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Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon, Ilonggo and Aklanon

Speaking People
Posted on June 1, 2015

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The Western part of Central Visayas, Philippines comprises the provinces of Antique,
Iloilo, Capiz and Aklan, all located within the roughly triangular shaped island of Panay.

Antique, on the western side of Panay, is an elongated stretch of land that occupies
the entire west coast fronting the China and Sulu Seas (MDPP, Antique, 1986-1992).

Iloilo is located on the southern and eastern portion of the island facing Guimaras
Island and Negros Occidental. It is bordered by the provinces of Capiz on the north,
Antique on the west, Panay Gulf and Iloilo Strait on the south and southeast, and the
Visayan Sea and Guimaras Island on the east (MDPP, Iloilo, 1986-1992).

AkIan is shaped like the half body of a duck with its base sitting on the northwestern
portion of Antique. Its head points to the Tablas Strait with its nape and back angled to
the Sibuyan Sea (MD PP, AkIan, 1988-1992). It occupies the northwestern portion of
Panay Island and the whole of nearby Boracay Island. To its north is the Tablas Strait
and the Sibuyan Sea (MDPP, AkIan, 1988-1992).

Capiz, shaped like an open palm, is bound by the Sibuyan Sea on the northeast, the
province of AkIan on the West and the province of Iloilo on the south. It is located at the
heart of the Philippine archipelago at N12º O9′ to 12º 141′ latitude and 122º to 123º 00′
latitude (MDPP, Capiz, 1986-1992).

The island of Guimaras, formerly a sub-province of Iloilo, is situated southeast of

Panay Island and northwest of the island of Negros. The Iloilo Strait separates Guimaras
and Panay Islands (MDPP, Guimaras, 1986-1992).

To the east of Guimaras Island is the Province of Negros Occidental occupying the
western part of Negros island. Between the islands of Guimaras and Negros is Guimaras
Strait. Negros Occidental is bound on the north by the Visayan Sea, on the south by Sulu
Sea and on the east by the Tanon Strait and Negros Oriental, its sister province.

Western Visayas has a total population of 5,511,232 (NCSO, 1990) distributed as
follows: Antique, 406,361; Iloilo, 1,765,478; AkIan, 380,497; Capiz, 584,000; Guimaras,
117,990; and Negros Occidental, 2,256,908.

Iloilo City is the center of educational, commercial, and governmental activities in

Region VI. The cities and capital towns within the region have denser populations. They
are also the center of commercial, political and educational activities within their
respective provinces.


After the Negritoes, the first settlers of Panay were believed to be migrants who came
from the island of Borneo. A semi-legendary or folk historical piece of oral literature
narrates that during the 13th century, a group of ten brave Bornean datus headed by Datu
Puti, came to Panay Island with their families and slaves to escape the oppressive rule of
Sultan Makatunaw. They landed at the mouth of the Siwaragan River in San Joaquin,
Iloilo. Finding the place peopled by dark-skinned Negritoes, they negotiated for the
purchase of the island from chieftain Marikudo and his wife Maniwantiwan for one gold
saduk (wide-brimmed hat), salakot and a manangyad (a long gold necklace). The
Negritoes agreed to settle in the interior mountains while the new settlers ocupied the
coastal part. The story further says that the group of ten datus continued to sail and landed
in Malandog, Hamtic, Antique where their first settlement was made.

Of the ten datus, three remained in Panay but the rest of the datus sailed northward
and settled in the northern parts of the archipelago. Their leader, Datu Puti, sailed back
to Borneo. For administrative purposes, datus Sumakwel, Bangkaya and Paiburong
divided the island into three sakups (districts): Hamtik, where the province of Antique
derived its name, was under Sumakwel; Aklan, which then included the province of Capiz
was under Bangkaya; and Irong-irong, where the province of Iloilo got its name was under
Datu Paiburong.

The veracity of the written story cannot be ascertained. But the story, passed from
one generation to another, seemed only to indicate that there were indeed migration of
people from other parts of South East Asia to the already populated Philippine Islands
even before the Spanish colonizers came.

However, it is certain that when the Spaniards, headed by Legazpi, came to Panay
from Cebu Island in the 1560s, they already found Panay with thriving communities.


The Filipinos in central Philippines are generally and collectively called Visayans or
Bisayans. Hence, the people in Panay, Guimaras and Negros Occidental are referred to
as “Visayans” or “Bisayans”. The tradition that they follow can be referred to as
“Kinabisaya” (literally, “of the Bisaya”). When one wants to be specific, however, in giving
a designation, the prefix “Taga” (literally “from”), should be added, hence Taga-Panay for
“from Panay or Taga-Iloilo for “from Iloilo.” Or one can also add the suffix “non, “on,” or
“o” to the name of the island or province Hence, “Panaynon” collectively refers to the
people of the four provinces in Panay, while Aklanon, Capiznon, Negrosanon or
Antiqueño refer to the people in the respective provinces. For people from Iloilo, however,
the name “llonggo” has been the traditional label — probably, a derivation from the old
name “Irong-irong” (Ilong-ilong).

Aside from the general names given to the people of the Visayan region, there are
mountain people who live in the interior mountains of Panay and Negros. In Panay, they
are generally referred to as Bukidnon (literally, “from the mountains”) or Sulod (literally,
“inside” or “interior”). Although listed as an indigenous people by the Office of the Southem
Cultural Communities, Region VI (now – National Commission for Indigenous Peoples),
their forebears were referred to as Mundos, a derogatory term given by the Spanish and
the American colonial governments. Today, however, many of the younger Bukidnons
have become acculturated to the lowland ways. But they have still retained some aspects
of their culture like their oral literature (.e.g sugidanon or epic, talda, dilot, ulawhay), and
their mountain language, Ligbok. The latter has now become archaic but many of the
words could still be found in the epics which show the richness of the language.


