Introduction / History Each upland river or plain is ruled by a "datu", a royal noble who inherits the title. He was both judge and defender of his tribesmen, who in turn tilled the land that he ruled over.
The family is strongly paternal, with the wife holding a secondary position. The husband is somewhat like a slave master, with the woman holding little rights. During mealtimes, the wives wait on the husband; in traveling, the husband rides the horse or walks, while the wife(s) would carry the goods or children behind him. Polygamy is practiced among the affluent men who could afford the bride-price. While women cannot be datus, they can however hold some power by practicing witchcraft. These are called Almos (communicators with spirits.)
A youth enters adulthood at 20, and starts seeking a wife of his choice. Courtship is done be exchange of gifts. After the wedding, the couple stays with the father-in-law of the bride until an heir is born. During that time, the husband serves the wife's father. After the birth, they then set up their own home. Subsequent wives require only the dowry without the service to the father-in-law. Thus the first wife is higher in rank and is the administrator of the husband's properties at his death.
The B'laans are a mountain folk, rarely going down to the shoreline. They practice swidden agriculture (slash-and-burn), augmented by river fishing and hunting. Crops are rice, corn, sugarcane, banana, papaya, and root crops.
Tribal lands have been partitioned off by the government decades ago, without recognizing the ancestral rights of the tribes. The tribes then being illiterate and ignorant of Western bureaucratic processes, were thus dispossessed of their lands by the lowlanders who were unfortunately called "Christians", though they were only nominally so.
The situation has not improved with the onset of the huge plantations which tended to be low-labor intensive. High unemployment and underemployment afflicts the area. The tribal areas remain to be one of the least developed areas in the Philippines.
The economic dislocation has provided a fertile seed-bed for political unrest. Government and rebel fighting once raged in the hillsides. There is currently an uneasy peace and outward signs of stability and progress. However, much depends on the access to justice in the courts, and access to needed public services. Fighting can still erupt at anytime.
What are their beliefs? The B'laans are animistic in belief. They believe in a pantheon of gods: Melu - creator of the universe, Lamot Ta Mangayo - god of war, Diwata - god of harvest. The female priestesses called Almos offer sacrifices to these gods and spirits. Calamities are always associated with the doings of evil spirits, requiring sacrifices and appeasements.
Prayer Points * Continued training of tribal believers for the ministry as only they can endure the hardships in the mountains. Assistance in community development and agricultural ministries.
* Christian efforts at restoring peace, order and justice.
* Establishment of Christian schools and vocational centers.
* That church planters receive adequate and regular support (around US$50 monthly.)
* That Scripture and the Jesus Film be used effectively in their language.