The Bukidnons are one of the traditionalistic ethnic groups in the southern Philippines. They inhabit the northeastern part of Mindanao, the second largest island of the archipelago. The term “Bukidnon” (mountain dweller) was derived from the Cebuano language but nowadays, it is accepted by most members of the ethnic group referred to.
There are seven different tribes in the province namely: Talaandig, Higa-onon, Bukidnon, Umayamnon, Matigsalug, Manobo and Tigwahanon.
The tribes in the province of Bukidnon are indigenous and their names are derived from the rivers/ watershed areas that they inhabited. The Matigsalugs, for example, are the people who live along the Salug river and the Tigwahanuns – are natives who inhabit the banks of the Tigwa river.
A Datu – a chieftain, is the political and spiritual ruler of each tribe. The Datu is one who settles disputes and gives judgment whenever their unwritten laws called Batasan are violated. The Bukidnon Datu holds a great influence on the tribal and communal life of the Bukidnons. Aside from maintaining peace and order within the tribe, he also performs rituals like the Panlisigan (driving away bad spirits) and Panomanoran (calling for the entrance of spirits who guide the Datu in his decisions). These pre-datuship ceremonies are precursors to other rituals that the Datu shall perform called the Kaliga-on rituals.
Bukidnon is witness to varying degrees of acculturation of its people. The first-degree Bukidnons are those leading the most traditional lifestyle and those whose parents are full-blooded natives. They are those who lived remote from any access of lowlander influence, deep in the forest and along the watershed areas and the main rivers. The second-degree Bukidnons live near the fringes of the forests and directly within the bounds of the lowlanders. The third-degree Bukidnons are highly assimilated natives and are generally able to send their children off to school. The fourth-degree Bukidnons have fully assimilated the ways of urban living and hardly acknowledge the old ways of their background. The fifth-degree Bukidnons are largely recent immigrants from other parts of the Philippine archipelago and have made Bukidnon as their permanent home.
Bukidnon is home to a wealth of traditions and is abounding in cultural, artistic and aesthetic heritage. The oral folk literature of Bukidnon are the: Olaging (ethno-epic about the adventures of Agyu, the culture hero of Bukidnon), Idangdang (ballads/ songs that tell stories), Bayok-bayok (verses), Antoka (riddles), Basahan (proverbs or wise sayings), Limbay (lyric poem), Sala (love song), and Nanangon (folktales), Tutalanon (stories telling about the origins of things and names of places), Dasang (debate in verses during the settling of the bride price) and the Kaliga-on (religious and ceremonial songs that are sung during the Kaliga rituals; these are divided into two parts – pamamayok, sung by the men and tabok, sung by the women while dancing the dugso). Their musical instruments are the pulala (bamboo flute), salambing (small agong), and the kudyapi (guitar).
Bukidnon visual art is traditionally expressed in weaving, crafts, earth painting, beadwork, patchwork and embroidery. For example, the Bukidnons are identified for their three different kinds of weave – Tinilogas (one over one), Tigdaruwa (two over two) and Tigtatulo (two over one). They are also experimental in their application of mat edgings like Sinapay or Insapay, and Binaling or Igbaling. Usually, traditional Bukidnon clothings are decorated with geometric shapes like Binitu-on, binabangon, and kinabuka. These traditional Bukidnon garments are widely ornate with shapes and the strong colors of red, blue, white and black. This is also seen in the making of the traditional “panika” (headdress). The Bukidnon traditional emboridery process is called panulam and the embroidered cloth is called pinamulaan.
The religion of the Bukidnon traditional people is generally monotheistic. They believe in one God “Magbabaya” (the ruler of all) who has minor gods and goddesses under his command (i.e. Ibabasok – who watches over growth of crops; Dagingon – who watches over planting and harvest season; Bulalakaw – who is the god of the rivers and lakes, Tumpas Nanapiyaw or Itumbangol – who watches over the base of the earth night and day). Marriage is almost always through parental arrangements. A kaula-an (bride price) is to be paid by the groom to the bride’s family. The Kaliga-an rituals are divided into genre: the political and religious ones performed by the datus and those agricultural rituals for the farmers. (Based on the original manuscript of Ms. Ludevina R. Opeña,1982)
Before the Spaniards colonized Misamis, settlers from the Visayas had already established themselves there. As the migrants kept coming, the tribes who originally inhabited the area were driven inland toward the rugged and mountainous territory. They were eventually called Bukidnons, meaning “people of the mountains,” from which the place derived its name.
The Americans under the influence of Dean C. Worcester, then Secretary of Interior and a member of the Philippine Commission, proposed the separation from Misamis Province that part inhabited mostly by Bukidnons. In August 20, 1907, Philippine Commission Act 1693 was enacted which created the province of Agusan with Bukidnon as a sub-province. Bukidnon became a regular province on September 1, 1914 by virtue of the creation of the Department of Mindano and Sulu. Finally, on March 10, 1917, under Act 2711 the province was officially created and called the Province of Bukidnon.