The Kalagan Culture

KalaganThe Kalagan live on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. They are located in an area between the interior uplands and the western coast of the Davao Gulf. These Kalagan are mainly of the Tagakaolo Kalagan branch. They have converted to Islam either through intermarriage or through contact with their close neighbors, the Magindanaw. The Kalagan (Tagakaolo, Dagan, Laoc, Saka, Caragan, Calagan, Kagan, Laoc, Caragan, Calagan, Mandaya, Mansaka) belong to the Mandaya/Mansaka group, and have three subgroups: (1) Tagakaolo proper, (2) Kagan, and (3) Lao. The latter is an acculturated group in the Haguimitan mountains of the San Agustin peninsula on the east side of Davao gulf, now largely occupied by the Mandaya. The core areas are in the places between the coast and the B’laan country in the province of Davao. They are in the tributaries of Malita and Lais, and Talaguton rivers in the interior. The population is estimated at 87,270 (NM 1994). Historically these were composed of small, warring groups.

The Kalagan language belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian group of languages and is part of the Davawenyo family. Basically, it is identical as Tagakaolo, with some Tausug, Maguindanaon, and Islamic terminology added to the mix. Older Kalagan speakers, for instance, continue to use their native language, especially those who do not interact with the Bisaya. In contrast, the younger generations can easily switch to Bisaya when needed. In addition, they have interjected more foreign words into their expressions due to their frequent interactions with Filipino (basically, Tagalog) and English. Nonetheless, many of the Kalagans have managed to retain their knowledge of Arabic. The native Filipino Muslim group known as Kalagan is found in the Davao region, notably Davao City, Tagum in Davao del Norte, and Sirawan and Mati in Davao Oriental. Also, there are populations dispersed in Davao del Sur. Kalagan was derived from the word kaag, which meant “whisper.”

The Kalagan are thought to be one of various groups of lowland Filipinos who came to the islands from Asia’s southwestern mainland several thousand years ago. Their lifestyle and culture are very similar to that of the Magindanaw. Their language, also called Kalagan, resembles a number of other languages in the region.

While some Kalagan receive wages for labor, others are “slash and burn” farmers. Maize is the major crop grown and is harvested two or three times a year. The coastal Kalagan are also fishermen, and some are plantation workers.

Much of subsistence is through dry cultivation of a wide range of crops that include rice and tubers. It is supplemented by food gathering. Rice is being supplanted by corn in importance as the basic staple of the people. Corn is cropped two or three times a year.

Traditional culture is similar to the neighboring Kulaman and B’laan, where specific territories are ruled over by a strong man with special status. The culture however has undergone many changes with its linkages with the national market systems.

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