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Philippines’ First Peoples




They are known as the First Peoples, although they go by many names.

Indigenous Peoples, or the IP as we know them, are also sometimes called Aboriginal Peoples or Native Peoples.

The Philippines has an estimated 14 to 17 million IP belonging to 110 ethno-linguistic groups.
Northern Luzon, or the Cordillera Administrative Region, hosts 33 percent of the total IP population. Mindanao has the largest concentration of different IP groups with a 61 percent share, with the Visayas — first site of the spread of Spanish influence — enjoying a sprinkling of IP communities as well.

IP rights are protected by the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which recognizes diversity, and under the framework of national unity and development, mandates state recognition, protection, promotion and fulfillment of the rights of the IP, who are mandated by Republic Act 8371 (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act) of 1997, which recognizes their right to manage their ancestral domains.

Worldwide, IP communities are threatened by development, with their ancestral domains targeted by big business operations, including mining, water and hydro-electric dams and logging, which are driving them out of their territories.

The Philippines’s IP consist of a majority of whose languages are Austronesian in origin.

Many of them have converted to Christianity soon after the arrival of Spanish colonizers.
Mostly those from the lowland coastal nations have adopted foreign elements of culture.

Ethnolinguistic nations include the Ivatan, Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Tagalog, Bicolano, Visayans (Masbateño, Hiligaynon, Cebuano, Waray, Butuanon, Romblomanon, Kamayo, Cuyonon and Surigaonon), Zamboangueño and Subanon.

While Christianity is prevalent in Luzon and the Visayas, Islam is practiced in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

In the Agusan Marsh and the highlands of Mindanao, there are native ethnic groups collectively known as the Lumad, many of whom maintain their animistic beliefs and traditions, though some of them have converted to Christianity as well.

Many of them, however, are threatened by internal strife between the government and the others are influenced by Maoist insurgents belonging to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army.

The earliest humans to settle the Philippines were the Negrito, while first known were the people of the Tabon man remains. Their tribal groups include the Ati and the Aeta.