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Ethnic groups in the Philippines

The Filipinos are a diverse people. They identify themselves based on one or several factors such as ancestry, language, religion or a shared history, apart fromregion.

Ethnic groups in the Philippines identify themselves based on one or several factors like ancestry, language, religion or a shared history. The large majority of the population is composed of
lowland groups whose languages are Austronesian, and who had converted to Christianity from animism, Hinduism, or Islam in the three centuries of Spanish colonial rule. From north to south,
the most numerous of these groups are the Ilocanos, the Pangasinenses, the Kapampangans, the Tagalogs, the Bicolanos and the Bisaya. These groups are sometimes said to part of the Malay
race, however the delineation based on "race" is considered by many to have no scientific basis.

In Mindanao, there are several ethnic groups of similar ancestry, but whose religion is Islam, and whose culture is not as “Western culture|Westernized” on the surface as that of the
Christian Filipinos. They are collectively called Moros. There are also various tribal groups throughout the Philippine archipelago who are generally neither Muslim nor Christian, and are least
influenced by Islamic or western cultures. There also exist groups whose members are not concentrated in one specific region but who are spread throughout the country, particularly in major
cities as well as in areas having considerable agricultural importance during the colonial period; these groups include the Chinese and the Spanish, the majority of whom are mestizos.

The Philippines is one of the most diverse countries in terms of ethnicity.[1]

Ethnic/regional identity

See also: Philippine nationality law

Ethnic identity in the Philippines, like many other places, is fluid, informal and depends greatly on context. The most common identifier is language. For instance, a Kapampangan may identify
himself as such by the fact that his mother tongue is the Kapampangan language. Some also identify themselves based on ancestry. For example, a woman who has Bicolano ancestry but has
spent most of her life in Manila may identify herself as Bicolano, even if she doesn’t speak any of the Bikol languages. Others are lumped together to a certain grouping based on some shared
characteristics. Tribal groups are commonly grouped together in spite of having very different customs and languages, and having had very little interaction with each other. Moros are similarly
diverse and independent from each other, and they are many times grouped together due to a shared history, culture and religion. Similarly, lowland Christian Filipinos are many times lumped
together due to their similar culture, despite having different languages or different ancestries.

Given that ethnolinguistic boundaries are gradually blurring due to migration and intermarriage, regional identity (i.e. the place where one was brought up and whose language one speaks)
serves as another very common identifier. One may identify oneself, for example, as a Davaoeño, Negrense, Ilongo, Zamboangueño, Metromanileño, etc. Unlike Nationalities of China|China or
the Race (United States Census)|United States, there are no official ethnicities or “nations” in the Philippines, and migration and intermarriages between people of different ethnicities have
been common throughout the past centuries. This has made ethnic identities of Filipinos greatly dependent on context, aside from being fluid. For instance, a person who has Ilocano ancestry
but who has spent his whole life in Davao may be identified as an Ilocano when he is in Davao and a Davaoeño when he is in Manila. And a Cebuano of Chinese ancestry may identify himself
either as Chinese Filipino due to his ancestry; or as a Bisaya because his primary language is Cebuano, a Visayan language; or Cebuano, based on his mother tongue (Cebuano) and the land of his
birth (Cebu). People who identify themselves with multiple ethnicities and/or regional affiliations is not uncommon, particularly in major cities and in areas where a lot of migration has taken
place, like Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and many parts of Mindanao. The term mestizo (of mixed-ancestry) is used most commonly to those with part-Caucasian race|Caucasian ancestry, and
occasionally to those with part-Chinese ancestry.

There are also a number of Filipinos who consider themselves of an ethnocultural origin distinct from that of the Philippines, and who tend to affiliate with either or both. Their “hyphenated”
identities, as in the case ofChinese-Filipinos, apart from indicating ancestry, may connote a sense that they as individuals straddle two worlds—one experience is specific to their unique
ethnicity|ethnic cultural identity|identity, while the other is that of broader Philippine society. These “hyphenated” Filipinos, many of whom have profound and immediate connections to their
homelands, have often been accused and criticized of holding loyalties to other countries. However, they claim that critics miss important points. There are many “hyphenated” Filipinos who,
while being unable to sacrifice half of who they are, do not define or desire to define themselves as such, but rather are defined as such by other people with different treatment. The result is
that even if these Filipinos are, in the words of the Panatang Makabayan, “a true Filipino in thought, in word, [and] in deed,” they still may end up having a different experience, and for that
reason may develop shared understandings with others of their type, whether they want that or not. This in itself becomes, ironically, a reason for them to be interested in their “hyphenated”
identity, as they learn how to cope with the unique experiences dealt them.

