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ETHNONYM: Pilipino (also Wikang Pambansa"national language")


Identification. The Tagalog language is the basis of Pilipino, the national language of the Republic of the Philippines since 1937, and has been taught from the first grade throughout the archipelago since the early 1950s. Thus most Filipinos (60-70 million) under the age of 50 speak, read, and write Tagalog as at least a second language, while some 10 to 15 percent (perhaps 10 million) have learned it as their first language. This article deals only with the latter group. The usual derivation of the name "Tagalog" is from taga ilog, meaning "inhabitants of the river."

Location. The Tagalog-speaking area is oriented toward Manila Bay and is concentrated mostly within SO to 320 kilometers of the megalopolis of Manila on the island of Luzon. It lies within the Tropic of Cancer from 10° to l6°N and from 119° to 123° E. It consists of the provinces of Bataan, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, parts of Nueva Ecija and Camarines Norte, Marinduque, Polillio, parts of Mindoro and Palawan, and many smaller islands. The topography includes mountains up to 2,000 meters and uplands with tropical rain forest cover as well as a wide range of lowland coastal and inland environments. Monsoon seasons vary from location to location, and there are dramatic differences in annual rainfall (152 to 457 centimeters) and length of wet and dry periods. Typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, and malarial vectors form ever-present threats for the people of the area.

Demography. As of 1991 the population in this "heartland" of the Tagalog area (Katagalugan) was over 10.9 million in approximately 23,920 square kilometers (325 persons per square kilometer). Probably another 100,000 people whose first language is Tagalog live elsewhere in the Philippines and abroad.

Linguistic Affiliation. Tagalog belongs to the Malayan Branch of the Austronesian Phylum. The dialect of Tagalog spoken in Manila is often called "Taglish" because of the high percentage of American English words.

History and Cultural Relations

Tagalog civilization has been a distinctive configuration for at least one thousand years, subject to the various cultural influences operative in mainland and insular Southeast Asia since the Neolithic period. Long before the Spanish began colonization in the last half of the sixteenth century, Tagalog society on Luzon was organized in loose "confederations" of local groupings sometimes called "kingdoms." In general, Tagalogs had a system of writing (a syllabary derived from Sanskrit), an advanced technology including metallurgy, a complicated social system with hierarchical classes (including a category of individuals termed "slaves" by early Spanish sources), and religious patterns that varied regionally. The Indonesian empires of Sri Vijaya and Majapahit left their imprint on language, religion, and technologythrough both trade and settlement. The Chinese for centuries used ports along the western coast of Luzon as stopping points in their trade with the Spice Islands to the south and local trading centers. Islamic sultanates had been established around Manila Bay not long before the Spanish began almost 350 years of occupation in the middle of the sixteenth century. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Manila was one of the major seaports of the world as the transshipment point in the famous Manila galleon trade that exchanged silver from Mexico for silks and other luxury wares of China. By the middle of the nineteenth century, strong resistance to Spanish rule had developed in the Philippines, especially in the Tagalog area, which produced the national heroes José Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Emiliano Aguinaldo. Before Americans came to the Philippines during the Spanish-American War in 1898 there was a full-scale insurrection in process, which continued against the American occupation until 1902. The first Republic of the Philippines was established during this time at the Barasoin Church in Malolos, Bulacan, 48 kilometers northwest of Manila, in the midst of what is considered the land of the deepest (malalim ) and purest dialect of Tagalog. American colonial control officially lasted almost fifty years. During World War II, the battles of Bataan and Corregidor, as well as the Death March, occurred in the Tagalog area. Independence was granted in 1946 after a three-year occupation by the Japanese. Until 1952 the insurgent Hukbalahap army waged some of its most intensive battles against the new Republic of the Philippines in the Tagalog provinces. Recently the American presence and influence have lessened, with Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and European countries becoming important economically and technologically. In the early Spanish period most of the people of the Philippines were called "Moros" and later "Indios." The term "Filipino" then referred to persons of Spanish descent born there.


