Philippine Experience


Davao City is home to 11 indigenous and Muslim tribes, living peacefully and harmoniously in this bustling metropolis. Their colorful and rich culture and traditions are among the strong foundations of the vibrance, growth and identity of the city.

The Atas or “dwellers in highlands” are powerful people who appear to be a mixture of Negritos and Malays. As occupants of the headwaters of Davao, Tuganay and Libuganon Rivers, the Atas depend primarily on hunting as their livelihood.

The Iranun were regarded as the fiercest pirates in the Malay world, adopting a typical maritime lifestyle of sea invaders. They navigate the merchant shipping and coastal settlements in the Philippines, the straits of Malacca and the islands beyond Sulawesi. In present day, they are known as fishermen and long-distance traders.

The Kagan people are known as agriculturists – cultivating rice, corn, abaca, and coconut for cash crops. Those who live near the coasts practice fishing. They are Tagakaolo who have converted to Islam either through intermarriage or contact with the Maguindanaons.

The Klatas occupy a territory stretching from Catalunan to Calinan within Davao City. Their traditional population centers included Blao, Tagakpan, Dulian, Sirib, Gunalong and Tamugan. They were known then as forest dwellers.

The Maguindanaons are known as the people of the flood plain in Mindanao, originating from the province of Maguindanao. They reside around the three district of the city and nearby provinces. Living mostly along the mouths of rivers, they impeded the Spanish colonizers efforts at bringing the other tribes of Davao within the Christian fold.

Maranaos are known for their colorful traditional attires. Called the People of the Lake, they are brave and historically, offered sacrifices in defense of their homeland and to their religion, Islam. They take pride of their rich literature called Darangen and are adept in metal and wood crafts like the torogan, a special house built for a Maranao maiden, and okir, an artistic design.

Matigsalog or “River People” are considered to be the most aboriginal inhabitants of Mindanao. In Davao City, they are mostly located in the hinterlands of Marilog, Marahan or Paquibato. Their houses are built near the rivers, often on the forks of trees.

Ovu-Manuvos are known for their intricate casting, fine weaponry, and jewelry. For them, these things possess souls as souls also possess animate objects. Obu oral tradition tells of Apo Sandawa’s journey from the north to Davao. Apo Sandawa’s point of entry in Davao was at Ulas. From Ulas, Apo Sandawa and hid family moved north towards the Talomo mountains, even reaching Mt. Sinaka.

Sama people value togetherness. They are described as cohesive and peace-loving. Their forebears are said to possess special powers, having the supernatural ability to invite spirits called “Jin” to do things for them. Majority of Sama reside in the coastal barangays from Bunawan to Toril.

Tagabawa, which means “people from the south”, occupy the districts of Marilog, Baguio, Calinan, Tugbok and Toril. Natives who identify themselves as such are called Bagobo. They are known for their intelligence.

Tausugs, originally from Sulu, are known as the “people of the current” and are known for their courage and bravery. Loyalty is an important trait among the Tausugs. They practice the ritual of blood compact to signify the depth of their loyalty to one another. They are fierce and dangerous but the moment one befriends one of them, the bond will be enduring.