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Bagobo Tribe History, Culture, Arts, Customs, Beliefs and Traditions [Mindanao Indigenous People | Philippines Ethnic Group]

Bagobo Tribe History, Culture, Arts, Customs, Beliefs and Traditions [Mindanao Indigenous People | Philippines Ethnic Group]

The origin of the term “Bagobo” is uncertain, but it may have come from bago, meaning “new or recent,” and obo or uvu, meaning “person.” The name originally applied to the coastal peoples of Davao Gulf, especially the indigenous groups on the western shores of southeastern Davao. However, these groups consisted of three different linguistic groups whose languages were mutually unintelligible before acculturation and intermarriage: the Tagabawa, the Ubo Manuvu, and the Jangan. A fourth group, the Matigsalug, is linguistically most closely related to the Ubo, but this may be the result of intermarriage and close interaction with the neighboring Ubo of Baguio District, Davao City.

Tagabawa” means “people of the south,” from bawa, which may actually mean either “south” or “north.” The Ubo Manuvu call themselves Manuvu, meaning “people.” However, so as not to be confused with the Manobo groups that are scattered in various places in Mindanao, the Manuvu are more known as Obo Manobo and Obo Bagobo. “Jangan” means “forest,” and the Jangan are called by various names by neighboring groups. The Matigsalug call them Klata, meaning “to go through,” because the Matigsalug have to go through Jangan territory to go to Davao to barter. The Tagabawa and Ubo call them Eto or Attaw, a variant of tao, utaw, or tawo, which all mean “people.” “Jangan” is spelled “Guiangan” in the Spanish records because of the peculiarities of Spanish orthography. The older-generation Jangan call themselves thus, but the present generation prefer to be called Klata and refer to jangan as the forest that is their traditional habitat. Spanish missionaries and early ethnographers tended to identify them all as one group because they had common articles of material culture such as dress and ornaments, tools, blades, and musical instruments.

The Tagabawa’s traditional habitat is the site of present-day Davao City and the slopes of Mount Apo; the Ubo Manuvu’s is the contiguous area along southern Bukidnon, northeastern Cotabato, northwestern Davao, between Davao del Sur and North Cotabato provinces, and the northeast slope of Mount Apo; and the Jangan’s is Davao City, Davao del Sur province, and the eastern slopes of Mount Apo. These Bagobo groups presently occupy Calinan, Toril, and Baguio District in Davao City; some towns of Santa Cruz and Bansalan as well as Digos City in Davao del Sur; and Makilala, Magpet, Tulunan, and Kidapawan in North Cotabato. Tudaya in Davao del Sur is their most important center. In 1996, the Davao City Health Office recorded their population in Davao City, Davao del Sur, and South Cotabato as 363,224, comprising the three subgroups: there were 47,392 Jangan in Davao City; 102,266 Tagabawa in Davao City and 60,037 in Davao del Sur; 100,018 Obo in Davao City and 53,511 in South Cotabato. In 1988 the total population was 80,000. As of 2010, the Bagobo population numbered 484,467.

History of the Bagobo Tribe

Bagobo community (The Philippines Past and Present by Dean Worcester. The MacMillan Company, 1914)
Bagobo community (The Philippines Past and Present by Dean Worcester. The MacMillan Company, 1914)

Well into the 19th century, the Bagobo were a self-sufficient and autonomous people, although they had trading relationships with outsiders and they were nominally under the rule of the Maguindanao sultanate. However, in 1838, Datu Ongay, a Maguindanaon, roused the ire of the Spanish colonial government when he attacked a Spanish ship. In 1845, the Maguindanaon sultan entered into a treaty with Spain in which he gave the latter control over the region stretching between Davao Gulf and Sarangani Bay, which was Bagobo land. Governor-General Narciso Claveria appointed Jose Oyanguren as governor of Davao region. Oyanguren had yet to rid the region of its resident Muslims, who were putting up a resistance under the leadership of the Maguindanaon Dato Bago. But by April 1848, Oyanguren had begun colonizing Davao.

Bagobo woman (National Geographic, 1913, Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)
Bagobo woman (National Geographic, 1913, Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

Sibulan is the ancient settlement of the Bagobo and was the center of all Bagobo settlements when the Spaniards came. Datu Manib was the datu of Sibulan who traced his genealogy 11 generations back to Saling-olop, a legendary culture hero. Thus, he was the foremost datu among all the other datus. He was between 45 and 50 years old when the Spaniards first came to Sibulan. Although he cordially received the Spaniards when they arrived, he was later imprisoned for defying the Spanish injunction against human sacrifices and refusing to help them capture a Bagobo fugitive.

Bagobo chief (National Geographic, 1913, Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)
Bagobo chief (National Geographic, 1913, Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

When he was released, the Bagobo again held a human sacrifice and killed all those they perceived to have been responsible for their datu’s humiliation. Then Manib and his followers destroyed their own fields and lay traps before abandoning their homes. Manib’s leadership later weakened, and he was replaced by Datu Tongcaling, who was the datu when the Americans came. Although maintaining friendly relations with the new colonizers, Tongcaling was able to preserve his people’s indigenous culture.

Spanish colonization and Christianization founded some reducciones (colonized towns) such as Lobo (now Santa Cruz), Astorga, Daliao, Bago, Talomo, Daron, Binugao, Tuban, Cauit, and Bacolod. Permanent crop fields were mandated so that village life would become sedentary, even as abonados (merchants who were Christian Filipinos) penetrated the interior in search of goods to trade, thus facilitating colonial access. Generally, however, Spanish colonial efforts were restricted to the lowlands and coastal areas. It was not till the 1890s that the Bagobo came into contact with Europeans who moved in to establish abaca and coconut plantations. Even so, native adaptation proved difficult and resulted in the gradual disappearance of the Bagobo from Santa Cruz.

American troops under company commander Captain James I. Burchfield landed in Davao on 20 December 1899, a year after Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris of 10 December 1898. The Americans moved deeper into Bagobo land, dramatically transforming native economic and political structures through the introduction of money economy, labor specialization, municipal and barrio governments, and an effective educational system. The Americans built more roads and extended existing ones into the forests and swamps. Roads were also built parallel to the coast. During the American colonial period, from 1899 to 1941, Davao became a plantation country, the site of endless rows of coconut trees, fields of abaca, wharves, factories, and more houses.

A side story to American colonization is the exhibit of six Philippine ethnic groups at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. They were kept in the Philippine Reservation, which was divided into villages replicating those in their home country. The Exposition Board classified these six groups into three categories: the “least civilized,” the “semicivilized,” and the “civilized and cultured.” The Bagobo fell under the semicivilized category. They held musical shows daily every half hour from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm and demonstrated their cultural items and practices like weaving and various types of traps. The greatest attraction for the visitors was the handsome 19-year-old “Datu” Bulan, who was much photographed for his thick, black hair that fell to his waist. He was reported to be the scion of an abaca plantation owner, and the savage royalty that was implied added considerably to his appeal. Two American women, Elizabeth Metcalf and her sister Sarah Metcalf, visited the Bagobo Village numerous times and made friends with them. When the World’s Fair ended and the Bagobo returned to the Philippines, the Metcalf sisters followed soon after and lived for four years in the settlement of Santa Cruz, among what they called “our own pet tribe, the Bagobos.”

In 1903, the American colonial government brought Japanese laborers into the Philippines for its various public works projects, notably Kennon Road in Benguet. Between 1904 and 1905, about 350 Japanese laborers came to work in the American-owned abaca plantations of Davao. By 1907, two of them had acquired public land and established the Ohta Development Co. and the Furukawa Plantation Co. for abaca cultivation. By 1918, there were 71 Japanese-owned agricultural companies cultivating abaca on land that had heretofore been owned by the Bagobo. As kaingin (swidden or slash-and-burn) farmers, the Bagobo would temporarily abandon their farmland after harvest season to let it lie fallow. The Americans and Japanese took these areas to be public land and purchased them from the colonial government. Thus did the Bagobo lose their ancestral domain, along with their livelihood, their homes and settlements, and the goodwill of the nature spirits who resided in the forests that the Japanese were destroying.

The Bagobo believed the consequent spread of smallpox and influenza epidemics to be punishments from the offended spirits. Hence, they fought back, attacking the Japanese who were invading their land. Between 1918 and 1938, more than 600 Japanese were killed by the Bagobo—an average of 30 Japanese killed per year. In 1919, there were 20 Japanese tree cutters killed. Within a three-year period, from 1918 to 1921, when Japanese land clearers were most invasive, more than 100 were killed.

When the Public Land Law of 1919 banned the Japanese from purchasing and renting public land, they used Bagobo dummies to continue purchasing land and then leased the land from these Bagobo owners for 10 to 20% of their harvest. Eventually, Bagobo resistance tapered off as the clearing of land ended, and the Bagobo were assimilated into the abaca plantation economy by continuing to lease the land to the Japanese cultivators or, if they were landless, entering the plantation work force. Intermarriage was also mutually beneficial for the Bagobo and the Japanese. It gave the Japanese access to Bagobo land while the Bagobo learned new crop cultivation methods from the Japanese. Similarities in their marriage customs allowed for smoother cultural integration within Bagobo-Japanese families and by extension, within the communities they were part of.

A notable example is Enzo Yoshida, who had come to Davao from Benguet but quit the abaca plantation where he was working because of the manager’s abuse and attacks on the plantation by indigenous groups. He assimilated into a Bagobo community, learning their language and ways, and married a datu’s daughter. He became the president of Bayabas Plantation Company, a 2,000-hectare abaca plantation. Ownership of the plantation was later transferred to the Philippine government by the American colonial administration through Executive Order 29.