Population history
Map of the Ethnolinguistic groups of the Philippines

There were three main migratory waves, in the populating of what today is known as the Philippine Archipelago. The first to arrive were the Negritos, the ancestors of today's Aeta people of the
Philippines. They are considered to be the aborigines of Maritime Southeast Asia, of which the Philippines is a part of. They are believed to be related to the Orang Asli people of Malaysia. They
are largely independent and live separately of the rest of the Filipinos who are descendants of later arriving peoples. Today they number under 30,000.

The second to arrive were the Senoi. Descendants of these were largely assimilated into the Negritos population through considerable miscegenation. Their legacy to today's mainstream
Filipino stock is considered to be extremely small.

The third and most numerically important migrational wave occurred during 4000 - 2000 BCE [1]. It is from this wave that most of the people today termed "ethnic Filipinos" are descended
from. This wave was composed of speakers of Austronesian languages. They had come from the Yunnan Plateau of Chinatravelling towards the Philippine archipelago via Taiwan. Contrary to
speculation, this migration did not originate from Malaysia, it was from here that they moved southwards to be then called Malays. The first major settlement of these people in the Philippines
was made by the Nesiot people (called 'Indonesian' or 'Indones' in textbooks) who pushed the Negritos (including the Senoi) into the interior forests and mountains. From these Nesiot came
the Igorot (Igorot) people of northern Luzon, as well as the hill tribes of Mindanao island (Lumad). The Nesiots are also the ancestors of the Bataks of Sumatra and the Dyaks of Borneo.

Around 900 CE, extensive trade had brought a people called Orang Dampuan from Champa (in present-day Cambodia) to the Sulu Archipelago where they have intermarried with the Buranuns,
the original natives of Sulu. Following these, immigrants from Banjarmasin, called Orang Bandjar (now in Kalimantan, Indonesia) also arrived and intermarried with established communities of
Sulu, bringing with them their heavily Indianized culture.

Since the 9th century, the Chinese have conducted trade with the people of Luzon, Mindoro, Palawan, and Mindanao. Many Chinese settled in the country and intermarried with the local
population. From the mixture of the long established peoples and the newer Chinese immigrants came the present-day mainstream Filipinos.

Modern migrations have also enriched the makeup of the Philippines. From the 16th century up to the late 19th century, there was minor settlement of colonial administrators from Mexico and
Spain. Some intermarried with locals, giving rise to the small mestizo communities.

Larger ethnic groups

The following are the twenty one largest ethnic groups in the Philippines:[2]

 Cebuano (20,160,000; largest)

 Tagalog (13,928,000; second largest)

 Ilocano (9,527,000; 3rdlargest)

 Hiligaynon (8,068,000; 4thlargest)

 Central Bicolano (3,504,000; 5th largest)

 Waray (3,426,000; 6thlargest)

 Kapampangan (2,667,000; 7th largest)

 Albay Bicolano (2,155,000; 8th largest)

 Pangasinan (1,637,000; 9th largest)

 Malay (1,287,000; 10thlargest)

 Maranao (1,091,000; 11thlargest)

 Maguindanao (1,077,000; 12thlargest)

 Tausug (1,020,000; 13thlargest)

 Min Nan Chinese (922,000; 14thlargest)

 Masbateño (764,000; 15thlargest)

 Capiznon (724,000; 16thlargest)

 Ibanag (703,000; 17thlargest)

 Zamboangueño (662,914; 18th largest - Zamboanga City Alone)

 Aklanon (555,000; 19thlargest)

 Suriganon (485,000; 20thlargest)

 Kinaray-A (485,000; 21thlargest)

Ethnic groups

See also: Cultural pluralism


Main: Bicolano people

Raul Roco

The Bicolanos originate from the southeastern tip of Luzon: Bicolandia or the Bicol region. There are several Bicolano languages, of which there is a total of 3.5 million speakers.[3]

Bicol played a major role in shipbuilding for the Manila-Acapulco trade.[4]:3 However, possibly due to its being located in the typhoon belt,[5]:8 Bicol remains one of the country’s most
economically depressed areas, with the lowest income recorded among the regions,[4]:8 despite its abundant mineral reserves, and its lumber, abaca and tourism industries.[4]:7

The most popular religious icon of Bicol is the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, Patroness of Bicol. This image of the Blessed Virgin Mary is endearingly addressed as “ina”(mother).[4]


Main: Bisayans, Cebuano people, Hiligaynon people, and Waray people

Pedro Calungsod

The Bisaya or Visayan people are a multilingual ethnic grouplocated in the Visayas and a large part of Mindanao. Visayan languages with the most number of native speakers are Cebuano, with
20 million;Ilonggo (or Hiligaynon), with 7 million; and Waray-Waray, with 2.5 million. There are some ethnolinguistic groups however that have languages which are classified as Visayan but do
not refer to themselves as Bisaya. For instance, the Muslim ethnolinguistic group Tausug only use Bisaya to refer to those who are Christian. Meanwhile, there are people who identify as Bisaya
(primarily those from Metro Manila and the United Statesbut do not speak Visayan languages.

