The Tagbanua
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The Tagbanua

The fishermen of Palawan

The fishermen of Palawan

The name Tagbanua means "people of the village." The Tagbanua inhabit the central portion of Palawan Island, both the eastern and the western coasts, which lies between Mindoro and Borneo. The higher concentration of population is in the more extensive lowlands to the east of the island's mountain range.


  • Region is Southern Asia

  • Climate here is Tropical

  • The challenge here is Casual

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers



The Tagbanua practice slash-and-burn agriculture, growing dry maize, rice, millet, taro, sweet potato and cassava. Fishing is the second main economic activity.

They usually practice wild boar hunting armed with spears and accompanied by dogs. Buffalos are kept for transport and as a meat source while other Cattle and pigs are kept for ritual feasts. They raise chickens both for cockfighting and for their feathers, also used as fish baits.


Houses are raised on 1.5 m to 2-m piles and traditionally consist in one single room. They use bamboo, rattan and palm fronds for the floor, walls, and gabled roof. They may have a veranda and yard, and flowers are usually planted around the house to embellish it. Traditionally, houses used to be burned upon the death of an occupant. Some houses are built with light and transportable materials, this way they can carry the roofs and walls with them when they need to move.


Social Structure

Tagbanua society is composed of autonomous villages recognizing an ethnic leader, the Masikampu. Ginu'u are the community leaders that rule according to their extensive knowledge of customary law and on the possession of supernaturally powerful heirlooms. Villages are part of the national system of local administration. The traditional social order distinguishes between "high blood", "low blood" and, in the past, slaves were called Uripen.


They believe in ancestral spirits, and they prepare offers to give to historic rituals. Some of them are converted to Catholicism and Protestantism


A pregnant woman observes numerous behavioural and dietary taboos. Furthermore, several plants are kept in the house as protection against witches or evil spirits.

The Tagbanua are monogamous and typically marry early with arranged weddings.

Pasigem (riddles) and ugtulen (folk tales) serve not only as entertainment but also as essential lessons to teach children social norms and history.

Female hair is kept long and in a chignon. In the village, earrings and chains of pearls are worn by women, but only occasionally.

Traditional men's wear consists of fabric loincloths, while women wear colourful sarongs.


The Tagbanua on Palawan uses the pre-Hispanic alphabet once used by the Tagalogs and other Filipinos. Many Tagbanua also speak the languages of the neighbouring communities as well as the national language, the Tagalog/Pilipino.


Dancing to gong music is an integral part of celebrations.

The epic of Dumarakul (the hero's name) is sung after burial. Still, traditional songs (like daluwasa, sablay, bagreng) are today gradually disappearing.

The traditional costumes of the Tagbanwa were fashioned from the bark of trees, particularly the salugin one.


The Tagbanua have several traditional ceremonies and participate in celebrations of non-Tagbanua communities too.

Tarek Palawan Festival: is annually conducted during the third week of January by indigenous groups belonging to the Tagbanua tribe and the Batak tribe. The main attraction of this festival is ritual dances.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

Palawan is a region with a high level of marine biodiversity. It is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, a global model for sustainable relations between man and the natural world.

Unfortunately and despite their millennial culture, the Jew's harp, drum (tambul), and bamboo flute (tipanu) are slowly disappearing as they are being replaced by the guitar.

Landscape of Corot


Tagbanua man
Palawan tourism office

Tagbanua Tribe of Coron Island
Community organisation

Traditional boat in Corot

Corot houses