IES: Philippines



Ifugao: (2,2,2,2,2-,2-;8,8;E)

Badjau: (2-,2-,2-,2)





Featured: Tagals, Agta, Kalingas, Bagobo, Mandaya, Batak, Sulod, Badjau, Buid, Ifugao, Negritos, Sagada Igorots, Bontoc Igorot, Isneg Igorot, Ilocos



Age Stratified Patterns

Tagals  (Philippines)

Agta  (Philippines)

Bohol  (Visayans; Philippines)

Kalingas  (Philippines)

Bagobo  (Philippines)

Mandaya  (Philippines)

Batak  (Philippines; ®Indonesia)

Sulod  (Central Panay, Philippines)

Badjau (2-,2-,2-,2) (Philippines)

Buid  (Mindoro, Philippines)

Ifugao (Nothern Luzon, Philippines) (2,2,2,2,2-,2-;8,8;E) (Ehraf)

Negrotis  (North Luzon, Philippines)

Igorots (Sagada, Bontoc, Isneg) (Philippines)

Sagada Igorots  (Northern Luzon, Philippines)

Bontoc Igorot   (Philippines)

Isneg Igorot  (Philippines)

Ilocos (Philippines)









A historical literature overview of Philippine prepubertal betrothals and marriage was offered by the Amsterdam Colonial Institute (1921[IV]:p474-6)[1]. Such early betrothal would before 1811 be the case among Subanum, Mandaya [Samal-Davao], Bisaya, Igorot, Tingyan, and Negrito ethnicities. However, traditional Philippine societies are equally known for their dormitory systems. An old woman was sometimes employed for childhood defloration (Mallat, 1846, I:p61; De Morga, 1868:p304-5; Crawley, 1927, II:p69-70)[2].


Javier (1969)[3] speaks of segregation of sexes from preschool age on in the Central Plain of Luzon, Philippines. Guthrie and Jacobs (1966:p134-47)[4] provide a fairly elaborate account of sexual development among the Philippines. Whitam and Mathy (1986:p44-52)[5] provide some indication of sexual development (attraction in childhood sex play, gender of first sexual contact, age of first sexual contact, age of first sexual attraction, age of realization of sexual orientation) among Philippino, as compared to Brazilian, Guatemalan and North American hetero- and homosexuals.


A short excerpt from Leyson (2001)[6] (read in full: IES):


“In Filipino society today, it is not unusual for preteenage boys to engage in exploratory “sex” games with other boys and girls. Such exploratory play allows the child to reassure him/herself of the normality of his or her body. This kind of childhood sexual rehearsal games was more common in the past and in rural areas, when violence and drugs were not as devastating as they are now in the urban areas. In some cases, boys would observe couples kissing and hugging in the park. Occasionally, they sit in the balconies of movie theaters where couples are engaging in heavy petting. In the rural areas and barrios, boys commonly compare their bodies with a friend, relative, or schoolmates. Generally speaking, parents and other adults have a mildly negative response when they discover child sexual play, ranging from warnings to spankings. […] Our knowledge of the sexual attitudes and behaviors of the Filipino youth is limited to a very few anecdotal reports, most of which deal with middle and upper-class urban teenagers rather than the rural poor and urban street children. In this very limited context, my personal experience was the basis of my premedical school thesis on “First Night Sexual Experience of Young Boys - 1968” [read in full: IES].



Additional refs:


  • Health Action Information Network (1987) Child and Youth Prostitution in the Philippines. Manila
  • Cavendish (1588)[7]



Age Stratified Patterns


“In pre-colonial Philippino society, each tribe had an official chief. However, more powerful than the chief was the medicine man, the "babaylan" or "catalonan". His function would be high priest, overseer of sacred ceremonies, and advisor to the chief. Power was not perceived as political and economic, but supernatural and paranormal. In most recorded cases, a "man whose nature inclined toward that of a woman", a so-called "bayoguin", was assigned the role of babaylan. Worship of the hermaphrodite god Bathala was widespread, which lead the people to believe that bisexuality and androgyny represented immortality. The babaylans were known to marry and live with men, and it was considered a great honor to the family if their young son would be allowed to live with a babaylan. This relationship would however end when the boy was old enough to marry” (Fleras 1993 as cited by Almgren, 1997)[8].


