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Sama is a cultural group in the Philippines consisting of a majority of the coastal people within the Sulu sea area. The 171,065 (OSCC, 1987) Sama members may be described as a cohesive and peace-loving people. They express themselves through verbal discussion rather than through physical violence.


Each Sama sub-group is identified geographically according to the name of their coastal settlement. These include: Sama Simunul, Sama Balimbing, Sama Tawi-Tawi, Sama Sibutu, and Sama Ubian. Each of them have varied ancestral backgrounds, economic practices, social upbringing, and outlooks on life.

The Sama Simunuls claim to have descended from a mixture of Arab and native blood. They point to the color of their skin and physical traits as evidence of this descent. Meanwhile, the Sama Tawi-Tawis are said to have come originally from Johore. Their ancestors are believed to have crossed the ocean on small outriggers. Their forefathers were powerful men, having supernatural power to invite unseen spirits called Jin to do things for them.

The Sama Ubians are Sea Dayak in origin. Among the Sama tribes who are generally peace-loving, the Sama Ubians are an exception. They are fierce fighters like the Tausugs. Their physical appearance is stocky and short with brown complexion. Their well-built physique may be attributed to their love of aquatic sports, swimming, and rowing.


Sama houses are usually built along coastal settlements. One reason for this is sanitation, because of the natural movements of the tide. The other reason is to enable easy escape from enemies through ready vintas (boats).

Social structure

Sama society is composed of the Barbangsa, of royal blood or nobility, and Mahardika, commoners who are free to exercise their basic rights over their private properties and their own professed religion.

Being a datu carries both social and political status. Socially a datu is clothed with a sense of higher maratapat (prestige). A headman sometimes claims to be a descendant of Kasalipan. He is followed by the people because of his Sharif lineage, coupled with his extraordinary limuh (wisdom) and personal traits of honesty, justice, and fairness. He acts as an arbiter of conflicts, counsellor of marital problems, and even as a leader of religious celebrations.


From birth to death, the life cycle of the Sama is full of taboos emanating from folk religion and spiritism, interwoven with those of other doctrines. The Samas have the notion that the occurrence of luck and misfortune in the life of an individual is due to their belief in the concept of Kadar iban Janji or on what has been willed and destined by the Divine.



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