Agusan del Sur...

The history of Agusan del Sur is intricately linked with that of its sister province, Agusan del Norte, since both comprised the original province of Agusan. The juridical existence of Agusan del Sur began on January 1, 1970 when the first set of elected provincial officials assumed office after having been elected in the election of November 1969. However, Republic Act No. 4969 which provided for the division of Agusan province into Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte, was approved way back on June 17, 1967 by the President of the Philippines.

Republic Act No. 4969 provided that the capital of the Province of Agusan del Sur shall be the Municipality of Prosperidad.

Source: Souvenir Program for First anniversary of Caraga Region, 1996

Ethnic Origin of the People

The original inhabitants of Agusan del Sur were diverse tribes speaking diverse tongues. The first inhabitants were the Negritoes and Mamanwas who were slowly driven into the interior by the migrating tribes from nearby Borneo, Celebes and Malaysia, and also by the Manobos. The latter's descendants are still inhabiting the innermost recesses of Agusan del Sur's forested areas and comprises the great bulk of the cultural community in the province.

The immediately pre-Spanish population the Agusan area was differentiated into Manobo, Higaonon, Banwaon, Talaandig, Debabawon, Mamanwa and Duyog-batang headed by tribal chieftains or datus. Spanish conquests supplanted the native hierarchies with the Spanish system of corregemientes, alcalders and encomiendas.

Predominant of the residents came from the Visayans, although a great number also came from Luzon, with Cebuano being spoken more than the Manobo and other dialects.


According to the records of the commission of National Integration, there are only five tribes found in the province, namely: Aeta, Mamanwa, Bagobo, Banwaon and Manobo. However, only two of this tribes can be distinctly located; the Manobos living along the National Highways and river towns towards the boundary of Davao del Norte and the Banwanons or Higaonons living in the western side of Agusan, in the Municipality of Esperanza.


The Manobos are of medium built body, light brown, straight hair, with an exemption of a few who who have kinky hair as that of the aborigines, stout and with brown eyes.

This is the result of the inter-marriages between the Duyag-Batang, Talandig and Mamanua aborigines and the Indonesians during the Majapahit Empire; also the succeeding mixed marriages of the natives with the Malay River people during the Sri Visayan Empire upon their eastward migration and the Chinese traders who came to Agusan in the 11th and 12th Century. The coming of the Spaniards bring to forth another contributions of the webs of inter-racial and cultural marriages which composes the genetic fiber of what we know as the Manobo people. A concoction as they are, the Manobo tongue is also a mixture of the native dialect and acquired foreign language.

The name "Manobo", however, is traceable to the influence of the Malay River people. These people are called"Mansuba" from the word "suba" the Malayan word for river, which mean people living near or in the river (mostly in their floating houses). Later, Mansuba is shortend to Manuba which eventually took it masculine gender to become that we all know now as Manobo.


Higaonon-Banwaon Tribe is the second largest cultural community in Agusan del Sur. The concentration of this tribes populace is situated at Esperanza towards the boundary of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.

Higaonon is derived from the native word "gaon" which means mountain, literally, they are mountain people. Higaonon are somewhat nomadic, that is, they travel from one mountain village to another, looking for more fertile soil and better harvest. The enclosure of civilization made them settle their position to the confines of the area which they now claim as their ancestral domain ; at the boundaries of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental and Agusan del Sur.

The Higaonon people are of medium built with average height of about 5 feet and 2 inches, they are of lighter skin complexion compared to the other tribes in the province. Quiet a number of them have a very recognizable European features, aquiline nose, deep-set eyes and prominent cheeks, a legacy of the intermarriage between the natives and the Spanish conquiestadores.

Generally, they are warm and friendly. They are one of the fiercest warrior when intimidated and one of the best organized and closely knitted as well. Higaonon are good hunters and farmers

The Banwaon, on the other hand, is more likely to be thought as the relative to the Manobo tribe. Derived from the word "Banwa" Which means village or country, the Banwaons are village settlers. So, while the Higaonons occupy the mountainous area of Esperanza, the Banwaon set their domain at the lowlands and upstream the Maasam Libang and Adgawan Rivers. It is this geographical settlement that made the Banwaon more comparably the same with the Manobo, they are both adept in fishing and farming, and almost of the same built and complexion.

Being neighbors, (the Higaonon and the Banwaon) groups are constantly at odd with each other. Disputes as to property, domain and the likes usually disrupt the peaceful co-existence which they are trying to mentain. To address this problem, the datus of each tribe will marry women from the other to settle things up, to expand the authority of his power and to extend his personal relationship to the other tribe. Males of both tribes are allowed to marry as many as they want, for as long as the tribal elders and their wives will consent. Eventually, the intermarriages between the Higaonon and Banwaon people close the gap between the tribal differences and bring forth what we now call as the Higaonon-Banwaon tribe.

Source: Agusan del Sur, An Eco-Cultural Journey
Office of the Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator
Government Center, Properidad
8514 Agusan del Sur

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