Introduction / History
Manobo simply means "people" or "person." They have eight subgroups which live on the Philippines' southern island of Mindanao. They speak one of the languages belonging to the Manobo language family. Their origins can be traced back to the early Malay peoples who came from the surrounding islands of Southeast Asia. Today, their common cultural language and Malay heritage help to keep them connected. These groups are often connected by name with either political divisions or landforms. The eight Manobo groups are all very similar, differing only in dialect and in some aspects of culture. The distinctions have resulted from their geographical separation. One of these eight groups is the Cotabato Manobo.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The most common lifestyle of the Cotabato Manobo is that of agriculture. Their simple farming techniques allow fields to remain fallow for certain periods of time so that areas of cultivation may be shifted from place to place. They grow rice, maize, taro root, bananas, and sweet potatoes. They usually live near bodies of water, and their settlements consist of between 4-12 homes.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Social life for the Manobo is patriarchal (male-dominated). The head of the family is the husband. Polygyny (having more than one wife at a time) is common for men who have wealth. The political structures of the Cotabato Manobo includes a ruler, called a sultan. Beneath him are the royal and non-royal classes. Only those people belonging to the royal classes can aspire to the throne. Those belonging to the non-royal classes are under the power and authority of the royal classes. Each class is interdependent on the others. Most of the time leadership is achieved rather than given at birth. The political aspects of life are often integrated with the social aspects. For example, many social events, such as weddings, require political leaders. Whenever there is a negotiation for marriage, both the bride and the groom must use the local datu (headman) to make all of the arrangements.
The religious beliefs of the Manobo revolve around many unseen spirits interfering in the lives of humans. They believe these spirits can intrude on human activities to accomplish their desires. The spirits are also believed to have human characteristics. They are both good and evil in nature and can be evoked to both anger and pleasure.
What Are Their Needs?
While the religious practices of the Manobo vary slightly, there seems to be at least one common thread linking them together. Each culture believes in one "great spirit." This "great spirit" is usually viewed as the creator figure. This might be a bridge to the teachings of the Bible.
As the various Manobo groups have been physically separated, the religious beliefs of other peoples have influenced them somewhat. However, the Manobo have often incorporated these new practices into their belief system, rather than abandoning their practices and being "converted" to either Islam or Christianity. However, there are some Christians among them who can potentially take Christ to the others.
Inefficiency of labor hinders economic growth in Cotabato Manobo communities. They need agricultural development projects to educate them on such things as crop rotation and the use of chemical fertilizers. Such training would not only enhance their crop yields but also provide open doors through which missionaries may enter.
The Cotabato Manobo group are struggling with a changing world. Outside pressures have greatly affected their culture. They fear losing their original languages and cultural idiosyncrasies as they become more intertwined with outside peoples.
Pray for the Lord to thrust out Holy Spirit-anointed workers to the Cotabato Manobo people.
Pray that they will have a thirst for the water of life that only Jesus can provide.
Pray for the Lord to provide for the Cotabato Manobo's physical and spiritual needs and that they will understand this as an example of His grace and mercy.
Pray for a movement to Christ that cannot be stopped.
Scripture Prayers for the Manobo, Cotabato in Philippines.