Cuyunon people

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This article is about the people. For the language, see Cuyonon.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Philippines Philippines: Palawan
Cuyonon language
Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
other Filipino peoples, other Austronesian peoples
Further information: Cuyonon language

Cuyunon refers to an ethnic group populating Cuyo, northern and central Palawan. The Cuyunons are originally from Cuyo, and the surrounding Cuyo Islands, a group of islands and islets in Sulu Sea, to the north east of Palawan. They are considered an elite class among the hierarchy of native Palaweños. Currently, there are ten Punong Datus ( chief datus ) of the Cuyonon Tribe and two Datu Plenipotentiaries comprising the Council of Datus of the Cuyonon Tribe, namely Datu Higinio Clark Mendoza, II, Datu Freddie Ponce de Leon, II, Datu Ferdinand Blanco, Datu Andrei Ustares Acosta, Datu Prospero Castro, Datu Wilfredo Magdayao, Datu Jim Gerald Pe, Datu Felipe Acosta, II, Datu Rogelio Alili and Datu Robert Rover, and Plenipotentiaries Datu Franklin Solita and Datu Fernando Macolor Cruz (Cabaylo II).

During the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, Cuyo was one of the territories of Palawan that had the strongest Spanish presence.

The first Miss Philippines was a Cuyunon. And, when Vietnam, opened its doors to the world, the first female ambassador from the Philippines was also a Cuyunon. It was also a Cuyunon who topped the Philippines' very first Civil Service Examination- Mr. Procopio Macolor, Sr.


Known as Cuyonon, Cuyono, Cuyunon, Kuyunon, Kuyunen etc..., this ethnic tribe in Palawan geography is the most dominant tribal group in this region composed of about 240,000 people in the year 2015 AD; although scattered all over the world, but with 85 % permanently residing in Puerto Princesa City and in both the Northern and Southern parts of Palawan in the Westernmost of the Philippines. The Cuyono originated genetically and linguistically from Panay Island in the central Philippines since 1250’s AD but with Malayan roots from Banjarmaasin in Borneo Island 1,000 years ago. Then they came from Pallavas, India about 2,000 years among the Malayalam people in India who are descents of the Jewish, Arabic, Persian and Greek settlers in India since 500 BC. A Cuyono is highly distinguishable thru his circumcision practice and part of the Malayan sub-language.

        As an elite tribal group in Palawan, the Cuyono of today is usually a Roman Catholic, Christian Protestants and Animists with strong Spanish adaptations. His mother home town of Cuyo Group of Islands in Northern Palawan was occupied by Spaniards for about 300 years after the Chinese occupation. Due to these connections, the Cuyono is a world class citizen who can easily adapt in most foreign lands and islands.
        The Cuyonon Tribe, unlike most of the Philippines’ homogeneous tribal groups, is a heterogeneous tribe. The Cuyonon ancestors could be traced back to the ancient migrants and traders who settled down in Palawan like the Chinese, Arabs, Jews, Indians, Malays, Vishayans, Spanish and other Europeans. Although the Cuyonon language is so closely related to the Kinaray-a of Miag-ao in Iloilo province, the fact remains that as early as 1250’s AD, the early Cuyonon tribe became the common denominator of all the homogeneous tribes of Palawan because they always intermarry with the Bataks, Tagbanuas, Tandulanos, Agutaynons, Cagayanens, Caraminanens, Parianen, Molbogs, Palaw-ans.
       The Cuyono Tribe can be best understood by sub-grouping them into four categories:

Paraguanen = the Cuyono people who settled mostly in the mainland Palawan ( Paragua ) Poroanen = the Cuyono people who settled mostly in the islands and islets of Palawan Mestiso = the Cuyono who usually are half breed Chinese or Spanish Lakto = and the Cuyonon who did not accept Catholism and lived as Animists

     There is a great wisdom when the Province of Palawan officially declared the Cuyonon language as the official language of Palawan in 1995 and in 2008. The fact also remains that most of the other homogeneous tribes of Palawan can fluently speak this language because Cuyonon had been the lingua franca (language used for communication) of the Province of Palawan for about five centuries already.
     Therefore, there is also a greater wisdom when the Cuyonon tribe claimed the entire Palawan territories as part and parcel of their Ancestral Domain Claim. The metes and bounds of these territories starts its borders from Cuyo Group of Islands towards Cagayancillo, then down to Tubbataha Islets, then down also to Balabac Groups of Islands and towards the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the China and West Philippines Seas, then upwards North towards Busuanga and Calamianes Groups of Islands, and then finally back to Agutaya and the Cuyo Groups of Islands. As to why this happens ... the Cuyonon since in the very beginning is a seafearer, fisherman and aquaculturist. He lives most of his time by the seaside or island in order to do a living. He builts a huge sailboat in order cross the Sulu Sea from Cuyo towards Balabac, then to catch shrimps in Canipaan (Rizal town) and Malampaya (Taytay town) in the Western side of Palawan mainland known before as South China Sea. But before reaching back to the island of Cuyo, he still collects bird’s nests in El Nido and Coron that his ancestors used to do barter for Chinese trade even before the Spanish conquest.
      The Cuyonon of today is the product of the history of Palawan for about a thousand years. He is the protector of this place as the vanguard of its environment and resources. This tribe, being an elite one, rules Palawan politics for quite some time now. And there is a saying that “the Cuyonon is the common denominator of the Palawan’s people of today.”
     The common sayings and beliefs among the Cuyonon become their CODE OF CONDUCT:

HINDI MAGPALIYAS SA LAI = Don't go against the law - It was a handed down law - - very sacred - you can be cursed to misfortune or death. MAGPAMATI SA IBA = Listen to everyone. Don't be loud or aggressive in your opinions and views for 'wisdom' is a gift. Blessed are the elders, for the Counsel of Years of their lives makes the edifice of teachings. We will listen to them as we listen to prophets of time. They might be a child who had wisdom of the old, or the old whose playing spirits is a child that cools the heart of a warrior, and most often are women, for women are the gift of Creation. Listen to them in their counsel of time. ANG TANAN TEPENG = Equality among Men. Remember children are little men as the elders are older men - both deserve respect and honor of their Creation. Women are Men too. The Respect of the Elders and or children can be double to women for they are the makers of those Men. MAGPANGABUI Y MATAWHAY = Live in Peace, Walk in Peace. For in Peace there is Love. When there is Love there is Peace in your heart. MAGPAKITAW ASTA MAG-TAW = Asking and Giving is the greatest gift of Creation - Someone needs food, give him or her food - if you don't have food, if you ask, someone will give you. HINDI KAW MA INGGIT SA IBA = Don't be envious of others - if someone has good fortune, it is because he or she is blessed. Jealousy breaks the orders of goodwill. It is destruction to the destiny of humanity, to the Great Creation of the world. HINDI MO IKUMPARA IMONG SADILI SA IBA = Don't compare yourself to others, for there is always better than you and lesser than you. But everyone is a creation loved by the Supreme Creator. Have dignity and honor of its own spirit. Comparing yourself to others, you will become bitter in the end. HINDI MAGPABUGAL = Don't be an egotistic or self-centered person - or be on top of your pride. Your pride will kill you. MAGDASON I TAMA = Don't disobey the sacred orders - Don't interpret it in your own mind but just go straight to the handed law. Don't shift the sacred teachings to the other road. It is very straight and not crooked one. MAG-GEREGMAN = Love one another - for this is the right way to live. No man is an island. Everyone needs everyone, everyone needs everybody, everybody needs everyone, and everybody needs everybody.


DUMARA (MANGOLO/ PINAKAMAELAM) is the Supreme (Supremo) Datu or Mangolo (Mangulo ang Tribo) of the Tribe of the Cuyonon who presides over the Council of Datus during its regular and special meetings. Also known as Mangolo or Pinakamaelam. This position is not hereditary nor lifetime but acquired by way of regular election by all Datus and Punong Datus called for this purpose but coming only exclusively among the District Punong Datus. The term is eight years ( 8 ).

PUNONG DATU is the District Datu of the Tribe (Punong Datu ang Banua) who usually appoints the municipal Datu and the next Punong Datu of the tribe and becomes the regular representative of the district in the Council of Datus. Only the Punong Datu is a candidate to be elected as DUMARA. Also known as the Kamamalaman or Mga Maelam in the Banua. This position is hereditary and lifetime.

DATU is the Municipal Datu of the Tribe who usually rules over the township of the Cuyono tribe in Palawan Region that is divided among the Barangay Punong Tribo or Chieftains. The Municipal Datu usually presides over the Municipal Council of Elders composed of the Punong Tribo or Bgy. Chieftains of the covered barangays to settle matters related to property and personal relations. Also known as the Kamamalaman or Mga Maelam in the Municipality. This position is lifetime but not hereditary. The same is given to those Cuyono Tribe members with exceptional skills amd talents needed by the Tribe. This is also given as an automatic title for the President elect of the Gaqued y ang mga Cuyonon, Inc. located at Puerto Princesa City Hall Complex.

PUNONG TRIBO is the Barangay Chieftain of the Cuyono who rules over the barangay who are usually selected by way of election. This position is not hereditary nor lifetime but acquired by way of regular election by all members of the tribe present in a meeting called for this purpose with a term of eight years ( 8 ). Also known as Mga Maelam-elam.

COUNCIL OF DATU is Council of Datus in Palawan as the regional assembly of the Cuyono Tribe composed of the District Punong Datu and Municipal Datu who usually assembled regularly to decide matter involving the tribe of the Cuyonon like in determining the Cuyono Ancestral Domains and Claims and declaration of the formal position of the Tribe affecting national and international importance.

COUNCIL OF ELDERS - BARANGAY AND MUNICIPALITY is Barangay Council of Elders of the Cuyono Tribe presided by Punong Tribo or Bgy. Chieftain over the Tribal Officers usually assembled regularly to decide matters involving the Cuyonons in the barangay like family, personal and property. The Municipal Council of Elders of the Cuyono Tribe is presided Municipal Datu over the council of bgy. Chieftains or Punong Tribo usually assembled regularly to decide matters involving the Cuyonons in the municipality like family, personal and property.