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

Basilan 27724 (NM 1992:21580)
Batangas 307
Benguet 11
Bulacan 22
Camarines N. 10
Cavite 37
Cebu 20
Davao 5415 (NM 1991:11780)
Davao del S. 30 (NM 1991:1600)
Ilocos S. 25
Laguna 9
Maguindanao 150 (NM 1993:2900)
Or. Mindoro 20,897
Palawan 6,237
Pangasinan 39
Rizal 70
S. Cotabato 1,145
S. Kudarat 75 (NM 1993:2300)
Sulu 44,369
Surigao del N. 18 (NM 1989:200)
Tawi-Tawi 118,572
Zamboanga N. 8059 (NM 1994:2570)(Balangingi:1300)
Zamboanga S. 38803 (NM 1992:19205)
Kalookan 20
Las Pinas 21
Mandaluyong 10
Manila 468
Malabon 10
Muntinlupa 11
Paranaque 10
Pasay 30
Quezon City 10
Aurora 5
Basilan 703 (NM 1992:12000)
Benguet 10
Bulacan 59
Camarines S. 80
Cavite 52
Cebu 11
Davao del S. 110
Ilocos S. 9
Iloilo 10
La Union 9
Laguna 49
Misamis Occ. 9
Nueva Ecija 10
Or. Mindoro 19
Palawan 78
Pampanga 10
Pangasinan 51
Quezon 35
Rizal 62
S. Cotabato 95 (NM 1991: 500)
S. Kudarat 2 (NM 1993: 900)
Sulu 818
Surigao del N. 114
Tawi-Tawi 10
Zamboanga N. 10 (NM 1994: 2500)
Zamboanga S. 155 (NM 1992:10100)
Kalookan 10
Las Pinas 11
Mandaluyong 10
Manila 41
Malabon 20
Makati 83
Paranaque 10
Pasay 10
Quezon City 116
Taguig 13
Valenzuela 10
Maguindanao (NM 1993:1500)
Lanao del Sur (NM 1991: 20)
Surigao del S. (NM 1990: 290)
Masbate 179
Nueva Ecija 41
Palawan 187
Pampanga 512
S. Kudarat 12
Surigao del S. 30
Tarlac 141
Kalookan 10
Manila 87
Quezon City 10