Boy prostitution was said to have been common (Drew and Drake, 1969:p117-24)[9]. Bini boys roamed the streets dressed as girls, a phenomenon entering popular culture as a disguised theme: a Philippine “Robin” would be dragged away from attempted amorous passes at other males by “Batman”. An illustrated account of Manila street life is given by the subversive book Desert Patrol[10], apparently in celebration of boys’ liberties with tourists. Johnson (1998:p698)[11] mentions that local homosexuals (“gays”, not “paedophiles”) “call on 8 to 12-year-old boys who frequent video houses. Paying them as little as five pesos, the gays in Jolo call these boys Ha! Ha! Boys”.






Among the Philippine Tagals, uncircumcised children are teased by the insult of suput (“tight”), or being unfit for sexual intercourse[12].

Plasencia (p118)[13] suggests that marriages have been contracted in early childhood. Premarital freedom would be considerable, according to Blumentritt[14] (also cited by Wilken, 1889:p439)[15], citing author Cañamaque[16] who accuses even children of lewdness (“beschuldigt selbst Kinder der Unzucht”).





Jean (as cited by Hewlett)[17] describes for the Philippine Agta hunter-gatherers:


“The infant is eagerly passed from person to person until all in attendance have had an opportunity to snuggle, nuzzle, sniff, and admire the new- born [...]. A child’s first experience, then involves a community of relatives and friends. Thereafter he enjoys constant cuddling, carrying, loving, sniffing and affectionate genital stimulation”.





Circumcision is to occur during elementary school[18]; if not, the boys will be teased. “Courtship has its own rituals and beliefs. Although courtship is now generally based on romantic love, marriage proposals are still made with the held and consent of the parents. Whereas the sex act is perceived as natural and pleasant, […] it is considered sinful if performed outside of marriage. Young people found to have engaged in premarital intercourse are pressured to get married”.





Among the Kalingas (Northern Luzon), only a “denegerated form” of olag institution is called maki-obóg; nor would sexual freedom exist here (Barton, 1949:p61)[19]. It is entered at age 10. This institute would not have been defunct among the 1954 Madukayans, according to Scott (1960:p178)[20]. Nudity is not problematised even into adulthood. An informant would deny any age, accomplishment, or other standard for either courtship or marriage; “with some bemusement he pointed out that some boys seem to be more interested in going out to work in the field than they are in the opposite sex”. Child betrothals were most common among the well-to-do, “for the recognized purpose of preserving the family heritage”.





No puberty rites and marriage later than would be common for Philippine tribes (Cole, 1913:p101)[21].





At puberty, teeth are filed and blackened to render a person “more beautiful and, therefore, able to contract a suitable marriage”. “Frequently parents arrange matches for their children while they are very young, but in the majority of cases the matter is left until after the age of puberty when the wishes of the young people are taken into consideration” (Cole, 1913:p192)[22].





Eder (1977)[23] examined is the disappearance of the umbay ceremony and related practices among the Batak of Palawan Island in the Philippines, a small Negrito society. The ceremony represents a rite of passage for boys and girls (aged about 14) from childhood to adolescence, involving a mock sexual intercourse scene between initiate and an already initiated partner of the opposite sex.





Jocano (1968:p154)[24]states that most girls are chaste before their first marriage. There is no trial mating, and no dormitory system. Child marriages were common in some places, but fast disappearing in others (p154, 161). The children could be betrothed at age eight or nine, and married at puberty.





Sex is freely discussed before children, and children commonly explore genitalia. Premarital experiences are condoned and expected (Nimmo, 1965:p252-3)[25], but may still lead to forced marriage or fining (p255).


“Children early become aware of the nature of the human genitals. They wear no clothes until the age of eight or ten, and commonly explore one another’s genitals during these early years. Parents do not become upset with such behavior unless the child displays undue curiosity, when he may be scolded, or more likely teased, until his attention is diverted to something else”.


