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Bicolano people
Mga Bikolnon
Bicolano men preparing hemp by drawing out its fibers, c. 1900
Total population
7,079,814 (2020 census)[1]
(6.5% of the Philippine population)
Regions with significant populations
(Bicol Region, Quezon Province, Northern Samar, Metro Manila, Davao Region, Caraga Region, Soccsksargen, Misamis Oriental)

Bikol languages, Filipino, English
Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholicism, with minority Protestantism)
Islam, Animism, indigenous folk religion
Related ethnic groups
Tagalogs, Visayans (Masbateños and Warays), other Filipinos

The Bicolano people (Bikol: Mga Bikolnon) are the fourth-largest Filipino ethnolinguistic group.[2] Their native region is commonly referred to as Bicolandia, which comprises the entirety of the Bicol Peninsula and neighboring minor islands, all in the southeast portion of Luzon. Males from the region are often referred to as Bicolano, while Bicolana may be used to refer to females.

Bicolano people are largely an agricultural and rural people, producing rice, coconuts, hemp, and spices. A great majority of Bicolanos are Roman Catholics, with many towns celebrating festivals in honor of patron saints, and Catholic Mass being celebrated daily in many of the Bicol region's churches. There also exists minority Protestant and Muslim populations among Bicolano people.[3] An undercurrent of animism persists as well; for instance, it is common for Bicolano people to believe that whenever a supernatural entity stalks a house, they will leave centavo coins as compensation.

Bicolano people speak about a dozen closely related dialects of Bikol, largely differentiated according to cities, and closely related to other central Philippines languages, all of which belong to the Austronesian (specifically Malayo-Polynesian) superfamily of languages.[4]


Bicolano men with their wagons, from Albay, c. 1899.

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 the city of Legazpi) 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.

Archaeological diggings, dating 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 findings also point to the pre-Hispanic 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. The Catholic priest 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.

The flag of the members of Katipunan in Bicol.

Bicolanos actively participated in the national resistance to the Spanish, American and Japanese occupations, led by two well-known militants, Simeón Ola and Governor Wenceslao Vinzons.[5] Historically, the Bicolano people have been among the most resistant to foreign occupation, and the region was very hard for the central government to control until the end of World War II.[5]


Bicolanos live in the Bicol Region, which occupies the southeastern part of Luzon, now containing the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes and Sorsogon and Masbate (although the majority of Masbate's population are a subgroup of Visayans). Many Bicolanos also live in the southeastern towns of the Calabarzon province of Quezon. Bicolanos also live outside Luzon, particularly in Northern Samar in Visayas (due to its proximity to Bicolandia) and Davao Region, Misamis Oriental, Caraga and Soccsksargen in Mindanao.


Bicolanos numbered 6,082,165 in 2020.[6] They are descended from Austronesian peoples who came from Taiwan during the Iron Age. Many Bicolanos also have some Han Chinese, Arab, and Spanish admixtures; most of the townsfolk have small traces of each heritage. Bicolanos have a high percentage of Spanish introgression; a government-sponsored study showing that 20 percent of the population have Hispanic ancestry. Bicolanos are also the ethnic group with the second largest amount of Spaniards/Hispanics as a percentage of the population, after Chavacanos.[7]

Like any other ethnic groups from Luzon, Bicolanos are also widely dispersed outside their regional homeland. As of 2000, they make up the largest non-Tagalog group in the following cities of Metro Manila: Caloocan City, 59,276 or 5.05% of the city’s population; Pasig City, 24,678 or 4.9%; and Valenzuela City, 21,896 or 4.55%. In Quezon City, they rank second in population size after the Visayans, numbering 108,293 or 5%. In Manila they number 39,295 or 2.5%, ranking third, after the Ilocano and Cebuano. They are the largest non-Tagalog group in the following provinces of Luzon: Rizal, 73,253 or 4.30%; Laguna 57,282 or 3%; and Batangas 11,661 or 0.42%. They rank second after the Visayans in the following provinces: Cavite, 52,031 or 2.54%, Bulacan 43,605 or 1.95%, and Quezon, 36,339 or 2.45%. They are found as well in the following provinces: Aurora, 7,079; Pampanga 6,685; Oriental Mindoro, 2,930; 247 in Marinduque; and in Cebu 1,534, which is 0.06% of the population. In just this random survey, the Bikol people make up a total of 545,544 or more than half a million, residing outside their region of origin. On the other hand, other ethnolinguistic groups in the Bicol region, besides the Tagalog, are the Visayans, particularly the Cebuano and Ilonggo; and the Kankanaey from northern Luzon.[8] Bicolanos are also found as a minority in Mindanao, especially in the Davao Region.[9]

Culture and traits


Ginataang sigarilyas, a notable Bicolano dish of winged bean (sigarilyas) cooked in coconut milk (gata) with pork and anchovies.

