The Sama (Sama, Jama Mapun, Samal, Balangini, Balangingi, Bangingi, Pangutaran) are a highly variable group with the populations concentrated in Sulu and Tawi-tawi (118,572) provinces. The core areas are in Siasi (15,248), Tandubas (16,706), and Sitangkai (30,328), and Pangutaran (14,382) (NSO 1990). The national population is about 319,809 (NM 1994). There are three generalized linguistic groupings: western, eastern (Pangutaran), and central. The people group themselves consistent with the dialects they speak and are identified by their home islands. With these as bases, they distinguish at least 20 subgroupings among themselves, including one, Sagaa, whose language is spoken in north Borneo. The group is Islamic in religion. Some are nominally Muslim. Still others are referred to as totally non-Islamic. In terms of adaptation they group themselves into two: Sama Dilaut (mistakenly called Badjao) and the Sama Diliya. The former is commonly associated with marine orientation and still retain much of the indigenous religion; the latter is usually landed and highly influenced by Islam.
The culture is basically lowland Southeast Asian with features both of marine orientation and rice and cassava cultivation. Cassava is the preferred staple. Copra is also produced. There are affinities with the coastal groups of north Borneo. Trade is an important feature of the culture and in certain areas shipbuilding is a well-developed industry especially in the island of Sibutu.
Houses are usually built on high stilts over shallow waters in sheltered areas, with the ubiquitous boats of many kinds usually moored alongside. The dead are interred in cemeteries on land identified by ornately carved wooden markers. (abstract representing the dead on top of vehicles like the duyong or sea cow).
Sama Dilaut (Badjao)
The Sama Dilaut are a small ethnic Sama group (Bajao, Bajaw, Samal Laut, Pal’au, Orang Laut, Badjau, Lutao, Sama Dilaut, Sama Jengngeng) commonly known as “sea gypsies” among the Western peoples, but as Sama Dilaut in the localities. The places of population concentrations are in Sitangkai, Tawi-tawi (1,075), and Bongao (660). In the province they number about 1,735 (NSO 1980) and the national count is about 29,754 (NM 1994). It is difficult to get an accurate census since the group are highly mobile and spread out in a wide area that extends even to the northern tip of Luzon. There is a question in the use of the name “Badjao,” for the true Badjao are found in northern Borneo. The Sama Dilaut claim that when they were in Sabah, they were called Badjao due to the similarity of their culture with the boat peoples of Borneo. There is a considerable difference between the language of the Sama Dilaut from the eastern or western Badjao of north Borneo. The centers of population are in Sitangkai, Tando-owak, and Tungihat in the province of Tawi-tawi. The people live in house boats called lepa and their culture is closely linked with the sea. Their houses are usually on stilts over shallow seas, linked by bridges. House interiors are not partitioned and often feature a hanayan, an ornate shelving. Culture traits are very similar to the mainstream of Southeast Asia especially with similar groups with marine orientations. Subsistence is largely associated with marine resources. Cassava is the staple. Traditionally a non-aggressive people, they claim to have no weaponry. When confronted with aggression, the reaction of the Sama is generally to take flight.
The Sama houseboat, lepa, is one of the most beautiful of traditional boats, possessing an ancient type of boat architecture with a uniquely designed sail featuring a “mouth” which enables the boat to go almost directly into the eye of the wind.
|Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces
(Arrangement: Population count)
|Total National Population||278,642
|SAMA (SAMA DILIYA)|
|Basilan||27724 (NM 1992:21580)|
|Davao||5415 (NM 1991:11780)|
|Davao del S.||30 (NM 1991:1600)|
|Maguindanao||150 (NM 1993:2900)|
|S. Kudarat||75 (NM 1993:2300)|
|Surigao del N.||18 (NM 1989:200)|
|Zamboanga N.||8059 (NM 1994:2570)(Balangingi:1300)|
|Zamboanga S.||38803 (NM 1992:19205)|
|BADJAO (SAMA DILAUT)|
|Basilan||703 (NM 1992:12000)|
|Davao del S.||110|
|S. Cotabato||95 (NM 1991: 500)|
|S. Kudarat||2 (NM 1993: 900)|
|Surigao del N.||114|
|Zamboanga N.||10 (NM 1994: 2500)|
|Zamboanga S.||155 (NM 1992:10100)|
|Lanao del Sur||(NM 1991: 20)|
|Surigao del S.||(NM 1990: 290)|
|Surigao del S.||30|