Modern DNA evidence strongly supports the view that the Polynesian people have their origins in a small group of Austronesian speaking people in Taiwan. This web site takes a preliminary look at some of the many tribal traditional groups and provinces in the Philippines Islands with regard to their traditions, language, music and culture with particular emphasis on the apparent similarities with those of the Polynesian people.


The traditional tribal groups in question are the Bagobo, the Ifugao, the Igorot, the Ilocano and the Bontoc.

The Bagobo were the first ethnic group in Mindanao encountered by the Spaniards at the end of the nineteenth century. Its name was derived from the words "bago" meaning "new' and "obo/obbo/uvu" meaning "growth", or "grow" which refer to a recent formation of people along the Davao Gulf coast. The Bagobo are proud people with proto-Malayan features. They have light brown complexion, brown or brownish black wavy to curly hair, dark and widely set eyes, ridge broad nose and full, rounded lips.



Polynesian Cultural Center

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The ancient settlement of the Bagobo is called Sibulan and serves as the centre of all the Bagobo settlements when the Spaniards came. A strong social structure has enabled the groups to blend well with the main body politic while retaining their indigenous customs, beliefs and values.

The Bagobos have ornate traditions in weaponry and other metal arts. They are noted for their skill in producing brass articles through the ancient lost-wax process. They also weave abaca cloths of earth tones and make baskets that are trimmed with beads, fibres, and horses hair.

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The Ifugao, immortalized by their magnificent rice terraces; inhabit the rugged terrain of the extensive Cordillera Mountain Ranges of Central Luzon. They have developed and maintained a distinct culture which until recently has resisted outside influences. Until modern times ended their isolation, the only world they knew was their environment of towering mountain ranges, rolling hills, windy plateaus, warm valleys, shallow but swift rivers, dense forests, innumerable rice paddies and kaingin on the mountainsides.

If asked about origins, the Ifugao will readily repeat folklore handed down through generations. He will vividly trace his first ancestors through a large body of myths, especially those pertaining to the creation of the Ifugao world. The Ifugao will declare categorically that his ancestors were the direct descendants of the deities of the sky world (lugud), which explains why none of their myths make any mention of migrations into Ifugao land.

Later studies however, describe the Ifugaos as the descendants of the first wave of Malay immigrants to the country. They are described as medium build, brawny and brown with black eyes, straight hair, and thin lips. They are industrious people who depend mostly on rice growing for their livelihood supplemented by livestock and poultry raising. For many generations, the Ifugaos have woven on looms and carved works of art from blocks of woods. The rice terraces is a symbol of their industry that will live through the ages.

The major sub-groups of Ifugao are Tuwali, Ayangan, Hanglulo and Kalanguya. The sub-grouping is based largely on the difference of dialects, partly on the variation of oral traditions and customs slightly on the design and colour of costumes. In Ayangan for instance, the sound -ch- is very common and prominent. This is the equivalent of the -d- sound in Tuwali and Kalanguya. Hence, the Tuwali word "wada" (there is) is pronounced "wacha" in Ayangan. The Ayangan has also the sound -f- (pronounced in a hard manner and resembles a soft -v-). The Tuwali term "bale" (house is pronounced "foloy") in Ayangan and "baley" in Kalanguya.

The Tuwali sub-group occupies major parts of Banaue, Hingyon, Hungduan, Lagawe ang Kiangan. The Hanglulo tribe occupies Asipulo, the Ayangan occupies Mayaoyao, of Kiangan and Alfonso Lista, while the Kalanguya sub-groups are found in Tinoc and a small part of Kiangan.

Rare historical and cultural pictures of Ifugaos couple male and female in their cultural clothes - available on request

The Ifugaos practice a number of rituals. Some of these rituals are Hingot, the betrothal ritual which announces the union of two families (generally marriages among the Ifugaos are pre-arranged); Amung, a sacrificial ritual wherein the gods and the family's ancestors are asked to make the body healthy, the mother well and strong, and the family wealthy; Uya-uy, a ritual of feasting; Hagabi, a ritual of those aspiring to attain the rank of the real "kadangayan"; Ketema, a ritual intended to identify the spirit who caused a certain sickness. Ayag, a ritual performed to identify the evil spirits who caused an illness; and Kolot, a ritual for the first cutting of child's hair.


Igorot denotes for the people of the Cordillera region, on the island of Luzon. The Igorot form two subgroups: the larger group lives in the south, central and western areas, and is very adept at rice-terrace farming; the smaller group lives in the east and north. Igorot groups formerly practiced headhunting.


Cordillerano, or Cordilleran, is an unofficial and relatively recent term for the people of the hill tribes of Luzon, Philippines, who are residing in the Cordillera and Caraballo mountains. This term is an attempt at political correctness, since a current term, Igorot, has caused controversy due to its perceived negative stigma, which is incorrectly connected to backwardness and inferiority. Among the people in the Cordilleras, not all Kalinga and Ifugao accept the designation of Igorot.

