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Tawi-Tawi Culture, Customs And Traditions


The Sama are the original inhabitants of the Tawi-Tawi archipelago. The term sama is derived from the word sama-sama meaning togetherness. They are a cohesive and peace-loving people. Little do, they resort to physical violence, rather they discuss problems among themselves.


There are five Sama sub cultural communities with the Tawi-Tawi province. These are the Sama Simunul, Sama Balimbing, Sama Tawi-Tawi, Sama Sibutu and Sama Ubian. They all vary in ancestry7, outlook in life, economic life ways and social upbringing.

The Sama have this suspicious nature towards strangers. However, they can be easily befriended once the outsiders have established report with them. These people are basically cogenial and hospitable. They are Go-fearing and they submit themselves to Allah alone.

The Sama of Tawi-Tawi originally come form Johore. Their forefathers are believed to have supernatural powers to invite spirits called Jin to do things for them. Good fortune comes to believers who appease their ancestral with offerings.

The Sama Sibutu belong to the Datu class. They also possess the ilmuh (knowleged) of Jinim or spiritism.

The Sama Ubian originate from Sea Dayak. They are fierce fighters, contradictory to the basic trait of the Sama people. They are said to have served as underwater commandoes in an encounter with the other groups.

Sama settlements are usually found along the coast. This is so for two reasons: sanitation, because tidal movement washes away their waste materials; and security from enemies, for escape is easy through constantly ready vintas.


A woman wears sambra (short-sleeved summer blouse), sawwal (long, loose pants), and badju kuput (tight-fitting blouse). Sablay (long loose-sleeved blouse) with tadjung (wraparound) is also a part of their wardrobe. They also apply makeup like atal (lipstick) and madda powder).

These people own gold jewelry such as sing-sing (ring), gallang (bracelet), kut-kullung (neclace) and aritis 9earing). They are used for special occasions like wedding, religious holidays and can also be apart of the ungsud (bridal gift).


Gong and kulinang are valued musical instruments of the Sama. The sound of gongs alert able-bodied Sama to prepare for war. In peaceful times, the sound of musical instruments companies the performance of a pangalay dance.


Basically, the Sama are fishermen and farmers. They also log and hunt for their livelihood. Few of them are engaged in gainful jobs and industrial works.

Each of the Sama subgroups is famous for a particular skill. For instance, a BURAS making and pottery are the pride of the Sama Simunul; Kumpit building and wood carving are the skills where Sama Sibutu excel; dying and preserving marine products are the pride of Sama Balimbing; PIS (shawl) weaving is what Kabinga-an are famous for, the Sama Tapul are agriculturist; fishing is what the Sama Manubul are noted for; and mat weaving and handbag making are the expertise of the Sama Lamunisa.

Unity prevails among the Sama subgrounds despite the differences in ancestry and culture. They are a united people surviving; in a marine environment. And Islam is the faith that binds them together.


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