During World War II, the Japanese regime forbade abaca cultivation and had the abaca plants replaced with food crops. After the war, only half of the 70,850 hectares of abaca farms remained. The other half was subdivided by the national government into five-hectare plots and distributed as homesteads to migrant settlers, who planted them with rice and corn. The 1,200-hectare Furukawa plantation shrank to 80 hectare, which are now government land called Bago Oshiro. It has fruit trees, a research laboratory for abaca diseases, and a nursery for various types of abaca. The rest was claimed by migrant settlers. Furukawa moved to Ecuador where he started the abaca industry in 1965.

Migrant labor turned Davao into a melting pot. Eventually, however, while modernization boosted the economy, it tended to exploit labor. It also ended traditions like human sacrifice, the datu system, and the magani or bagani class, although certain native beliefs persisted such as the Langis (literally, “oil”) worship, which fuses ancient medicinal practices with colonial religious rituals. More changes occurred as Bagobo culture opened itself to the influence of neighboring ethnic groups. Through many generations, trade and war facilitated intermarriages and the exchange of customs and artifacts.

During the martial law era, Filipino minorities like the Bagobo were incorporated into the revived barangay system. In the 1980s, as militarization and insurgency began to add yet another dimension to Bagobo society and marginalized indigenous groups became more organized and assertive of their rights, the term lumad came to be used by government and nongovernment organizations as a catch all to refer to the varied, culturally distinct, non-Christian and non-Muslim inhabitants of Mindanao. While many indigenous groups did not initially refer to themselves as lumad, organized groups began to use the term strategically in various political negotiations with dominant power structures in society. The Lumad-Mindanao multi-sectoral alliance was established in 1983 to address ideological and religious conflicts among the various groups in Mindanao. Sectors that rallied against the construction of the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) power plant in Mount Apo from 1989 to 1993 signified their unity by referring to themselves as lumad. The term has also been used during ritualized negotiations called diyandi between indigenous groups and government institutions and/or organizations. The passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) in 1997 further legitimized and popularized the use of the term in discourses on the rights of indigenous peoples. Binagobo also arose in Bagobo vocabulary to refer to cultural practices and customs that, through processes of exchange, acculturation, and appropriation, have been “turned into Bagobo.” There are, for instance, Binagobo marriages distinguished from Christian marriages, or Binagobo religious practices distinguished from Roman Catholic religious practices. The term is a claiming of what remain meaningful to the Bagobo even as they undergo rapid social, cultural, political, and economic changes.

Way of Life of the Bagobo People

The Bagobo were the first ethnic group in Mindanao encountered by the Spaniards at the end of the 19th century. Brisk trade already existed among the various groups and tribes. Horses were used to transport goods to the coast. The Bagobo were excellent riders and showed their pride in this skill by adorning their horses with beads and bangles. Their main trade items were rice, armaciga (resin), and beeswax, which they exchanged for lowland goods like salt, fish, clay pottery, and the lumbang fruit, which was their source of fuel. They bartered with the Muslims for iron and with the Chinese for pots, beads, and other ornaments. The most valuable item of exchange was the agong (knobbed gong), which, together with slaves, horses, cows, and abaca cloth, was given as bride-price or as payment for a crime or transgression committed.

Bagobo master weaver Felisa Ayap, left, Davao del Sur, 2003 (CCP Collections)
Bagobo master weaver Felisa Ayap, left, Davao del Sur, 2003 (CCP Collections)

The primary means of subsistence was swidden agriculture. Rice and corn were rotated on a sloping terrain. Instead of plowing and furrowing, the Bagobo used the todak (pointed bamboo sticks) or dibble sticks to make holes for the seeds in order to prevent erosion. The pagakpak (clapper) on the handle of the todak made a rhythmic sound that synchronized the people’s sowing movements in the field. The women trailed closely behind them, dropping grains into the holes, which they swiftly covered with a sweep of a foot.

Other products were copra, coffee, cacao, fruits, and vegetables. The traditional economic system ensured that every household was self-sufficient, producing for itself not only rice, their staple food, but also clothes, farming and domestic implements, and weapons. There was no clear division of labor, with the exception of the blacksmith, the magani (warriors), and the mabalian (priestesses).

During the American colonial period, economic development in Mindanao was concentrated in Davao, which was Bagobo territory. Abaca was proving to be the most lucrative export product, which was 2/3 of the country’s total export earnings. General Leonard Wood, the first governor of what was then called the Moro Province, encouraged American planters to come to Davao. By 15 February 1905, the Americans had been organized into the Davao Planters’ Association. Plantation labor was provided by the Bagobo, Mandaya, Mansaka, Tagacaolo, Blaan, Manobo, Muslims, Visayans, Kapampangan, and Japanese.

The Bagobo felt the impact of deforestation the most. Fruit trees had provided them with some income, besides serving as boundary markers between settlements. No more animals could be hunted, and volumes of ash from burnt forests polluted the rivers, killing the fish. The Bagobo began buying canned food on credit from Chinese merchants and thus leapt from a self-subsistence economy, supplemented by barter trade, to a cash-and-credit economy.

On the other hand, the money economy, while decreasing the level of self-sufficiency, helped improve production, transportation, and communication. Trade opened intertribal and interracial relations. Both men and women strip hemp for the abaca trade and for domestic purposes. Blacksmithing, house building, and the making of kitchen utensils like rice mortars and meat blocks are done by the men. Basketry is done by both men and women. Some old men manufacture small shell disks used to decorate their clothing.

The Bagobo Tribal Village

All three Bagobo groups have one term for their village: banod. This typically consists of up to 10 households. Each banod was divided into three classes: the magani, the warrior class; the mabalian or priestesses; and the slaves. The datu was the chief magani, and he inherited his position. He held absolute power in the banod, which he supervised to maintain order and to deal with its problems. However, he enjoyed no special privilege, except for the possession of his title and rank. His main function was to be judge, arbiter, and defender of the tribe. As the magani was held in high esteem, so his opposite, the matalo, a man who has never killed a person and has no desire to fight, was scorned. The magani who has killed at least two persons was allowed to wear blood-red clothes, a tangkulu (headkerchief), and a small bag for betel nut and lime, which was considered a property of the spirits.

Bagobo warriors (National Geographic, 1913, Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)
Bagobo warriors (National Geographic, 1913, Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

The mabalian were elderly women who were usually distinguished as skilled weavers. They had first been selected through a dream or vision from a benign spirit who revealed the secret of a new cure for an ailment. Then they were apprenticed to the mabalian, from whom they learned, among other things, how to weave the clothes of the magani. Like the magani, they wore special clothes that signified their position. Meanwhile, the slave class was composed of women and children taken during raids. Slave women sometimes became concubines of their masters, and their children were considered free because their fathers were freemen.

Crimes punishable with death were murder, incest, and refusal to serve as payment for one’s debt. A cuckolded husband could kill his wife and her lover but must leave his weapon embedded in their bodies. Otherwise, the families of the victims could avenge the deaths. Thieves could be compelled to confess their crime through the practice of divination called bongat. They were believed to suffer extreme pain when mysterious powders were inserted into a chicken egg. There were rules governing ceremonies, rituals, and behavior in the vicinity of shrines, and the wearing of clothes was reserved only for the magani and mabalian.

Under Spanish colonization, these political institutions underwent drastic transformation. The banod became a pueblo, which fell under the authority of the cabecera, the capital of the Fourth Military District of Mindanao. During the American period, American soldiers who decided to stay were rewarded with plantations in Davao and became politically influential. Even Captain Burchfield, the company commander of the American invasion of Davao in 1899, became a plantation owner upon his retirement in 1901.

The leadership of Tongcaling, whom the American colonial government designated as datu of all the Bagobo tribes inhabiting the contiguous area from Sibulan to Digos, was not recognized by these foreigners. When the magani, including the datu, were forced to lay down their arms and desist from ritual killing, their social class was in effect dismantled. Under the plantation economy, the lines between social classes were eroded, for the datu, the magani, and the slaves all became plantation workers. These traditional classes were replaced by two new classes: the landowners and the landless. The Bagobo landowners, however, were not necessarily more powerful, for it was the Japanese and American abaca managers who dictated how the land was to be used.

When the American period ended, political dynasties from the Visayas bought the plantations from the American owners. Thus was created a political organization characteristically Visayan.

Under the Philippine Republic, the banod became the barangay. The Bagobo settlement became a municipality within the provincial government of Davao del Sur, with Manila as the center of administrative organization. This municipality, which is divided into barangays, is administered by a mayor and a vice mayor with the assistance of the municipal council, composed of the barangay captain of the poblacion (city proper), the Sangguniang Bayan members, the municipal development officer, the municipal planning and development coordinator, and the Association of Barangay Captains, headed by the barangay captain of the poblacion and composed of the barangay captains of the municipality. At present, Sibulan, the traditional center of the Bagobo people, is merely one of the barangays of the municipality of Santa Cruz, formerly the settlement of Lobo. In terms of bureaucratic function, the datu, who used to head the banod, has been replaced by the barangay captain, who is elected and swears allegiance to the national government. Relative to the datu, the barangay captain has broader responsibilities, including commitments to his political party, but has lesser powers to enforce the law. This system of local government is more prone to political aberrations such as graft, corruption, and opportunism.

