Subanun - Orientation

Identification. The Subanun are pagan shifting cultivators of rice who inhabit the mountainous, forested interior of the Zamboanga Peninsula, a southwestern extension of the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Subanun groups share a similar culture that sets them off from Christian and Muslim lowlanders. This article refers specifically to the Eastern Subanun living in the north-central part of the peninsula.

Location. The Zamboanga Peninsula extends a length of some 300 kilometers from 6°53′ to 8°38′ N and from 121°54′ to 123°53′ E. Were the peninsula a separate island, it would be, with an area of 17,673 square kilometers, the third-largest island in the Philippines, after Luzon and Mindanao. It is divided into four political units, from northeast to southwest: Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga City.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Subanun language is comprised of a set of closely related dialects, divided into two groups, Eastern and Western Subanun. The language belongs to the huge, Pacific-wide Austronesian Language Family. Among Austronesian languages it is affiliated most closely with the Central Group of Philippine languages.

Demography. The Subanun probably number about 75,000. Population density is highly variable by region and distance from the coast. A careful census has never been conducted. During the 1970s and 1980s many Subanun groups have suffered depopulation from devastating raids by warring Christian and Muslim bands.

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