In lowlands where irrigated rice was the basis of subsistence, settlements were distributed along waterways before the introduction of highways and railroads during the Spanish period. As this network of roads and railroads expanded, housing was extended along them even in upland areas where houses were usually dispersed in clusters oriented to landholdings and water supply. In both areas larger settlements served as markets and religious centers. Coastal settlements were clusters near sources of fresh water. Nonunilineal kinship ties were, and still are, foci for neighborhood and community. With the introduction of Roman Catholicism under the Spanish, the settlements became centralized around a church, chapel, or shrine (possibly continuing pre-Spanish patterns). By the beginning of the nineteenth century the larger settlements had complex central plazas with concentrations of population. Manila and several of the provincial capitals developed into urban centers. The houses have been of two major types: movable and nonmovable. Movable houses were built on stilts of bamboo and wood with thatch or metal roofs. Until recently, masonry houses were built mostly in the towns and cities. Manila and the other urban centers of the Tagalog area are rapidly becoming truly metropolitan districts. Manila, though an integral part of Tagalog society, is also a nexus for integration of almost all segments of the nation.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. There have been extensive changes in rural areas since independence, brought on by improved communication, roads, and expansion of electrical power resources. There are several distinct types of land use. North of Manila, the Tagalog provinces form the southern edge of the "rice bowl" of the Philippines. South and west of Manila the provinces of Cavite and Batangas form a predominantly upland dry-farming and fruit-producing region. The latter is noted for its peddlers, who have traditionally roved the length and breadth of Luzon. To the south and east is a mixed region of sugarcane, coconuts, and terraced rice. In many areas mechanization is replacing water buffalo, horses, and oxen. Fishing, both deep-water and riverine, is important wherever possible. There is an almost unending inventory of local enterprises, including production of salt, vinegar, hard-boiled and fertilized duck eggs (balut, a national delicacy), alcoholic beverages, clothing and mosquito netting, implements, and containers. Commercial activities on a large scale take place mostly in Manila, but there are regional centers for the commercial processing of copra, sugarcane, and other products. Rice is a basic commodity around which life is oriented. Many Tagalog families living in Manila or other nonagricultural areas usually have ties to one or more rural communities within commuting distance and receive a share of crops raised by their relatives or tenants.

Industrial Arts. For centuries even remote communities have been part of networks of trade because people depended on the markets for things they could not make for themselves. There have been, however, certain regional specialties, for example the famous balisong, a collapsible pocket knife made in the province of Batangas, and the wood carving of the towns of Laguna Province, just south of Manila.

Trade. The ancient, highly developed, and fascinating market system connects local networks to Manila and its international port. A crucial commercial relationship is the institution of the suki, a self-reciprocal term referring to the tie between a seller and a regular customer. Overseas Chinese have been important in trade and financial institutions over the centuries.

Division of Labor. Division of labor (hanapbuhay, occupation) by gender is highly variable. Both men and women hold professional positions in medicine, law, education, and politics. Traditionally, men in lowland rice areas were responsible for the care of irrigation systems, preparation of fields, and heavier work (although women could participate). Teenaged women under the supervision of an older woman planted, and everyone harvested. In some upland areas, however, planting and harvesting were not divided so specifically. New methods of rice production are bringing about changes in all of this. Sugarcane production is usually a commercial enterprise requiring seasonally determined wage labor. Copra production, intensive fishing, and fish-pond management are predominantly male occupations. In general, division of labor within the family is highly contingent; either gender can be called upon for both household duties and economic activities. Women often control family finances and enterprises.

