Wild Tribes of Mindanao - Introduction Philippine folktale

About one thousand miles to the south and east of the Tinguian and Igorot is the Island of Mindanao, which is inhabited by mortals and immortals entirely unknown to the mountain tribes of the north.

In the northern part of this great island are the Bukidnon—timid, wild people who, attacked from time to time by the Moro on one side and the Manobo on the other, have drawn back into scattered homes in the hills. Here they live in poor dwellings raised high from the ground. Some even build in trees, their sheltered and secret positions making them less subject to attack.

They are not a warlike people, and their greatest concern is for the good will of the numerous spirits who watch over their every act. At times they gather a little hemp or coffee from the hillside or along the stream bank and carry it to the coast to exchange for the bright cloth which they make into gay clothes. But they do not love work, and the most of their time is spent in resting or attending ceremonies made to gain the good will of the immortals.

In this country the belief prevails that there are spirits in the stones, in the baliti trees, in the vines, the cliffs, and even the caves. And never does a man start on a journey or make a clearing on the mountain side until he has first besought these spirits not to be angry with him but to favor him with prosperity and bring good crops.

The greatest of the spirits is Diwata Magbabaya, who is so awe-inspiring that his name is never mentioned above a whisper. He lives in the sky in a house made of coins, and there are no windows in this building, for if men should look upon him they would melt into water.

About the Gulf of Davao, in the southeastern part of this island, are a number of small tribes, each differing somewhat from the other in customs and beliefs. Of these the most influential are the Bagobo who dwell on the lower slopes of Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines. They are very industrious, forging excellent knives, casting fine articles in brass, and weaving beautiful hemp cloth which they make into elaborate garments decorated with beads and shell disks.

The men are great warriors, each gaining distinction among his people according to the number of human lives he has taken. A number of them dress in dark red suits and peculiar headbands which they are permitted to wear only after they have taken six lives. Notwithstanding their bravery in battle, these people fear and have great respect for the numerous spirits who rule over their lives.

From a great fissure in the side of Mt. Apo, clouds of sulphur fumes are constantly rising, and it is believed to be in this fissure that Mandarangan and his wife Darago live—evil beings who look after the fortunes of the warriors. These spirits are feared and great care is taken to appease them with offerings, while once a year a human sacrifice is made to them.

The following tales show something of the beliefs of these and the neighboring tribes in Mindanao.