Tagalog people

The Tagalog people (Tagalog: Mga Tagalog; Baybayin: ᜋᜅ ᜆᜄᜎᜓᜄ᜔) are the second largest ethnolinguistic group in the Philippines after the Visayans,[citation needed] numbering at around 30 million. An Austronesian people, the Tagalog have a well developed society due to their cultural heartland, Manila, being the capital city of the Philippines. They are native to the Metro Manila and Calabarzon regions of southern Luzon, and comprise the majority in the provinces of Bulacan, Bataan, Nueva Ecija and Aurora in Central Luzon and in the islands of Marinduque and Mindoro in Mimaropa.

Tagalog people
Lahing Tagalog
Naturales 5.png
A Maginoo (noble class) couple, both wearing blue-coloured clothing articles (blue being the distinctive colour of their class), c. 16th century.
Total population
c. 30 million (in the Philippines)[1]
Regions with significant populations
(Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Mimaropa)
Canada Canada
Palau Palau
United States United States
Guam Guam
Federated States of Micronesia Federated States of Micronesia
Northern Mariana Islands Northern Mariana Islands
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia
Hong Kong Hong Kong
Japan Japan
Tagalog/Filipino (informal & formal)
English (formal prestige)
Spanish (archaic formal prestige)
Predominantly Christianity (mostly Catholic),
minority Muslim, Buddhist, Anitism (Tagalog religion) minorities
Related ethnic groups
Other Filipino ethnic groups, other Austronesian peoples


The commonly perpetuated origin for the endonym "Tagalog" is the term tagá-ilog, which means "people from [along] the river" (the prefix tagá- meaning "coming from" or "native of"). However, this explanation is a mistranslation of the correct term tagá-álog, which means "people from the ford".[2][3][4]

Historical usageEdit

Before the colonial period, the term "Tagalog" was originally used to differentiate river dwellers (taga-ilog) from mountain dwellers (taga-bundok, less common tingues[5]) between Nagcarlan and Lamon Bay, despite speaking the same language. Further exceptions include the present-day Batangas Tagalogs, who referred to themselves as people of Kumintang - a distinction formally maintained throughout the colonial period.[6]

Allegiance to a bayan differentiated between its natives called tawo and foreigners, who either also spoke Tagalog or other languages - the latter called samot or samok. [7][8]

Beginning in the Spanish colonial period, documented foreign spellings of the term ranged from Tagalos to Tagalor.[9]


Prehistory and originsEdit

Map showing the migration of the Austronesians

Like the majority of Filipinos, the Tagalog people primarily descend from seafaring Austronesians who migrated southwards to the Philippine islands from the island of Taiwan some 4,000 years ago. Contact with the much earlier Negritos resulted in a gradually developed scenario seen throughout the Philippine archipelago of coastal, lowland, predominantly Austronesian seafaring settlements and land-based Negrito hunter-gatherers confined to forested and mountainous inlands, along with inland Austronesians oriented towards rivers. Both groups variably mixed with each other from millennia of general coexistence, yet even up to Spanish advent social distinctions between them still remained.

As Filipinos, the Tagalogs are related to the Austronesian-speaking peoples of present-day Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and the more distant Micronesians, Polynesians, and Malagasy.

Specific origin narratives of the Tagalog people contend among several theories:

  • Borneo via Panay - The controversial Maragtas dates events from around the early 13th century, which tells of a great migration of ten datus and their followers somewhere from Borneo northwards and subsequent settlements in Panay, escaping the tyranny of their Bornean overlord, Rajah Makatunaw. Sometime later, three datus Kalengsusu, Puti, and Dumaksol sailed back from Panay to Borneo, then intended to make return for Panay before blowing off course further north to the Taal river area in present-day Batangas. Datu Puti continued to Panay, while Kalengsusu and Dumaksol decided to settle there with their barangay followings, thus the story says is the origin of the Tagalogs.[10]
  • Sumatra or Java - A twin migration of Tagalog and Kapampangan peoples from either somewhere in Sumatra or Java in present-day Indonesia. Dates unknown, but this theory holds the least credibility regardless for basing these migrations from the outdated out-of-Sundaland model of the Austronesian expansion.[11]

