How do the religious beliefs of the two Filipino cultures, the Badjau and the Ifagao, compare and contrast? What are their histories, art, practices, and kinship?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Bajau, also spelled Badjao, and the Ifugao are certainly people with very complex cultures and complex religious beliefs. As we are limited in space, below are a few ideas to help get you started.

The Bajau are an indigenous people from the Philippines and even the coast of Mindanao and Borneo. The Bajau are especially a fishing culture and have been called "Sea Gypsies." What's also important is that there are actually many subgroups within the Bajau, and each subgroup actually varies both culturally and religiously. Depending on the subgroup, the people will either practice Sunni Islam, folk Islam, or animism, plus there are also some who practice Catholicism.

Sunni Muslims make up the vast majority of Muslims and are traditional Muslims in that they follow the prophet Muhammad and have six pillars of Iman, meaning six pillars of belief, such as the existence of Allah, the existence of angels, the belief in the books of Allah as the ultimate authority, the belief in following the prophets of Allah, the belief in the Day of Judgement, and the belief in predestination. Bajau Folk Islam actually centers far more around mysticism than traditional Islam. Their mystic-centered Islam stems from the culture's earlier held belief in fire worship, as well as other mystic beliefs. One particular mystic belief belonging to this culture is the idea of the "evil eye." Subgroups of the Bajau who follow folk Islam believe that the evil eye is the power responsible for any evils that humanity faces. They further believe that evils can occur simply by someone wishing for bad things to happen. Finally, animism is the belief that animals, plants, and other inanimate objects possess spirits, and these inanimate objects are worshiped as spiritual beings.

In contrast to the Bajao, the Ifugao are land-centered indigenous people who live in the mountainous areas of the Philippines. Also, unlike the Bajao who are fishermen, the Ifugao are a rice-farming society. Also, contrary to the Bajao, the Ifugao has its own religion, though that religion is similar to the animism worshiped by certain subgroups of the Bajao.  The religion of the Ifugao partitions the universe into five separate regions, each region containing its own large number of spirits. Those regions include the earth, called pugao; the people of the earth, called the Ipugao; the sky, called the kabunian; the underworld, called the dalum; the downstream region, called the lagod; and finally the upstream region, called the daiya. Along with the spirits of each region, the Ifugao also worship deities that are mobile and able to change shape. Also, similarly to the folk Islam worshiped by certain subgroups of the Bajau, the Ifugao believe that evils, such as illnesses, have a direct cause, which is similar in principle to the idea of the evil eye. More specifically, the Ifugao believe individuals become ill because deities and ancestors take the individual's soul, and if the individual is healed, it is because the deity and ancestor have been convinced to return the soul.