The Ilocano or Ilokano people are the third largest Filipino ethnolinguist group. Aside from being referred to as Ilocanos, from "i"-from, and "looc"-bay, they also refer to themselves as Samtoy, from the Ilocano phrase "sao mi ditoy", meaning 'our language here.' The word "Ilocano" came from the word "Iloco" or "Yloco."


Originally indigenous to the narrow coastal strip of northwestern Luzon, the Ilocanos have migrated throughout the Philippines. There are also an important Ilocano communities in Manila, as well as the world over. Ilocanos number about 9,136,000 and are primarily of Austronesian stock. Their homeland is the closest region in the Philippines to China.  Ilocanos speak the IIokano language (also called Iloko language), which is part of the Northern Philippine subgroup of the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages. The Austronesian ancestors of the present-day Ilocanos came to the Philippines through bilogs, or outrigger boats during the Iron Age.


The IIocano people are characterized as being hardworking and frugal, and they engage primarily in farming and fishing. The Ilocano culture represents very simple, sometimes spartan day-to-day living, focusing mostly on work and productivity, spending only on necessities and not on so much on ostentatious material possessions. Ilocanos also exemplify a great degree of respect and humility in their everyday dealings.

One of the most notable Ilocanos Ferdinand Marcos, 10th President of the Philippines (1965–1986).


"Bontoc" is derived from two morphemes "bun" (heap) and "tuk" (top), which taken together, means "mountains." The term "Bontoc" now refers to the people of the Mountain Province used to consist of five subprovinces created during the Spanich period: Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao and Kalinga. In 1966, four new provinces were created out of the original Mountain Province: Benguet, Ifugao, Mounatin Province (formerly the subprovince of Bontoc), and Kalinga-Apayao. Hence, people may still erroneously refer to the four provinces as the Mountain Province

The Mountain province sits on the Cordillera mountain range, which runs from north to south. It is bounded on the west by Ilocos Sur province, on the east by Isabela and Ifugao provinces, on the north by Kalinga-Apayao Province, and on the south by Ifugao and Beguet Provinces. Part of its western territory has been carved out to the jurisdiction of Ilocos Sur, and is drained by the Chico River. Its capital is Bontoc town, which was also the capital of the former Mountain Province. It has a total of 10 municipalities and 137 barrios. The villages at the southern end of the Mountain Province are northern Kankanay. Although there is a common language, also called Bontoc, each village may have its own dialect and phonetic peculiarities. Population estimate in 1988 was 148,000. Physical types are characteristically Philippine, with ancient Ainu and short Mongol types.

Although the Bontoc believe in the anito or spirits of their ancestors and in spirits dwelling in nature, they are essentially monotheistic. Their god is Lumawig, their culture hero and son of the god Kabunian, although the two are also perceived as one and the same. Religious practices, rituals and cañoas attend their cycles of life, death, and agricultural activities. There are many kinds of cañoa. The chao-es is the feast for the manerwap, which is the ritual imploring Lumawig for rain. A cho-es is also held when a person's name needs to be changed because of an incurable ailment that is believed to be caused by an ancestral spirit. The fosog is the feast for fertility rites.

There are sacred days called tengao/teer, which are some 46 days scattered in a year when work in the fields is taboo. The tengao are generally associated with crops, climate, weather and sickness. During this period, kapya (prayers) are addressed to the spirits for favours and blessings. The manayeng is a group prayer asking Lumawig for rain. 


lloilo Province is located in the Western Visayas region and occupies the southeast portion of Panay Island. It is bordered by Antique to the west and Capiz to the north. People from Iloilo are called lloggos. There are two local languages spoken in the province: Hiligaynon sometimes called llonggo, and Kinaray-a. Hiligaynon and variants of it are spoken in Iloilo city and a few towns of the province.

Hiligaynon (or "Ilonggo") is an Austronesian language spoken in Western Visayas in the Philippines. Hiligaynon is concentrated in the provinces of Iloilo and Negros Occidental. It is also spoken in the other provinces of the Panay Island group, such as Capiz, Antique, Aklan, Guimaras, and many parts of Mindanao like Koronadal City, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat (It is spoken as a second language by Karay-a in Antique, Aklanon and Malaynon in Aklan, Cebuano in Siquijor, and Capiznon in Capiz.). There are approximately 7,000,000 people in and outside the Philippines who are native speakers of Hiligaynon, and an additional 4,000,000 who are capable of speaking it with a substantial degree of proficiency.

The language is referred to as "Ilonggo" in Negros Occidental and in Iloilo. More precisely, "Ilonggo" is an ethnoliguistic group referring to the people living in Panay and the culture associated with the people speaking Hiligaynon.

Austronesian People 


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