Barangay PeriodEdit

The maritime oriented societies of pre-Hispanic Tagalogs is shared with other coastal peoples throughout the Philippine archipelago. The roughly three-tiered Tagalog social structure of maginoo (royalty), timawa/maharlika (freemen usually of lower nobility), and alipin (bondsmen, slaves, debt peons) have almost identical cognates in Visayan, Sulu, and Mindanawon societies. Most barangays were networked almost exclusively by sea traffic,[12] while smaller scale inland trade was typified as a lowlander-highlander affair. Barangays, like other Philippine settlements elsewhere, practiced seasonal sea raiding for vengeance, slaves, and valuables alongside headhunting,[13] except for the relatively larger suprabarangay bayan of the Pasig River delta that served as a hub for slave trading. Such specialization also applied to other large towns like Cebu, Butuan, Jolo, and Cotabato.[14]

c.10th -13th centuriesEdit

The earliest written record of Tagalog is a late 9th-century document known as the Laguna Copperplate Inscription which is about a remission of debt on behalf of the ruler of Tondo.[15] Inscribed on it is year 822 of the Saka Era, the month of Waisaka, and the fourth day of the waning moon, which corresponds to Monday, April 21, 900 CE in the Proleptic Gregorian calendar.[16] The writing system used is the Kawi script, while the language is a variety of Old Malay, and contains numerous loanwords from Sanskrit and a few non-Malay vocabulary elements whose origin may be Old Javanese. Some contend it is between Old Tagalog and Old Javanese.[17] The document states that it releases its bearers, the children of Namwaran, from a debt in gold amounting to 1 kati and 8 suwarnas (865 grams).[18][16] Around the creation of the copperplate, a complex society with sarcophagi burial practices developed in the Bondok peninsula in Quezon province. Also, the polities in Namayan, Manila, and Tondo, all in the Pasig river tributary, were established. Various Tagalog societies were also established in Calatagan, Tayabas, shores of Lake Laguna, Marinduque, and Malolos.

14th-16th centuriesEdit

Tagalog-Kapampangan polities in 1565

The growth of these Tagalog societies until the middle of the 16th century made it possible for other Tagalog societies to spread and develop various cultural practices such as those concerning the dambana. During the reign of Sultan Bolkiah in 1485 to 1521, the Sultanate of Brunei decided to break Tondo's monopoly in the China trade by attacking Tondo and establishing Selurung as a Bruneian satellite-state.[19][20] The largest, most powerful bayan in the 16th century were Tondo (north Pasig delta), Maynila (south Pasig delta), Namayan (Pasig upstream), Kumintang (western coast of present-day Batangas), and Pangil (east and south coasts of Laguna de Bay). The first two barangay unification were most likely triggered by conflicts between the two Tagalog sides of the river, while the Namayan unification was most likely triggered by economic means as all trade between the barangays around Laguna de Bay and barangays at Manila Bay need to pass through Namayan via the Pasig river. The unification of Kumintang barangays was probably due to economic ties as traders from East Asia flocked the area, while the unification of Pangil barangays was said to be due to a certain Gat Pangilwhil[clarification needed] unified the barangays under his lakanship. Present-day Tondo is the southern section of Manila's Tondo district, while present-day Maynila is Manila's Intramuros district. Present-day Namayan is Manila's Santa Ana district. Present-day Pangil is the eastern and southern shores of Laguna and a small portion of northern Quezon province. Present-day Kumintang is the areas of western Batangas. The Kumintang barangays are sometimes referred as the 'homeland' of the Tagalog people, however, it is contested by the Tagalogs of Manila.[21]

Tomé Pires noted that the Luções, people from Luzon, were "mostly heathen" and were not much esteemed in Malacca at the time he was there, although he also noted that they were "strong, industrious, given to useful pursuits". Pires' exploration led him to discover that in their own country, the Luções had foodstuffs, wax, honey, inferior grade gold, had no king, and were governed instead by a group of elders. They traded with tribes from Borneo and Indonesia and Filipino historians note that the language of the Luções was one of the 80 different languages spoken in Malacca.[22] When Magellan's ship arrived in the Philippines, Pigafetta noted that there were Luções there collecting sandalwood.[23] Contact with the rest of Southeast Asia led to the development of the baybayin script later used in the Doctrina Cristiana, written by the 16th century Spanish colonizers.[24]

Costume typical of a family belonging to the Principalía wearing Barong Tagalog and baro't saya.

