Higaonon 'Lumad' of Mindanao | Colonization
of Mindanao | Tribal
Types of Higaonon | The
| Mindanao is one of the three
main island groups (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) and is situated
in the southern part of the Philippines. With a size of 94,630
km², it is second in size to Luzon and takes up 20% of
the total Philippine population.
Most of the mountainous islands used to be covered in tropical
rainforests and are volcanic in origin. The country is also
situated along the typhoon belt of the Western Pacific and is
struck by about 19 typhoons per year.
The lowest point is the Valley of Mindanao, in south-western
Mindanao, and the highest point in the whole of the Philippines
is Mount Apo, in the southern Mindanao ranges, with a height
of 2,954 metres.
In the middle of the 14th centuary, Islam spread from Malaya
and Borneo to the Sulu Archipelago, and from there to Mindanao.
The arrival of the Spanish in the late 16th cent. united the
various Muslim groups in a holy war against the conquerors that
lasted some 300 years.
|It was eventually sold for a
relitively small sum by the Spanish to the U.S. in 1898, following
the Spanish-American War.
The Moros likewise resisted American domination; fighting between
U.S. garrisons and Muslim groups occurred early in the 20th
In 1946, at the end of World War II, it attained total independence.
HIGAONON 'LUMAD' OF MINDANAO
Lumad means 'grown to a place'. This term generally refers to the
Non-Moro Indigenous Communities in Mindanao which, by force
of colonization , were driven to the deepest hinterlands.
The Higaonon Indigenous Nation is among these, with an estimated
minimum population today of 200-300,000 and who now reside largely
in Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon,
Lanao del Norte and Camiguin.
On the whole, the Lumad of Mindanao, before being conquered, preserved
their own lives. They clung to their communal views of the land,
to their co-operative work exchanges, communal ritual, dances, songs
They revered their own God. Their animistic worship, however, could
not have persisted had it not been for the peaceful and non-imposing
stance of Islam. A classic manifestation of this is the Non Islamization
of the Tiruray and the Manobo, who were part of the common borders
and in constant trade with the more socially cohesive Muslim Maguindanao.
Several hundred years ago, the Spaniards, preoccupied with their
desperate, but unsuccessful attempt on subduing the fierce and resolute
Moro resistance, did little alter the developing non-Moro communities.
Except for the dislocation of the Lumads in the north and north-eastern
seaboards (Agusan del Norte, Surigao, Misamis Oriental, and Davao
Oriental of Mindanao), the majority of Lumads were unaffected by
Spanish colonization. The Higaonan were one on these Indigenous
The Higaonon Indigenous Nation, which is currently estimated to
total about 350,000-500,000 people, includes the Bukidnon and the
Banwaon (similarity of lineage and history is proven by the same
oral literature called 'Dasang' which can be recited in 8 days and
8 nights by a 'Dumalongdong', meaning sacred assembly).
They are distributed in Las Nieves, Sinakungan, San Luis, Talacogon,
Agusan del Sur, Buenavista, Carmen, Butuan City, in the Province
of Agusan del Norte, Magsaysay, Gingoog City, Salay, Balingasag,
Medina, Claveria, Cagayan de Oro, Opol, Manticao, Naawan, Initao,
in Misamis Oriental, Manolo Fortich, Impasug-ong, Baungon, Talakag,
Libona, Malitbog, Malaybalay, Cabanglasan, Lantapan, and Valencia
in Bukidnon Province, Iligan in Lanao del Norte and Camiguin.
Written accounts suggest that the term HIGAONON is a combination
of the root words:
'HIGA' which means 'to live ' or to reside' or 'to lay in
'GAON' which means 'mountain'; and
ONON which means 'people'.
Thus people who live in the Mountains - our Higaonon spiritual leaders
and scholars - defined as "People in the Living Mountains".
The Higaonon oral tradition discloses the Indigenous Population
that traces their common roots from the mother of the post-deluge
generation, 'Apo Entampil', Apo of all Apo - also known as Gahumon
Apo Entampil survived the deluge that was caused by the Creater
to cleanse the Earth. Her husband, Panugatan, was drowned in the
deluge. Apo settled in Kapayagan (now Mt. Kimangkil), situated in
the hinterlands of Claveria, Misamis Oriental, bordering Manolo
Fortich , Bukidnon.
Then pregnant, she vowed to make a husband out of her child if it
was going to be a male, as recited in Dasang ...