However, the title of datu among the Bagobo continues to hold sway through a persistent charismatic, rather than bureaucratic, leadership structure. While there is still a kin-based dimension to the honorific, it has come to be attributed to Bagobo leaders of notable courage and influence. Furthermore, it no longer necessarily corresponds to a territorial domain. For instance, the title of datu given to Datu Inong Awe is less because of his lineage to Datu Tongcaling of Sibulan than his leadership in the Mount Apo protests against the PNOC geothermal power plant. There is thus a plurality of chieftains among the Bagobo.

A datu now is typically male and multilingual, with the ability to speak ritual languages that are not Visayan, Filipino, or English. He wears a head cloth to signify his stature and, during special public occasions, dresses in ceremonial garb made of traditionally woven textiles, an attire which continues to be meaningful to Bagobo communities.

Bagobo Tribe Culture, Social Organization, Customs and Traditions 

Besides being a physical settlement, the banod is also the Bagobo community to which the individual belongs. The Jangan stress their distinction from other Bagobo banod by referring to themselves as tokka in relation to their own banod. Kinship is felt only for fellow members of the banod and not even for one’s blood relatives living outside the banod.

The communal system of survival in Bagobo society is reflected in their cuisine and method of cooking. The indigenous container for cooking dishes is a bamboo tube, a cooking utensil most ethnic groups in the Philippines use. The first written record of this fact was in 1525 by Ferdinand Magellan’s chronicler, Pigafetta, who observed it in Palawan. He remarked that rice cooked in bamboo lasts longer than that in clay pots. Another common feature of Philippine cuisine is that, before cooking, the main ingredients such as shrimp, fowl, and pork are minced very finely and mixed with plant food such as coconut or vegetables that grow abundantly in their natural surroundings. This cooking method ensures that protein sources, which are harder to come by, are distributed evenly among the family members.

Bagobo in Zamboanga (Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)
Bagobo in Zamboanga (Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

Bagobo dishes include the added flavors of kamatis sa uwak (crow tomatoes) which resemble cherry tomatoes but historically preceded these; ahos-ahos (false garlic), a vine whose leaves taste like garlic and has purple flowers; and kaningag or cinnamon bark that is crushed into a fine brown powder. Remarkably, the limokun (fruit dove), which figures prominently in Manobo oral tradition as the omen bird, is the main ingredient in a Bagobo dish called tinadatad na limokun (minced fruit dove). After it is dressed, the bird, along with with its bones and beak, is chopped very finely and mixed into a larger amount of grated coconut before the whole mixture is stuffed into the bamboo tube for cooking. Thus, the resulting dish is more accurately “grated coconut with minced fruit dove.” For the tinadtad na dadang, shrimp (dadang) is used in lieu of the dove (Tiu 2014).

A unique Jangan practice is to wrap the food such as rice in the elongated leaf of the tawunguy (ground orchid) before stuffing it in the bamboo tube. The Jangan also used to make a condiment, now obsolete, out of salted crabs that were fermented with a particular type of maggots.

For the Ubo Manuvu, the sacred tinapoy (fermented rice) must be prepared in complete secrecy. Their famine food is kal-lot, a poisonous wild yam that the older generation recalls subsisting on during World War II and which killed many Japanese who did not know how to remove the poison. A unique Ubo condiment is the leaf of the tawukay, a type of ginger. Dishes wrapped in alik-ik leaves and cooked in bamboo include linaplap na botad (grated corn) with chopped spring onions, and tinadtad na bakbak (minced frog).

Such dishes may have been served at wedding feasts, which are the culmination of negotiations between two families. Traditionally, marriage among the Bagobo is negotiated through the parents of the bride and groom. When an agreement is drawn, the groom undergoes a trial period, during which he stays with and renders service to the family of the bride for a time. When the match is found viable, the parents, along with the datu, determine the value of the dowry, usually made up of several agong, horses, slaves, or even, among wealthy families, a human sacrifice.

However, courtship among other Bagobo communities can also be spontaneous and decided directly between the girl and the boy. If the parents of the girl object, the boy tries to win them over with gifts. Another Bagobo custom is to let the bride and groom meet without restriction and bear a first child before formalizing their marriage through a ceremony.

The taliduma (formal marriage ceremony) consists of several rituals. In the morning is piid k’agong, the bringing and playing of the agong, bought and furnished by the groom as part of the dowry, in the home of the bride’s parents. This is followed by pamalugu (ritual washing or cleansing), during which the officiating priest or priestess prays for the health of the couple as they sit on two flat boulders called gunsad, which jut out of a shallow part of a nearby river. The ritual t’okud ka pahunga (bracing the mountain) is also conducted: Two spears are pointed toward the mountain to prevent illness or disease from “rolling down” to affect the couple. After the tokud wa pahunga, the couple throws their old, shabby garments into the water in a ritual called gantugan, revealing newly woven clothing underneath. The marriage is then solemnized through pagsugpat k’olu, the tying of locks of the newlyweds’ hair to signal their union. Afterwards, there is balabba (drinking of sugarcane liquor), gindaya (singing), sumayo (dancing), and merrymaking in the home of the bride until the morning after the ceremony. At dawn, the agong is again beaten, and there is an exchange of gifts between husband and wife in a ritual called pabulase. The newlyweds then place two white plates with areca nuts and buyo leaves on them under the sloping roof of their house for Tiguiama, the guardian of the home. The officiating priest or priestess is given gifts called ikut, usually consisting of weapons, textiles, or other objects of value.

In some Bagobo practices, gokum bayako, a ritualized meeting of elders on the financial settlement between the wedded families, is conducted after the ceremony. Here, the bride-price is negotiated and settled. The man lives with the girl’s family until he is able to build a house of his own. However, if a Bagobo girl marries a Visayan settler, she leaves to stay with her husband’s family.

Bagobo women are generally independent and strong-willed. They are able to own land and maintain ownership even after marriage, as property is transferred only from parents to children and not from wives to husbands.

Many Bagobo still consult with the shaman to seek advice on illnesses that may have been caused or worsened by supernatural elements. Herbal medicine is also still being practiced alongside paramedical and pharmaceutical methods.

Their healing practices have become highly modernized, although certain indigenous beliefs continue to be performed. Pregnant women look to a local midwife to determine the gender of their babies or to massage the baby into position if it is feared to be suhi (breech birth). Husbands hang citrus branches around the house in the last trimester of their wives’ pregnancy to protect them from aswang (viscera suckers), believed to prey on pregnant women and their unborn children. Circumcision is done through the pakang method. Here, the child sits on a banana log where a piece of wood is wedged to function as an anvil. Newly circumcised boys must not step over chicken manure or this will inhibit the healing process. Girls must not peek at a wounded penis or it will swell like a kamatis (tomato).

When a Bagobo is dying, the face and body are rubbed with fragrant leaves as a precaution against the blood spirit buso. Upon death, the body is left on its sickbed and covered with hemp or cotton textile. A damag (death watch) is assigned to watch the body for two days before the burial. The Bagobo used to practice boat-coffin burial. The lid of the coffin of a fallen datu was carved into a crocodile’s head to ward off evil spirits. Ordinary coffins were decorated with strips of red and white cloth arranged into diamonds and zigzags that portrayed a schematic representation of a buaya (crocodile). Other Bagobo communities bury their dead in coffins carved out of a section of a tree trunk or, among more acculturated coastal communities, built in the fashion of foreign coffins. It is customary for relatives of the deceased to wail at the closing of the coffin as the elderly woman in the family exhorts the spirit of the dead until the coffin is nailed shut. Boiled rice wrapped in banana leaves is placed in a bag that will also be buried with the dead for him to carry in the afterlife. While Catholic influences have caused some Bagobo communities to build graveyards, the customary location for burials was traditionally directly beneath the house of the family of the dead.

Another burial practice recorded among Bagobo communities is leaving the dead in the house and building a new one for the family of the deceased. The family may choose to build the new house near the old one to protect the body from the buso, or simply to stay near a loved one who has passed away.

The American colonizers systematically attempted to erase the Filipino’s cultural identity—and hence, the Bagobo’s as well—by transplanting their own culture into the country through the public schools. Bagobo parents initially resisted sending their children to school out of fear that the Americans were going to feed their children to Aragasi, a child-eating monster. However, by July 1900, within half a year of landing in Davao, the Americans had gathered 150 students in the Davao poblacion, 47 in the ancient settlement of Sigaboy, and 41 in the other ancient settlement of Santa Cruz/Lobo. By the 1920s, there were schools not only for the lowland Tagabawa but also for the more elusive upland Jangan. In the 1930s, 13 Japanese schools were opened as well for the mestizo offsprings of Bagobo-Japanese couples, though full-blooded Bagobo were also welcome.

Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Bagobo People

The Bagobo are polytheistic. They have a wide pantheon of diwata (gods) who reside in nine heavens above the skies and to whom they allude in their songs and myths. Tiguiama, the creator, is assisted by the lesser gods such as Mamale, creator of the earth; Macoreret, creator of the air; Domacolen, creator of the mountains; and Macaponguis, creator of water. Mandarangan is the god of war, the “chief of the war gods and patron of all who has taken at least one human life.” He is believed to grant courage and success to those who offer sacrifices to him, especially in matters of war and trade. He resides in a lake in the volcano crater of Mount Apo. Beside Mount Apo is a smaller mountain called Sandawangan, where Mebuyan, the guardian of the underworld, resides. Here she receives the dead, who undergo ritual cleansing and remain in her care until they are strong enough to travel to Gimokudan, the residence of souls. Tolus, the “one who knows everything,” is the god of the balekat (highest type of altar), on which the paghuaga (human sacrifice) is offered. Other gods are Manama, dispenser of reward and punishment, and Todlai, patron of marriage and to whom buyo and rice are offered. The god of the story is Pangumanon, who was defeated by the Ubo’s culture hero, Tuwaang (Manuel 1961, 435). The Bagobo also believe in a pantheon of demons. The great demon is Darago; lesser demons are Colambusan, Comalay, Tagamaling, Siring, and Abac.