Spanish Colonial PeriodEdit

On May 19, 1571, Miguel López de Legazpi gave the title "city" to the colony of Manila.[25] The title was certified on June 19, 1572.[25] Under Spain, Manila became the colonial entrepot in the Far East. The Philippines was a Spanish colony administered under the Viceroyalty of New Spain and the Governor-General of the Philippines who ruled from Manila was sub-ordinate to the Viceroy in Mexico City.[26] Throughout the 333 years of Spanish rule, various grammars and dictionaries were written by Spanish clergymen, including Vocabulario de la lengua tagala by Pedro de San Buenaventura (Pila, Laguna, 1613), Pablo Clain's Vocabulario de la lengua tagala (beginning of the 18th century), Vocabulario de la lengua tagala (1835), and Arte de la lengua tagala y manual tagalog para la administración de los Santos Sacramentos (1850) in addition to early studies of the language.[27] The first substantial dictionary of Tagalog language was written by the Czech Jesuit missionary Pablo Clain in the beginning of the 18th century.[28] Further compilation of his substantial work was prepared by P. Juan de Noceda and P. Pedro de Sanlucar and published as Vocabulario de la lengua tagala in Manila in 1754 and then repeatedly[29] re-edited, with the last edition being in 2013 in Manila.[30] The indigenous poet Francisco Baltazar (1788–1862) is regarded as the foremost Tagalog writer, his most notable work being the early 19th-century epic Florante at Laura.[31]

Group of Tagalog revolutionaries that participated at the pact of Biak-na-Bato.

Prior to Spanish arrival and Catholic seeding, the ancient Tagalog people used to cover the following: present-day Calabarzon region except the Polillo Islands, northern Quezon, Alabat island, the Bondoc Peninsula, and easternmost Quezon; Marinduque; Bulacan except for its eastern part; and southwest Nueva Ecija, as much of Nueva Ecija used to be a vast rainforest where numerous nomadic ethnic groups stayed and left. When the polities of Tondo and Maynila fell due to the Spanish, the Tagalog-majority areas grew through Tagalog migrations in portions of Central Luzon and north Mimaropa as a Tagalog migration policy was implemented by Spain. This was continued by the Americans when they defeated Spain in a war.[citation needed]

The first documented Asian-origin people to arrive in North America after the beginning of European colonization were a group of Filipinos known as "Luzonians" or Luzon Indians who were part of the crew and landing party of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de la Buena Esperanza. The ship set sail from Macau and landed in Morro Bay in what is now the California coast on October 17, 1587, as part of the Galleon Trade between the Spanish East Indies (the colonial name for what would become the Philippines) and New Spain (Spain's Viceroyalty in North America).[32] More Filipino sailors arrived along the California coast when both places were part of the Spanish Empire.[33] By 1763, "Manila men" or "Tagalas" had established a settlement called St. Malo on the outskirts of New Orleans, Louisiana.[34]

First official flag of the Philippine Republic and used during the Philippine Revolution which is mainly used by the Tagalog revolutionaries.
Andrés Bonifacio, one of the founders of Katipunan.

The Tagalog people played an active role during the 1896 Philippine Revolution and many of its leaders were either from Manila or surrounding provinces. The first Filipino president was Tagalog creole Emilio Aguinaldo.[35] The Katipunan once intended to name the Philippines as Katagalugan, or the Tagalog Republic,[36] and extended the meaning of these terms to all natives in the Philippine islands.[37][38] Miguel de Unamuno described Filipino propagandist José Rizal (1861–1896) as the "Tagalog Hamlet" and said of him “a soul that dreads the revolution although deep down desires it. He pivots between fear and hope, between faith and despair.”[39] In 1902, Macario Sakay formed his own Republika ng Katagalugan in the mountains of Morong (today, the province of Rizal), and held the presidency with Francisco Carreón as vice president.[40]

19th century onwardsEdit

Tagalog was declared the official language by the first constitution in the Philippines, the Constitution of Biak-na-Bato in 1897.[41] In 1935, the Philippine constitution designated English and Spanish as official languages, but mandated the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages.[42] After study and deliberation, the National Language Institute, a committee composed of seven members who represented various regions in the Philippines, chose Tagalog as the basis for the evolution and adoption of the national language of the Philippines.[43][44] President Manuel L. Quezon then, on December 30, 1937, proclaimed the selection of the Tagalog language to be used as the basis for the evolution and adoption of the national language of the Philippines.[43] In 1939, President Quezon renamed the proposed Tagalog-based national language as wikang pambansâ (national language).[44] In 1959, the language was further renamed as "Pilipino".[44] The 1973 constitution designated the Tagalog-based "Pilipino", along with English, as an official language and mandated the development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino.[45] The 1987 constitution designated Filipino as the national language mandating that as it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.[46]