Land Tenure. Patterns of ownership and rights to the use of land are also variable. In pre-Spanish times usufruct operated in both lowland and upland areas because both paddies and swiddens were prepared on new land. During the Spanish period, with its imposed regulations and land grants, large areas of land came under the ownership of a relatively few Tagalog and non-Tagalog families and the various religious orders. Thus most Tagalogs came to live on land that belonged to someone else and worked the land either as tenants or as paid laborers. Frequently, the tenancy rights were inherited according to local custom within interrelated extended families. Cadastral surveys over the years have established legal boundaries, often with permanent markers. Since the early twentieth century, legislation has slowly caused division of some large holdings. Further, in some regions tenants have been able to buy the land, often renting it as a tenancy to others.


Kin Groups and Descent. The basic unit is the sibling group, kamagkapatid (kapatid = sibling). Usually there are terms for firstborn and lastborn: panganay and bunso. In some communities and families, terms borrowed from Chinese are used for numerical order of birth. Each marriage produces a nuclear family, kamaganakan (anak = child), which is part of a bilaterally extended family with genealogical ties traced from specific ancestors (or sibling groups). Extended families are further affiliated in complex webs of obligation and rights (reckoned polylineally) through ties of marriage into a grouping sometimes called the angkan or pamilia and identified by patrilineal inheritance of surnames, which can be retained by women after marriage. The angkan may be a fairly definite unit, but more often it is similar to the U.S. pattern called the "family of the Smiths, Jones, etc." Kinship is extended as far as can be determined, so that strangers often begin interaction by comparing names of relatives to see if there are any ties. Affinity and ritual kinship are strongly embedded in the formation and recognition of wider relationships between individuals and families. Relationships, though dependent on genealogical and ritual ties, are continually instigated, maintained, and strengthened by proper behavior on the part of individuals showing acceptance of obligation and responsibility. This reciprocity is most often expressed by the term utang na looby or debt (utang ) of volition-free will (na loob ). Some analysts have emphasized the other meaning of looby "inside" (as opposed to labas, "outside"), which signifies a recognition that two individuals fall within the same network of inherited obligation. Utang na loob is initially produced by an unsolicited "gift," which creates or increases obligation within the receiver. The greatest obligation is to God and parents, who give life to the individual. Kinship relations are extended to nonrelatives or intensified between relatives through ritual sponsorship of individuals at baptism (binyag ), confirmation (kumpil ), and marriage (kasal ).

Kinship Terminology. Referential and vocative terminologies including alternatives are mixtures of Tagalog, Spanish, and Chinese and vary from area to area. Referential terminology is very close to "Yankee" or Eskimo, while vocatively it can be more Hawaiian. There is no unilateral emphasis. Great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents' siblings are differentiated by gender. Cousins are not distinguished vocatively from siblings, and parents' siblings can be equated with parents. However, cousins are differentiated referentially from siblings to the third degree by numerically distinctive terms; beyond that, they are considered malayo (distant). There is a basic term for sibling (kapatid) and another for cousin (pinsan ), either of which can be modified by adding a term indicating gender. Own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are differentiated from the descendants of siblings and cousins by separate basic terms with gender and generation modifiers. The prefix mag- attached to a term indicates a dyadic relationship: magama, father and child; magina, mother and child; magkapatid, two siblings; etc. Some affinal terms are not gender-specific: asawa (spouse); biyenan (parent-in-law); manugang (child-in-law). Some affinal terms are gender-specific: spouse's own siblings are hipag (female) and bayaw (male) ; but their spouse's siblings of either gender are bilas. Ritual terms are: kumari/kumpari (cogodmother/godfather) used between sponsors and parents of sponsored individuals; inaanak (godchild); and the usual kinship terms are extended to all sides of the ritual connection. Vocative terminology is primarily age- or status-based. Most frequently the personal name of the younger or junior person is used while the older or senior is addressed by a derivation of the referential term: ina is derived from nanay (mother) ; ka is from kapatid; etc. Relative status as to age or prestige of relatives and nonrelatives is often indicated by the use of po, ho, or oh in a descending order during conversation.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage (kasal) generally follows the proscriptions of the Roman Catholic church, but cousin marriages of all degrees occur. The degree permitted or encouraged varies from area to area and from family to family; however, there is frequently pressure to marry within the third degree and if possible within the local group. Divorce (diborsiyo ) has not been legal for centuries, but separation (hiwalay ) occurs.