The Sibulan Bagobo believe that everyone has eight souls called the gimukod. When someone dies, four of the souls go to pakakalangit (heaven), a lush, sightless place where the gods Todlai and Tiguiama reside. The remaining four go to karonaronawan (hell). There are other Bagobo settlements where it is believed that the gimukod consists of only two parts: one on the right side of the body and the other on the left, and one of these goes to heaven, the other to hell.

What used to be the most distinctive feature of Bagobo religion, which the Tagabawa call the Pamulak Manobo, was the practice of offering paghuaga. It was part of the most important religious ceremony called gin-em or ginum, which was in honor of Mandarangan and Tolus. The sacrificial victim was a slave, killed by a lance thrust. The corpse was chopped by all those present and the pieces distributed for them to take home. It was believed that Mandarangan bestowed courage to the people who had contact with the sacrificial victim. Children who participated in the ceremony were believed to grow up fearless. Nowadays, the paghuaga is performed using animal sacrifices.

The daily activities of the Bagobo are marked by rituals. They offer areca nuts, betel leaves, food, clothing, and brass instruments, all placed on special altars, for the blessing of their diwata, and for obtaining immunity from the buso and the spirits of the departed. Along trails and in the forests there are platforms about 1 meter high and 30 centimeters wide that are buwis (shrines) to the buso. Even when the buwis is gone, its location is still known because a shrub called daling-ding is planted beside it.

A dance troupe performing the ginum (Sayaw: Philippine Dances by Reynaldo Gamboa Alejandro and Amanda Abad Santos-Gana. National Bookstore, Inc. and Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2002.)
A dance troupe performing the ginum (Sayaw: Philippine Dances by Reynaldo Gamboa Alejandro and Amanda Abad Santos-Gana. National Bookstore, Inc. and Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2002.)

The local shamans are the male matanom and the mabalian. When the matanom sees an omen, he carves the crude image of a man from a piece of wood and offers a small bag containing rice. He prays to the gods to accept “this bit of wood which has our face.” Other offerings are the tambara, over which the matanom or mabalian pray. It consists of bonga, buyo, lime, and tobacco, all of which are placed on a dish on top of a bamboo stick fixed into the ground.

One important religious ceremony happens during the rice-planting season. The appearance of the balatik, a constellation of seven stars making up a bow, signals the Bagobo to prepare the fields for farming and to make the yearly sacrifice. Ceremonies are held at the blacksmith’s place, where the tools are consecrated. The offering of rice and chicken is cooked in bamboo, not in clay or iron pots. The ceremony begins with the blacksmith calling on the spirits to accept the offering and to watch over them in the fields. Then all eat a little of the food. For three days, any activity, whether work or entertainment, is banned. Then the fields are cleared and burned.

The breaking of soil and sowing of seeds begin when another constellation appears, signifying the start of the planting season. Upon entering the field at one corner, the workers walk toward the far left where they place a bamboo shrine called the pemeg-ge. The mabalian calls all the spirits, beginning with Manama. At the center of the field, another shrine called parobanian is erected for the spirit Tarogami, to whom herbs, food, and bracelets are offered. A certain variety of rice called malayag is planted around the parobanian. The spirits are again invoked, this time beginning with the name of Tarogami. The women do the harvesting using a small knife called gallat or gelat. None of the prepared food may be eaten until the mabahan has cooked and distributed some of the rice to the various buwis. She also offers a few rice stalks to the spirits, again calling on them one by one.

Gatok-biaan or pakakaro, the ritual after the harvest, is the most lavish feast, done either individually or communally. This is the only Bagobo ceremony where the agongis not played. Only the bolang-bolang (native guitar) and flute are played. Farm implements used for harvesting are placed in a large basket filled with rice.

The final ritual of the season is the bagkes. Before the ceremonial dishes are stored in the rice granary until the next festival, they are solemnly tied together, with assurances to the spirits that they would be restored the following year.

Although the Recollects arrived in Davao in 1848, and the Jesuits in 1868, there was only one Bagobo convert, whose baptism happened in 1870. It was not until Father Saturnino Urios arrived that 4,235 Bagobo, all of them Tagabawa except for 12 Jangan, became Catholics between 1893 and 1895. The Tagabawa population of Santa Cruz settlement either converted or escaped into the hinterlands.

During the American colonial period, Christian conversion became another means of subjugating the Filipinos, besides the public school system. In 1901, the different Protestant sects divided the country into mission territories. The Congregational Board, which was assigned to Mindanao, sent its missionaries to Davao, including the Tagabawa settlement of Santa Cruz.

In 1904, the colonial government required all the indigenous peoples to pay a cedula (residence tax) of 10 pesos, besides the taxes they paid for many of their subsistence activities such as fishing and keeping dogs used for hunting, infrastructure for livelihoods such as public markets and slaughterhouses, and transportation such as ferry boats. In 1910, the governor ordered the upland Tagabawa to each bring 10 bamboo poles five meters long when they come to Santa Cruz to pay their cedula, or else pay two pesos. These were to be for the construction of the Catholic Church in this town. The Christian settlers, however, were not required to do so.

In 1912, Apo Ingol founded a sect called the Sandawa Sarili Langis (SSL), which was a continuation of Pamulak Manobo but without the human sacrifice that had been banned by the American colonial administration. Apo Ingol was inspired to establish the SSL when he retrieved a vial of oil entangled in the horns of a friendly deer in the forest of Mount Apo. He took the vial home to Baclayon, where his abyan (spirit guide) taught him to mix the oil in the vial with the following ingredients: tamisa na lapo (coconut tree bearing only one fruit facing the east), pitong bulawan na lapo (seven yellow coconuts growing west of Apo Ingol’s house), maaslom na wahig (sour water from Binulag na Tubig streams), salese (a flower growing in Mount Apo), and unang salod ka ulan ka Mayo (first rain of May). The SSL is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a religious organization. It has five churches spread out in three sitios of Davao City. The oil concoction, which is used in the SSL’s Thursday and Sunday services, is the reason why the sect is also called the Lanahan, from the root word lana (oil). As of 2011, the SSL leader was Apo Adoc Puroc, born circa 1900.

In 2006, Apo Adoc, then 106 years old, led his followers up Tudaya Falls, Mount Apo’s highest waterfall, around which is a sacred ground that the Bagobo call Samboangan. The falls, located in a sitio of Brgy Sibulan, Santa Cruz town, Davao del Sur, is fed by two rivers, Baroring and Sibulan. Apo Adoc and SSL members performed prayer rituals in Samboangan in protest of two hydroelectric plants that were to be built at the falls and to appease the spirits who would be angered by the desecration of the grounds should the plants be built. Because of the mountain’s ideal climate all year round, the Tagabawa communities in this area could depend on their harvests of vegetables, fruit trees, corn, bananas, abaca, sweet potatoes, cassava, and coffee all year round for both their subsistence and their livelihood. All these would be replaced not only by the two plants but also by all the appurtenances of power plants, such as conveyance and power lines. Although the electric company had obtained a Certificate of Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), which is a legal prerequisite for the use of the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain, the SSL leaders claim that the Bagobo signatories concurring with the power plants’ project were not the residents of Tudaya, who would be directly affected by it. The sacredness of Mount Apo is the same reason for the long-running controversy over the construction and intermittent operations of the Mount Apo Geothermal Power Project since 1992, when 8,000 protesters, including the Bagobo and other indigenous groups, held a protest march in Kidapawan.

A Lanahan sect that merges indigenous Bagobo beliefs with Christian elements was founded in 1935 by Datu Bitil. A concoction of Mount Apo ingredients (coconut oil, herbs, wood, sulfuric rock, and wine or liquor) is believed to represent the sacred oil that anointed Christ. This is Langis, the Bagobo’s most successful attempt at syncretism. This religion was continued well into the early 1990s by Ang Chinhok and his followers. On Thursday and Sunday mornings, Saturday evening, and the first day of each month, buwis (monetary tribute) is offered. Then, in a ritual called saksi (witnessing), the worshippers plant bottles or drive nails into the ground near the can of offerings. A pangulo (priest or minister) performs the services before the langis or lana in their leader’s house. Every year in December, representatives of the 22 churches of the Langis make a pilgrimage to Mount Apo to gather ingredients for the sacred oil. The feast of the blacksmiths follows; farming tools are blessed for the planting season. While syncretic, the Lanahan Sect has been instrumental in the preservation of Bagobo cultural and religious traditions. Leaders point to the people’s divergence from the old ways as the cause of weather disturbances and diseases. To instill value for tradition, members are required to wear a full set of traditional garb during Lanahan rituals.

