Country Listing

Philippines Table of Contents


The Lowland Christian Population


Child playing on flooded Central Luzon road
Courtesy Patricia V. Dolan

Although lowland Christians maintained stylistic differences in dress until the twentieth century and had always taken pride in their unique culinary specialties, they continued to be a remarkably homogeneous core population of the Philippines. In 1990 lowland Christians, also known as Christian Malays, made up 91.5 percent of the population and were divided into several regional groups. Because of their regional base in Metro Manila and adjacent provinces to the north, east, and south, Tagalogs tended to be more visible than other groups. Cebuanos, whose language was the principal one in the Visayan Island area, inhabited Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Negros Oriental, Leyte, and Southern Leyte provinces, and parts of Mindanao. Ilocanos had a reputation for being ready migrants, leaving their rocky northern Luzon homeland not just for more fertile parts of the archipelago but for the United States as well. The home region of the Ilongos (speakers of Hiligaynon) included most of Panay, Negros Occidental Province, and the southern end of Mindoro. Their migration in large numbers to the Cotabato and Lanao areas of Mindanao led to intense friction between them and the local Muslim inhabitants and the outbreak of fighting between the two groups in the 1970s. The homeland of the Bicolanos, or "Bicolandia" was the southeastern portion of Luzon together with the islands of Catanduanes, Burias, and Ticao, and adjacent parts of Masbate. The Waray-Warays lived mostly in eastern Leyte and Samar in the Eastern Visayas. The Pampangan homeland was the Central Luzon Plain and especially Pampanga Province. Speakers of Pangasinan were especially numerous in the Lingayen Gulf region of Luzon, but they also had spread to the Central Luzon Plain where they were interspersed with Tagalogs, Ilocanos, and Pampangans.

As migrants to the city, these lowland Christians clustered together in neighborhoods made up primarily of people from their own regions. Multilingualism generally characterized these neighborhoods; the language of the local area was used, as a rule, for communicating with those native to the area, and English or Pilipino was used as a supplement. Migrants to cities and to agricultural frontiers were remarkably ready and willing to learn the language of their new location while retaining use of their mother tongue within the home.

Data as of June 1991