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
+ 220,973
Surigaonon (144123), Higaonon (125490), Matigsalug (26700), Dibabaon (17996), Kamiguin (Higaonon)(551)
Total 749,042
Agusan del N. 1,251
Agusan del S. 49,445 (NM 1992:159700)
Bukidnon 14499 (NM 1991:56450)
Camarines S. 20
Davao del S. 41058 (NM 1991:24145)
Davao Or. 5850 (NM 1991:4000)
Iloilo 50
Maguindanao 2256 (RC1991:1000)
Negros Occ. 9
N. Cotabato 23696 (RC1991:55758)
Pangasinan 11
Rizal 50
S. Cotabato 1,872
S. Kudarat 9558 (NM 1993:14300)
Surigao del S. 7152 (NM 1990:26510)
Zamboanga N. 11
Zamboanga S. 31
Kalookan 11
Mandaluyong 11
Marikina 10
Abra 121
Agusan del N. 31
Agusan del S. 19
Aklan 61
Aurora 9
Bataan 235
Batangas 689
Benguet 149
Bukidnon 151 (NM 1991:800)
Bulacan 961
Camarines N. 24
Cavite 464
Cebu 83
Davao 415
Davao del S. 35792 (NM 1991:5350)
Davao Or. 19
Ilocos S. 2,922
Kalinga-Apayao 752
La Union 20
Laguna 704
Lanao del N. 83
Lanao del S. 387
Maguindanao 154
Marinduque 141
Misamis Or. 10
N. Cotabato 3742 (NM 1991:7508)
Nueva Ecija 398
Nueva Vizcaya 10
Occ. Mindoro 114
Or. Mindoro 275
Palawan 54
Pampanga 31
Pangsinan 32
Quezon 590
Quirino 38
Rizal 1,227
S. Cotabato 172
S. Kudarat 150
Sulu 29
Surigao del N. 9
Surigao del S. 10
Tarlac 42
Tawi-Tawi 9
Zambales 204
Zamboanga S. 29
Kalookan 102
Las Pinas 52
Mandaluyong 41
Manila 1,372
Marikina 110
Malabon 42
Makati 135
Muntinlupa 64
Navotas 20
Paranaque 74
Pasay 72
Pateros 9
Quezon City 1,053
San Juan 11
Taguig 131
Valenzuela 52
SUB-TOTAL (53,379)
Agusan del N. 49
Agusan del S. 10 (NM 1992:8200)
Aurora 11
Benguet 149
Bohol 70
Bulacan 9
Capiz 11
Ilocos N. 10
La Union 10
Negros Or. 11
Or. Mindoro 594
Palawan 28
Pangasinan 52
Rizal 10
Zambales 11
Zamboanga S. 134
Las Pinas 10
Mandaluyong 134
Manila 50
Marikina 10
Quezon City 10
Valenzuela 11
. .
SUB-TOTAL (1,394)
Aklan 10
Basilan 10
Mt. Province 10
Nueva Ecija 10
Pangasinan 10
Tarlac 9
Quezon City 4
. .
Davao del S. (NM 1991:1991)
S. Cotabato (NM 1992:12)
Bukidnon (NM 1991:450)
Davao del S. (NM 1991:15000)
Davao del S. (NM 1991:3000)
Davao del S. (NM 1991:8000)