However, the Tagbanwas of the North inhabiting Coron Island are now predominantly Christians due to evangelization efforts of foreign missionaries during the late sixties and seventies.
The basic social unit of the Tagbanwas is their nuclear family composed of a married couple and their children. They are monogamous. They live in houses that are made up of bamboo and wood for a strong frame, anahaw leaves for roof and walls, and bamboo slats for the flooring.
Families can either be free men or nobles, which, in the Southern tribes are known as Usba.
Visual Arts and crafts
The traditional costumes of the Tagbanwa were fashioned from the bark of trees, particularly the salugin. The preparation of this bark was unique. After being felled, the tree would be cut around the trunk, the outer bark stripped off to expose the inner layer. A mallet would beat the layer, until it is soft to hang loose from the bole. This is washed and dried under the sun. In the past, menfolk wore simple loincloths, supported by a woven rattan waistband called ambalad, while women wore only brief wraparound skirts made from bark. The Tagbanua later adopt some articles of Muslim clothing. At present, while many Tagbanwa still wear their traditional apparel, western-type clothing has found its way among the people.
In the past, when both men and women wore their hair long, they filled and blackened their teeth, and carved earplugs from the hardwood bantilinaw. The Tagbanwa also carved wooden combs and bracelets. They strung bead necklaces to be used in covering women's necks. Anklets of copper and brass wire were also crafted and worn by women.
Tagbanwa women wear bright body ornament and brightly colored clothes. They dress just like the non-tribe lowlanders but some elder men prefer to use G-strings for comfort while tilling the field or going fishing.
Baskets and woodcarvings are the more notable products of Tagbanwa artistic crafts today. They excel in the number of designs they apply to their tingkop (harvest basket). These baskets are made of blackened and natural bamboo, which makes the designs stand out. The cone-shaped type of basket is another fine example of Tagbanwa skilled artistry. Using black and natural color designs outside, the center of the cone has the bamboo strip skived slightly smaller, creating even holes for the screen. The funnel effect is accomplished through a close weaving of the bamboo strips towards the top.
The soft rice baskets, called bayong-bayong, are made with different unusual shapes. These have square bases and round tops. To produce interesting block and V-shapes, the plain buri sides superimposed with colored buri. Color is woven into the Tagbanwa basket with the used of dyed palm leaves.
Blackened woodcarvings of animals, with simple etched or incised features exposing the original white grain of the wood, are the most well known examples of Tagbanwa woodcarvings or sculpture.
Some of the objects carved are mammanuk (rooster), a ritual bowl, kiruman (turtle), kararaga (a native bird), dugyan (a small ground animal), lizards, and wild pigs. Carved animals are used with rice, betel nut, and other offerings to attract the deities and spirit relatives in the pagdiwata rituals. The turtles, for instance, floats on grains of palay in an ancient Ming trade bowl. Others that are not used in rituals become toys for children.
Complementing the rich Tagbanwa rituals and social gatherings in the past was an assortment of musical instruments. These included the aruding or jaw harp; the babarak or nose flute; the tipanu or mouth flute; the pagang and tibuldu, two variations of the bamboo zithers; the kudlung or boat lute; the gimbal or drum, whose top was made from the skin of the bayawak or monitor lizard; and the tiring, composed of lengths of bamboo with openings of various sizes producing different notes when struck with a stick. In addition, there were two generic types of gongs obtained from the shallow babandil. The mouth flute is still in use, and the gongs and drums are still played during rituals. Modern acoustic type guitar and the ukulele, which is fashioned from a half coconut shell, supplant the other instruments.
The known dances associated with the rituals are the following: abellano, also called soriano, a traditional dance performed by males; bugas-bugasan, a dance for all participants of a pagdiwata, after they have drunk the ceremonial tabad (rice wine); kalindapan, solo dance by the female babaylan and her attendants; runsay, ritual dances performed by the villagers on the seashore, where bamboo rafts laden with food offering are floated for the gods; sarungkay, a healing dance by the main babaylan as she balances a sword on her head and waves ugsang or palm leaf strip; tugatak and tarindak, dances perform by the villagers who attend an inim or pagdiwata; tamigan, performed by male combatants using round winnowers or bilao to represent shields.
The dancing accompanying the runsay, performed about midnight and lasting until daybreak, is possibly the most moving of all Tagbanwa dances, since it is a part of a sacred ritual that takes place only once a year, and is performed on the beach from where the ritual raft has been launched towards the sea world.
Guests who attend the albarka ritual watch dances such as the busak-busak, the spider dance; batak ribid, a dance simulating the gathering of camote; bungalon, a showing off dance; bugsay-bugsay, a paddle dance using fans; segutset, a courtship dance; and tarek, a traditional dance. The andardi is a festival dance of the Tagbanwa in and around Aborlan, perform at social gatherings. When dancing during a festival, the performers are dressed in their costumes, and hold in each hand a dried palm leaf called palaspas. The music of the andardi is composed of one part of twelve measures, played or sung continuously throughout the dance. Drum or gongs accompanies the music and the song.
Drama in Tagbanwa society is expressed in the mimetic dances imitating animals, such as busak-busak, and those showing occupations, such as batak ribid and bugsay-bugsay. But the most important mimetic forms are the rituals where the priestess is possessed by and plays the role of the deity to whom the offerings are being made.
They cultivate rice in swidden or kaingin field that is intercropped with sweet potato, corn, and cassava. Those in the coastal areas indulge in fishing and exchange it with agricultural products for consumption. They also gather forest products such as gum, rattan, and honey for cash.
- The Tagbanua Tribe. Accessed August 28, 2008.
- Ethnic Minorities in the South: Tagbanua. Accessed August 28, 2008.
- Palawan Tourism Council: Palawan Culture. Accessed August 28, 2008.
- National Commission on Indigenous People. Accessed August 30, 2008.
- Thinkquest: Palawan Islands. Accessed August 28, 2008.
- PCIJ: Tagbanua Win First Ever Ancestral Waters Claim. Accessed August 28, 2008.
- Tagabanua by Mark Joel Velasquez. Accessed August 28, 2008.
- Palawan Profile at Home.comcast.net. Accessed August 28, 2008.
- Pioneer Expeditions website
- Adventure writer Antonio Graceffo writes about the Tagbanua Tribe in Puerto Princesa
- Antonio Graceffo compares treatment of Tagbanua tribe to other tribes in Asia