the Philippines


Manila, Luzon




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The Higaunon people of Northern Mindanao



The Higaunon is one of the mountain tribes in the Philippines. Most  Higaunon  still have a rather traditional way of living. Farming is the most important economic activity. The belief in the power of the spirits of ancestors and in the influence of more than one god, is strongly rooted in the hearts and minds of many Higaunon.

A Higaunon leader

in native costume

Picture: © Robert Booc



The belief in many gods and spirits of ancestors

Most Higaunon still have a strong belief in the existence of gods and spirits. The ‘upper god’ is Magbabaya, the creator of all aspects of life. There are several ‘lower gods’. Each ‘lower god’ has dominion over a specific part of the natural environment.   There is a lower god (Igbabasok) who has dominion over the farms, a lower god (Pamahandi) who has dominion over treasures and properties, a lower god (Bulalakaw) who has dominion over the waters and fishes and there is a lower god (Panalagbugta) who has dominion over lands.  The (ancestor) spirits have control on all aspects of the daily life of the people.  This belief, called “animism”, influences the Higaunon people deeply. They believe that all problems like illnesses, bad harvests and even the death, are due to their failure to satisfy the spirits.

Satisfy the spirits

The Higaunon belief that they have to please the spirits. Only if the Higaunon succeed during their life to fulfill all the wishes of the spirits, they will not die and a path will be shown to go from this world into the eternal world where the creator gods live.

One way to satisfy the spirits is having rituals with sacrifices. Pigs and chickens are the most common sacrifices.  Without the sacrifices or when there not enough sacrifices, there will be problems with their subsistence, crops will fail and illnesses will not be cured and people will die. If somebody gets ill, an ‘all knowing’ shaman is asked advice what to do. The shaman is a person in the village who has the ability to tell which spirit caused the sickness and what should be done to pacify the spirit.

Picture: © Robert Booc


Picture: Courtesy of  L. Ostman


For more written information..............

For the experiences of  

members of the Higaunon...................

Attempts to bring an alternative to the bondage to the spirit world

Since  July 1981 missionaries are trying to help the Higaunon in their struggle for a better life.  Missionaries from Australia, USA and Columbia, took care for the people in one of the villages.  The missionaries help combat sicknesses by offering medicines and help with all kind of problems.  After some years the power of the spirits diminished in some villages. The Higaunon people discovered that sacrifices to combat sicknesses were not necessary anymore. In the period 1985 until now the animism was replaced more and more by Christianity.  Still in most villages animism is widespread.

(Source: Article, prepared by Ms. Cecilia Valmores, in charge of the Research Desk of the Indigenous Peoples Apostolate (IPA) of the Cagayan de Oro City)


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