Most Common Bagobo Animals

In any Bagobo community, you will always find the following animals:

1. Horse - Kuda











2. Dog - Aso










3. Cat - Mengko











4. Pig - Baboy











5. Carabao - Karabo












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The Bagobo Numbers

Let's count the Bagobo way:

1 - Sab-bad
2 - Duwa
3 - Tal-lo
4 - Ap-pat
5 - Lima (stress on the first syllable)
6 - An-nm (no vowel on the 2nd syllable)
7 - Pit-to
8 - Walo (stress on the first syllable)
9 - Siyo (mabilis like the way you say "kayo" in Tagalog)
10 - Sapulo (stress on the 2nd syllable)
20 - Duwapulo
100 - Sab-bad gatos
200 - Duwa gatos
1000 - Sab-bad mararan
2000 - Duwa mararan

Have fun with the Bagobo Numbers.... Nah! Ginawa Yu...!!!

The Early Bagobo Society

Traditional Bagobo society was divided into three classes.

  1. Magani – the warrior class

The Datu was the chief magani who inherited his position from his ancestors. He did not enjoy special privilege except for the title and rank. His main function was to be a judge, arbiter, and a defender of the tribe. The magani who should have killed at least 2 persons was allowed to wear blood-red clothes and a headkerchief called tangkulu, and he was allowed to possess a small bag for betel nut and lime which was considered a property of the spirits.

If the magani was held in high esteem,  a man called the matalo was scorned by the Bagobo society because he had never killed a person and had no desire to fight.


  1. Mabalian – the ritual practitioners or the healers

The elderly women who were usually distinguished as skilled weavers. Accordingly, they were first selected through a dream or a vision from a benign spirit who revealed the secret of a new cure for an ailment. Then they became apprentice to seasoned mabalians who taught them, among other things, how to weave the clothes of the magani.

Like the magani, mabalians wore special clothes that signified their position.

  1. Al-lang – the slaves

The slave class was composed of women and children taken during raids. Slave women sometimes became concubines of their masters. The children of such unions were considered free because their fathers were freemen.

Al-langs could be sold and bought, or presented as part of a sab-lag or a wedding dowry.


The Justice System in the Early Bagobo Society:

The datu meted out punishment to all offenders. Crimes punishable with death were
murder, incest, and refusal to serve in payment for one’s debt. A husband whose wife cheated on him could kill his wife and her lover but must leave his weapon embedded in their bodies. Otherwise, the families of the victims could avenge the deaths.


Bagobo 101


The following are Bagobo terms which mean the same in Tagalog dialect:

  1. Hagdan  - stairs
  2. Ulo – head (which can also mean hair)
  3. Pinggan – plates
  4. Aso – dog
  5. Kagat – bite (but it is pronounced differently from the Tagalog term – the stress is on the first syllable)  
  6. Labas – outside

Let's use them in sentences:

  1. Sun-nod mallayat to hagdan katò bale dan.
Translation: The stairs of their house is very high.
Vocabulary:
a.       sun-nod – very
b.      mallayat – high, long
c.       bale – house
d.      hagdan - stairs

  1. Dakil to ulo din.
Translation: His/Her head is big.
Vocabulary:
a.       dakil – big
b.      ulo - head

  1. Mallayat to ulo din.
Translation: His/Her hair is long.
Vocabulary:
a.       mallayat – long
b.      ulo – hair
c.       din – pronoun which applies to male and female

  1. Kange no to pinggan duton labas.
Translation: Get those plates from outside.
Vocabulary:
a.       kange – get, take
b.      labas – outside
c.       duton – is a preposition

  1. Ag kagat yan aso dan.
     Translation: Their dog bites.
Vocabulary:
a.       kagat –bite
b.      aso – dog
c.       dan – is a pronoun (in this context it means their)

More of Bagobo 101 next posts..... Nah! Ginawa yo....!!!


The Bagobos


My Mother - 1951
I grew up in the midst of the Bagobos in the highlands of Davao. My mother was a  Bagoba and my father a Pampangueño.

Growing up with a father from Luzon, we learned the art of “mano po” – taking the hands of the elders and touching it  to our forehead – it’s a sign of respect.