Adolescents meet in houseboats and at ceremonies to socialise. The sex act among the unmarried is organised with the use of boy-to-girl gifts and go-betweens.





According to Gibson (1985:p404)[26], the children begin to separate at puberty, and courtship seems to follow when the boys build their own houses.





Barton (1919:p18)[27] states that marriage took place “at any age”. This encompasses trial marriages (including “primitive sexual mating”) in the dormitories and contract marriage, usually arranged for when the children are “quite small”.

Lambrecht (1935)[28] also stated this was the case with prepubertal children, “although cohabitation and some particularities of secondary importance may be postponed until the spouses have grown up; the crime of adultery has become possible […], and real divorce negotiations must be entered into in order to nullify such a marriage”.

An autobiography (Barton, 1938:p99-100)[29] reveals: “A boy is ashamed to attempt sexual intercourse before puberty, because he fears that when the girl discovers his organ to be small, she will ridicule him or scold him. On the other hand, if a girl is being courted by an unwelcome suitor, she may be glad to have an immature boy sleep with her: when the unwelcome one comes around and tries to get her to leave the side of the immature boy, she can answer, “Málamok! Bokun lalaki dumduma?” [What’s the matter? Isn’t this a male, also?]”. Boys enter the agamang dormitory at age 4 to 7. Masturbation and sex perversions would be absent (“at least I am sure about the latter. There is no positive evidence for the former and no word for either”). Little girls in the mixed dormitory receive a “complete education long before they require it” (p9-10).

Lambrecht (1935:p171)[30]also states that preadolescents may accompany their adolescent “elder aga'mang-mates (ma-iaga'mangcha, “they share the sleeping place of the girls”; ma-iha'ludcha, “they flirt with the girls” […]). One must not however think that boys always go to the sleeping places of the girls to have sexual relations with them: they often go only to talk and to joke with them, and after a certain time go back to sleep in their own aga'mang, or may just sleep there”[31]. The dormitories are entered as early as three or four (Goldman, 1937:p170)[32].





Vanoverbergh (1930:p530; cf. 1928:p425)[33] only once noted a “very indecent” act in children. It was a six-year-old girl in the process of voyeurism and exhibitionism. Vanoverbergh (1928:p423)[34] noted among the Negritos of Northern Luzon: “I have […] observed that the custom prevails of tickling and kissing them [children] more especially on the genitals. This is also more or less practised by the other tribes I have had to do with during my missionary career” (e.g., Isneg infra).





Blumentritt (p27; Wilken, 1889:p445) argued that “Sobald die Kinder geschlechtsreif werden, tritt eine vollständige Isolirung der Jünglinge und Mädchen ein”. This restraint, and threat of severe physical punishment or even death, lasts until formal engagement, after which one was allowed “die Fruchtbarkeit der Braut zu erproben”.





Among the Sagada Igorots, children began to sleep at the dap-ay (where courtship techniques are transmitted by older boys) or ebgan (where courtship takes place) at age six, or eight (Eggan, 1960:p42/1971)[35], or thirteen (1965:p79-81)[36]. According to one high school student, girls learn from elder girls how to perform massage (on boys, mainly). “The function of the ebgan was primarily to provide training in courtship and preparation for marriage” (Eggan, 1963:p51-2[37]; cf. Pacyaya, 1951)[38]. “ “Sleeping together” today may or may not involve sexual relations but probably did so more frequently in the past, when it was the major way in which marriages were arranged” (E., 1963).





Jenks (1905)[39] described that the child is weaned before it is two years old, and then moves to the o’-lâg if a girl, or the pabafunan or fawi, if a boy. Allegedly, “[….] the olag is nightly filled with little girls whose moral training is had there”. However, “[c]hildren before puberty are said to be virtuous” (p67). Adolescent sexual intercourse used to be “unbelievably free”[40].



Isneg Igorot  (Philippines)


Vanoverbergh (1938:p179)[41] noted parental stimulation of male, but not female genitalia (cf. Negritos).