Bicolanos supposedly have a high tolerance for eating chili food or foods which are highly spiced. The Bicolano cuisine is primarily noted for the prominent use of chili peppers and gata (coconut milk) in its food. A classic example is gulay na lada, known outside the region as Bicol Express, a well-loved dish using siling labuyo (native small chilies) and coconut milk. Meals are generally rich in carbohydrates, and vegetables are almost always cooked in coconut milk; meat recipes include pochero, adobo, tapa and dinuguan. Commonly eaten fish are mackerel and anchovy; in Lake Buhi, the sinarapan or tabyos (known as the smallest fish in the world) is common.


Copra processing and abacá stripping are generally done by hand. Fishing is also an important industry, and the supply of fish is normally abundant from May through September. Organized commercial 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, sibid-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 grown in the coastal valleys, hillsides or slopes of several fertile volcanoes. The Bicol River basin or rice granary provide the peasants rice, corn, and root crops for food and a small cash surplus when crops evade the dreaded but frequent typhoons. For land preparation, carabao-drawn plough 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).

Cultural values

As in other neighboring regions, men still expect the Bicolana women, both before and after marriage, to do the majority of household work, while Bicolano men are still expected to be the primary source of income and financial support of their 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, and the people hold strong beliefs on God, the soul and life after death. 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 tawong 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 traditional animistic beliefs. Consequently, it is a multicultural system that evolved through the years to accommodate the realities of the erratic climate in a varied 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. Folk songs 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, 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 those of other Filipinos in urban centers. Seldom, if ever, do Bicolanos weave sinamay or piña for clothing as in the past; sinamay is reserved now for pillow cases, mosquito nets, fishing nets, bags and other decorative items.[5]

Bicolanos celebrating the Magayon Festival. The festival is held in Albay, where the Mayon Volcano is located, every May.

Bicolanos observe an annual festival in honor of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia on the third Sunday of September. The City 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 Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, while shouting Viva La Virgen! For the next nine days people, mostly Bicolanos, come for an annual visit, light candles and kiss the cult 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 in procession to the packed waterfront. On the ninth day of the festivities, The Virgin of Peñafrancia is brought to her home, to the Minor Basilica of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia via a grand fluvial procession in the Naga River. This celebration of the Bicolanos is considered one of the largest Marian celebrations in Asia.[10]

Pre-colonial indigenous religion


Hannah Arnold (beauty queen), pride of Bicolanos


See also


  1. ^ "Ethnicity in the Philippines (2020 Census of Population and Housing)". Philippine Statistics Authority. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  2. ^ "Philippines - the World Factbook". Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  3. ^ 2015 Census of Population Highlights Demographic Characteristics, 15 August 2015, Philippine Statistics Authority. Accessed 27 December 2021.
  4. ^ "Bicol - people". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "The Bicolanos - National Commission for Culture and the Arts". Archived from the original on 30 July 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  6. ^ 2020 Census of Population and Housing, August 4, 2021, Philippine Statistics Authority: Region 5, Bikol Region. Accessed 27 December 2021.
  7. ^ Maximilian Larena (2021-01-21). "Supplementary Information for Multiple migrations to the Philippines during the last 50,000 years (Appendix, Page 35)" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. p. 35. Retrieved 2021-03-23.
  8. ^ "The Bicolano People or the Bikolanos (Bikol: Mga Bikolnon) History, Culture and Traditions [Bicol Region Philippines]". Retrieved 2023-09-14.
  9. ^ "Davao Region (Philippine Literature)". Retrieved 2023-09-15.
  10. ^ Herrington, Don. "Bicolanos Culture, Customs And Traditions - Culture And Tradition". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d Vibal, H. (1923). Asuang Steals Fire from Gugurang. Ethnography of The Bikol People, ii.
  12. ^ a b Tiongson, N. G., Barrios, J. (1994). CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art: Peoples of the Philippines. Cultural Center of the Philippines.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Beyer, H. O. (1923). Ethnography of the Bikol People. vii.
  14. ^ a b Arcilla, A. M. (1923). The Origin of Earth and of Man. Ethnography of the Bikol People, vii.
  15. ^ a b Buenabora, N. P. (1975). Pag-aaral at Pagsalin sa Pilipino ng mga Kaalamang-Bayan ng Bikol at ang Kahalagahan ng mga Ito sa Pagtuturo ng Pilipino sa Bagong Lipunan. National Teacher's College.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Realubit, M. L. F. (1983). Bikols of the Philippines. A.M.S. Press.
  17. ^ a b c d e Castaño, F. J. (1895). un pequeño fragmento inedito en verso.
  18. ^ Lacson, T.; Gamos, A. (1992). Ibalon: Tatlong Bayani ng Epikong Bicol. Philippines: Children's Communication Center: Aklat Adarna.
  19. ^ a b c d e Aguilar, [edited by] Celedonio G. (1994). Readings in Philippine literature. Manila: Rex Book Store.