The Manobo tribe who are inhabitants of the island of Mindanao in the Philippines are a group of people speaking one of the languages that belong to the Manobo language family. Their origins can be traced back to the early Malay peoples who came from the surrounding islands of Southeast Asia. Today, their common cultural language and Malay heritage help to keep them connected. The total national population including the subgroups is 749,042 (NM 1994); occupying core areas from Sarangani island into the Mindanao mainland in the provinces of Agusan del Sur, Davao provinces, Bukidnon, and North and South Cotabato.
- the Cotabato Manobo
- the Agusan Manobo
- Dibabawon Manobo
- Matig Salug Manobo
- Sarangani Manobo
- Manobo of Western Bukidnon
- Obo Manobo, and
- Tagabawa Manobo
The eight Manobo groups are all very similar, differing only in dialect and in some aspects of culture. The distinctions have resulted from their geographical separation. The groups are often connected by name with either political divisions or landforms. The Bukidnons, for example, are located in a province of the same name. The Agusans, who live near the Agusan River Valley, are named according to their location.
The most common lifestyle of the Manobo is that of agriculture. Unfortunately, their farming methods are very primitive. The Cotabato Manobo’s use a farming system called kaingin. This is a procedure in which fields are allowed to remain fallow for certain periods of time so that areas of cultivation may be shifted from place to place.
Social life for the Manobo is patriarchal (male-dominated). The head of the family is the husband. Polygyny (having more than one wife at a time) is common and is allowed according to a man’s wealth. However, among the Bukidnon, most marriages are monogamous. The only exception is that of the powerful datus (headmen).
The political structures of the Manobo groups are all quite similar. A ruler, called a sultan, is the head of the group. Beneath him are the royal and non-royal classes. Only those people belonging to the royal classes can aspire to the throne. Those belonging to the non-royal classes are under the power and authority of the royal classes. Each class is interdependent on the others.
The political aspects of life are often integrated with the social aspects. For example, many social events, such as weddings, require political leaders. Whenever there is a negotiation for marriage, both the bride and the groom must use the local datu (headman) to make all of the arrangements.