Written by Christina T. Moncado on .

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Christina T. Moncado 

On December 23, 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided through its resolution 49/214, that every 9th of August of every year the International Day of the World´s Indigenous People shall be observed. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations.

The theme for the 2019 celebration is dedicated to Indigenous Peoples’ Languages. According to the United Nations,  the indigenous peoples’ speak an overwhelming majority of 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures. 

A large majority of languages spoken by indigenous people are in danger and that every two weeks an indigenous language disappears, placing at risk the respective indigenous cultures and knowledge systems. As a response to this threat, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution no. A/RES/71/78

This International celebration is to draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote them both on national and international levels. 

Indigenous Peoples as defined by the United Nations are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.

They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions, and legal system.

The Indigenous Peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years.

According to the fact sheet released by the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, it was estimated that there are more than 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide from the Arctic to the South Pacific.

Indigenous Peoples, Philippine Setting

The Philippines is a culturally diverse country with an estimated 17 million Indigenous People belonging to 110 ethnolinguistic groups in 2010. They are mainly concentrated in Luzon (33%)  in the Cordillera Administrative Region and Mindanao (61%) with some groups in the Visayas region (IWGIA, 2011).

Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICC) are comprised of ethnolinguistic groups and locations.

  1. The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) is situated in the centrally-located mountain range known as Gran Cordillera (to be complete is a row of great mountain ranges) occupying half of northern Luzon in the Philippines. It is composed of six provinces, namely Apayao, Kalinga, Abra, Mountain Province, Ifugao, and Benguet. CAR  has two cities, the chartered city of Baguio and Tabuk City in Kalinga. It is composed of closely related indigenous groups known as Igorots. They are grouped into ethnolinguistic groups or identities such as Apayaos or Isneg, Tinggian, Kalinga, Bontoc, Kankanaey, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Bago, and Kalanguya. (Source: Cordillera Peoples Alliance)

  2. Bago communities are found in Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, Pangasinan, and Cagayan Valley.

  3. The Agta are in Cagayan Province.

  4. The Bungkalots are in Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija Provinces.

  5. Isinay or Inmeas are primarily in Nueva Vizcaya.

  6. In the Sierra Madre mountain range are the Dumagats and Remontados.

  7. The Aetas are found in Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bataan.

  8. The Tumanduks and Ati Tumanduks and Ati are found in Panay.

  9. Ivatan in the Batanes Islands.

  10. Palawan is the home to several indigenous ethnolinguistic groups such as the Tagbanua, Palaw’an, Tao’t Bato, Molbog, Batak, Agutaynen and Cuyonon. (Wikipedia)

  11. The Mangyans are in Mindoro.

  12. Lumad is the  self-ascription and collective identity of the non-Islamized  indigenous peoples of Mindanao. There are 18 Lumad ethnolinguistic groups namely, Atta, Bagobo, Banwaon, B’laan, Bukidnon, Dibabawon, Higaonon, Mamanwa, Mandaya, Manguwangan, Manobo, Mansaka, Subanon, Tagakaolo, Tasaday, Tboli, Teduray, and Ubo.

  13. The Badjaos are the sea people of Mindanao in Tawi Tawi, Sulu and Basilan.

There are quite a number of indigenous tribes or ethnolinguistic groups in the country, they remain some of the poorest, least privileged and discriminated members of society. They reside mostly in the mountains and were not affected by the Spanish colonization, thus they were able to retain their customs and traditions.

Furthermore, these indigenous groups believe in the conservation of the environment and the land for future generations. They have this strong belief that land is life and it should be sustained. These ethnic communities thrive by living in harmony with the environment.

As strongly expressed by the slain hero of the Cordillera, Ama Macliing Dulag about the people’s reverence for the land and affirming their right to stay: “Such arrogance to say that you own the land when you are owned by it! How can you own that which outlives you? Only the people own the land because only people live forever. To claim a place is the birthright of everyone. Even the lowly animals have their own much more when we talk of human beings?¨


IWGIA, 2011. Accessed August 6, 2019.

United Nations Website- Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Indigenous Peoples, 2019. Accessed August 6, 2019.

Cordillera Peoples Alliance Website. Accessed August 6, 2019.

Indigenous Peoples of Luzon/The Cordilleras - Philippines by E. Clariza, 2010. Accessed August 6, 2019.

A guide to the Indigenous culture tribes of the Philippines- Culture trip, April 25, 2018. Accessed August 8, 2019

Fast Facts: Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines/UNDP in the Philippines, July 24, 2013. Accessed August 8, 2019

Dulag, Macli-ing, Bantayog ng Mga Bayani, Posted on October 15, 2015. Accessed August 8, 2019. 

About the Author

Christina T. Moncado finished her elementary studies at Tuding Elementary School and secondary at Alejo Pacalso Memorial  High School. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Biological Science with a minor in Political Science in 1987.

She was the Assistant Librarian of the Cordillera Resource Center for Indigenous Peoples Rights; the Environmental assistant Desk Holder at the Cordillera Environmental Concerns Committee; the Provincial Coordinator for Relief and Rehab and was with the Human Rights Desk of the Cordillera Resource Center for Indigenous Peoples Rights.

Christina was a community organizer, a Barangay Councilwoman of Barangay Tuding, Municipality of Itogon. She was also a farmer and a small scale miner.  

She is a contributing writer with the Northern Dispatch.


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