Bagobo Tribe Community and Traditional House

A banod or settlement is bounded by bodies of water and natural formations such as rivers and ravines. Landmarks are natural protrusions like boulders, hills, peculiarly shaped rocks, and trees. The traditional Bagobo settlement consists of about ten individual farmhouses scattered around a water source. Every house stands in the middle of the house owner’s cultivated fields, making up a farmstead. Thus, the houses of one settlement are dispersed rather than concentrated, with clearings, meadows, forest, hills, individual trees, and undergrowth making up the vast area on which one settlement is located. Members of a banod can move as they wish, for they are not codependent on their community or their place of residence. While on a journey, a man might come upon a settlement and simply decide to stay there. Traditionally, a man moves into his wife’s village, so if he finds someone to marry while on a journey, he would stay in his bride’s village.

Bagobo family in front of a house structure, early 20th century
Bagobo family in front of a house structure, early 20th century (Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

The American colonial government’s first attempt at bringing the Bagobo under its control was to resettle them in coastal villages, where they would be converted to Christianity and undergo riddleformal schooling. When the Americans came to Davao, the Santa Cruz settlement along the Davao Gulf was composed of six houses and church ruins. By September 1901, it had a population of 1,200 Bagobo living in 130 houses.

In the past, the Bagobo built their house on top of a tree. Access was by ladder that was pulled up after the owner had entered. The traditional house stands on either stilts or piles several meters above the ground to keep enemies out. House builders finish the roof first and then raise it to provide them with shelter until the whole structure is finished. The main support is provided by poles projecting 2.7 to 3.3 meters above the crossbeams and from the center of the one-room interior. An attic is created using loose boards laid on the crossbeams.

The floor consists of basag (hardwood planks) hewn from the palma brava tree trunk. In times of strife, the hardwood protected the occupants from the enemy’s spears coming from below. The posts and beams are also of basag. The roof is made of overlapping bamboo slats or thatched with giant biga (taro leaves) or bulig (banana leaves). On the roof are gutters of split-open bamboo. Walls, about two meters high, are of flattened, plaited bamboo called tinatang. The interiors are dark, for the structure has no windows. However, bobo (small peepholes) allow occupants to see passersby, and cracks in the walls are for spitting out betel quid. The constant kitchen smoke blackens the inside of the house, stings the eyes, and causes people to cough. But it keeps away insects and pests.

A lantawan (platform) makes up a second level, which is the residents’ sleeping area as well as the receiving room for guests. During social occasions, the platform is covered with native woven cloth and pieces of large, porcelain plates. There are two more elevated portions: the pantaas and the sinavong. The pantaas, suspended near the roof, is the unmarried sons’ room. To get to this platform, the boys must pull themselves up on a beam or step on a ledge of the wall because there is no ladder. The girls’ room is the sinavong, which is narrow and off to one side of the house. No males are allowed here, and any intruder is either held captive or forced to marry one of the daughters of the family.

Musical instruments like the agong are displayed conspicuously in the house. Other items on the floor are the stove, native jars, and bamboo water containers. Suspended above is a bamboo rack that holds Chinese plates or halved coconut shells used as dishes. Standing on a pedestal is a rice mortar.

The contemporary house is L-shaped, the larger section being the sleeping and storage area. Clothes hang from a betill (clothesline) suspended across the width of the house. A ledge, which separates the two sections, also serves as a bench. A smaller area is the kitchen, where a rebbong (elevated firebox) lies, above which firewood is stored. Although a fire hazard, this arrangement offers an effective way of drying the firewood. Except for meat, which is hung on a hook over the firebox, no food is stored. The Bagobo family gathers food enough only for the day. The house also contains various sikado (bamboo water containers), 1.3 to 2.3 meters long.

Both the interior and exterior of the house are kept meticulously clean. A rokok goli (rice or corn granary) made of bamboo is built in the compound. On the front yard of each house stand meter-high bamboo poles called tabbad. One end of each pole is dug into the ground while the top end is split open into several strips so as to hold a bowl or dish of betel-chew and food offerings for the benevolent spirits. Inside the house is a smaller version of this bamboo shrine called tamba, used to appease the malevolent spirits. A cage hanging from a beam outside the house may hold a limukon, the omen bird, and this is also used for keeping for food.

Today, smaller houses are made from available light materials, whereas bigger houses use hollow blocks and wood with galvanized iron roofs. Tambarra Incorporated is a modern Sibulan community planned like the Bagobo settlements of the colonial period. Several huts are clustered around a larger one that serves as a chapel characterized by the tambara on either side of the altar. Houses can be purchased from the corporation, which owns the land and buildings.

Bagobo Weaving

The Bagobo are best known for their ikat - patterned textiles woven from the fibers of abaca, which is a type of banana plant that does not bear edible fruit. The Tagabawa call their abaca cloth inabal (“woven from the loom”); the Ubo Manuvu, inavo; and the Jangan, nawow.

Salinta Monon of Bansalan, Davao del Sur, at age 65, was awarded the 1998 Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for continuing the tradition of Bagobo weaving up to the present times. Bagobo ikat weaving is so painstaking that it takes at least three to four months to finish just one panel measuring 3.5 meters by 42 centimeters.

Although abaca weaving is done in many parts of the Philippines, each ethnic group uses abaca to create textile that is uniquely theirs. The Bagobo woman’s creation of the ikat pattern begins with the stripping of the abaca stem, commonly thought to be its trunk, to obtain its fibers. The outer sheaths of the stem yield the coarse fibers; the inner sheaths, the finer fibers. She pounds these fibers in a large wooden mortar to soften them. Then she takes the fibers and ties them end-to-end to make one, long, continuous thread. The finer thread will be used for the warp, or lengthwise thread, on the weaving loom; the coarser thread, for the weft, or horizontal thread.

Bagobo textile has only two colors: black and dark red or maroon. The black dye that the Bagobo use comes from the leaves and bark of the ebony tree (Diospyros) called kinarum, whereas northern Luzon groups use indigo for their black dye. The red dye comes from the sikarig (Morinda) palm root. The sheen of the undyed white fibers provides a sharp contrast. The design of the textile is created with the pelangi (resist-dye) method, also known as the tie-dye process. The fibers are woven into longitudinal strips with geometric designs representing nature and human beings. The motifs, spaces, and symmetry are recalled from memory.

When the inabal/inavo/nawow fabric is done, it is polished with stones and shells to bring out a special luster and softness.

Bagobo Tribal Clothing and Attire 

The Bagobo traditional garb is called ompak (dress), which is most ornate and artistic. The woman’s two-panel sonnod (tube skirt) may have stripes or other ikat designs such as alternating narrow and wide patterns on an all-red base called linombos. A special and unique inabal, because of its type of weave, is the dua talian. Its pattern is not achieved through the tie-dye process but through a highly intricate twill weave; hence it is called binubbud ta kamayway (tied to a frame). It is accomplished only by the most technically skilled weaver. A woman’s most treasured possession is the ginayan or panapisan, a tube skirt with three panels, called ine or ina (mother) panels. These are dyed using the sinake technique, in which a panel is dyed twice, one after the other, to create patterns from the two Bagobo colors, red and black.

Four Bagobo in their finery (A Philippine Album, American Era Photographs 1900-1930 by Jonathan Best)
Four Bagobo in their finery (A Philippine Album, American Era Photographs 1900-1930 by Jonathan Best. The Bookmark, Inc., 1998.)

Ornamentation is provided by the women, who add embroidery, beadwork, and appliqué to the cloth. The Spaniards once marveled at them and called them the “most handsomely dressed natives.” However, traditional clothes and jewelry are now worn only during village feasts and religious ceremonies.

Bagobo men’s hats (Cole 1913)
Bagobo men’s hats (Cole 1913)

The Bagobo’s traditionally woven garments are described as mona or karaan (ancient), whereas those that are cut like the old garments but are made from factory-made material are called moderno (modern) or bago (new).

The contemporary, ordinary attire of the women consists of the sonnod and the ompak ka bayi (blouse), which can either be of simple cotton cloth or the ceremonial, ikat-patterned abaca. The ordinary cotton skirt has a floral pattern in earthen tones like russet, orange, or burnt sienna, or with paisley and checkered prints. It is secured with an elaborately beaded belt or a strip of cloth. Their blouse has a closed neckline, with antique shell disks and fine beads, and displays very fine needlework. It has short bell sleeves and simple lace edging around the neck, arms, and waist. The blouse is short enough to show the abdomen, which may carry elaborate tattoo designs.

The women’s head decor is made of fine white horsehair, beads, and small hand-cast bells. Adornment may consist of any of the following: simple earplugs, a shell bracelet, deeply incised and decorated brass armlets and leglets, dangling beaded earrings, strands of hanging multicolored beads under the chin, and more multicolored layers of beads for necklaces. Rows of bells around their ankles or grooved brass anklets with round brass pellets produce a tinkling sound as they walk barefoot.

Their hair is brushed back and tied in a knot, into which a wooden comb, decorated with incised lines or beads, is inserted. Sometimes a narrow band of hair is kept in front so that it falls on the forehead and in front of the ears. Teeth filing and blackening are practiced by both men and women starting at the age of puberty. Like the men, women carry bolos hanging from their waists.

Bagobo male shirt made of abaca
Bagobo male shirt made of abaca. Ricardo Baylosis Collection (Sinaunang Habi by Marian Pastor-Roces. Nikki Books, 1991.)

Bagobo male knee-length pants made of abaca
Bagobo male knee-length pants made of abaca. Ricardo Baylosis Collection (Sinaunang Habi by Marian Pastor-Roces. Nikki Books, 1991.)

