The Tagbanwa (Tagbanuwa, Apurahuano, Tagbanua, Kalamian, Calamiano, Kalamianon, Kalamianen, Tangdula’nen, Silanga’nen, Tagbanoua) are the more dominant of the ethnic groups of Palawan. Mainly associated with dry regimes of cultivation, they are found in central Palawan and northward of the island. The area of concentrations are in Coron (4,366 NSO 1990), Aborlan (3,115 NSO 1980), and Puerto Princesa (1,415 NSO 1980). The known subgroups in the mainland are (1) Apurahuan, (2) Inagauan, (3) Tandula’nen, and (4) Silanga’nen, while (5) the Kalamianen of the Calamian island group constitute more variable groups that are marine-oriented. The estimated total population is 13,643 (NSO 1990).
The name “Tagbanwa” literally means “people from our place”. “Banwa” means country or place. The Tagbanwas share a remarkably similar social and cultural heritage with the coastal peoples.
The group is known for their highly involved ritual, the pagdiwata, which is held in celebration of different occasions: a bountiful harvest, weddings, and others. The ritual includes the drinking of rice wine using bamboo straws from stoneware jars traded in from China. The group, too, is one of the few remaining ethnic groups that still utilize their own syllabic writing. Slash-and-burn cultivation is the primary subsistence source.
The main crop in swiddens is rice, although cassava is a preferred staple. Rice is a ritual food and considered a divine gift from which ritual wine is fermented. Corn is intercropped with rice and others like taro, cassava, and sweet potato. Fishing is an important subsistence source, together with hunting. Income is also partially obtained from forest resources like copal, rattan, and wax. Metal craft is done with the double-bellows forge. The Tagbanwa are one of the few peoples who still use the blowgun.
While kinship is reckoned bilaterally, there is a bias towards the matrilineal side in terms of residence after marriage. Relationships with affines are tenuous such that “in-law avoidance” is practiced.
Although some older men still prefer to wear G-strings for comfort, most of the Tagbanwas are dressed like the non-tribe lowlanders. Many are able to speak and understand Tagalog and other dialects spoken in Palawan. The people’s major sources of livelihood are agriculture and marine resources.
The basic social unit of the Tagbanwas is their nuclear family. The family practices monogamy. They live in compact villages of 45 to 500 individuals with houses made from bamboo, wood, and anahaw leaves to serve as roof.
Marriage is important among the Tagbanwas. An unmarried individual is considered odd among them. Polygamy, though allowed among the Tagbanwas, is rarely practiced. Divorce is generally practiced, but is discouraged by the elders if the couple has children.
The Tagbanwas are highly artistic in their sculpture. They use wood as medium for their artistry. They are also considered one of the earliest civilized groups in pre-historic Philippines. The Tagbanwas are one of the tribes in the Philippines which used ancient handwriting originating from South India. Actually, some of the older Tagbanwas still adhere to the ancient form of syllabic writing which was known then as “Surat”. Some concerned groups are trying to preserve such legacies of the Tagbanwas.