The Lumad Cultures of Mindanao
by Titania Buchholdt, with assistance
from Salupongan International
Lumad is a collective term, used since 1986, for a large number of indigenous peoples of the Mindanao island group in the Southern Philippines. The lumad population in Mindanao is about half the total population of all indigenous groups in the Philippines.
The 18 major lumad ethnolinguistic groupings are the Bagobo, Banwaon, Blaan, Bukidnon, Dibabawon, Higaonon, Mamanwa, Mandaya, Mangguwangan, Manobo, Mansaka, Matigsalug, Subanen, Tagakaolo, Talaandig, Tboli, Teduray, and Ubo.
Lumad are distinct from the Moro (indigenous Islamic) tribes, which include about 14 sub-groups concentrated in western Mindanao. Lumad are also distinct from the indigenous groups which are based in Mindanao but rooted in Visayan culture.
Lumad are found throughout Mindanao, in remote mountainous areas and valleys, in low-lying plains, and in coastal areas. Over the years, the Lumad have nurtured and protected their traditional ancestral lands, and their individual cultures. Lumad culture is rich and diverse, with a wide range of languages, chants, rituals, dances, and other traditions.
Over the past two decades, Schools of Living Tradition (SLTs) have been established by both Lumad and Moro indigenous cultures throughout the Philippines. There are many well-known Schools of Living Tradition in Mindanao.
The use of the collective term Lumad resulted from a desire among Mindanao’s indigenous minorities to free themselves from the derogatory labels and names otherwise attributed to them, such as paganos (pagans) or nitibo (natives). In 1999, historian Rudy Rodil wrote:
“The name Lumad grew out of the political awakening among them during the martial law regime of President Ferdinand Marcos. In June 1986, representatives from 15 tribes agreed to adopt a common name in a congress which also established Lumad Mindanao. This is the first time in their history that these tribes have agreed to a common name for themselves, distinct from the Moros and from the migrant majority.
Lumad is a Cebuano word meaning indigenous. The choice of a Cebuano word may be a bit ironic -- Cebuano is the language of the natives of Cebu in the Visayas -- but they deemed it to be most appropriate considering that the various tribes do not have any other common language among themselves except Cebuano. Lumad Mindanao, the organization, is no longer intact, but the name remains and is, from all indications, gaining more adherents.
Lumad-Mindanao's main objective was to achieve self-determination for their member tribes, meaning self-government within their ancestral domains and in accordance with their customary laws under the sovereignty of the Republic. The decision to have a common name was crucial and historic. This was a first in Lumad history.”
Initially established to pass on cultural heritage within the community, there are some Schools of Living Tradition which offer programs for foreign visitors looking for the experience of cultural immersion. One of the oldest and most respected of these programs is at the Talaandig School of Living Tradition, located at Songko, Lantapan, Bukidnon province, about midway between Cagayan de Oro (Misamis Oriental) and Davao City (Davao del Sur).
A popular and slightly more accessible location is the Tboli School of Living Tradition & Homestay, located at Lake Sebu (Poblacion), South Cotabato province. The closest airport is at General Santos City.
The Lumad of Mindanao encompass many different indigenous cultures of the Philippines. These cultures offer a rare window into the everyday life and the precolonial cultures of the Philippines.
Salupongan International is a non-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of marginalized indigenous, Moro, and rural communities in Mindanao. For more information, please visit