The cloth panels for the men’s garments are woven in various patterns such as different types of stripes called sinukla, kinabang, and sinube; plaids such as ampit or kinarisan; or the dua talian. The men’s contemporary sarwar (trousers) is of cotton cloth secured by a drawstring and topped by an ordinary shirt. The older men wear a plain tangkulu. The trousers are bordered by two wide horizontal bands, beaded with intricate designs. To keep the overlapped material secure at the waist, they use a wide buckled belt of unique make, with close strands of interlinked brass or copper chains, at the end of which are handcrafted and multi-toned brass bells. A second belt holds the bolo and palihuma (long knives), which the men always carry. These heirloom tools and weapons were decorated by a wax process that is now forgotten. Bagobo men wear a close-fitting undershirt, over which is their ompak ka mama (jacket), which can be either all black or plaid. It is finely beaded, with complex designs around the neckline, sleeves, borders, front, and back. Its front flaps are left open.

Bagobo male head scarf made of abaca
Bagobo male head scarf made of abaca. Ricardo Baylosis Collection (Sinaunang Habi by Marian Pastor-Roces. Nikki Books, 1991.)

Their long hair is wrapped in a specially dyed tangkulu, the edges of which are bordered with fine, multicolored tassels and beads. The magani is the only person privileged to wear the colored, closed shirt, and a claret-colored tangkulu. Completing the attire of the Bagobo warrior is the armor called gindua, which is worn over an inner armor made of abaca strips.

Personal belongings, such as the betel box of brass with copper and gold inlays, are secured in an ikat-woven shoulder bag also decorated with fine beads, tassels, and bells. They wear immense mother-of-pearl or ivory earrings, which are unique to them, multi-strand colored necklaces, and layers of bells below their knees.

The forearms of both men and women are covered with elaborate tattoos up to the base of their fingers. Multiple stars are the favorite design because these are believed to light the way to the afterlife. Stylized human figures are tattooed on men’s chests and on women’s bare midriffs.

Baskets and woven abaca knapsacks are likewise festooned with beads, bells, shell sequins, and cotton pompoms. A unique Bagobo basket is the bottle made of bamboo. Glass beads are sewn to an ikat-dyed abaca strip to which tufts of horsehair are also glued. The carrying strap is made of tree bark that is braided. A layer of split nito reinforces the bottom corners.

Among the Ubo, ceremonial clothing is made by women and cannot be easily acquired by men. A man who does not have good relations with his community but wears a chief’s clothing for parades and tourist festivals is looked upon disapprovingly. Public officials who are not recognized as good leaders are regarded with the same scorn. Otherwise, full ceremonial garb produced by katig, elderly women who are knowledgeable in traditional weaving, can be acquired only as a gift from the katig’s household or through inheritance.

Even farming implements are elaborately decorated. The todak is dyed, incised with geometric designs, and festooned with bells and feathers. At one end of the todak is the pagakpak.

Experiences of armed conflict and militarization have shifted the Bagobo’s perspectives on clothing, although symbolic links to certain power structures continue to be drawn. In the 1990s, many of the indigenous groups associated the wearing of the tangkulu (called tubaw in Filipino) with members of the New People’s Army when it came into fashion among activists.

Bagobo Earthenware and Blacksmithing Traditions

The Bagobo also have distinct earthenware traditions. Pots are molded out of clay through techniques called coiling and modeling. These are then shaped with the use of paddle and anvil. In the past, every Bagobo community had a gomanan (forge), but today only Sibulan and Tudela have managed to maintain one. The Bagobo forge has bellows that consist of two cylinders called piopa, which are made out of small tree trunks, and ploppok (pistons) ringed with chicken feathers. The piopa are fitted with bamboo outlets called tayhop near the bottom, which lead to a stone receptacle that channels the draught into the tam-mob-bok or subhanan (fire). To cut the metal, the tarauman (smith) uses a maso (a hammer used to flatten metal); a buntok (a hammer used to shape metal); a hopet or kumpit (tongs); and a set of bolos.

The tarauman enjoys a position of prestige in a Bagobo community for several reasons. First, his skill and inspiration are believed to come from Tolus ka Gomanan, the spirit of the Bagobo forge. This creative power is bestowed upon and can only be conferred through the tarauman. Second, blacksmithing is perceived to be the only profession where the four essential elements—earth, fire, wind, and water—converge in the production process. Finally, the tarauman controls the means to produce agricultural tools and weaponry, thereby making him central to the economic life and security of the community.

Of different shapes and sizes, Bagobo knives include the gallat, lawot, puko, guna, singngi, lagaraw, pananggutay, sangkit, sanggot,and kayog. Each knife is sheathed in a basket of rattan strips woven to fit the scabbard snugly. Carved side panels provide reinforcement.

Bagobo Tribe Riddles and Poetry 

Bagobo folk literature is inextricably linked to their religious ceremonies and significant stages in their lives. An exception to this, however, is the Bagobo riddle, which requires no special or religious occasion. Riddling in Bagobo society may start almost anytime and anywhere: during play, when idling away the hours in conversation, during work, or after lunch. It usually starts with the younger members of the community, but it easily enlists the interest and participation of the older folks. There is, however, one period when riddling is discouraged, and this is at nighttime. The Bagobo believe that malevolent spirits may join the riddling session at night. Examples of Bagobo riddles are the following (Manuel 1962; 1975):

Atuka ru sa

Anak ta mahindanaw

Na ahad iddat saysay

Naddinog tadsinaggaw. (Ahung)

(You guess what it is

Maguindanao child

As far even as Saysay

Could be heard its cry. [Gong])

Ad’ipanaw inis anak

Aruwa’ rak … ka:mmas ta suddu’

Nad’uli’ na idda reen. (Bavot kavi)

(When this man/woman leaves

He/she makes but two footprints

At the time he/she returns. [Carrying bag])


Sekkaw warad tavod du. (Buyyag)

(Guess what it is

You would not be without your belt. [Parents])


Sayon sarong. (Tagunggu uwoy gibba)


The deer dances.* [Gongs and drum])

Other Bagobo poetic forms include the metrical rendering by pregnant women of a list of saps and fruits—tuba, the stem of the buri, the fruit of balisinan, dulian, and others—that should be eaten before the birth of the child. Each verse is alternated with the refrain, “very good to eat.” If the pregnancy is unwanted, the expectant mother reverses the formula by saying “very bad to eat” after each of the food mentioned. A gnomic form is the panukuow, which is a man’s call to a woman in the fields, asking for her name.

A contemporary Ubo Manuvu poet is Retchor Umpan, whose poem “Tonggapow Kos Kod Ginawa Ku” (Accept This Love of Mine) exemplifies the merging of modern and traditional Bagobo worldview and poetic technique:


Duwon mammis no kovukaran

Nod dopotton ahad ingkon no mgo manuk.

Otin vo ondoy iddos bonnaa

Nod kopiyan ka-ay no kovukaran ku

No dii ku od elleyan.

Otin ondoy iddos od kopiyan nod penek

Od sondihan ku to dipall

Od lukatan ku to sobbangan.


Ko-ungkay su id lukatan dud man

Od pominog a to dinoggan

Diyon to kikown’s kovonaan

No sikkow en iddos kovukaran

No siyak en iddos od ollob

Nod poko-iling to tomeng

Nod ossop taddot mammis no kovukaran.

Ponunggeleng ko duwon potiyukan

Id soliyan kud ika

Id otawan kud ika

Wora ahad ondoy nod puwag duwon

Awas koddioy.

Su sikkow en iddos timbang mangga

Ahad od soongkaton du ika

Ahad od losodon du ika

Od ongayon ku su id ko-ivoggi ku.

Su sikkow en iddos timbang buwan

Woy mgo bituo-on

Nod pokotaddow ka-ayt lawa ku,

Nod se-aa ka-ayt pusung ku.

Pamon to nose-alan kos koddin pusung

Konna ad od ipanow diyon to mosukirom

Notorawwan don kos pusung ku

Woy iddos daan ku

Woy iddos ginawa ku.


There is a sweet flower garden

That birds of all kinds flock to.

Whoever bears a pure

Desire to come to the flower garden

I will not bar the way.

Whoever wishes to come up

I will remove any barrier

And turn the ladder around.


But now that you have opened it yourself

I will listen to your revelation

Of the truth that you bear:

That you yourself are the flower garden

And I will have the pleasure of tasting it

Like a bee

Sipping the sweetness of the flower.

If there were a honeycomb—

I would have marked it already

Already I would have staked it for mysellf

And no one would be allowed to smoke it

Except me alone.

Because you are like this mango—

Were you to surround it with thorns

Were you to fence it around with stakes,

I would still pluck it because it is what I love.

Because you are also like this moon

And the stars

That illuminate my body

That shine through to my very core.

And since my core has already been shone upon

I will no longer walk in the dark

My core has been illuminated

My path too has been illuminated

Even this love of mine has been illuminated.)

Bagobo Tribe Myth, Epic and Stories

The Ubo have an epic centering on their culture hero Tuwaang, about whom 50 songs have been recorded. Two of these songs are “Mangovayt Buhong na Langit” (The Maiden of the Buhong Sky), 1958, and “Midsakop Tabpopawoy” (Tuwaang Attends a Wedding), 1975. In the first song, Tuwaang rides on lightning to the land of Pinanggayungan. Fully armed and admired by maidens, Tuwaang has come to meet the Maiden of the Buhong Sky, who has fled from the unwanted courtship of the giant Young Man of Pangumanon, whose headdress reaches up to the clouds. Rejected by the maiden, the giant has wrought destruction upon her country, and on every place where she has sought refuge. And so she has come to the earthworld. In the monumental battle between Tuwaang and the giant, all sorts of mortal and magical weapons are used until Tuwaang subdues and kills his adversary. With his spittle, Tuwaang brings back to life all the people slain by the giant, and he and the maiden ride on the lightning and return to his place in Kuaman. In Kuaman, he fights and defeats another invader who had killed his followers, but who are now revived by the hero. Tuwaang gathers his people and takes them to the country of Katusan, one of the heavenly layers of the skyworld. They ride on the sinalimba, an air vessel, toward Katusan where there is no death.

