Subanen, Tuboy in Philippines

Map Source:  Bethany World Prayer Center
People Name: Subanen, Tuboy
Country: Philippines
10/40 Window: No
Population: 107,000
World Population: 107,000
Primary Language: Subanen, Northern
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 2.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.20 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Filipino, Tribal
Affinity Bloc: Malay Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Tuboy Subanon live on the island of Mindanao, the second largest island of the Philippines. They generally live in scattered farm settlements in the forested, mountainous interior of the Zamboanga Peninsula. The Tuboy Subanon are a small branch of the Subanon ethnic group and speak various Subanon dialects.

The history of the Subanon is obscure until the 1600s, when they are mentioned in the writings of Spanish Jesuit missionaries. Prior to the twentieth century, their only contact with the outside world was with Muslim merchants who lived along the coast of the peninsula. The Muslims exploited them economically, setting the pattern for Subanon relations to this day.

Since World War II, Christian and Muslim ethnic groups of the Philippines have often clashed. The Subanon, who are polytheists (believe in many gods), have been caught in the crossfire, victimized by one side, then the other.

What Are Their Lives Like?

All of the Tuboy Subanon are farmers who practice slash and burn agriculture. This is a type of farming in which a section of forest is cut down, the debris is burned, and various crops are planted on the clearing. Every year a new field is cleared. After one or two years of use, the field must lie fallow for up to 15 years. The Subanon also raise various types of livestock, including pigs, chickens, cattle, and water buffaloes.

Rice is by far the most important crop, although various other grains are raised. If there is any extra rice, it is sold at a lowland market for cash, which is needed to purchase clothing, utensils, and tools.

Subanon houses usually have some distance between them. Their homes are typically rectangular, raised on stilts, and have thatched roofs. They are generally situated on hillsides or ridges that overlook the family fields. Every three or four years the Subanon move to a new location to clear more forest for fields.

Unlike most of the world's peoples, the Tuboy Subanon have virtually no division of labor based on sex. Men and women work in the fields together, and men cook and care for the children when necessary. They have little social stratification. Everyone is on an equal level in Subanon society because everyone has the same occupation and has almost the same economic level and lifestyle.

The Subanon permit polygamy (multiple wives), but nearly all marriages involve only one man and one woman. Families usually arrange marriages, and the groom's family is expected to pay a bride price. Occasionally, the groom will work for the bride's family for a few years rather than paying a full bride price.

What Are Their Beliefs?

In sharp contrast to the surrounding peoples who have adopted Christianity or Islam, the Tuboy Subanon cling to their ancient polytheistic religion. They believe that man shares the universe with a variety of gods, spirits, demons, and ghosts. These supernatural forces are said to have the ability to harm humans. However, humans supposedly have the power to harm them as well. At various times of the year, the Subanon give offerings of rice, meat, and wine to the gods and ancestral spirits. Witch doctors, or shamans, play a large role in Subanon religion. The people depend on the shamans to hear and understand the wishes of the gods and ancestral spirits.

What Are Their Needs?

The Tuboy Subanon have long been exploited and victimized by their neighbors, binding them to a history of servitude and poverty. Their physical needs are great, but their spiritual needs are even greater. Most have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel message.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the Philippines.
Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Tuboy Subanon.
Pray that God will give the Tuboy Subanon believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of the Philippines through worship and intercession.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Tuboy Subanon church for the glory of His name!

Text Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center