Nydegger and Nydegger (1963)[42] state that sex training is “surprisingly meagre” in view of the adults’ lack of self-consciousness about sexual matters. Sex play “barely exists, only 17 instances being reported for the 83 children”. These were all interpreted as teasing (p839). Thus, “it is prerogative of young boys to lightly pinch girl’s genitals if they are exposed. The privilege is exercised with hilarity and enthusiasm and is a most effective training method”. “Of the 24 sample mothers, 17 reported no incidence of masturbation at any age. Three said it had occurred with their boys only in infancy”. The behaviour is physically punished and attributed to “insufficient cleansing of the genitals; most assume it is inherently pleasurable but must be prohibited before it becomes a habit” (p825). Erections, however, bring on a smile, or may be “tapped” until subsiding. Girls’ modesty is more marked than boys’. Parents argue, “By 12 or 13, sexual activity is already a plaything of their fancy”  (p863). There is much occasion for observing animals, parents, and overhearing discussions. Adolescents meet at dancings and play card games at puberty [14, 15 for boys], which is not marked officially.




Tagals, Agta, Kalingas, Bagobo, Mandaya, Batak, Sulod, Badjau, Buid, Ifugao, Negritos, Sagada Igorots, Bontoc Igorot, Isneg Igorot, Ilocos





Further reading:


§        Varga, Christine A. & Zosa-Feranil, Imelda (January, 2003) Adolescent Reproductive Health in Philippines: Status, Issues, Policies, and Programs. []


§        Upadhyay, Ushma D. & Hindin, Michelle J. (2005) Before First Sex: Emotional Relationships and Physical Behaviors among Adolescents in the Philippines. Population Association of America (PAA) 2005 Annual Meeting, 31 March–2 April

§        A Qualitative Study of the Beliefs, Attitudes, Perceptions Behaviour of Young People about Identity, Sexuality and Health. (2002). Full report from






Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. Volume I. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2005



[1] Koloniaal Instituut te Amsterdam (1921) Pandecten van het Adatrecht. Mededeeling no. IV. Amsterdam: De Bussy [Dutch]

[2] Mallat, J. (1846) Les Phillipines; De Morga, A. (1868) The Philippine Islands [etc.] ; Crawley, E. (1927) The Mystic Rose. New York: Boni & Liveright. Vol. II

[3] Javier, Au. (1969) Personality development of a Filipino adult, Pennsylv Psychia Quart 9,2:41-7

[4] Guthrie, G. M. & Jiménez Jacobs, P. (1966) Child Rearing and Personality Development in the Philippines. University Park, PA [etc.]: The Pennsylvania State University Press

[5] Whitam, F. L. & Mathy, R. M. (1986) Male Homosexuality in Four Societies. New York [etc.]: Praeger

[6] Leyson, J. (2001) The Philippines, in Francoeur, R. T. (Ed. in chief) The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. New York: Continuum. Expected online ed.

[7] Quoted in Dingwall, E. J. (1925) Male Infibulation. London: John Bale, sons & Danielsson Ltd., p52-3

[8] Almgren, T. (1997) Homosexuality in Non-European Cultures. Online paper, []

[9] Drew, D. & Drake, J. (1969) Boys for Sale. New York: Brown Book Co.

[10] G. N. (1980) Desert Patrol. [Paris]: Editions de la Jungle

[11] Johnson, M. (1998) Global desirings and translocal loves: Transgendering and same-sex sexualities in the southern Philippines, Am Ethnol 25,4:695-711

[12] Dingwall, E. J. (1925) Male Infibulation. London: John Bale, sons & Danielsson Ltd., p90, referring to Barney, C. N. (1903) Circumcision and Flagellation among the Filipinos. Carlisle, Pa., p4

[13] Plasencia (1893) De gewoonten der Tagalogs op de Filippijnen, Bijdragen Taal-, Land-, & Volkenk Nederlansch-Indie XLII:101-19

[14] Blumentritt, F. (1882) Versuch einer Ethnographie der Philippinen, Ergänzungsheft No. 67 zu Petermanns Mitteilungen / Gotha, p15

