Get To Know the Different Filipino Ethnic Groups

There are more than 160 different Filipino ethnic groups and tribes. Have you ever wondered how this can be for such a small country?

It is definitely attributed to the fact that that there are 7,107 islands that comprise the Philippine Islands. The people on each big island or group of islands speak their own dialect, follows a culture that is distinct only among them and they even have a delicacy that they truly call as their own.

Filipino ethnic groups are classified according to the group of islands where they belong and some depending on the language spoken.


As of 2010 there are 98 million people in the Philippines. Visayans are the largest Filipino ethnic group making up the majority - about 33 million people. Visayans originally come from the Visayas, the middle section of the Philippines. The language of Visayans is Bisaya, however, there are many languages considered Visayan including Aklanon, Cebuano, Ilonggo and Waray-Waray.

In 1521 Ferdinand Magellan landed on Cebu in the Visayas. This eventually led to the Philippines becoming a colony of Spain. Most Visayans are Christian as this is where the Spanish established their first churches.

Three Philippine presidents including Manuel Roxas are Visayan. One of the most famous –or infamous Visayans- is Imelda Marcos. Visayans are well known for the festivals like the Ati-Atihan, Sinulog and Masskara.


There are approximately 25 million Tagalog people in the Philippines. Tagalogs originally settled in Manila which then became the capital of the Philippines. Tagalogs speak Tagalog which was the basis for Wikang Filipino or the Filipino Language.

The majority of Tagalogs are Christian. Many Filipino National heroes were of Tagalog descent including Jose Rizal, Emilio Aguinaldo and Andres Bonifacio.


Ilocanos originally come from the coasts of northern Luzon and were known to be fisherman and farmers. There are approximately 9 million Ilocanos in the Philippines. Their language is also called Ilocano and they are known for their hard work and frugality. Ilocanos typically practice Christianity.

The most famous of all Ilocanos is President Ferdinand Marcos. Other famous Ilocanos include President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President Fidel Ramos and writer Carlos Bulosan.


There are about 6 million Bicolanos in the Philippines and they originate from the southeastern part of Luzon. Their language is called Bikol.

History shows trade occurring two thousand years ago between the Bicol region, China and Indonesia. Although Bicolanos are largely Christian, they are also the most secular compared to the rest of the country.

Mount Mayon, or Mayon Volcano, is located in the Bicol region. Mount Mayon is most known for its perfect cone. It is an active volcano and last erupted in 2008.

One of the most recognizable things from Bicol is a popular dish called Bicol Express. It is a delicious stew made with coconut milk, sliced pork, garlic, onion, bagoong, and chile peppers. It is very spicy which is quite unusual for Filipino food.


There are about 3 million people that consider themselved from the Filipino ethnic group called Kapampangan. They originate from Luzon, similar to Tagalogs and Ilocanos, but more so from the center of the island grouping.

History shows that Kapampangans first defended Luzon from the invasion of the Spaniards then later many courageous soldiers fought in the revolution against Spain.

Kapampangans are typically Christian. In fact, the Holy Week festival called Maleldo is quite notorious. On Good Friday the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is reenacted. Some individuals volunteer to literally be nailed to crosses to repent for their sins and to remember the suffering of Jesus Christ.

Famous Kapampangans include current President of the Philippines, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and his parents, national hero Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino.

Indigenous Peoples

There are various indigenous Filipino ethnic groups and tribes in the Philippines. It is estimated that all the groups comprise approximately 10 -15% of the population in the Philippines.

These Filipino tribes have retained more of their economic, political, cultural and religious practices than the above mentioned ethnic groups despite the long history of colonization in the Philippines.


People from the Cordillera Mountains in Luzon are broadly known as Igorot. They include more specific groups such as the Tingguian, Ifugao, Kalinga and Itawit.

The Negrito also come from Luzon. They include the Agta, Aete and Dumagat among many other groups.


The indigenous groups in the Visayas –mostly in Mindoro – are called Mangyan. Again, there are many ethnic groups such as the Tadyawan, Tagbanwa, Palawano, Molbog and Kagayanan.


There is some differentiation of the indigenous people in Mindanao. The Moro and the Lumad. The Moro practice Islam and the Lumad do not. Moro is Spanish for the word Moor. Lumad means indigenous or native.

The Moro include the Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug and Samal. The Lumad include the Manobo, Bagobo, Tiruray, Tiboli and Mandaya. I've only mentioned a handful of the larger Filipino ethnic groups and Tribes in the Philippines. There are so many groups and tribes with different languages, religions and islands they do still maintain a single national identity - Filipino.

It really is the same around the world. In the United States I may be a midwesterner or a Chicagoan. An Illinoisan or a northsider. Despite all these smaller divisions and groupings I'm still considered American!

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