It is important to note that language distribution among the six provinces in Western
Visayas overrides political division.

Antique on the western coast of Panay is monolingual and speaks Kinaray-a. The
adjacent towns of Aklan, near the border of Antique towards the north are Buruanga,
Malay, Nabas and lbajay which share a language almost similar to Kinarav-a. On the
southeastern part of the island of Panay, in the province of Iloilo, about 2/3 of Iloilo’s 46
towns speak Kinaray-a. But on the northeastern coastal towns, after Iloilo City, with the
exception of Leganes where pockets of households speak either Kinaray-a or
Hiligaynon, the latter is spoken. These coastal towns are Zarraga, Dumangas, Anilao,
Banate, Barotac Viejo, Ajuy, Concepcion, San Dionisio, Estancia, Balasan and Carles. A
few Kinaray-a words, however, found their way in the Ilonggo-speaking Dumangasanon
and Anilaonon. Capiz on the eastern part of Panay also speaks Hiligaynon except for
some slight difference in inflection compared to Ilonggo speakers in Iloilo. The towns of
Ivisan and Sapian of Capiz which are already near Aklan speak Ilonggo with some mixed
Aklananon words. But the people of the interiormost town of Tapaz, Capiz, home of the
mountain people, (Bukidnon) speak Kinaray-a with the few older folks retaining some
Ligbok words.

Guimarasnons speak Kinaray-a and Ilonggo. Even migrant folk from southern Iloilo
like Guimbal and Tigbauan speak Kinaray-a. But those coming from Barangay Navalas,
Buenavista speak Ilonggo since the migrants come from Dumengas, Iloilo. A part of
Dumangas near the mouth of the Iloilo port juts out towards Navalas making travel to
Guimaras easy (10-15 minutes boat ride).
Material, Non-Material Culture and Livelihood

The traditional Visayan house is made of bamboo and cogon if not of nipa palms or
pawod (coconut palms). These types of houses are elevated and are found mostly in the
rural areas. Today, most rural folk whose children have found overseas employment
prefer to build houses out of wood, galvanized iron and cement for their durability.

Farming and fishing are the main sources of livelihood in the region until the
1960s. Farmers within the interior mountains of Central Panay employ the kaingin system
(slash-and-burn). A bolo and a wooden dibble are all they use for cutting trees and for
boring holes to drop rice or corn seeds and legumes into. Most houses have bangkaw
(spear) as hunting tool. Hunting greatly decreased in the 1970s with the gradual
disappearance of forests, but kaingin still remains to be the primary form of farming since
the interior mountain are rugged and they have not found the appropriate technology to
harness water. But fishing, with the use of traditional nets and traps and poisonous leaves
and barks of trees, is also known to be practiced by these mountain folk.

Weaving hats and mats along with bamboo furniture making are also known to be
good sources of livelihood in barangays in Antique together with patadyong weaving
which is still being done in some towns like Bugasong and Sibalom. Bamboo furnitures
are made in Leganes, Maasin and Sara in Iloilo. Bolo centers are found in Cabanatuan
and Leon while pottery centers are found in Jibao-an in Mandurriao, Zarraga and Pani-
an in Balasan, Iloilo. Rattan crafts are found in Miag-ao, Leganes, and Villa.

Significant Events

Western Visayas is known for its yearly grand festivals. Foremost is the Ati-atihan in
Kalibo, Aklan, an indigenous festival believed to have originated when the Negritoes and
the Bornean Malays celebrated a joint festival after a peaceful talk over the barter of
Panay. It later turned into a folk Christian practice honoring the Santo Niño and continues
to attract foreign visitors because of its spontaneous audience participation which evokes
merriment. It is celebrated in January every year. From the ati-atihan festival, guests
proceed to the province of Iloilo which is about three to four hours’ land ride from Aklan.
There, the guests await the celebration of the Dinagyang which is also a two-day revelry
alongside a street dancing on the third day to honor the Sto. Niño.

The province of Antique also has its Binirayan festival celebrating the landing of the
Bornean settlers in Malandog, Hamtic, Antique. The Capizeños have their Halaran, a
thanksgiving which commemorates the one offered by the Borneans to their god
Bululakaw. This, after a peace pact with the Negritos from whom they purchased some
lands. There is also the present-day celebration called Masskara of Bacolod City, Negros
Occidental to popularize Bacolod as a “City of Smile,” hence, the smiling masks used by
the participants.

Other important festivals in Western Visayas worth mentioning are: the Pasungay
(carabao fight) of San Joaquin, Iloilo; the Carabao-Carroza Race in Pavia, Iloilo which is
a contest of carabaos harnessed to a sled; the sailboat race in Iloilo Paraw Regatta; the
fiesta of Jaro in Iloilo City in honor of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria; the Patalta,, a
Lenten season practiced in Guimaras to commemorate the taking down of Christ’s body
from the cross; the singing of the Pasyon in Cabanatuan, Iloilo during Lent; the Flores de
Mayo (Flowers of May) identified with the Santacruzan featuring a grand procession of
young ladies to commemorate the finding of Christ’s cross by St. Helena; and the Biray
(boat), a thanksgiving celebration in many coastal towns all over Western Visayas. Biray
is observed as early as May or June in the coastal towns of Patnongon, Belison, San
Pedro and San Jose in Antique. It was originally a thanksgiving to the Virgin Mary but for
the younger people, Biray has become an occasion for a merrymaking on the beach and
aboard the boats.