Waray people

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Waray people / Waray-Waray
Total population
3.2 million
(4.05% of the Philippine population)
Regions with significant populations
(Eastern Visayas, eastern parts of Masbate, Caraga, Sorsogon, and Metro Manila)
Waray, Cebuano, Filipino, English
Predominantly Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Filipinos, Visayans

The Waray people are a subgroup of the Visayan people whose primary language is the Waray language (also called Lineyte-Samarnon), an Austronesian language native to the islands of Samar, Leyte and Biliran, which together comprise the Eastern Visayas Region of the Philippines. Waray people inhabit the whole island of Samar where they are called Samareños/Samarnons, the northern part of the island of Leyte where they are called Leyteños, and the island of Biliran. On Leyte island, the Waray people occupy the northern part of the island, separated from the Cebuano language-speaking Leyteños by a mountain range in the middle of the island.

On the island of Biliran, Waray-Waray-speaking people live on the eastern part of the island facing the island of Samar; their Waray-Waray dialect is commonly referred to as Biliranon. On the island of Ticao, which belongs to the province of Masbate in the Bicol Region, Waray-Waray-speaking people live on most parts of the island; they are commonly referred to as Ticaonon. However, the Ticaonon have more affinity with the Masbateño-speaking people of Masbate, being their province-mates. The Bicolano language has more common vocabulary with the Waray-Waray language than with other Visayan languages (i.e. Cebuano or Ilonggo).


The Waray people form the majority of the population in the provinces of Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Samar while they form a significant population in Leyte, Biliran, and Sorsogon.


The Warays are descendants of the Austronesian-speaking immigrants who came to the Philippines during the Iron Age. In 1521, the Warays were the first Filipinos to be sighted by Europeans under the leadership of Ferdinand Magellan. The Warays were among the first Filipinos converted to Christianity. Paradoxically, they are also among the last Filipino ethnicities to retain traditional pagan practices alongside their practice of Roman Catholicism. From the Spanish Colonization onwards, they have been considered the underdog of Filipino ethnicity.

The ancient Waray tribal folk of Samar, Leyte, Biliran and Pintuyan Island were masters of the sea. Some became pirates that attacked and raided coastal villages of present-day Bohol, Cebu, the southern coasts of Luzon and the northern coasts of Mindanao. They practiced a form of indentured servitude, forcing those whom they captured in their raids into agricultural slavery and even into the ranks of their war parties. The ancient Waray tribal folk behaved in ways that is comparably similar to the Vikings of Northern Europe.


The Waray people are one of the most religious people in the Philippines. Most of them belong to the Roman Catholic Church, while others belong to various Christian denominations. A small percentage of the population practice other religions – sometimes alongside Catholicism. For example, a few in the area with Chinese ancestry also practice Buddhism. Their religious devotion is very evident in their celebrations, such as feasts honoring their patron saints: the Santacruzan and many others.


The Waray people speak the Waray, a major Visayan language. Many also speak Cebuano as their second language. Some people of Waray descent speak Waray as their second or third language, especially among emigrants to Metro Manila, other parts of the Philippines and elsewhere in the world. Other notable foreign languages spoken include Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.


Many Waray traditions can be traced to pre-colonial times. For example, the Kuratsa dance is a very popular traditional dance of the Waray-Waray at many social gatherings, especially weddings. It is very common throughout Samar. The couple who dances the Kuratsa are showered with money by the people around them. The belief is that the more money showered upon them, the more blessings will come their way.


Tacloban City in Leyte is home to a campus of the University of the Philippines. Leyte Normal University is also located in Tacloban. There are numerous state universities serving the region, including Eastern Samar State University, Eastern Visayas State University, Samar State University and the largest both in terms of land area and curricular offerings in the whole region, the University of Eastern Philippines located in Catarman, Northern Samar. There are also other colleges in (Western) Samar like St. Mary's College of Catbalogan, formerly Sacred Heart College and Samar College. Northwest Samar State University, formerly Tiburcio Tancinco Memorial Institute of Science and Technology and Samar State College of Agriculture and Forestry, offer courses that are needed in technology and business community.


The Waray-Waray are often stereotyped as brave warriors, as in the popular phrase, Basta ang Waray, hindi uurong sa away, meaning "Waray never back down from a fight". They are also known as contented people, so much so that, during the Spanish era, they were often called lazy, for being contented to live in simplicity as farmers, and for making tuba palm wine from coconut nectar.

Warays are also known for their love of music, in particular the Kuratsa, a courtship dance with music based on native and Hispanic influences. Local artists often create Waray versions of popular songs, such as "Ang Bahal nga Tuba" that was based on a Mexican song.


The most important crop and major source of income for many is the coconut. Other major agricultural products include rice and corn, while sugarcane, abaca, and tobacco are also grown. Cassava and camote (sweet potato) are grown as supplementary staple crops. Pineapple, banana, mangoes, and other fruit are grown year round, as are many vegetables and peanuts. In Eastern Samar, a root crop known as palawan is grown. It is not common outside of that area, except in some parts of (Western) Samar like Basey and Marabut. Leyte is a big producer of bananas.


Farming and fishing provide much of the livelihood of the Waray-Waray. There is an impressive variety of seafood available.

Native wines are produced in the area, as in many places in the Philippines. The most common of these wines are tuba extracted from the coconut palm, "manyang" extracted from palm tree (common in the province of Northern Samar) and pangasi, made from fermented rice.