Bagobo Tribe Story Tuwaang and his people riding the sinalimba or air vessel to Katusan, a layer of the sky world
Tuwaang and his people riding the sinalimba or air vessel to Katusan, a layer of the sky world (Illustration by Luis Chua)

While the Tuwaang epic is in verse and always sung, the ulit is a long prose narrative that is recited rather than sung, though it resembles the epic in content. Three other types of prose narratives are the ituwan, pangumanon, and bilangan. The ituwan consists of myths, legends, and historico-mythological stories. The pangumanon is the generic folktale, which has several subtypes: heroic tale, magical tale, fantasy tale about giants and ogres, humorous tale, and fable. It is also the name of the divine muse of prose narrative. The bilangan is a historical narrative, such as the story of Datu Matundu who led his people during the Spanish invasion in the 19th century.

The origin myths of the Bagobo were first recorded in the 1880s by Davao Spanish governor Joaquin Rajal and the missionaries. Chief of the mythical beings is Mona, also considered an ancestor of the Bagobo people. Other versions of the origin myth refer to the Mona as the first families on earth, which suffered from the scorching heat of the sun. The sun hung so low that the Mona lived in big holes dug into the ground. They could not stand on the earth, and they knelt as they pounded rice. One day, a woman called Tuglibong, who was trying to pound the rice, commanded the sky to rise, and the sky obeyed, taking the sun with it.

Tuglay and Tuglibong, who lived on Mount Apo, were said to be the first man and woman, shaped from two lumps of earth by Diwata, who spat on them to give them life. (Other origin myths have Mona as the first woman and Tuglay as her husband.) One day Tuglay and Tuglibong told their oldest boy and girl to cross the ocean to search for a good place. The two children obeyed, but their descendants, who were fair in complexion, eventually returned to Davao. Soon after, Tuglay and Tuglibong died. A severe drought forced all but their two weakest children to leave. This pair stayed at Sibulan, while the others scattered in pairs. From them sprang all the other tribes. One day the weak man crawled out into the dry and empty fields and found a healthy stalk of sugarcane from which water gushed out endlessly. It nourished the weak pair until the rains came and the Bagobo tribe again increased in number.

“Sandawa,” narrated by Datu Bulatukan A. Lambac (2005), tells the story of the origins of Mount Apo, Mount Matutum, and the seven original Manobo groups. Standing on the boundary of Cotabato and Davao del Sur, Mount Apo is the tallest mountain in the Philippines. The first manubu (person) was Sandawa, who was transformed into the mountain now called Mount Apo. The local name for this mountain is, in fact, Apu (Grandfather) Sandawa because all the Manobo groups trace their ancestry to him. The crevice running down from the peak of Mount Apo is the crack on Sandawa’s head that resulted from a fight with his wife Matutum. When he kicked her in retaliation, she landed in South Cotabato, where stands a mountain of the same name. The various Manobo tribes clustered around each mountain are their children who were divided up between them: the Blaan, Tagakaulo, Tboli, Kalagan, and Manobo around Mount Matutum; and the Bagobo groups—the Matigsalug, Ubo Manobo, Jangan, and Tagabawa- around Mount Apo.

The Bagobo’s concept of life after death is defined by the story of Lumabat and Mebuyan. One day Lumabat quarreled with his sister Mebuyan because he wanted her to go up to heaven with him. She refused, insisting that she preferred to go into the underworld called Gimokudan. She sat on a mortar, which she had filled with rice, and it started spinning into the ground. Sitting atop the spinning mortar, Mebuyan dropped rice by the handful onto the earth, saying that each rice grain represented a human life that would go down with her into the underworld. Since then, Mebuyan has lived under the earth in Banua Mebuyan, where she is chief. Her whole body is covered with mamary glands, because she gives milk to all babies and children who have yet to be weaned. They remain with her until they are ready to eat rice. Then they transfer to Gimokudan where the spirits of their dead relatives live.

Bagobo Mythology Mebuyan and her multiple breasts nursing dead babies
Mebuyan nursing babies (Illustration by Luis Chua)

The Bagobo have a number of stories about their warrior-heroes or maisog (brave ones). These stories serve as lessons on the history of the Bagobo, their honor code in war, and the proper way to negotiate a peace treaty. Saling-olop is a legendary culture hero who, it is said, was a giant the size of a lawan tree. He lived in the mountains of Sibulan and had three sons and a daughter named Panugutan. When the Spaniards arrived in Manila, they sent a battalion to subdue him. He was out hunting when the soldiers arrived, so they took Panugutan as hostage. They were ready for him when he came to her rescue, but their bullets were useless. So they hit his legs with iron bars instead and he fell into the sea. Great waves arose as far as San Agustin because of Saling-olop’s size and weight. Panugutan was taken back to Manila where she married. Her two children were welcomed back to Sibulan, and there was no more enmity between the Spaniards and the Bagobo.

A story is told of Datu Tigan, who rode into Tudaya on his binede (boat). One day, while roasting a deer he had hunted, he was attacked by the Blaan from Koronadal. He ran while eating the half-cooked deer. When they caught up with him, he used the power of his amulet to kill all the Blaan, save for three. He cut off the ears of the fallen Blaan and sent the surviving three home to tell their datu of him. The Blaan tried to attack Datu Tigan three times but always failed. When he died, his coffin, carved like a crocodile, was buried facing Mount Apo, and 10 slaves were sacrificed to accompany him in the afterlife.

The Blaan Datu Galakan, aiming to kill Datu Tigan, attacked Tudaya. Discovering that Datu Tigan was dead, he burned the houses of the other datus. Datu Daya came back from hunting to find his house burned down and his family murdered. He himself barely escaped Datu Galakan’s attempt to kill him. With the guidance of a boy in a dream, Datu Daya retrieved his spear, which Datu Galakan had taken from his tambara in Tudaya. He slaughtered the family of Datu Galakan and despite Datu Galakan’s pleas to be killed with his family, Datu Daya spared him as an act of revenge. From then on, Datu Galakan has warned people away from Tudaya and from Datu Daya.

After Datu Daya’s death, the mabalian prophesied that his successor would be a woman named Layag, who was yet to be born. Datu Malang was Tudela’s protector until Layag was born. She grew up to be an exquisite dancer and an expert in weaving and in all women’s arts. One day, a datu was penalized for entering the women’s weaving house and in his shame, he conspired with the Maguindanaon to attack Tudaya. In the middle of the battle, Layag, dressed in full ceremonial garb, danced a war dance to the beat of the tagunggo gong ensemble. Naked women also danced around her, frightening off the Maguindanaon.

Datu Taupan, a descendant of Datu Galakan, desired to make amends for his ancestor’s attack on Datu Daya. He won over the Kalagan of Sibulan so that they would mediate between him and the people of Tudaya. The Kalagan datu and Datu Taupan went to Tudaya and waited outside Datu Layag’s house until she returned and invited them in. Learning of his intention to negotiate a peace agreement with Datu Layag, Datu Malang tested Datu Taupan’s sincerity. Datu Taupan proved it by pointing out that he was not wearing his salimbuton (armor), tanggulong (headscarf), or kampilan (sword). Datu Layag and Datu Taupan then proceeded to negotiate directly, without intermediaries. They held the diyandi or peace pact through the pakang: A stone from the Blaan was placed in the Sibulan River, and a stone from the Sibulan River was placed in the Blaan Buryaan. This signified that the Blaan and Tagabawa had become allies. Layag and Taupan married and had many children.

Recent versions of the Ubo’s Tuwaang narratives reveal outside influences. In one story, God the Father sends down his Son to make a new heaven and a new earth. The Son of God then sends a boy to Cuaman to fetch Tuwaang, and he gathers all the maisog and warriors in a place that is constantly swinging like a hammock. During the assembly, Tuwaang and the Son of God engage in a fight, and they end in a draw. God the Father puts them to sleep so that whoever wakes up first wins. But the two wake up at the same time, and so they are regarded as equals.

“The Woman and the Squirrel” (Illustration by Luis Chua)
“The Woman and the Squirrel” (Illustration by Luis Chua)

A fine example of Bagobo magic tale is “The Woman and the Squirrel.” Once there was a woman who went out to look for water because the streams had dried up. She saw water on a leaf which she drank and used to clean herself. Her head began to hurt, so she went home and slept for nine days. When she woke up, she began to comb her hair out of which a baby squirrel emerged. The squirrel grew so quickly that in a week’s time, it was already jumping around. One day, the squirrel requested its mother to take nine kamagi, a bead necklace highly prized by the Bagobo, and nine finger rings to the sultan as payment for the princess’s hand. On the mother’s first visit, she failed to tell the sultan of her son’s wish. When she returned home, the squirrel became angry and bit her with its little teeth. So the mother went back to the sultan and told him of her son’s wish to marry his daughter. The sultan consented on one condition: The squirrel must change the sultan’s possessions into gold. The squirrel then went to see its brother, the mouse, whose coat was made of gold. The mouse willingly gave its brother squirrel a bit of its coat. The squirrel returned to the sultan’s place and began to turn everything into gold. When the sultan woke up, he was so frightened that he died in about two hours. The princess and the squirrel were married and stayed at the sultan’s place for a month, after which they moved into the house of the squirrel’s mother. They brought with them a deer, a fish, and all kinds of food. After a year, the squirrel took off its coat and became a malaki t’oluk waig, literally malaki meaning “good man,” t’ meaning “the,” oluk meaning “source,” and waig meaning “water,” the term referring to a semi-divine being who resides at the mythical source of the mountain streams.

