Yakan people

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Yakan people
Basilan students.JPG
Students from the Datu Bantilan Dance Troupe in traditional Yakan costume with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney.
Total population
202,314 (2010)[1]: 152,912 in Basilan[2], 5,563 in Zamboanga City[3]
Regions with significant populations
Basilan, Zamboanga Peninsula
Yakan, Tausug, Zamboangueño Chavacano, Cebuano, Filipino, English
Predominantly Islam
Related ethnic groups
Sama-Bajau, other Moros, Lumad, Visayans,
other Filipinos,
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 Yakan have a traditional horse culture. They are renowned for their weaving traditions.[4] Culturally, they are Sama people who eventually led a life on land, mostly in Basilan and Zamboanga city. They are included as part of the Sama ethnic group, which includes the Bajau, Dilaut, Kalibugan, and other Sama groups.[5]


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.

A Yakan couple in a traditional wedding dance.

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.

Examples of Yakan art[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2010 Census of Population and Housing, Report No. 2A: Demographic and Housing Characteristics (Non-Sample Variables) - Philippines" (PDF). Philippine Statistics Authority. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  2. ^ "2010 CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING PHILIPPINES: Basilan" (PDF). 2010. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ "2010 CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING ZAMBOANGA CITY" (PDF). 2010. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ de Jong, Ronald. "The last Tribes of Mindanao, the Yakan; Mountain Dwellers". ThingsAsian. Global Directions, Inc. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  5. ^ Charles O. Frake (2006). Chapter 14. The Cultural Construction of Rank, Identity and Ethnic Origins in the Sulu Archipelago: compiled by James J. Fox and Clifford Sather (2006) in Origins, Ancestry and Alliance: Explorations in Austronesian Ethnography. ANU Press.

External links[edit]