We learned that elders are not to be addressed by their names. My father got the shock of his life when my mother’s small nephew called him by his name. “Walang respeto,” he says.

We call our eldest sister “attê” (the Kapampangan term is supposed to be "achê" but thanks to my inability to say the "ch" when I was small -- it became “attê” instead). We call older brothers “kuya” -- but I am not getting into the culture of my father’s people. I want to explore my mother’s ancestry.

First of all – in the Bagobo culture, young tribal members address their elders as Tiyo (Uncle), Tiya (Auntie), and Apo (Grandma/Grandpa). But for older brothers and sisters, there are no definite terms of  respect. They call each other by their names – no matter if you are the youngest of 11 siblings calling your oldest brother, Anson. It will be, “Anson, manda ka?”  (Anson, where are you going?)

By the way, when  I say Bagobos, I mean the Tagabawa Community because there are other Bagobo communities.

For the Bagobos,  all other people are called “Bisaya” even if they are Tagalogs, or maybe English people – though I am sure they call the Americans “Merkano.” Anyway, there are no distinctions for them – everybody who is not a Bagobo is a Bisaya. Just like in the Old Testament when everybody who is not a Jew is a Gentile.

Let’s see – my mother was the youngest of five siblings. She had one elder sister and three older brothers. Sad to say, they had all passed away. This could be the reason why I am trying to write everything I know about my mother’s people because with her passing away, all memories about her ancestry seemed to vanish, too. I lost contact with her relatives completely when she went to be with the Lord.

Then I heard that the Bagobo tribe would be  declared an extinct tribe. What does it mean? Will it mean that my mother would lose her ancestry? When my descendants talk of their great-great grandmother, no one can say where she came from because the Bagobos were declared extinct?

I have six other siblings. We have not really learned the Bagobo dialect like native speakers but we know enough to understand that we are being maligned or gossiped about. Many times, my mother’s relatives talk about us in our face because they thought we do not understand the dialect.

My father who married a Bagoba and lived in the Bagobo community had forbidden everyone to speak to his children in Bagobo – well… maybe he did not want to have little ones running around calling him by his first name… LOL! So we learned little and by now I have lost all that I have learned. My sisters and I would exchange notes and update our vocabulary as much as we can.

Looking back, it had been a source of amusement and irritation when we tell our mother that her niece or her cousin gossiped about us. We grew up with enough knowledge of what people thought of us – I tell you it’s a good thing because when those same people come to my father asking for favor, my father knows whom to give and whom to deny favors.

Our Bagobo relatives think we are stuck up kids because we are the children of a Bisaya, particularly a Bisaya who speaks Tagalog. Our Bagobo cousins did not like us so much. The problem is that our paternal relatives thought less of us because we are the children of a Bagoba. Talk of being between a rock and a hard place. But we did not mind.

We took advantage of the Bagobo  dialect when we needed to talk among ourselves and we did not want those around us to understand – we had our own language (like a  code) and it served us well as we grew up.

My Bagobo grandfather was a rich man  – his name was Bangkas. Clearly his favorite daughter was his first wife’s  youngest girl  – my mother. My grandfather had three wives: my grandmother Apo Abet was first, Apo Abet’s sister was the second, and Apo Abet’s cousin was the third. All in all, my grandfather had 24 children  – five of whom were from Apo Abet and the rest from his second and third wives.

During his lifetime, tribal members come to my grandfather for advice and  settlement of disputes – that would make him a tribal elder or a datu, or a chieftain.

In Davao City, I often hear people say, “Murag Bagobo” (Like a Bagobo) when describing an ugly and disheveled person, or a person showing ignorance and stupidity. Sometimes, they even call those mendicants Bagobos.

It really hurts because I have seen how proud the Bagobos were. From my uncles to my aunts, to my mother. These people would rather die from starvation than beg for food. But they would never come to begging for food because these people know how to work --  they are industrious people.

Most of all, Bagobos are so portrayed unfairly – they are not ugly. My mother was a pretty lady and she grew to be a beautiful woman. Her brothers were handsome men. While growing up in the Bagobo community,  I was surrounded with beautiful women and handsome men – not the dark, short, kinky-haired, flat-nosed, thick-lipped stereo-typed natives they were portrayed to be.