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
(Leyte, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, Biliran, eastern parts of Masbate, Southern Leyte, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, Sorsogon and Metro Manila)
Languages of the Philippines (Waray-Waray, Cebuano, Filipino/Tagalog), English
Predominantly Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups

The Waray people are a subgroup of the Visayan people whose primary language is the Waray-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 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 Bicolano-speaking people of Masbate island, 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 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. Many of whom became pirates who attacked and raided coastal villages of present-day Bohol, Cebu, the southern coasts of Luzon and northern coasts of Mindanao. They utilized a form of indentured servitude to those who they captured in their raids and forced them in agricultural slavery even in forming ranks of their war parties. The ancient Waray tribal folk hold similar semblance to the Vikings of Northern Europe.


The Waray people are one of the most religious people in the Philippines. Most of them belong to Roman Catholicism, while others have been converted to various Christian denominations/groups, and still a small percentage of the population practice other religion (sometimes alongside Catholicism) such as Buddhism for a few Chinese descendants in the area. Their religious devotion is very evident in their celebrations like feasts honoring their patron saints, the "Santa Cruzan" and many more.


The Waray people speak the Waray-Waray language, a major Visayan language. They also speak Cebuano as their second language. Some people who are of Waray descent also speak Waray-Waray as their second or third language, especially among emigrants to Metro Manila, other parts of the Philippines and in other parts of the world. Other notable foreign languages spoken include English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese which is spoken by its community and among others.


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 popularized in the phrase, "basta ang Waray, hindi uurong sa away" (Waray never back down from a fight.) In addition they are known as contented people, such that, during the Spanish era, they were often called lazy, due to their sense of contentment, of living in simplicity as farmers, and for making tuba from coconut nectar.

Warays are also known for their love of music, one form of which is the Kuratsa, a courtship dance, with music based on native and Hispanic influences; some local artists tend to create Waray versions of popular songs, such as "Ang Bahal nga Tuba" which 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[edit]

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, and pangasi, made from fermented rice.