Ethnic Groups of the Philippines


sama--ethnic-grouoThe Sama ethnolinguistic group is commonly mistaken to have originated from the Mandaya and Mansaka people, and they maintain that they are distinct from these groups. This claim has credence when one examines their distinct art forms, music, and tribal rituals.

Samal Island Sama
Sama people can be found dispersed in many areas of Mindanao, such as in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Samal, though the majority can be found in Samal Island in Davao del Norte. There they have occupied the island since time immemorial. They used to live in ancient houses called tambobong, and Samal used to be the political center of Davao City during the early 19th century.

In the past, a Sama individual can be easily recognizable because of his or her name, as they used to be named after the living things around them, plus their family name “Samal.” However, at present, this practice has almost entirely disappeared as the Sama people now use Christian names.

Though the influx of settlers has caused the Sama’s rich cultural heritage to gradually fade into extinction, some of their cultural practices remain alive.

An example is the integration of the Sama’s former belief system, animism, with contemporary religions. Even if several religions such as Christianity, Protestantism, and Islam have now replaced the Sama’s traditional beliefs, they still believe in the Supreme Being Magbabaya. They have also continued practicing their many rituals for panawagtawag, or the prayers performed by their balyan when asking for their anito’s intervention.

Accordingly, some of the rituals that the balyan performs include dugsoon, a ritual before a fishing or hunting excursion; sayawan, which is done inside the house; pagbana, which is done outside the house; lindog kadyawan, a ritual dance for healing the sick; and guwang, a ritual performed during burial.

A unique belief of the Sama is that if the sound of the local bird alimukon comes from behind, then it is bad luck. Another is that it is bad luck if someone leaves a house immediately after someone else sneezes. One more is that during burial, their custom dictates that a dead person should not be embalmed; instead, it should be placed in a coffin made of duldul wood where it will be laid down on a heap of soil to minimize the stench.

The Sama society is governed by their datu that serves as both their judge and prosecutor. Usually, passing down punishments to offenders is a collective decision of the datu and the leaders of each Sama clan. An example of a trial that they must decide on is when a man steals another man’s wife. This is the biggest sin in Sama, and it can lead to asking the accused to pay dowry to the wronged husband, having the accused dip his hand in boiling water to determine his guilt, or ultimately deciding that the accused should be killed.

Music is an important outlet for Sama people to either express their emotions to other people or show their devotion to their gods. Examples include their estiharo, a thanksgiving song; pangayo, a song performed by a man asking for permission to marry from the parents of the woman he is courting; and tuganuwan, a song narration of the significant events in the people’s lives and history.

While their songs are their major art forms, dancing is not far behind as the Sama play their musical instruments during their dances as well. Their instruments include their flutes koglong, kubing, patawali, and kulintang, which are used during festivals and special occasions; and their agong and gimba that can be used only by their balyan during ritual dances, such as in their thanksgiving festival Pangapog, death anniversary Tawo, dance of happiness sagumbata, tagonggo, and dance to ward off evil spirits that cause sickness, lindogsayawan.

The Sama people’s main sources of livelihood are their seafaring industry and agriculture, as well as their major cash crop copra.

The national population of the Sama is approximately 319,809 people.

There are two other Sama subgroups that have their own languages and customs. These are the Abaknon Sama and Pangutaran Sama.

Abaknon Sama
The Abaknon Sama occupies the San Bernardino Strait and Capul Island of Northwest Samar and speaks the language Inabaknon. Their language, which is used by about 26,400 people both in written and oral forms, is notable for being the only Sama language that does not have a major Arabic influence via Islam. This language is known by many names, such as Abaknon, Abaknon Sama, Capuleño, Capul Sinama, or Kapul.

Despite most of the other Northern Samar people speaking Waray, Inabaknon is native only to Capul Island. It bears no linguistic relations to any other languages in Luzon or Visayas, and it falls under the Sama-Bajaw group of languages, similar to the Sulu and Yakan languages. From the Inabaknon language alone, it can be inferred that the Abaknon people are more closely related to the seagoing Sama people than to the Waray and Bikolano people that are closer to Capul Isand.

According to oral folk history, the Abaknon subgroup was formed when a handle of people led by a man named Abak fled Balabac by sailing away, as they disliked the religion the Moros used to rule them.

Pangutaran Sama
The Pangutaran Sama, also known as Siyama, is a Sama subgroup that inhabits the Pangutaran Island in the west-central part of Sulu in Mindanao. Their primary language of the same name is spoken by around 35,200 people. It is not intelligible with other Sinama varieties. With their island’s proximity to Malaysia, some of the Pangutaran Sama people are also able to speak Malay.

There are also Pangutaran Sama people living in Tawi-Tawi and southern Palawan.


Ethnic Groups Philippines. Sama people 
Friendly Borders. The Sama Indigenous Group 
Ethnic Groups Philippines. Sama, Pangutaran language 
Wikipedia. Pangutaran Sama language 
NCCA. Peoples of the Philippines: Sama
Wikipedia. Abaknon language 
Wikiwand. Ethnic groups in the Philippines