The Manobo are probably the most numerous of the ethnic groups of the Philippines in terms of the relationships and names of the various groups that belong to this family of languages. Mention has been made of the numerous subgroups that comprise the Manobo group. The total national population including the subgroups is 749,042 (NM 1994); occupying core areas from Sarangani island into the Mindanao mainland in the provinces of Agusan del Sur, Davao provinces, Bukidnon, and North and South Cotabato. The groups occupy such a wide area of distribution that localized groups have assumed the character of distinctiveness as a separate ethnic grouping such as the Bagobo or the Higaonon, and the Atta. Depending on specific linguistic points of view, the membership of a dialect with a supergroup shifts.
A tentative but more specific classification that needs attention divides the Manobo into a number of major groups, some of which are: (1) Ata subgroup: Dugbatang, Talaingod, and Tagauanum; (2) Bagobo subgroup: Attaw (Jangan, Klata, Obo, Giangan, Guiangan), Eto (Ata), Kailawan (Kaylawan), Langilan, Manuvu/Obo, Matigsalug, (Matigsaug, Matig Salug), Tagaluro, and Tigdapaya; (3) Higaonon subgroup: Agusan, Lanao, and Misamis; (4) North Cotabato: Ilianen, Livunganen, and Pulenyan; (5) South Cotabato: Cotabato (with subgroup Tasaday and Blit), Sarangani, Tagabawa; (6) Western Bukidnon: Kiriyeteka, Ilentungen, and Pulangiyen; (7) Agusan del Sur; (8) Banwaon; (9) Bukidnon; and others. The various subgroupings are not sufficiently defined at present.
The Manobo occupy and have adapted to various ecological niches ranging from the coastal to the rugged mountain highlands of the interiors of Mindanao. The different subgoups are highly dispersed transecting the entire island of Mindanao, there adapting to various environmental niches to develop self-contained variations of a generalized culture. The orientation of all the subgroups, however, is upland. Commonly, cultivation is multicropped and intercropped, including rice, corn, legume, yams, and sweet potato. Agriculture production is supplemented by hunting and food gathering.
Settlements are generally kin-oriented nuclear groups near the swidden fields located on the ridges. The communities are widely dispersed and placed on high ridges above mountain drainage systems. In some areas, there are long houses that accommodate a number of families, usually of an extended kind. Leadership is placed on a highly skilled and socially powerful individual who builds up his following through various modes of alliances including marriage. In a grouping, usually of kindred traditional community, they would recognize one datu as head. A number of datus would be united under a more sovereign datu, up through a political pyramid with a sultan and a rajah muda holding sway in a larger territory. Although the kin relationship is bilateral, there is a bias toward the male in terms of decision-making and leadership. The woman holds a subordinated position in the society.
Nowadays, the structure of leadership is gradually changing with an overlay of the contemporary civil structures radiating from the governor of the province down to the level of the sitio councilman often assumed by the better educated younger generation of the community. The groups are largely Christianized and there are survivors of some belief systems. The national education system has also largely penetrated the more nucleated areas and minimally the more inaccessible rural areas. The distinctive character of ethnic dress has mostly given way to commercial clothing, with ethnic materials finding their way to the antique trade.
|Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces
(Arrangement: Population count)
|(Manobo, Bagobo, Banuanon, Kulaman. Note: Other Manobo groups identified in sub-group names)|
|Total National Population||213,209
|Surigaonon (144123), Higaonon (125490), Matigsalug (26700), Dibabaon (17996), Kamiguin (Higaonon)(551)|
|Agusan del N.||1,251|
|Agusan del S.||49,445 (NM 1992:159700)|
|Bukidnon||14499 (NM 1991:56450)|
|Davao del S.||41058 (NM 1991:24145)|
|Davao Or.||5850 (NM 1991:4000)|
|N. Cotabato||23696 (RC1991:55758)|
|S. Kudarat||9558 (NM 1993:14300)|
|Surigao del S.||7152 (NM 1990:26510)|
|Agusan del N.||31|
|Agusan del S.||19|
|Bukidnon||151 (NM 1991:800)|
|Davao del S.||35792 (NM 1991:5350)|
|Lanao del N.||83|
|Lanao del S.||387|
|N. Cotabato||3742 (NM 1991:7508)|
|Surigao del N.||9|
|Surigao del S.||10|
|Agusan del N.||49|
|Agusan del S.||10 (NM 1992:8200)|
|Davao del S.||(NM 1991:1991)|
|S. Cotabato||(NM 1992:12)|
|Davao del S.||(NM 1991:15000)|
|Davao del S.||(NM 1991:3000)|
|Davao del S.||(NM 1991:8000)|