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Bicolano men with their wagons, from Albay, c. 1899.
(6.9% of the Philippine population)
|Regions with significant populations|
(Bicol Region, Quezon province, Metro Manila)
|Bikol languages, Tagalog, Masbateño, Waray, English|
|Predominantly Roman Catholicism with some Protestants, and Islam|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Bicolanos are the fifth-largest Filipino ethnolinguistic group. Their indigenous region is commonly considered to be Bicolandia, a region composing part of the Bicol Peninsula and neighbouring islands of southeast Luzon.
The Bicolano people are largely an agricultural and rural people, producing rice, coconuts, and hemp. Nearly all of them are Roman Catholics. Their language is closely related to others of the central Philippines, all of which belong to the Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) family of languages.
According to a folk epic entitled Ibalong, the people of the region were formerly called Ibalong or Ibalnong, a name believed to have been derived from Gat Ibal who ruled Sawangan (now Legazpi City) in ancient times. Ibalong used to mean the "people of Ibal"; eventually, this was shortened to Ibalon. The word Bikol, which replaced Ibalon, was originally bikod (meaning "meandering"), a word which supposedly described the principal river of that area.
Archeological diggings which date back to as early as the Neolithic and accidental findings resulting from the mining industry, road-building and railway projects in the region reveal that the Bicol mainland is a rich storehouse of ceramic artifacts. Burial cave finding also point to the prehispanic practice of using burial jars.
The Spanish influence in Bicol resulted mainly from the efforts of Augustinian and Franciscan Spanish missionaries. Through the Franciscans, the annual feast of the Virgin of Peñafrancia, the Patroness for Bicolandia, was started. Fr. Miguel Robles asked a local artist to carve a replica of the statue of the Virgin in Salamanca; now, the statue is celebrated through an annual fluvial parade in Naga City.
Bicolanos actively participated in the national resistance to the American and Japanese colonization through two known leaders who rose up in arms namely Simeón Ola and Governor Wenceslao Q. Vinzons.
Bicolanos live in the southeastern peninsula of Luzon, now containing the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Masbate (although the majority of Masbate's population are Visayans). Many Bicolanos also live in the province of Quezon.hi
The Bicolanos number about 5,900,700. They are descended from Austronesian-speaking immigrants who came from southern China during the Iron Age. Many Bicolanos also have Chinese, Arab, and Spanish admixtures. Most of the townsfolk have small traces of each heritage while their language is referred to as Bicol or Bicolano. The Bicolano language is very fragmented, and its dialects are mutually incomprehensible to speakers of other Bicolano dialects. The majority of the Bicolano people are devout Roman Catholics and Catholic Mass is celebrated daily in many churches in the Bicol Region.
The Bicolano cuisine is primarily noted for the prominent use of chili peppers and gata (coconut milk) in its food. A classic example is the gulay na lada, known outside the region as Bicol Express, a well-loved dish using siling labuyo (native small chillies) and the aforementioned gata. Meals are generally rich in carbohydrates and viands of vegetables, fish and meat are cooked in various ways. Bicolanos almost always cook their vegetables in coconut milk; for meat recipes such as pochero, adobo and tapa. A special meat dish is the dinuguan. Fish that serve as common viand are mackerel and anchovy; in Lake Buhi, the sinarapan or tabyos (known as the smallest fish in the world) is common. Except for those living in Rinconada, they are not extraordinarily fond of eating hot or peppery.
Copra processing and abacá stripping are generally done by hand. Fishing is also an important industry and fish supply is normally plentiful during the months of May through September. Organized or big-time fishing makes use of costly nets and motor-powered and electric-lighted boats or launches called palakaya or basnigan. Individual fishermen, on the other hand, commonly use two types of nets – the basnig and the pangki as well as the chinchoro, buliche, and sarap. In Lake Buhi, the sarap and sumbiling are used; the small fishes caught through the former is the sinarapan. The bunuan (corral) of the inangcla, sakag, sibi-sibid and sakag types are common. The banwit, two kinds of which are the og-og and kitang, are also used. Mining and the manufacture of various items from abaca are important industries. The former started when the Spaniards discovered the Paracale mines in Camarines Norte.
Coconut and abacá are two dollar-earning products that are grown in the coastal valleys hillsides or slopes of several fertile volcanoes respectively. The Bicol River basin or rice granary provide the peasants rice, corn, and root crops for food and small cash surplus when crops evade the dreaded frequent typhoons. For land preparation, carabao-drawn plow and harrow are generally used; sickles are used for cutting rice stalks, threshing is done either by stepping on or beating the rice straws with basbas and cleaning is done with the use of the nigo (winnowing basket).
Like their other neighboring regions, Bicolanas are also expected to lend a hand in household work. They are even anticipated to offer assistance after being married. On the other hand, Bicolano men are expected to assume the role of becoming the primary source of income and financial support of his family. Close family ties and religiosity are important traits for survival in the typhoon-prone physical environment. Some persisting traditional practices are the pamalay, pantomina and tigsikan. Beliefs on god, the soul and life after death are strongly held by the people. Related to these, there are annual rituals like the pabasa, tanggal, fiestas and flores de mayo. Side by side with these are held beliefs on spiritual beings as the tawo sa lipod, duwende, onglo, tambaluslos, kalag, katambay, aswang and mangkukulam.
On the whole, the value system of the Bicolanos shows the influence of Spanish religious doctrines and American materialism merged with the traditional animistic beliefs. It is thus, a multi-cultural system which evolved through the years to accommodate the realities of the erratic regional climatic conditions in a varihued geographical setting. Such traits can be gleaned from numerous folk tales and folk songs that abound, the most known of which is the Sarung Banggi. The heroic stories reflect such traits as kindness, a determination to conquer evil forces, resourcefulness and courage. The folk song come in the form of awit, sinamlampati, panayokyok, panambitan, hatol, pag-omaw, rawit-dawit and children’s song and chants.
To suit the tropical climate, the Bicolanos use light material for their houses; others now have bungalows to withstand the impact of strong typhoons. Light, western styled clothes are predominantly used now. The typical Bicolano wears light, western styled clothes similar to the Filipinos in urban centers. Seldom, if ever, are there Bicolanos weaving sinamy or piña for clothing as in the past; sinamy is reserved now for pillow cases, mosquito nets, fishing nets, bags and other decorative items.
The Bicolanos observe an annual festival in honor of the Virgin of Peñafrancia every third Sunday of September. The towns of Naga comes alive. During the celebration, a jostling crowd of all-male devotees carries the image of the Virgin on their shoulders to the cathedral, while shouting Viva La Virgin! For the next seven days people, mostly Bicolanos, come for an annual visit light candles and kisses the image of the Virgin. To the Bicolanos, this affair is religious and cultural, as well. Every night, shows are held at the plaza the year's biggest cockfights take place, bicycle races are held and the river, a lively boat race precedes the fluvial procession. At noon of the third Saturday of the month, the devotees carry the Image on their shoulders preceded to the packed waterfront. The image is boarded onto the barge and the procession begins. With much splashing back to the old chapel until next year's celebration.
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