Traditional Music and Songs of the Bagobo Tribe

Music is an essential component of Bagobo religious and festive occasions, and daily activities. The gong ensemble is called tagungguan or tagunggo. A 1907 document mentions an ensemble consisting of 11 suspended agong of various types: matio (gongs 1 to 4), taraban (gong 5), mabagong (gongs 6 and 8), marobur (gong 7), luagongan (gongs 9 and 11), and bandi ran (gong 10). These gongs are played by four people: one player for gongs 1 to 8, and a player for each of the other gongs.

Today, the tagungguan found in Davao similarly consists of 11 gongs: a set of 10 gongs and a large gong called bandi.There is a cylindrical drum called gibba. The 10 gongs are suspended vertically on a tall wooden frame, with the instruments’ knobbed surface facing the player. These gongs are arranged in pairs, with the two lowest-pitched gongs positioned at the bottom of the frame and the two highest-pitched ones on top. Also suspended on the frame is a bandi placed at the right side of the performer playing the 10-gong set. This tagungguan is played by three persons: one for the 10-gong set, another for the large gong, and a third player for the drum. In Davao City, a modern type of tagungguan has new mechanical devices attached to the wooden frame holding the instruments so that they may be played by one or two musicians only. The performer uses his or her hands to sound the gongs while the feet pedal the wooden bars that are attached to a mallet that strikes the bandi and gibba. The musicians also display their agile footwork while simultaneously playing the numerous gongs of the tagungguan ensemble.

Bagobo musicians circa 1920
Bagobo musicians circa 1920 (Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

Other musical instruments that are played with songs and dances are the kuglong (two-stringed lute) and sawray (tube zither). The kubing (bamboo mouth harp), lantoy (ring flute), and palendag (lip-valley flute) are used for courtship.

Two instruments related to agriculture are the bolang-bolang and the richly decorated pagakpak. The bolang-bolang is a mortar with a board cover that is struck with a stick or pestle to accompany the dance during harvest rituals and feasts. The pagakpak is attached to the todak. When struck together, the split bamboo on one end produces a sharp but pleasant rattling sound. The decor and sound are meant to please the gods so that they will reward the people with bountiful harvests. The pagakpak also drives the maya (sparrows) away and fills the air with lively noise as the farmers work the soil.

The Bagobo have advice songs, children’s songs, lullabies, and the gindaya, a hymn in praise of competition, sung during the gin-em festivals.

Bagobo Tribal Dances 

Dances are interwoven into Bagobo traditional activities. There are dances in the home of the bride in the evening and second morning after the panalugan or pamalugo (purification of the bride and groom). During the garuzza (worship) where Bagobo mores dictate that the dance be initiated only by the magani, the men dance intermittently to the sound of the gindaya during the gin-em.

Bagobo dance footwork is characterized by a series of syncopated stamps performed either as an initiating step, the close of a close-step, a transitional count, or an accent at the end of a measure. The stamp is done with the heel, although the whole foot is in contact with the floor. The foot rebounds in a flexed position. At times, the ball of the foot, with the heel raised, glides to fourth position in front, effecting a very intriguing contrast of silent beats for the duration of a count.

In their repertoire of steps, a traveling step stands out, seemingly symbolic of the Bagobo’s reputation as one skilled with horses. It is a combination of the basic step: a cut and two long traveling chasing steps. The music accelerates to prod the dancer to be more daring by dancing faster, traversing space, improvising with turns, adding a sharper or greater bend of the body or knee. These bring to mind an animated horse at a fast clip or up on its hind legs to reverse direction.

In a pose, the body weight sits over the right leg while the left, with a bent knee, is in an open fourth position. This allows the right hip to be prominent, giving it a lifted or jutting-out roundness. It is reminiscent of the posterior of a bird, a common sight in their environment. One shoulder is held lower than the other. The arms hang diagonally, with a natural roundness, and are held away from the body. The head, with the chin down, bends toward the lower shoulder. The whole torso half-rotates and sways from the waist.

The following Bagobo dances are described in existing literature or in the repertoire of dance companies. Karamay fo kawayan is performed by a man who depicts the movement of bamboo trees in the wind. The baliti imitates the movement of the balete leaves as the wind rushes through the branches of the tree. Kulasog kenek kayo mimics a squirrel running up and down a tree. Lawin-lawin, which imitates the lawin (eagle), traces the metamorphosis of the eagle from the vulnerable chick to the adult whose strength is gained from battles with its everyday adversary, the mountain winds. Bulayan dramatizes fear.

Sugod-uno is a dance performed by the magani in the annual cleansing ceremony of the gin-em festival. This ceremony begins with the pamalugo ritual, in which the magani shed off old jackets and trousers while bathing in a secluded stream in a forest. The old clothes, which have absorbed misfortune, bad luck, diseases, and failure, are allowed to float away on the river. The magani are then helped by the womenfolk into their new, heavily embroidered jackets. The music is played on the tagunggo and the kudyapi (native guitar). Palagise describes the agile maneuverings of the Bagobo warriors as they close in and inflict multiple wounds with their spear and kampilan on the human sacrifice for the gin-em festival.

Sulangayd is a dance honoring a Bagobo god. Ug-tube pays homage to a god-brother, who resides in one of the nine heavens above the sky. Tangunggo is an improvisational festival dance featuring a man being courted by several women, one of whom is eventually chosen by the man. Todak exhibits the different stages in Bagobo rice production—from the clearing of the field, to the boring of holes in the ground with the todak, the planting of rice in the holes, and the harvesting, threshing, winnowing, and pounding of the rice.

Bagobo Tribe Rituals

Ritual drama characterizes the most important religious ceremony of the Bagobo people. The gin-em or ginum is a four-day celebration that originally culminated in the offering of a human sacrifice, a practice that lasted until the early years of American colonization in remote areas but has now been replaced by animal sacrifice.

Gin-em refers to the ceremonial drinking of balabba or sugarcane wine. It symbolizes the drinking of the sacrificial blood by the gods. This ceremony is held to honor the gods and appease the demons, prevent misfortune like epidemics and natural calamities, and assure prosperity. It is held at the datu’s house, which is the largest in the settlement.

The three-day preparation involves much singing and dancing to the sound of the agong as the awas (preliminary prayers) are said. On the fourth day, just before the sacrifice is done, the datu prays to Darago as he holds a vessel of balabba: “Receive the blood of this slave, for I have paid for it to offer it to thee.” A litany of all the other darago is chanted by the whole community. The other darago enter and make their presence felt. The sacrifice is also offered to the three deities Mandarangan, Tolus Ka Balekat, and Malaki Toluk Waig.

The magani play an important role in this ceremony. To the community’s chanting of gindaya, the magani recite a litany of their acts of valor, such as the number of enemies they have killed. Around them are spears attached to bamboo poles called patannan, textiles displayed on balekayo (bamboo frames), vast quantities of sugarcane wine, sacred food covered by the men’s tangkulu, and the animal sacrifice.

In 1992, Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP) staged … and St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos, a three-act play in Filipino directed by Tony Mabesa and written by Floy Quintos. It is the story of Bulan, a Bagobo magani, who is enticed to go to America with the promise of greatness for his tribe but who is actually treated as a specimen of savagery during the 1904 Saint Louis Exposition. The play chronicles Bulan’s disillusionment with American “benevolence” toward the Philippines but also shows a people’s determination to create their identity. Quintos also wrote the libretto for its musical version, St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos, 2005, which was directed by Alexander Cortez.

The Bagobo People as Featured in Films

Orvil Bantayan’s documentary Tambara, 2012, is an adaptation of a short story by renowned writer and historian Macario D. Tiu titled “Balyan” (Shaman). The story won the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Short Story in the Bisaya Category in 2005. A tambara is a 4-foot bamboo tube, the top of which is split into vertical strips and pressed open so as to hold offerings for the deities. The film presents the tensions between “modern” knowledge, represented by the schoolteacher Lando, and indigenous Bagobo knowledge, represented by the shaman Datu Pikong, who sends messages to Apo Sandawa through an imaginary mobile phone. The film ruminates on the various practices, ideologies, and influences that continue to shape and define Bagobo life, even as they strive to remain rooted in their native culture.

Arnel Mardoquio’s Ang mga Tigmo sa akong Pagbalik (The Riddles of My Homecoming), 2013, is a silent film detailing the return of a man named Alfad to his homeland in Mindanao. The film articulates the historical experiences of violence, pain, and struggle in Mindanao through almost dreamlike sequences of land and seascapes shot in Brgy Andap, New Bataan after the calamitous ravaging of Compostela Valley by Typhoon Pablo in 2012.

Bagobo identities have been portrayed minimally in dominant media, such as in small segments of journalistic shows or as a source of inspiration for drama. One episode of the popular drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya (Will You Remember), 2012, is “Bagobo Love,” 2012, about a Bagobo woman and an Ilonggo whose cultural differences get in the way of their romance. The episode was shown to celebrate World Indigenous Day, held yearly on the 11th of August.

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