views updated


Visayan (Bisaya, Bisayan, Pintado) is a general term for a large segmentabout a quarterof the Philippine population. In 1962-1963 they numbered about 10,836,000, and the total may be closer to 15 million today. The term "Visayan" refers to people who inhabit the islands surrounding the Visayan Sea, mainly the Samarans (1,488,600 in 1962-1963), Panayans (2,817,300), and Cebuans (the largest Christian group, 6,529,800). Their territory lies between 9° and 13° N, and between 122° and 126° E, in the central Philippines. These people generally inhabit the islands of Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Masbate, Negros, Panay, Samar, and Siquijor, although many have migrated elsewhere, especially to Mindanao and Manila.

Most Visayans are Roman Catholics, and they make up a large part of the Christian population that is loosely labeled Filipino. On first being discovered by the Spaniards they were named "Pintados" because they used to paint their bodies. They are not the only inhabitants of their islands, for they share them with such shifting-cultivation groups as the Agta, Bukidnon, and Sulod (all covered earlier in this volume). The popular image of Visayans is of a passionate, fun-loving, brave, and musical people. Many are professional fighters. Their major economic activity is the cultivation of maize and irrigated rice. Those who have settled in Mindanao in recent decades have often become involved in fighting local Muslims ("Moros") for land.

Visayans speak either Cebuano, Panayan or Samaran, three languages of the Malayo-Polynesian Family (to which all Philippine languages belong). English and Pilipino are widely used as second languages today, and there is also a pidgin language called "Chabakano," which is based on Spanish, Cebuano, and Subanun.

See also Filipino


Dumont, Jean-Paul (1991). Visayan Vignettes: Ethnographic Traces of a Philippine Island. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Hart, Donn V. (1954). Barrio Caticugan: A Visayan Filipino Community. Ph.D. dissertation, Syracuse University.

Hart, Donn V. (1959). The Cebuan Filipino Dwelling in Caticugan: Its Construction and Cultural Aspects. New Haven: Yale University, Southeast Asia Studies.

Hart, Donn V. (1969). Bisayan Filipino and Malayan Humoral Pathologies: Folk Medicine and Ethnohistory in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia Studies, Data Paper no. 76. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University.

Lieban, Richard W. (1967). Cebuano Sorcery: Malign Magic in the Philippines. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Nurge, Ethel (1965). Life in a Leyte Village. Seattle: University of Washington Press.