Subsistence and Commercial Activities. As a maritime people, Samal Muslims have pursued varied patterns of livelihood: cassava and coconut horticulture ( huma ), household and commercial fishing, contraband trade, and, mostly among the Sibutu Samal, boat ( kumpit ) building. Early acceptance of public schooling has given the Samal an advantage over the Tausug in the training of local civil servants, whose salaries augment household income and sometimes cause relative wealth differentiation between households. Coastal households often fish and also raise a few chickens and ducks, mainly for eggs. Inland households may also raise a goat or a cow for slaughter during ceremonials, especially weddings. Otherwise, the Samals' dietary needs are met via food purchased from the trading centers of Tawitawi and Sitangkai: rice (an expensive supplement to cassava), canned goods, and vegetables.
Industrial Arts. Part-time motorcycle mechanics, sewing-machine Operators, blacksmiths, carvers, and bricklayers are usually found in the Samal villages. Mat weaving is a specialized activity for some women and often a source of additional income.
Trade. Commercial activities in Sulu exist on two levels: legitimate and illegitimate. Legitimate trade involves the sale of dried fish, copra, or a newly built boat to Chinese merchants throughout the markets of Sulu, Zamboanga, and North Borneo. Cash from these transactions is used to smuggle goods from North Borneo into the islands. Smuggling trips involve the cooperative activities of young men in the villages and call for a facility for eluding the naval patrols. A typical village has one or two sari-sari stores, where daily needs such as oil, soap, condiments, spices, and pain remedies are easily bought.
Division of Labor. Except in farm work, division of labor by gender is fairly clear-cut. Men exclusively fish, build boats, and trade. Women do such domestic chores as housecleaning, food preparation, and child care. Men assist in child rearing after infancy.
Land Tenure. Homesteading by people from the northern islands created permanent settlements on many Samal islands and changed their form of adaptation away from sea roving. By 1910 the larger islands like Subutu, Simunul, Bongao, and Pangutaran had settled populations. As late as the 1960s, homesteading was still attracting migrants to Cagayan de Sulu. Residential and farming plots and cemetery grounds are family- or kin-owned. Village founders are well remembered by the first mosques they built or the first trees they planted to mark off their communities.