Ethnic Groups in the Philippines

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  • 0:03 The Philippines
  • 0:35 Tagalog Ethnicity
  • 1:11 Cebuano Ethnicity
  • 1:53 Other Ethnic Groups
  • 2:34 Identity and Conflicts
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Philippines is a major island nation that has played an important role in world history. But, who lives there? In this lesson, we'll talk about ethnicity in the Philippines and see what diversity means to this nation.

The Philippines

Philip is not the most popular boys' name in the Philippines. It would be cool if it were though, right? Actually, it's Joshua, according to a national survey in 2005. Still, while you can't expect to find an abundance of Philips in the Philippines, you can expect to find a number of Filipinos, which is the national term for people of the Philippines. But who are the Filipinos? As with many island nations, Filipinos are composed of a diverse collection of peoples who across history have called these islands home.

Tagalog Ethnicity

The Tagalog people largest ethnic group in the nation with about 28% of the total population. The Tagalog are an island people who are ancestrally indigenous to the South Pacific. As the largest ethnic group in the Philippines, the Tagalog group has had a fair amount of political, economic, and cultural power throughout the nation's history. In fact, the official language of the Philippines, Filipino, is based on the traditional Tagalog language. Due to a long history as a Spanish colony, many Tagalog people do have some Spanish ancestry. Spanish surnames are common, and Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion.

Cebuano Ethnicity

Following the Tagalog, the Cebuano people are the second largest group, making up about 13% of the total population. The Cebuano are ancestrally Malaysian/Polynesian seafaring peoples who traded across East and Southeast Asia, coming into contact with civilizations from China and Japan to Sri Lanka and India. Historically, they lived on different islands than the Tagalog (remember that the Philippines is actually a series of islands). They were amongst the last to continually resist Spanish colonialism. In fact, it was a Cebuano chieftain named Lapu-Lapu who killed the Spanish explorer Magellan in 1521. Still, the Cebuano would go on to also adopt many Spanish customs, including Catholicism.

Other Ethnic Groups

Next are the Ilocano people, who make up about 9% of the total population. Ilocanos are mostly found in the northern part of the Philippines, where they've lived for centuries. They primarily speak an Austronesian language also called Ilocano, but most also speak Filipino and English, official languages of the nation.

There are still other ethnic groups as well. About 8% identify as Bisaya, 7.5% identify as Hiligayon Ilonggo, 6% identify as Bikol, and 3% identify as Waray. These groups are all ancestrally indigenous to the South Pacific and historically occupied different parts of the islands before all being united under Spanish colonialism.

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