Domestic Unit. In rural areas, where dwelling space is less limited, the preferred pattern is for each nuclear family to have a separate dwelling as soon as possible. Normally one child and spouse remain in the parental home, but as population pressure increases multiple households are increasingly becoming the rule. Parents share household chores and care of children. As children are able, they take over many household duties including care of their younger siblings and cooking. Frequently, the wife begins to engage in more intense economic activities. There are usually three or more generations present in the household, but in most cases only one or two nuclear families with young children.

Inheritance. The root term for inheritance is mana. Personal property is inherited equally by siblings. Houses usually become the property of the child who has remained to care for the parents. Rights to tenancies or ownership of land can either descend in a strictly bilateral fashion leading to segmentation of holdings of sibling groups over the generations, or be maintained by naming one sibling steward, with all having a share in the land's output dependent upon input.

Socialization. Young children are cared for by members of the household, extended family, and neighbors in general (mga kapitbahay or paligid ). Probably one of the more crucial experiences a Tagalog undergoes comes upon assuming responsibility for a younger sibling, cousin, or other relative. The residential and extended family group is the nurturing environment, and provides opportunities for the building of much utang na loob.

Sociopolitical Organization

The head of state in the Republic of the Philippines is a president (pangulo ). There are two legislative houses (one elected by district and the other at large) and a series of appointed courts and judges with a supreme court at the summit.

Social Organization. Tagalog society seems to have a strongly kinship-based set of parameters, although nonkin are generally incorporated in networks of reciprocal obligation and interaction. There are horizontal class distinctions based on wealth and closeness to economic resources and political power, which are crosscut vertically by genealogical and ritual ties of kinship so that the lower and upper classes are linked at various levels into a series of pyramidal (but illdefined) networks. Their boundaries and internal relationships are constantly being rearranged.

Political Organization. The Tagalog-speaking area (Katagalugan), as part of the Philippines (Bayan ng Pilipinas), is divided into provinces (singular, lalawigan ), each with an elected governor and legislative body. Provinces are divided into municipalities (singular, bayan or munisipyo ). One of the municipalities is designated provincial capital. Each municipality has an elected mayor and council. There is usually a central area (also called the bayan or munisipyo) where municipal business is carried on, with an administration building, frequently a market, and religious center. The municipality is divided into segments called baryo, nayon, or baranggay. These basic units have had an elected head since the middle 1950s called tiniente del baryo, who was promoted to kapitan del baryo a few years later. There is also an elected baryo council representing subdivisions called sitio or pook. At each level police, education, public works, etc. are managed by presidential appointees.

Social Control. Aside from the legal system and police functions, most Tagalog communities outside the urban centers operate according to local custom similar to the adat found elsewhere in insular Southeast Asia. Local officials exert power insofar as they are personally respected and have influence with people involved in disputes. Ostracism and ridicule are often used as means for social control.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Tagalogs are predominantly Roman Catholic, but there are several other formal religious groups with significant membership. Most Protestant sects are represented in the area to a minor degree. However, both the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), a Protestant group established locally in the Philippines, and the Aglipayan Church, a group founded by a priest (Gregorio Aglipay) who broke away from Catholicism, have significant memberships. There are also many local sects and cults.

There are generally two levels to religious belief. One is the expressed set of tenets of Roman Catholicism or other formal religion. The other is interpretation and modification of these as individual and local belief systems. Education and exposure to general scientific knowledge long ago penetrated to most parts of the Tagalog area, but mysticism is still strong and individuals seek personal experience with the unknown and unseen through acts of penitence and contrition. The continuing vagaries of life in an environment prone to catastrophic storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and social upheaval reinforce the traditional fatalism expressed in the phrase bahala na, or "it's all up to God."

