According to Opena (1985), Manobo is a generic term which refers to people who are still in the subsistence level economy and are generally in the mountains and who practice the slash and burn agriculture. Further she qualified that the term Manobo is very derogatory for it connotes to be backward, uncivilized, ignorant, boisterous, unwashed, unkept, rough and lawless. Hence, she opined that the use of the term must be used with discreetness, tact and prudence. The term can also mean a slave (magdul) or a person destined to do all the menial jobs in the house and farm.
According to Elkins (1977) the Manobo belongs to the original stock of proto-Philippines or proto-Austronesian people who came from South China thousands of years ago. He later coined the term Manobo to designate the stock of aboriginal non-negeritoid people of Mindanao. They mostly inhabit the hinterlands of Bukidnon specifically on the boundaries of Agusan, Bukidnon, Cotabato, Davao and Misamis Oriental (NCIP,2003).
The Western Manobos are in the Southwestern part of Bukidnon in Mulita, Kalilangan and Pangantucan. These people speak a quaint language with Marawi influence which cannot be understood by other ethnic groups in Bukidnon.
Marriage is traditionally by parental arrangement, which begins when each of the two families chooses a spokesperson, preferably a datu or bai, who is known for eloquence and knowledge of custom law. Marriage is an alliance system in which reciprocity and mutual obligation between the groom’s and bride’s kinship groups are expected. It is, therefore, a means of maintaining peace and order, for the Manobo’s practice of retaliation does not extend to one’s kindred or allies.
Poligamy, although rarely practiced, was allowed. A datu might resort to it, usually for economic and political reasons. Several wives allowed for more foelds that could be cultivated, since the Manobo women did all the work in the fields. Poligamy also multiplied one’s alliances and expanded them to several communities. However, they could take another wife only if the first wife and her parents consented. The first wife remained the head wife.
Traditional fabric for clothes was abaca or hemp, weaved by the ikat process, but is now cotton cloth obtained through trade. Dyes were acquired from plants and trees. Ginuwatan are inwoven representational designs such as flowers. If cotton trade cloth is bought, big floral designs are preferred. Typical colors are red, black, yellow, green, blue and white. Manobo ancestors had blankets of abaca fiber which were linetungan if these had multicolored design, and bayas if plain white.