Wedding Destination

Higaonon Wedding Ritual
By Jonathan Dionisio
11 July 2011

Modern Philippine wedding ceremony, custom, and tradition have captured the interest and hearts of many foreign couples. Its uniqueness and fiesta-like ambiance has attracted them to have a destination wedding here in the country. But even before the ‘discovery’ of the Philippines, ethnic tribes here have their own unique and festive wedding ceremony. An example is the Higaonon wedding.

The Higaonon is one of the least known ethnolinguistic groups that inhabit North-Central Mindanao. They occupy the mountainous regions of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Agusan, and Lanao. From Misamis Oriental to Cagayan de Oro City, there are approximately 100,000 Higaonon members.

The indigenous religion of the Higaonon no longer exists. Traces of this still remain with the older generation of Higaonon. Like many indigenous tribes in the Philippines, they too were exposed to Christianity and other religions, which prompted their conversion. As such, marriages, baptisms and other sacraments are done in churches administered by the Catholic priest or Protestant minister, whichever is applicable. When baptized, a Higaonon native keeps two names - a Christian and a Higaonon name.

The Traditional Higaonon Wedding Ceremony
Higaonon marriage is arranged mainly by the parents of the bride and groom. The arrangement is a long and tedious process. Prior to the wedding, the groom-to-be must live in the girl's house for about a year to prove his worth and where he is scrutinized by the parents of the bride-to-be.

The wedding ceremony is elaborate and expensive. Feasting lasts for several days at the residence of the bride and groom. The marriage of a datu is even more elaborate.

A typical Higaonon wedding ceremony begins with the bride and groom, wearing traditional Higaonon wedding attire, enter a home while an elder chants a form of blessing for the ceremony, called Dasang. Once inside, the couple sits down together with the Higaonon leader and the elders who will perform the ceremony. Two candles are placed on a plate that is filled with triangle-like items wrapped in banana leaves and coins. The candles are lit and afterwards, another elder recites a series of chant, called Limbay which is tonal in nature, as if he is singing.

The wedding officiant, normally the datu, begins to bless the couple by reciting chants and giving them advice on marriage. After the blessing, the datu gets a chicken and places the Bukala, or the counterpart of the wedding ring, above the chicken.

He then recites a chant while the hands of the bride and groom are placed over the chicken. The chicken’s neck is slit and its blood is poured over the plate. An elder takes a feather from the chicken and dips it to the plate with blood. The datu then smears blood on the hands of the couple. Once the blood ceremony is done, they wash their hands and proceeds outside to dance and celebrate their union.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  would like to acknowledge the following sources for this article:

Mordeno, H. Marcos, MindaNews. The Higaonons of Mintapod: weavers of the cloth of peace (Posted September 7, 2010)

Binahon, Fundador Jr. National Commission For Culture and the Arts. The Higaonon. Retrieved August 27, 2010 from

stevelynful, YouTube video. Our Higaonon wedding. (Posted July 22, 2010) Retrieved August 27, 2010 from