The Bisaya were initially animists who were known for being traders and raiders. Magellan’s landing in the Visayas in 1521 marks the start of Christianization of the Bisaya and the rest of the
Philippines. This event is celebrated by the feast of the Sto. Niño, the most popular religious icon of the Visayas.

Major Visayan cities like Cebu , Bacolod and Iloilo played major political, economic and cultural roles during the Spanish colonial era. And in the modern Philippine Republic; so far, there has
been three Presidents from the Visayas.

Aside from the three largest groups, namely Hiligaynon, Cebuano, and Waray, who speak Visayan languages, there are also the Romblomanon, Masbatenyo, Karay-a, Aklanon, and Cuyonon, to
name a few others.


Main: Chinese Filipino

Lucio Tan, Filipino tycoon of Fujianese ancestry

There has been Chinese presence in the Philippines since the 9th century; [6] although large scale migrations of Chinese to the Philippines only started during the Spanish colonial era, when the
world market was opened to the Philippines.[7]

Most Chinese Filipinos, or Tsinoys, are located in centers of commerce. They have been instrumental in the growth of Small and Medium-sized Enterprise|small and medium-sized businesses
and large corporations in the past centuries up to the present. Not surprisingly, the old center of trade and industry in Manila is Binondo, the biggest Chinatown in the Philippines. Many Filipinos
with Chinese ancestry played major roles in the Philippine Revolution.[8]

The Philippines has one of the most assimilated Chinese communities in Asia. A famous Filipino politician with Cebuano-Chinese ancestry even declared, with some exaggeration, that there is no
family in Cebu City without a trace of Chinese blood.[9] It is estimated that among Filipinos, 10% have some Chinese ancestry and 1.5% are “full-blooded” Chinese.[10] Furthermore, a genetic
study claims that 50% of the Filipino “racial mix” is of Chinese origin (i.e. from the land now known as China, not Han Chinese).[11] The vast majority of Chinese-Filipinos have their ancestral roots
in either Fujian province or Guangdong province, in which they are members of the Min (Fukienese) and Yueh (Cantonese) ethnic groups.


Main: Ilocano people

The Ilocos
Ferdinand Marcos

Akin to the Ibanags and Ivatans, the Ilocanos are the inhabitants of the lowlands and coastal areas of northern Luzon. Throughout the centuries of the Spanish colonial era up to the present, the
Ilocano were noted for their tendency to migrate.[12]:4 Today, there is Ilocano presence in central Luzon, Manila, and some towns in the Visayas andMindanao.[12]:1 Many Filipino-Americans are of
Ilocano descent. In Hawaii, they make up 85% of the Filipino-American population.[13]

There are more than 8 million speakers of the Ilocano language[14], making it the third most widely spoken language in the Philippines. Most Ilocanos are Catholics; however, Ilocanos comprise
the largest membership within the Philippine Independent Church.


Main: Kapampangan people


Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

The Kapampangan or Capampañgan (English: Pampangan; Spanish: pampangueño or pampango) people originate from the central plains of Luzon, starting from Bataan up toNueva Ecija.
The Kapampangan language is spoken by more than two million people, and has been shown to be related to some Indonesian dialects.[15] Most Kapampangans are Catholics.
In the Spanish colonial era, Pampanga was known to be a source of valiant soldiers. There was a Kapampangan contingent in the colonial army who helped defend Manila against the Chinese
Pirate Limahon. They also helped in battles against the Netherlands|Dutch, the England|English and Muslim raiders.[16]:3 Kapampangans, along with the Tagalogs, played a major role in
the Philippine Revolution.[17]


Main: Moro people

Abdulwahid Bidin


The Moros comprise of various ethnolinguistic groups in southern and western Mindanao who have a similar ancestry to other lowland Filipinos, but whose religion is Islam. The largest of these
are the Tausug, the Maguindanao, the Maranao, the Samal, the Yakan, and the Banguingui. These ethnolinguistic groups are very diverse in terms of language and culture, and have been
politically independent from each other up until recently.[18] Collectively, they are also called Moros. The word Moro in English means 'moor'. Hence, it has been used by other ethnic groups as a
pejorative term. However, some Muslims have used the word moro and have taken pride in it, that they have applied the term Bangsamoro, meaning 'Moro nation', to their homeland. Muslim
Filipinos have an independent justice and education system centrally based in Cotabato City. All in all, they comprise 5% of Filipinos,[19]making them the sixth largest ethnic group in the country.