Culture and SocietyEdit

The Tagalog number around 30 million, making them the largest indigenous Filipino ethno-linguistic group in the country. The second largest is the Sebwano with around 20 million.[47] Tagalog settlements are generally lowland, commonly oriented towards banks near the delta or wawà (mouth of a river).[48] With Filipino language nearly monopolizing every national mainstream media outlet and the relatively vast area occupied by Tagalogs today, most tend to identify by province or town (Batangueno, Caviteno, Bulakenyo, etc) before ethnicity.[citation needed] Likewise, most cultural aspects of the Tagalog people orient towards decentralized specializations of provinces and towns.[citation needed]

Cuisine and dining customsEdit

Sinigang, a Filipino soup or stew to have come from the Tagalogs, is commonly served across the country with other versions found in the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Sinigang is therefore a very popular dish in all of the Philippines.

Tagalog cuisine is not defined ethnically or in centralized culinary institutions, but instead by town, province, or even region with specialized dishes developed largely at homes or various kinds of restaurants. Nonetheless, there are fundamental characteristics largely shared with most of the Philippines:

Bulacan is known for chicharon (fried pork rinds), steamed rice and tuber cakes like puto, panghimagas (desserts), like suman, sapin-sapin, ube halaya, kutsinta, cassava cake, and pastillas de leche.[49] Rizal is also known for its suman and cashew products. Laguna is known for buko pie and panutsa. Batangas is home to Taal Lake, home to 75 species of freshwater fish. Among these, the maliputo and tawilis are unique local delicacies. Batangas is also known for kapeng barako, lomi, bulalo, and goto. Bistek Tagalog is a dish of strips of sirloin beef slowly cooked in soy sauce, calamansi juice, vinegar and onions. Records have also shown that kare-kare is the Tagalog dish that the Spanish first tasted when they landed in pre-colonial Tondo.[50]

Dining customs and etiquetteEdit


Tagalog clothing during the 19th century. From Aventures d'un Gentilhomme Breton aux iles Philippines by Paul de la Gironiere, published in 1855.
A working-class Tagalog man, c. 1900
A Tagalog woman in traditional dress, c. 1900


The Tagalog people are also known for their tanaga, an indigenous artistic poetic form of the Tagalog people's idioms, feelings, teachings, and ways of life. The tanaga strictly has four lines only, each having seven syllables only.

Visual artsEdit

The Tagalog people were also craftsmen. The katolanan, specifically, of each barangay is tasked as the holder of arts and culture, and usually trains craftfolks if ever no craftfolks are living in the barangay. If the barangay has a craftsfolk, the present crafts-folks would teach their crafts to gifted students. Notable crafts made by ancient Tagalogs are boats, fans, agricultural materials, livestock instruments, spears, arrows, shields, accessories, jewelries, clothing, houses, paddles, fish gears, mortar and pestles, food utensils, musical instruments, bamboo and metal wears for inscribing messages, clay wears, toys, and many others.


Paete, Baliuag furniture, Batangas furniture, precolonial boat building, joinery, and woodcarving (Paete carving, Pakil woodshaving and whittling)


Barong tagalog, Taal and Lumban embroidery, baro't saya, basketry

The majority of Tagalogs before colonization wore garments woven by the locals, much of which showed sophisticated designs and techniques. The Boxer Codex also illuminates the intricate and high standard in Tagalog clothing, especially among the gold-draped high society. High society members, which include the datu and the katolonan, also wore accessories made of prized materials. Slaves on the other hand wore simple clothing, seldom loincloths.

During later centuries, Tagalog nobles would wear the barong tagalog for men and the baro't saya for women. When the Philippines became independent, the barong Tagalog became popularised as the national costume of the country, as the wearers were the majority in the new capital, Manila.


Metalworking is one of the most prominent trades of pre-colonial Tagalog, noted for the abundance of terms recorded in Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala that is related to metalworking, signifying a sophisticated practice of this art which has died down during the colonial period.


Machuca tiles, tapayan


bahay kubo, bahay na bato, religious architecture (churches, convents, monasteries), precolonial architecture types



misc. artsEdit


Musical and performing artsEdit

Colonial (including syncretic): rondalla, pandanggo, subli, jota, kundiman

other folk genres:



The Tagalog mostly practice Christianity (majority Catholicism and minority Protestantism) with a minority practicing Islam, Buddhism, indigenous Philippine folk religions (Tagalog religion), and other religions as well as no religion.[48]

Precolonial Tagalog societies were largely animist, alongside a gradual spread of mostly syncretic forms of Islam since roughly the early 16th century.[51] Subsequent Spanish colonization in the latter part of the same century ushered a gradual spread of Roman Catholicism, resulting as the dominant religion today alongside widespread syncretic folk beliefs both mainstream and rural[52] Since the American occupation there is also a small minority of Protestant and Restorationist Christians. Even fewer today are muslim 'reverts' called balik-islam, and revivals of worship to pre-Hispanicized anito.