"Ngani Kang Ko Bahi Sa Lumbay Ko, Panglipaklipak, Ko, Pulo,
Ko Kakayo-A ngani Kang Ko Maama Sa Lumbay Ko, Pandayaon, Ag-Asawahon
"If it's going to be a female, I'll just throw it to the
forest or top of the tree but if it is going to be a male, I will
make him my husband".
As she wished, Tagubon (also called Tahubon) grew to be man, becoming
his mother's husband.
They bore six children - making another three couples that later
settled in different places in Northern Mindanao.
The couple, 'Liyangon-Lungyabon', settled in Agusan Provinces;
The couple, 'Lugong-Tubag Lugong,' settled in Bukidnon Province;
The couple, 'Kalitkit-Kabudakan', settled in Misamis Oriental Province.
Below is an example of the Giling Lineage Records, as can be recited
Apo Mulos Kilat
Apo Mansalouyan Saldab
Apo Libokasan Agaolao
Apo Palaganding Tagkalbog
Apo Manampalo (Mandipensa of the 18th Century)
Apo Mendosa Mandahila (Mandipensa of the 19th Century)
Datu Efren Hospital Mandipensa (Mandipensa on the 20th Century)
Establishment of Customary Laws
Several generations later, the renowned **Apo Paboloson (Datu Paboloson)
of Apo Kalitkit-Kabudakan's descent, gathered his people in a sacred
assembly called 'Dumalongdong', to unite them in the noble virtues
taught by Apo Entampil and her ancestors.
The Customary Laws, "Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Daw Nang Ka Tasa
Ha Lana", which simply means "Love & Peace Law",
was manifested and instituted in the first Dumalongdong. The social
structure was likewise made clear to their understanding, and The
Datu System was established with job description.
Datu means Chief or Caretaker of the teachings handed down from
generation to generation. The tradition bearer and keeper of the
Royal Lineage manifested according to River Clans.
for Water Respect
The 8 rivers which symbolize the Home
of the Higaonon - the House of the Higaonon Tribal Nation:
Cagayan de Oro River
From the Tagoloan River area, two of Apo Paboloson's sons left for
a journey (nangalasan ku bugta). Seeking the heart of the heartland
(taliwada ku bugta) it took a few generations more before they reached
Sinakungan, the land of their quest, now a barangay in the Municipality
of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.
It was here where the second biggest Dumalongdong was held in history.
The other children stayed behind (nababalay ku bugta).
Inter-marriages through generations nevertheless made this tribe reach
the Provinces of Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte.
Datu Paboloson's daughter, Apo Agunya, was married to a Spanish Merchant,
Apo Lorenzo, in Cagayan de Oro. This was the first marriage between
the Higaonon tribal people and Spain. This indicates the early assimilation
pattern of the ethnic Higaonon to the lowlanders.
TYPES OF HIGAONON
At present the Higaonon can be classified into three categories:
- Those on the semi-primitive communal stage - still residing
in the forest;
- Those who have been assimilated into the ranks of the Non-Higaonon
majority-residing in the edge of the forest; and
- Those in between Categories 1 & 2 and who are undergoing
the choice of being assimilated to either Category 1 and/or 2.
The Higaonon who belong to the Category 1 are those who
strictly adhere to the Customary Laws - Bungkatol Ha Bulawan daw
Nang Ka Tasa Ha Lana's teachings and discipline (Code of Conduct).
They live in the thick forests in the semi-settled communities,
subsisting on wild game, fishing, root crops, rice and trading (barter
trade), of forest products and handicrafts. The social organization
is still that social system instituted during the earliest Dumalongdong,
with modification made to suit contemporary times. In spite of the
fact of the semi-feudal system prevailing in the bigger Philippine
Society, its influence cannot affect the distinct lifestyle which
these Indigenous People are striving hard to develop and preserve.
Those Higaonon who fall into the Category 2 are slowly moving
toward assimilation. Although-they still live by Bungkatol ha Bulawan
teachings, the laws, tradition, culture and social system of the
Majority Filipinos have exerted strong influence on their lives.
Category 3 are those who have assimilated into the Filipino
majority. Some have become-professionals and hold positions in the
government. But these people still identify themselves as Higaonon
and in solidarity with their people in their struggle for self -determination.
Like all other Indigenous Peoples considered an ethnic minority,
the Higaonon are victims of land-grabbing of their ancestral lands,
Christian chauvinism, Government neglect, militarization, and other
forms of exploitation and oppression.
Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Daw Nang Ka Tasa Ha Lana literally means
'Treasured Unity'and 'Code of Conduct'. This is the sacred bond
that unites the entire Higaonon People who share the common root,
language, history and culture and a code to guide the conduct of
man for a good and just society. Sacred Teachings were taught in
the form of 'Sacred Order', enumerated as follows:
( Sacred Order)
- Pigtugonan Na Hadi Ag Lidason Kay
Pamalihe - 'Makagaba'...
Don't go against the law - It was a handed down law
- - very sacred - you can be cursed to misfortune or death.
- Di Yo Ag Lidason Ang Pigtugonan...
Don't disobey the sacred orders - Don't interpret
it in your own mind but just go straight to the handed law.
Don't shift the sacred teachings to the other road. It is
very straight and not crooked one.
- Di Kaw Ag Labawa...
Don't be an egotistic or self-centered person - or
be on top of your pride. Your pride will kill you.
- Di Kaw Ag Indiga...
Don't compare yourself to others, for there is always
better than you and lesser than you. But everyone is a creation
loved by the Supreme Creator. Have dignity and honor of
its own spirit. Comparing yourself to others, you will become
bitter in the end.
- Di Kaw Ag Sinaha...
Don't be envious of others - if someone has good
fortune, it is because he or she is blessed. Jealousy breaks
the orders of goodwill. It is destruction to the destiny
of humanity, to the Great Creation of the world.
- Magnayo-Nayo Kaw...
Asking and Giving is the greatest gift of Creation
- Someone needs food, give him or her food - if you don't
have food, if you ask, someone will give you.
- Magpahidang-Gaay Kaw...
Love one another - for this is the right way to live.
No man is an island. Everyone needs everyone, everyone needs
everybody, everybody needs everyone, and everybody needs
- Maglandang Kaw...
Live in Peace, Walk in Peace. For in Peace there
is Love. When there is Love there is Peace in your heart.
- Magtutopong Kaw...
Equality among Men. Remember children are little
men as the elders are older men - both deserve respect and
honor of their Creation. Women are Men too. The Respect
of the Elders and or children can be double to women for
they are the makers of those Men.
- Mag-Uyon-Uyon Kaw...
Listen to everyone. Don't be loud or aggressive in
your opinions and views for 'wisdom' is a gift. Blessed
are the elders, for the Counsel of Years of their lives
makes the edifice of teachings. We will listen to them as
we listen to prophets of time. They might be a child who
had wisdom of the old, or the old whose playing spirits
is a child that cools the heart of a warrior, and most often
are women, for women are the gift of Creation. Listen to
them in their counsel of time.
Under the Bungkatol Ha Bulawan teachings, land is a loving gift
of Magbabaya (Supreme Creator) for all Men. Because land produces
life's nourishments, land is life in itself. It cannot be sold and
or taken away by anyone. It has been kept under the stewardship
of the great, great-great Ancestors whose spirits continue to keep
watch so the land could be used for generation to generation. The
Bungkatol Ha Bulawan also teaches brotherhood, equality and respect
to the Higaonon Social System.
Since these are Customary Laws in a society where there is absence
of contradicting interests of social classes, economic, political,
cultural and military spheres of life are taken separately but rather
come integrated in a traditional framework. So, Higaonon society
is run not as a social organization per se but rather as a 'Big
The Datu leads not as ruler but as an administrator, with community
as children assuming individual tasks based on one's capacity, experience
and also maternal and paternal sanguinary lineage approved by the
community. It is traditionally plain division of labor in a village.
And for the entire Higaonon population, they do the allocation of
tasks and responsibilities in a Dumalongdong - every task is defined
and everyone is installed into a task in front of the assembly if
she or he would be willing to accept and continue with the obligations
and responsibilities inherent. It is also in Dumalongdong where
garbs, tubao, (headdress), bronze bracelets and china pieces are
given out as symbols of responsibility and capacity to serve the
Every common undertaking comes through ethnic ritual - dispensing
of justice, launching military actions, hunting, building a hut,
and cleaning a field. All gets done after a prayer ritual offered
to deities over a sacrifice of blood - usually pig or chicken. It
is always a man physically doing the work with the help of the blessings
of the Ancestor's spirits.
Men committing misdeeds transgress the Bungkatol Ha Bulawan and
the Community are always helped to rectify themselves by making
an offering sacrifice to the deities in the presence of the community,
sharing his sincerity to correct his mistakes for the entire community