Main: Pangasinan people


Fidel Ramos

The Pangasinan are the ninth largest Filipino ethnic group. They originate from the northwestern seaboard of Luzon. Anthropologically speaking, the Pangasinan are descended from the
mountain dwellers of the Cordilleras and are closely akin to the Cordilleranos.

The Pangasinan are one of the first peoples in the Philippines to have experienced Chinese influence through regular trade as well as the permanent settling of the Chinese, especially in the
towns bordering Lingayen Gulf. [2]


Main article: Filipinos of Spanish descent

File:Paulino Alcantara FC Barcelona.jpg

Paulino Alcántara Former FC Barcelona football player, of Spanish and Bisaya ancestry.

Spanish presence in the Philippines has been around since the early 16th century (1521) and with the Spanish colonial era in the country (1565-1898), and was limited almost entirely to
government administrators, military men and religious missionaries. Many of these came from Mexico, as the Philippines was, for many years, governed as a province attached to it. Later in the
colonial era, Spanish entrepreneurs, most of whom where Basque people|Basques, also arrived. There has been a significant Hispanic influence on Philippine religion and culture; [20] 85% of
Filipinos are Catholics, and Philippine languages contain thousands of Spanish loanwords. Since Spanish was only taught to a small minority, the ilustrados, and migrations of Spanish speakers
was small compared to that of Latin America, Spanish language speakers in the Philippines never went beyond 5% of the population. [21]

According to a genetic study which included 28 genotyped individuals from the Philippines, "Some European introgression was also evident in Southeast Asia (2.3%–7.8%) and the Philippines
(3.6%)." [11]{p.434} A large part of this European introgression is very likely of Spanish origin. Filipinos with a mix of Spanish ancestry, Spanish-Filipinos|Spanish mestizos, are particularly visible in
show business, and some leaders in Philippine business and comerce are of Spanish descent. [22]Spanish and Spanish-speaking families are mostly found in areas that had agricultural importance
during the Spanish colonial era, like Bacolod and Iloilo, and old centers of commerce, like Cebu and Manila. Today, numbering around 3.5 million, Spanish Filipinos constitute the seventh largest
Filipino ethnic group.


Main: Tagalog people

Jose Rizal

Tagalog territory stretches from the central plains of Luzon to the islands of Mindoro and Marinduque. [23] The Tagalogs were initially animists. From the 14th to the 16th century, Islam had
made inroads among the Tagalog ruling class. [24] The Tagalogs were Christianized, as were most ethnic groups in the Philippines, during the Spanish colonial era between the 16th and 19th

The Tagalogs are the first settlers of Manila. In the late 16th century, Spain chose Manila as the capital of its Philippine colony. [23]:3 From then onwards, it has been the political and economic
center of the Philippines. Manila and the surrounding Tagalog areas played a leading role in the Philippine Revolution and the EDSA revolution. Throughout the centuries, there have been
massive migrations by other ethnic groups to Manila, and many of them have intermarried with the Tagalog population. [23]:1

The Tagalog language was chosen as the basis for a national language in 1937. Today, a standardized version of Tagalog, named Filipino, is taught nationwide, and is the language of national
television, cinema and popular music. [25] There are more than 15 million native speakers of Tagalog. [26] However, around 70% of Filipinos can speak the national language.[23]:1

Tribal groups

Main: Tribal groups of the Philippines

Areas with tribal groups

A T'Boli woman

There are 100 or so different sea-based or highland-based tribal groups in the Philippines. Among Filipinos, they are ones least influenced by western or Islamic cultures. Some of the people in
this category include the Cordillerano (Igorot), who live in the highlands of Luzon; the Mangyan of Mindoro; the scattered Negritos including the Aetain Luzon and the Ati of Panay; the tribes of
Palawan ; the Lumad of Mindanao (including the Manobo, Tasaday, Mamanwa, Mandaya, and Kalagan); and the Bajau of the Sulu Archipelago. While some tribal groups living in Luzon have
been Americanized and Westernized--an example of which is the predominance of Protestantism in Cordillera Administrative Region—the tribal groups living in Mindoro and Palawan are still
generally animistic, while many of those in Mindanao practice folk Islam.

