Who Are the Bisaya  (Visayan) People?


Bisaya is not just a group of different Bisaya languages, Bisaya also refers to the people who live originally or their forefathers in the Bisaya Islands.


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.


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 Bisaya languages

These Languages of the Bisaya people 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. It is wrong  because Iloilo and Bacolod speak Bisaya language as well  which is called Hiligaynon. It should be, "here in Cebu we speak Cebuano or Cebuano language and in Bacolod and Iloilo they speak Hiligaynon".

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

1. The Bisaya Island of Panay = Languages 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 = Languages of the Bisaya People in Negros are: Cebuano (Negros Oriental) and Hiligaynon (Negros Occidental)

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

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

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

6. The Bisaya Island of Samar = Languages 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 language: 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 language. 


Another misunderstood language is Hiligaynon. A lot of uninformed people refers to Ilonggo as the language in Iloilo and Bacolod which is wrong. 

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

The Ilonggo people speak the Hiligaynon language. Hiligaynon is also the language 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 language 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

Bisaya History

Since the Visayan port of entry is Panay Island diay. So that would make the Hiligaynon or Kinray-a the original Bisaya language?

The Ten Bornean Datus and the Purchase of Panay

The story of the buying of Panay by ten datus coming from Borneo is told in the Maragtas, a legendary account about the pre-Spanish Panay Island. This narrative tells us that about A.D. 1250, at about the time Malaysia and Indonesia were dominated by the Hindu-Malay Empire of Sri-Vijaya, a cruel sultan named Makatunaw ruled Borneo–or perhaps part of it. Because he was cruel, ten of his datus decided to leave Borneo and seek their freedom and fortune beyond the sea.

The Ten Datus were: Datu Puti (the leader), Datu Balensusa, Datu Bangkaya, Datu Dumalugdog, Datu Dumangsil, Datu Dumangsol, Datu Lubay, Datu Panduhinog, Datu Paliburong, and Datu Sumakwel.

One dark night after loading on boats their families, warriors, slaves, and supplies, they secretly left in their balangays (boats) without a specific destination in mind. After sailing north for many days, they reached the southern tip of Panay Island. They landed at the mouth of the Sirwagan River there, near the present town of San Joaquin in Iloilo. From there they proceeded to Lake Andona where they met an Ati fisherman. This man led them to the Negrito village of Sinugbuhan and was introduced to the local ruler, King Marikudo and his queen, Maniwantiwan. Datu Puti addressed them and said they came as friends and would like to buy land.

Marikudo consulted his wife and the elders of his kingdom and agreed to sell some land to them. The purchase price consisted of a gold salakot (a native helmet) for Marikudo and a long gold sumangyad (necklace) for Maniwantiwan. The sale was sealed by a pact of friendship and merry feasting. After that, Marikudo and his people bade farewell to the Borneans and went into the hills.

Seven of the ten datus settled in Panay. The three others–Balensusa, Dumangsil and Puti sailed farther north and reached Lake Taal, in present-day Batangas province. Impressed by the fertility and scenic beauty of the area, Balensusa and Dumangsil settled there. Datu Puti, however, returned to Borneo. He told the Borneans about his exciting adventures in the islands of the north.


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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