Religious Practitioners. The religious hierarchies are centered mostly in Manila and are staffed predominantly by Tagalog priests and ministers. Most municipalities have resident Roman Catholic clergy in a church (simbahan ) who service chapels (bisitas or ermitas ) in outlying barrios. There are still individuals who have special powers for curing and making contact with spirits of the deceased. The terminology for these and their specialties is highly variable from region to region. Most communities have annual fiestas celebrating a patron saint, the Virgin Mary, or a local manifestation of Christ. These are usually sponsored and managed by a highly organized group of volunteers who are in charge of one year's activities.

Ceremonies. The annual cycle universally includes Christmas and Easter and their phases. Among others, the day of Saint John the Baptist is widely celebrated, especially in relation to waterways. Good Friday each year produces activity from penitents of various sorts, including whipping and actual crucifixion at spots considered especially sanctified. Baptism, confirmation, marriage, and funerals are regular parts of all lives.

Arts. Tagalogs have long been noted for excellence in all the arts. Since the introduction of printing in 1593 at Binondo, Manila, there has developed an extensive literature published in Tagalog (and other Philippine languages), Spanish, and English, including poetry, drama, novels, short stories, essays, and criticism. As early as 1606, poems were being printed in Tagalog by Fernando Bagonbanta. Among many famous writers since then have been Francisco Baltazar (Balagtas, "Prince of Tagalog Poets"), whose Florante at Laura is a classic and whose pseudonym is associated with the traditional balagtasan or contest in verse. The works of José Rizal, especially his romantic novels Noli me tángere and El filibusterismo, which eventually brought on his execution by the Spanish in 1896 and made him into a national martyr, have been published in many languages. There is a flourishing Tagalog movie and television industry and all the media use Tagalog extensively. A traditional art form that survives is the kundiman or love song.

Medicine. Modern medical treatment is available in all parts of the Tagalog area through medical schools, hospitals, clinics, and a national health service. Traditional knowledge of herbs is still important and used. Dietary regimes and bodily care reflect long-held concepts of the relationship between good health and adaptation to the environment.

Death and Afterlife. Although the usual Christian beliefs regarding death and afterlife are followed, there are at least two widespread conceptual frameworks present. One holds that the body returns to the four elements: earth, water, fire, and air. The other maintains that the spirit (kaluluwa ) of the deceased spends a certain amount of time in the immediate neighborhood before departing to an afterworld. Secondary burial has frequently been practiced (i.e., placement of the body in a grave or niche, followed after a period by transfer of the bones to an ossuary). All Souls' Day (Araw ng mga Kaluluwa) is the occasion for visiting the cemetery (libingan ).

See also Filipino


Blair, Emma Helen, and James Robertson (1903-1909). The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898.... 55 Vols. Cleveland, Ohio: A. H. Clark Co.

Eggan, Fred (1955). The Philippines. 4 Vols. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files.

Hollnsteiner, Mary R. (1955). The Dynamics of Power in a Philippine Municipality. Quezon City: University of the Philippines, Community Development Research Council.

Kaut, Charles (1961). "Utang na Loob: A System of Contractual Obligation among Tagalogs." Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 17:256-272.

Kaut, Charles (1965). "The Principle of Contingency in Tagalog Society." Asian Studies 3:1-15.

Lynch, Frank, and Ronald S. Hymes (1984). "Cognitive Mapping in the Tagalog Area." In Philippine Society and the Individual: Selected Essays of Frank Lynch, 1949-1976, edited by Aram A. Yengoyan and Perla Q. Makil, 127-164. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies.


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Ta·ga·log / təˈgäləg; -lôg/ • n. 1. a member of a people originally of central Luzon in the Philippine Islands. 2. the Austronesian language of this people. Its vocabulary has been much influenced by Spanish and English, and it is the basis of a standardized national language of the Philippines (Filipino). • adj. of or relating to this people or their language.

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