Smaller Ethnic Groups

There are numerous other lowland Filipino ethnolinguistic groups as well as foreign communities, living alongside the sections above .


Non-tribal groups


Main: Ibanag people

The Ibanags are an ethnic minority numbering a little more than half a million people, who inhabit the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya. They are one of the largest ethnic
minorities in the Philippines.


Main: Ivatan people

The Ivatan are predominant in the Batanes Islands of the Philippines.


Main: Sambal people

The Sambal are the original Austronesian inhabitants of the province of Zambales and the city of Olongapo in the Philippines. They have traditionally been a highly superstitious warrior culture.

Main articles: Filipinos of American descent, Filipinos of Arab descent, Ibanag, Filipinos of Indian descent, Isneg, Ivatan people, Filipinos of Japanese descent, and Sambal people

There are numerous other lowland Christian Filipino ethnolinguistic groups, aside from the six mentioned in above sections.
These include the non-Ilocano Christianized groups in northern Luzon like the Ibanag, Ivatan, Gaddang, Itawis, Isneg, Itbayaten, Malaweg, and Yogad. Also not mentioned above are the
various groups who speakChavacano languages--various patois of the Castilian Spanish. Most Chavacanos are Zamboangueños, who's Tribe's Birthplace is Zamboanga City, a former stronghold
of the Philippine Spanish colony in northwestern Mindanao. also can be found in parts of Zamboanga del Sure, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibagay and in Semporna - Sabbah Malaysia. A
Chavacano community is also present in Cavite (Ternate Chavacano) as well as various places where Chavacanos have migrated to, like Cotabato, Davao and formerly Manila.

The Japanese, as well as the Okinawans, who have been present even before the Spanish in areas such as Paco and Davao. Currently most are businessmen and many have intermarried with
the Filipinas.

The Sambal are the original Austronesian inhabitants of the province of Zambales and the city of Olongapo in the Philippines. They have traditionally been a highly superstitious warrior culture.

Filipinos of Arab descent, have also contributed especially to Filipino Muslim society. Most Filipinos of Lebanese descent, however, are Christians.

Another significant minority in the Philippines are the Desis, who are for the most part, Indians (Sindhis, Punjabis, or Marathis). Urdu-speaking Pakistanis number around 21,000. Most of them
are businessmen and are permanent residents of the country. Some people of Cainta town in Rizal province have some South Asian ancestry due to the British occupation of Manila during
the Seven Years' War. There are some seasonal Marathi, Nepalese, and Tamil settlers in the Philippines.

American presence in the Philippines is contemporaneous and relatively high, owing to the half a century of colonization of the Philippines by the United States. The Philippines has the second
largest population of American citizens outside of the United States, many of whom have been naturalized. Many Filipinos of U.S. origin predominate in religious and educational sectors, as well
as in several multinational businesses.There are 110,000 Americans in Manila alone, excluding temporary embassy officials, military staff, and temporary residents. The most important
contribution of the United States to the Philippines include secular democracy,English as a second language, and the public school system. However, the U.S. nationals are also blamed for
making the Philippines economically dependent to the United States, the effects of which are still felt by Filipinos of today.


East Asians other than Chinese also form one of the most vibrant ethnic groups in the country. The Koreans, who number around 22,000, are for the most part, temporary students and workers
who train in the country,and elderly people attracted by lower living expenses.

The most notable non-Spanish European nationality groups in the Philippines are the British, Belgians, Dutch, and the Italians. Others include Germans, Polish, French, as well as
some Scandinavians. Most Philippine citizens of European descent maintain cultural norms and practices distinct from the general population and have become recognizably independent in
ethnic identity, worldview, social standing, and linguistic heritage. Many of the European expats in the Philippines have taken locals as their spouses and have settled down with families; some
had migrated to the Philippines for that specific purpose. The majority of the European expatriates living in the Philippines are British, who number about 12,000. Germans number about 961,
and French about 700. Unaccounted are Dutch, Belgians, and other central Europeans, who are for the most part, either semi-permanent settlers, NGOs, or missionaries.

Other groups, such as Jews have also been and still are present in the country, albeit in lesser numbers, and even had a temple in Manila, and currently a synagogue in Makati.

There is also the presence of other Southeast Asian groups in the country. Indonesians, Malaysians, as well as Thais and Vietnamese form the bulk of the Southeast Asian population in the
Philippines. Most are Muslims, and some are Christians, Animists, or Buddhists. Most Southeast Asians in the Philippines are businessmen.