TYPICAL BILA’AN HOUSE STRUCTURE


Provenance: Mindanao, Southern Philippines The word “Bilaan” could have been derived from “bila”, meaning “house”, and the suffix “an”, meaning “people”, so that the term may be taken to mean “people living in houses.” Other terms that have been used to refer to this group are Blaan, Bira-an, Baraan, Vilanes, Bilanes. Names such as Tagalagad, Tagakogon, and Buluan have also been used; however, these denote the kind of site where some Bilaan groups were located. The Bilaan inhabit the southern part of South Cotabato and southeastern part of Davao del Sur, as well as the areas around Buluan Lake in North Cotabato. Some Bilaan lived on Sarangani Island, off the coast of Davao del Sur, although they are referred to as Sarangani Manobo. Other Bilaan groups on this island have been referred to as Balud or Tumanao. The Bilaan share similarities in culture and physical features with the neighboring Tagacaolo and the Tagbanwa. As of 1988, the Bilaan number some 250,000. History: In the 19th century the Bilaan inhabited the hill region behind the west coast of Davao gulf. Their territory extended all the way into Bagobo country to the north and then westward into the Davao-Cotabato watershed. Culturally, the Bilaan are related to the Bagobo and the Mandaya as evidence by pronounced similarities in architecture, clothing ornamentation, and socioreligious practices. By 1910 the estimated Bilaan population was about 10,000, of whom some 1,500 lived in Sarangani. Because of the mountainous terrain and environment, there was practically no local group organization; houses were separated by long stretches. Whenever there was a neighborhood, the number of houses was small. Over the years, settlers from the Visayan Islands came to Mindanao and occupied the coastal plains and foothills on the western coast of the Davao Gulf, which was traditionally part of the Bilaan Country. Gradually, the Bilaan were pushed deeper back into the interior, without much resistance on their part. In the distant past, the Bilaan were actively engaged in warfare. Along with the Manobo, Mandaya, Bagobo, and Tagacaolo, they had one time or another reduced their neighbors in southwestern Mindanao to the status of tribute-paying “colonies” (Casal 1986:55).