Pre-Hispanic information is scarce and for the most part veiled in obscurity. The Bukidnon folk-epics, legendary songs and oral tradition furnish but little light in the darkness brightened to some extent by the transient light of a missionary’s pen.
The early inhabitants of Mindanao were called Manobos. Manobo is not a tribal designation but merely an appellation of contempt used on account of low culture possessed by the autochthons at that time.
The people of the mountains were referred to by the Spaniards as Buquidnons and all the people found in the mountains of Mindanao were called Manobo (Malay; “‘Manusia means man; Tirurai, Bagobo; Manobo means man; Moro Maguindanao; Manobo means mountain people). It seems that Manobo is a generic term or name for people of greatly divergent cultures, types and languages.
The tribes in the province of Bukidnon are indigenous and their names are derived from the watershed that they occupy, each ruled by a Datu , the chieftain.
Generally, these people are Bukinons with slight differences in dialects and more language affinities in their speech.
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 and is somebody to reckon with where peace and order conditions are concerned in the hinterlands even today.
The Bukidnons have different degrees of acculturation. The first degree, Bukidnons are those leading the most nearly traditional life style. This includes living far removed from any center of lowlander habitation, deep in the forest along the watershed of the main rivers. The second degree Bukidnons live directly in the fringes and directly within the bounds of a lowlander. The third degree Bukidnons are highly assimilated Bukidnons, 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 Bukidnon are largely recent immigrants from the rest of the Philippine archipelago and Bukidnon as their permanent home.
The traditional culture of Bukidnon is a pride to all. The oral folk literature are classified into; Antoka,(riddles) Basahan(proverbs or wise sayings), Kaligaon (ceremonial songs), Limbay(lyric poem), Sala(love song) and Nanangon (folktales). Religion is monotheistic. They believe in one God. “Magbabaya” (the ruler of all) who has minor Gods and Godesses under his command (Example: Ibabasok – watches growth of crops, Dagingon – watches planting and harvest seasons, Bulalakaw watches rivers and lakes. tumpas Nanapiyaw or Itumbangol watches the bases of the earth night and day. Marriage is almost always through parental arrangements, but now only found among the people in the hinterlands. Their musical instruments are the pulala (bamboo flute), salambing (small agong), and the kudyapi (guitar). Embroidery process is called panulam and the embroidered cloth is called pinamulaan.
Bukidnon became part of Misamis province as a municipality in 1850. The whole area was then called Malaybalay (few houses) and the people were known as Bukidnons (mountain people).
The Philippine commission headed by commissioner Dean C. Worcester, Secretary of Interior and a member of the Philippine Commission proposed the separation of Bukidnon from Misamis Province. In August 20, 1907, Philippine Commission Act 1693 was enacted which created the province of Agusan with Bukidnon as a sub-province. It 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, the province of Bukidnon was created under Act 2711 (Table 1). Originally, it covered the territory of the sub-province of Bukidnon, but on October 1, 1917, its boundaries with Cotabato and Lanao were fixed pursuant to Executive Order No. 73. As a result, the boundary lines between Bukidnon and Cotabato in the south and between Bukidnon and Lanao in the west were settled and constituted the present boundaries of these three provinces.