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Bagobo Tagabawa

It's sad that the Bagobo tribe,  specifically the Tagabawa -- accordingly has been made an extinct tribe. The reason is that no one at this time and age has continued to uphold its culture and dialect. The current generation Bagobo Tagabawa has turned its back on its roots and origin.

Most young Bagobos today are embarrassed to admit their heritage.  I don't understand because at every opportunity, I declare to all and sundry that I am of a Bagobo Tagabawa descent -- my mother is a full-bloodied Bagoba, the daughter of a Bagobo Tagabawa and a Bagoba Tagabawa.

Although my father is a pure-bred Kapampangan, I have spent a few years of my childhood in the midst of the Tagabawa tribe and I have a good grasp of their culture and I understand every bit of the dialect -- I may not be able to speak it through and through but I do understand.

When my mother died, I knew we all were gonna lose our connection with her roots -- we might even forget the dialect. So I would try to preserve …
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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

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.
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.

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…

Bagobo 101

The following are Bagobo terms which mean the same in Tagalog dialect:
Hagdan  - stairsUlo – head (which can also mean hair)Pinggan – platesAso – dogKagat – bite (but it is pronounced differently from the Tagalog term – the stress is on the first syllable)  Labas – outside
Let's use them in sentences:
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
Dakil to ulo din. Translation: His/Her head is big. Vocabulary: a.dakil – big b.ulo - head
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
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
Ag kagat yan aso dan.Translation: Their dog bites. Vocabulary: a.kagat –bite …

The Bagobos

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.…


This is a fictional story based on the tales told to me by my mother and grandmother when I was very young. My grandmother is Apo Abet and she witnessed some unnatural events in her life. I was young and she was old when I heard her stories. My mother could not confirm them so I used my imagination to turn some true events into fiction -- I am not saying which scenes are true and which are purely fiction. The names I used are real Bagobo names but the characters they are attached to are merely fictional.

Here's Chapter 1 of the story of Agawe: The Adventures of the Slave Prince

Chapter 1
Egul’s head hang when he was tied to the post. He was still unconscious. Agawe could see Egul clearly from where he was. He could also see the dead man lying on a mat in the floor. The body was surrounded with flowers and dressed in the most beautiful He clothes he had ever seen.

must be a datu, Agawe thought. He looked around to check that no one could see him. He was hidden from view by thick b…

Bagobo conversation

Let's look at some simple Bagobo conversation.

Agawe and Ayong talking as they walk home together.

Agawe:  Inná mudan ngan-ni. [It looks like it will rain today.]
Ayong: Diri pa mudan ni... ago kani dukilim pò. [It will not rain yet... maybe tonight.]
Agawe: Madiggir gó ka mudan kani dukilim… anda din wayig to tangke ko. [It’s good if it rains tonight. There is no water in my tank anymore.]
Ayong: Sunnod manggo masirap ka anda udan. Agad to dram ko anda din wayig.  [It’s very hard when there’s no rain. Even my drum does not have water.]
Agawe (reaches home): Nah, ad-ding ka pa. (It’s an invitation to come into his house which is usually just a formality.)
Ayong: Be-e din. Muli a din pagsik. [Don’t bother. I am also going home.]


Mother talking to daughter.

Mother:  Omeng ka din, mapon din. [You cook now, it’s already late in the afternoon].
Daughter: In-na, anda bag-gas ta. [Mother, we don’t have rice.]
Mother: Dun ig bal-le to ammà no baní. Sil-lig no dun. [Your father boug…