Students from the Datu Bantilan Dance Troupe in traditional Yakan costume with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Basilan, Zamboanga Peninsula|
|Yakan, Zamboangueño Chavacano, Cebuano, Filipino, English|
|Predominantly Islam, Catholicism (minority)|
|Related ethnic groups|
Sama-Bajau, other Moros, Lumad, Visayans,|
other Austronesian peoples
The Yakan people are among the major indigenous Filipino ethnolinguistic groups in the Sulu Archipelago. Also known as dream weaver having a significant number of followers of Islam, it is considered as one of the 13 Moro groups in the Philippines. The Yakans mainly reside in Basilan but are also in Zamboanga City. They speak a language known as Bissa Yakan, which has characteristics of both Sama-Bajau Sinama and Tausug (Jundam 1983: 7-8). It is written in the Malayan Arabic script, with adaptations to sounds not present in Arabic (Sherfan 1976).
The Yakans reside in the Sulu Archipelago, situated to the west of Zamboanga in Mindanao. Traditionally they wear colorful, handwoven clothes. The women wear tight fitting short blouses and both sexes wear narrowcut pants resembling breeches. The women covers it partly with a wrap-around material while the man wraps a sash-like cloth around the waist where he places his weapon – usually a long knife. Nowadays most Yakans wear western clothes and use their traditional clothes only for cultural festivals.
The Spaniards called the Yakan, "Sameacas" and considered them an aloof and sometimes hostile hill people (Wulff 1978:149; Haylaya 1980:13).
In the early 1970s, some of the Yakan settled in Zamboanga City due to political unrest which led the armed conflicts between the militant Moro and government soldiers. The Yakan Village in Upper Calarian is famous among local and foreign tourists because of their art of weaving. Traditionally, they have used plants like pineapple and abaca converted into fibers as basic material for weaving. Using herbal extracts from leaves, roots and barks, the Yakans dyed the fibers and produced colorful combinations and intricate designs.
The Seputangan is the most intricate design worn by the women around their waist or as a head cloth. The Palipattang is patterned after the color of the rainbow while the bunga-sama, after the python. Almost every Yakan fabric can be described as unique since the finished materials are not exactly identical. Differences may be seen in the pattern or in the design or in the distribution of colors.
Contacts with settlers from Luzon, Visayas and the American Peace Corps brought about changes in the art and style of weaving. Many resorted to the convenience of chemical dyes and they started weaving table runners, placemats, wall decor, purses and other items which are not present in a traditional Yakan house. In other words, the natives catered because of economic reason to the needs of their customers which manifest their trading acumen. New designs were introduced like kenna-kenna, patterned after a fish; dawen-dawen, after the leaf of a vine; pene mata-mata, after the shape of an eye or the kabang buddi, a diamond-shaped design.