The term Higaunon means “people of the wilderness”. The term is derived from the native word “gaun” which means literally put away either from fire, heat of the sun or from the water. Hence, the Higaunon are basically the coastal dwellers who moved to the uplands (mountains). They are somewhat nomadic, that is, they travel from one mountain village to another, looking for more fertile soil and better harvest.
The Higaunon people are of medium built with average height of about 5 feet and 2 inches, they are of lighter skin complexion compared to the other tribes in the province. Quiet a number of them have a very recognizable European features, aquiline nose, deep-set eyes and prominent cheeks, a legacy of the intermarriage between the natives and the Spanish colonizers.
The higaunon have unwritten laws called Buncatol Ha Bulawan and their oral tradition is Pasig Ha Sumagubay (Opena, 1982). According to Tajonera (2003) the Higaunons are among the least known ethnolinguistic groups that inhabit north-central Mindanao. The Higaunons have their own system of writing. Their myths and legend speak of a great ancestor named “Suwat” who kept a list of the people who were living and dead during the great flood that took place long ago.
The political system of the Higaunon revolves around a datu. There is usually a principal datu who rule over an entire group composed of several units that are each headed by minor datus. These minor datus form a counseling body for the whole community. The datu assumes multiple roles in the community. He is supposed to be the wisest and bravest among his people.
With the practice of polygamy in Higaonon society, the kinship has a patrilateral bias. The husband maintains systematic supervisions over his wives who, nowadays, average three to a household, live with him under a single roof. Children are considered equal. No discrimination is made between those of the first marriage or those from later marriages. Any child grows up as one born into a monogamous family.
Marriage is arranged mainly by the parents of the boy and girl. The arrangement is a long and tedious process. Prior to the wedding, the boy must live in the girl’s house for about a year to prove his worth).