[15] Wilken, G. A. (1889) Plechtigheden en gebruiken bij verlovingen en huwelijken bij de volken van den Indischen archipel, Bijdragen Taal-, Land-, & Volkenk Nederlansch-Indie [Holland] XXXVIII:380-460

[16] Cañamaque, F. (1877) Recuerdos de Filipinas,. Madrid. I, p174

[17] Cited by Hewlett, B. S. (1996) Diverse contexts of human infancy, in Ember, C. & Ember, M. (Eds.) Cross-Cultural Research for Social Science. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

[18] Maturan, Eu. G. (1979) The Bohol Culture: Implications for Health and Family Planning Promotion, Stud Fam Plann 10,6/7:189-92

[19] Barton, R. F. (1949) The Kalingas. Chicago, Ill.: Chicago University Press

[20] Scott, W. H. (1960) Social and religious culture of the Kalingas of Madukayan, Southwest J Anthropol 16:p174-90

[21] Cole, F. (1913) The Wild Tribes of Davao District, Mindanao. Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History Anthropological Series 12,2

[22] Op.cit.

[23] Eder, J. F. (1977) Modernization, Deculturation and Social Structural Stress: The Disappearance of the Umbay Ceremony among the Batak of the Philippines, Mankind 11,2:144-9

[24] Jocano, F. L. (1968) Sulod Society. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press

[25] Nimmo, H. A. (1970) Badjau sex and reproduction, Ethnology 9:251-62

[26] Gibson, Th. (1985) The Sharing of Substance Versus the Sharing of Activity Among the Buid, Man, New Series, 20,3:391-411

[27] Barton, R. F. (1919) Ifugao Law. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press

[28] Lambrecht, F. (1935) The Mayawyaw Ritual, Part II. Washington, D.C.: Catholic Anthropological Conference

[29] Barton, R. F. (1938) Philippine Pagans. The Autobiographies of Three Ifugaros. London: George Routledge & Sons

[30] Op.cit.

[31] See also Ford, C. S. & Beach, F. A. (1951) Patterns of Sexual Behavior. New York: Harper & Row, p190

[32] Goldman, I. (1937) The Ifugao of the Philippine Islands, in Mead, M. (Ed.) Cooperation and Competition among Primitive Peoples. New York & London: McGraw-Hill Book Co., p153-79

[33] Vanoverbergh, M. (1930) Negritos of Nothern Luzon again, Anthropos 25:527-65

[34] Vanoverbergh, M. (1928) Negritos of Northern Luzon, Chapter III, Anthropos 23,3-4:399-433

[35] Eggan, F. (1960) The Sagada Igorots of Northern Luzon, in Murdock, G. (Ed.) Social Structure in Southeast Asia. Chicago Quadrangle Books. 1971 reprint, p24-50

[36] Eggan, F. & Scott, W. H. (1965) Ritual life of the Igorots of Sagada: courtship and marriage, Ethnology 4,1:77-111

[37]Eggan, F. (1963) Ritual life of the Igorots of Sagada: from birth to adolescence, Ethnology 2,1:40-53

[38]Pacyaya, A. (1951) The Sagada Ebgan, The Gold Ore 5:i, 2-4. Quoted by Eggan (1963)

[39] Jenks, A. E. (1905) The Bontoc Igorot. Manila: Department of the Interior. Ethnological Survey Publications. Vol. 1

[40] Mills, C. A. (1936) Physiologic Sterility of Adolescence, Human Biology 8,4:607-15, at p607

[41] Vanoverbergh, M. (1938) The Isneg. Washington: Catholic Anthropological Conference. Also cited by Duerr, H. P. (1988) Nacktheit und Scham. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. Vol. 1 of Der Mythos vom Zivilizationprocess. 2nd ed., p201/416n25

[42] Nydegger, W. F. & Nydegger, C. (1963) Tarong: an Ilocos Barrio in the Philippines, in Whiting, B. (Ed.) Six Cultures. New York: Wiley, p693-867