Most pre-Hispanic Tagalogs at the time of Spanish advent followed indigenous polytheistic and animist beliefs, syncretized primarily with some Hindu-Buddhist and Islamic expressions from a long history of trade with kingdoms and sultanates elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Anitism is the contemporary academic term for these beliefs, which had no documented explicit label among Tagalogs themselves. Many characteristics like the importance of ancestor worship, shamanism, coconuts, swine, reptilian creatures, and seafaring motifs share similarities with other indigenous animist beliefs not just elsewhere in the Philippines, but also much of maritime Southeast Asia, Taiwanese aboriginal cultures, the Pacific islands, and several Indian Ocean islands.

Bathala is the supreme creator god who sends ancestor spirits and deities called anito as delegates to intervene in earthly affairs, and sometimes as intercessors for invocations on their behalf. Katalonan and the dambana, known also as lambana in the Old Tagalog language.[54][55][56]



Roman CatholicismEdit

Roman Catholicism arrived in Tagalog areas in the Philippines during the late 16th century, starting from the Spanish conquest of the Maynila and its subsequent claim for the Crown. Augustinian friars, later followed by Franciscans, Jesuits, and Dominicans would subsequently establish churches and schools within Intramuros, serving as base for further (but gradual) proselytization to other Tagalog areas and beyond in Luzon. By the 18th century, the majority of Tagalogs are Catholics; indigenous Tagalog religion was largely purged by missionaries, or otherwise undertook Catholic idioms which comprise many syncretic folk beliefs practiced today. The Pista ng Itim na Nazareno (Feast of the Black Nazarene) of Manila is the largest Catholic procession in the nation.

Notable Roman Catholic Tagalogs are St. Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila, Venerable Alfredo Obviar, the cardinals Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales.


A minority of Tagalogs are also members of numerous Protestant and Restorationist faiths such as the Iglesia ni Cristo, the Aglipayans, and other denominations introduced during American rule.


A few Tagalogs practice Islam, mostly by former Christians either by study abroad or contact with Moro migrants from the southern Philippines.[57] By the early 16th century, some Tagalogs (especially merchants) were Muslim due to their links with Bruneian Malays.[51] The old Tagalog-speaking Kingdom of Maynila was ruled as a Muslim kingdom[58], Islam is prominent enough in coastal areas of Tagalog region that Spaniards mistakenly called them "Moros" due to abundance of indications of practicing Muslim faith and their close association with Brunei.[59]

Language and orthographyEdit

Baybayin, the traditional suyat script of the Tagalog people.
An example of a Baybayin character, Ka, was used in one of the flags of Katipunan and is currently seen in some government logos.

The language of the Tagalog people evolved from Old Tagalog to Modern Tagalog. Modern Tagalog has five distinct dialects:

  • Northern Tagalog (Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, and Bataan) has loanwords from Kapampangan and Ilocano languages.
  • Southern Tagalog (Batangas and Quezon) is unique as it necessitate the use of Tagalog without the combination of the English languages.
  • Central Tagalog (Manila, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal except Tanay) is predominantly a mixture of Tagalog and English.
  • Tanay Tagalog retains a large fraction of indigenous words not present in other dialects; it is the only highly preserved Tagalog dialect in mainland Luzon and the most endangered Tagalog dialect.
  • Marinduque Tagalog dialect is considered the 'purest' of all dialects with preserved Central Philippine languages' features shared with neighboring Visayan languages, with little influence from Spanish and English.

Baybayin is the indigenous Tagalog writing system. Few people today know how to read and write in Baybayin, yielding the script as nearly extinct. A bill in Congress was filed to make Baybayin the country's national script, yet remains pending in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Nowadays, the Baybayin is artistically expressed in calligraphy, drawing new forms and from old writings.

Colonial periodEdit

The Tagalog people were skilled Spanish speakers from the 18th to 19th centuries due to the Spanish colonial occupation era. When the Americans arrived, English became the most important language in the 20th century. At present-time, the language of the Tagalogs are Tagalog, English, and a mix of the two, known in Tagalog pop culture as Taglish. Some Spanish words are still used by the Tagalog, though sentence construction in Spanish is no longer used.

See alsoEdit


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