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Subanon (also spelled Subanen or Subanun) is a tribe indigenous to the Zamboanga peninsula area, particularly living in the mountainous areas of Zamboanga del Sur and Misamis Occidental, Mindanao Island, Philippines. The Subanon people speak the Subanon language. The name means "a person or people of the river." These people originally lived in the lowlying areas. However due to disturbances and competitions from other settlers like the Muslims, and migrations of Cebuano speakers to the coastal areas attracted by the inviting Land Tenure Laws, further pushed the Subanen into the interior.Subanons generally refer to themselves as a whole as the gbansa Subanon, meaning “the Subanon nation”. They distinguish themselves from each other by their roots or point of origin. These are based on names of rivers, lakes, mountains, or locations.
The Subanons regularly move from one location to another to clear more forest for fields. They cultivate crops, with rice as the most important crop, but they are also known to raise livestock including pigs, chickens, cattle, and water buffaloes. Subanon houses are built along hillsides and ridges overlooking family fields. The homes are usually rectangular and raised on stilts with thatched roofs.
Ferdinand Blumentritt mentioned the "Subanos" in his accounts, referring to them as "a heathen people of Malay extraction who occupy the entire peninsula of Sibuguey (west Mindanao) with the exception of a single strip on the south coast" (Finley 1913:2). Finley, recording his impressions of the Subanen at the beginning of American occupation of southern Philippines in the 1900s, cited published records of early Spanish chroniclers, notably the writings of Father Francisco Combes in 1667, to argue that the Subanon were the indigenous of western Mindanao.
The groups that traditionally remained animist call themselves "Subanen" in the area closer to Zamboanga City. Other groups who are linguistically members of the Subanen language subgroup but adopted Islam call themselves "Kolibugan" in western areas and Kalibugan in the central area. Although claims are often made that the Kolibugan/Kalibugan are ethnically mixed with Samal, Badjao, Tausug, or Maguindanaon, there is no evidence supporting those claims, and linguistically, the languages of the Islamic members of the Subanen subgroup are virtually identical with the language of the neighboring non-Islamic group, except that the Islamic groups have a larger amount of Arabic vocabulary that refers to aspects of life that deal with religious concepts.
Outsiders often call the Subanen "Subano call to male Subanen", which is apparently a Spanish version of the native name. Likewise, many outsiders call all of the Muslim groups "Kalibugan".
The language of this group is generally referred to as Subanon. However, there are dialectal variations, depending on the locality in which the people live. The Subanon groups are dispersed over a wide area of the Zamboanga peninsula. The major localities they inhabit—many of which are valleys nestled among the rugged mountains—are Dapitan, Dipolog, Manukan, Sindangan Bay, Panganuran-Coronado, Siocon, Quipit, Malayal-Patalun, Bolong, Tupilak, Bakalay, Lei-Batu, Dumankilas Bay, Dinas, Lubukan, Labangan, and Mipangi. In certain places, the Subanon language has some Visayan and Moro words mixed in, as a result of centuries of trading activities between Cebu and the northern coast of Mindanao (Finley 1913:11). The Kalibugan or the Subanon who were converted to Islam speak a language which is a mixture of Kalibugan and Moro.
In 1912, the Subanen were officially estimated to number 47,164. By 1988, their population had grown to about 300,000. The Zamboanga peninsula, more than 200 kilometers long, shaped like a giant crooked finger that extends westward to the Sulu Sea, is joined to the Mindanao mainland by a narrow strip of land, the isthmus of Tukuran, which separates the bays of Iligan and Illana. Beyon ...