Who Are the Bisaya  (Visayan) People?


Bisaya is not just a language. BISAYA (Bisayans or Visayans) are people who trace their Ethnic roots or bloodline in Bisaya islands (Visayas islands).

These Bisaya islands (Visayas islands) are:   Panay, Romblon, Guimaras, Negros,Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Leyte, Biliran and Samar.

In 1940s heavy migration to Mindanao of the Bisaya people spurred by government-sponsored resettlement programmes. Because of migration over time, a large part of Mindanao is now largely populated by Bisaya people from Iloilo, Antique, Cebu, Dumaguete, Samar, Leyte, and Bohol.

Note: There are also Bisaya people who live in the coastline of Borneo in Malaysia.  

Bisaya people speak related languages belonging to the Malayo-Polynesian family.


There are different Dialects of the Bisaya Language

These Dialects are: Hiligaynon, Aklanon, Cebuano, Capiznon, Kinaray-a, Bantoanon, Romblomanon, Waray,  Surigaonon, Cuyonon, etc.

It is wrong to say that in Cebu we speak Bisaya while in Bacolod and Iloilo they speak Hiligaynon/Ilonggo because Iloilo and Bacolod speak Bisaya dialect which is called Hiligaynon 

Different Bisaya Languages
are spoken by Bisaya people in the 6 Major BISAYA Islands are:

1. The Bisaya Island of Panay = Dialects of the Bisaya People in Panay are: Hiligaynon (Iloilo and Roxas), Karay-a, (Iloilo and Antique) Aklanon (Aklan), and Capiznon (Capiz).

2. The Bisaya Island of Negros = Dialects of the Bisaya People in Negros are: Cebuano (Negros Oriental) and Hiligaynon (Negros Occidental)

3. The Bisaya Island of Cebu = Dialect of the Bisaya People in Cebu province is Cebuano

4. The Bisaya Island of Bohol = Dialect of the Bisaya People in Bohol is Boholano (local version of Cebuano language)

5. The Bisaya Island of Leyte  = Dialects of the Bisaya People in Leyte are: Waray (Northern Leyte) and  Cebuano (Southern Leyte)

6. The Bisaya Island of Samar = Dialects of the Bisaya People in Samar are: Waray (Eastern Samar) and Cebuano (Southern Samar)


These are the 6 main Islands of Bisaya. The people who live here are called Bisaya or Visayans.

Heavy migration to Mindanao of people from Cebu and Dumaguete etc in 1940's, spurred by government-sponsored resettlement programmes is the reason why 90% of Mindanao people speak the Cebuano language. Cebuano is a part of the Visayan language Family. 


Because of migration over time, a large part of Mindanao is now largely populated by Bisaya people from Iloilo, Antique, Cebu, Dumaguete, Samar, Leyte, and Bohol.


Mindanao provinces that speak the CEBUANO dialect: Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, South Cotabato, North Cotabato,Saranggani, Sultan Kudarat.



Ilonggo is NOT a dialect. 


Another misunderstood dialect is Hiligaynon. A lot of uninformed people refers to Ilonggo as a dialect which is wrong. 

Ilonggo is NOT a dialect. Ilonggo means the people who trace their Ethnic roots or bloodline in Iloilo province. 

The Ilonggo people speak the Hiligaynon dialect. Hiligaynon is also the l dialect in Bacolod and the Negros Occidental province


Many Ilonggos and Antiqueno people migrated in Mindanao and most of them settled in Pigkawayan and Midsayap North Cotabato areas.



If an Ilokano or Tagalog person learns to speak Cebuano or Hiligaynon dialect it does not make him a Bisaya person because his ethnic bloodline is NOT from the Bisaya islands.


Same like if you are a Bisaya or Ilokano and you learned to speak Mandarin or Cantonese language it does not make him Chinese because his ethnic blood is not Chinese. 



Related Topic


Visayan Islands are a group of islands in central Philippines, lying between Luzon and Mindanao. The six main islands are Samar, Negros, Panay, Leyte, Cebu, and Bohol. The island of Masbate and nearby smaller islands are sometimes classified with the Visayas, and sometimes classified with the Philippines' northern island group. The island group of Palawan used to belong to the region of Luzon and was transferred to Visayas in 2005. The Visayan Islands group is divided into three geographical areas: Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas. They have a total area of 23,582 square miles (61,077 square km)



The Bisaya people or Visayans are a group of Austronesian people who originate from the central and southern regions of the Philippines. Several linguistic groups in the Philippines are primarily of Bisaya descent. The largest of these groups are the speakers of the languages of Cebuano, Illongo, and Waray-Waray, which are sometimes mistakenly considered dialects. More than 40% of Filipinos have Visayan ancestry.
Some well-known leaders of the Philippine Revolution in the late 19th century are Visayans. Also, there have been three Philippine presidents from the Visayas: the Cebuano Sergio Osmeña (1878—1961); the Ilonggo Manuel Roxas and the Bolhano Carlos P. Garcia (1896—1961).


Based on facts compiled in a book Maragtas by Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro, written in 1907, there are legends which tells the story of the ten chiefs (Datus) who escaped from the tyranny of Datu Makatunaw from Borneo to the islands of Panay. The chiefs and followers are believed to be the ancestors of the Visayan people. The arrival is celebrated in the Festival of the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan.


Source: http://filam.si.edu/curriculum/u1-popup-visayas.html

Encylopedia Britannica Online


World Book Encylopedia



University of the Philippines Library Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines http://www.up.edu.ph/  

Who Are the Bisaya People http://www.hawaii.edu/cps/visayans.html

The Visayan Languages http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visayan_languages

The Visayans http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visayans

Visayan People http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Visayan_people


Related Links: 

Early Ilonggo-Bisaya identity  


Some great Ilonggo-Bisaya writers in history  




Samples of  Bisaya Songs:

Waray = Waray-Waray

Kinray-a = Mauli ako sa Antique

Hiligaynon (ilonggo) = Kuring - Pirot


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