Davao tribes spread voice thru radio

ROEL Arthur Ali Jr. (center), deputy mayor of Ata Tribe, and Datu Berne Onggay, tribal leader of Ata Tribe (left), with ‘Laheng te Tribu’ anchor Juls Sigcara discussing the advocacies, culture and history of the Ata over Davao City Disaster Radio on 6 March 2024.(Photograph courtesy of DCDR)

Davao City was blessed with the vastness of its natural resources and rich cultural diversity encompassing not only the settler population but also the 11 recognized ethnolinguistic groups who have chosen the city as their home.

The 11 tribes of Davao embody a unique tapestry of traditions, cultures, and histories that contribute to the vibrant and diverse cultural landscape of the region. These are the Ata, Maguindanaon, Matigsalug, Bagobo Klata, Maranao, Obo Manuvu, Bagobo-Tagabawa, Tausug, Sama, Iranun and Kagan.

Over the years, the 11 tribes were recognized every August through the Kadayawan Tribal Village wherein people get a glimpse of the tribes’ way of life and allow them to experience their unique culture and tradition — feeding their curiosity and fulfilling their desire to have a taste of indigenous cuisines, listen to their songs, appreciate their dances, and marvel at their craftsmanship and artistry.

Unheard voices

The city government of Davao recognizes the 11 indigenous peoples as fellow Dabawenyos and people should learn their cultures and concerns.

“We take pride in our diversity and inclusivity diri sa atong siyudad. Kitang tanan Dabawenyo, aduna’y katungod madunggan. (We take pride in our city’s diversity and inclusivity. Every Dabawenyo has the right to be heard.),” Harvey James Lanticse, officer-in-charge of the City Information Office, said.

For this reason, the city government, through its Davao City Disaster Radio station, came up with the program “Laheng te Tribu” (Voice of Tribe), aired on the city-owned DXQQ channel.

Pinaagi sa Laheng te Tribu program, makahatag ta og platform sa atong mga kaigsoonan nga maedukar ang katawhan sa atong kultura, tradisyon, ug kagikan. Not only for the present but most importantly sa mga susunod nga henerasyon na Dabawenyo,” (Through the Laheng te Tribu program, we can give our fellow Dabawenyos a platform that they can use to reach a bigger audience and educate more people on their cultures, traditions, heritage; and this is important not only in the present but for the future generation as well) Lanticse said.

During Laheng te Tribu’s 6 March episode, Roel Arthur Ali Jr. and Datu Berne Onggay, the deputy mayor and tribal leader of the Ata tribe, respectively, were the guests who shared their culture and traditions during the one-hour program.

“One of my advocacy is to pass our traditions to the next generations. I want to preserve our culture because some of our tribal leaders and elders are embracing the new technology and somehow lose the focus of our youth,” Ali said.


An important part of their tribe, Onggay said in the show, is the Saluroy wuy koglong, a two-stringed boat-shaped lute, a favorite courting instrument.

“It is a sacred piece of material for us because we use it in special occasions. We also see to it that all saluroy sounds alike when we play it,” the tribal leader said.

If the instrument is in unison and in the same tune, it is more likely that their tribe are also united and understand each other, according to Onggay.

In courtship, Ali said playing the saluroy is one way of expressing what you feel and your intentions.

“If the man and woman connected through playing it, that means they are compatible,” Ali added.


Onggay also said that they practice ulaging or chanting to express happiness.

“If there is an illness or fear coming in the tribe, our women will chant. It is a term that means she will go to the mountains. It is also a way of our leaders to uplift us,” he explained.

Ali said that there is no particular lyrics in it but it was chanted through their hearts.

“We chanted on what is in our hearts. We also use it to call our Manama (Creator),” he added.


Tangkulo is traditionally worn as a headpiece by male Ata leaders such as chieftains and warriors. It is a status symbol, representing distinction and power that is only worn by the datu.

“The most sacred piece of material which can solve any problems within the tribe. Not all datus wear this and if somebody wears one, he will gain respect from the tribe,” Onggay added.

Ali reminded that the tangkulo or any garment used by the datu should not be mocked.

“Laheng te Tribu” also features the different services and privileges that the city offers to all Dabawenyos, including members of the different ethnolinguistic groups in the city. The radio show airs every first and third Wednesday of the month.