The Tagalogs are the largest Filipino ethnic group next to the Bisaya. The name Tagalog comes from the native term tagailog, meaning 'people living near a/the river'. The prefix taga- means 'coming from' or 'native of', while the word ilog means 'river'. Transliterated, tagailog means 'coming from the river' or 'native of the river', with 'the' being implied.
The Tagalogs are the most widespread in the Philippines. They form a majority in the provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna, Bataan, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Marinduque, and Rizal. Other provinces with significant Tagalog populations include the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Aurora, Zambales, Oriental Mindoro, and in Metro Manila. The original Tagalog homeland is in Batangas.
Tagalogs number about 15,876,000, making them the second largest Filipino ethnic group. The origin of the Tagalogs is still disputed, whether their cultivating homeland was in (what is now) Taal, Batangas, or ascending from the south where their closer linguistic kinsmen (the Visayans) dwelled. Nonetheless, the Tagalogs (like other aboriginal Philippine ethnicities) are likely the descendants of Austronesian-speaking immigrants from prehistoric Taiwan (see Taiwanese aboriginals). Tagalogs speak the Tagalog language, with many dialectal variations, although all Tagalog dialects are considered to be mutually comprehensible to each other. The main religion of Tagalogs is Christianity, mostly Roman Catholicism as well as Protestantism. There are also some Muslims. There are many Tagalog Mestizos. Many are a mix of Spanish, Chinese or American descent.
The Tagalog culture of the Pre-Hispanic times was totally different from its forms today. From a former tattooing tribe, the Tagalog culture grew steadily to accept foreign, especially Hispanic, Chinese, and American cultural influences, and their culture today remains the backbone and the representative of all other Filipino cultures. Traditionally, the Tagalogs are for the most part agriculturalists, although there are some who engage in fishing. Tagalogs have a very strict adherence to conduct and respect, and this is exemplified by practices and their language structure. Tagalogs are also depicted by examples of bravery and courage, as manifested by historical events, i.e., the Philippine Revolution and World War II.
Tagalogs are also focused on food preparation and culinary activities. Women (and sometimes, men) are trained early on to become culinary experts. This is depicted in lavish celebrations during Fiestas and gatherings.
See main articles: Manila (history)
The ancient Tagalogs were primarily a Hindu people who were undergoing a process of Islamization by Malay and Arab Muslim traders just before the arrival of the Spaniards led by Miguel López de Legazpi. Spanish colonial rule eventually led to most of the people to convert once again, this time to Catholicism.
The primary centers of Tagalog civilization were based in riverine deltas, especially those in what are now Manila, Taal, Batangas, Pila, Laguna, and scattered townships along Manila Bay. The Tagalogs also had long commercial relations with the Chinese before the arrival of Legazpi. The friendliness and maturity of Tagalogs is exemplified by the attitude of Rajah Lakandula towards the Spanish fleet of Legazpi, while the bravery and deep regard for honor and liberty is clearly shown by the actions of Rajah Soliman in the great battle of Maynilad (early Manila).
Legazpi defeated Rajah Soliman in the great battle of Manila, and built a fortress there (the current Intramuros). The building of the Intramuros saw forced labor or polo among the Tagalogs, and this led to deep resentment by the latter. The Tagalogs have definitely shown far more intellectual and cultural vigour compared to other ethnolinguistic groups, as evidenced by the number of Philippine national heroes who are Tagalog. The Tagalogs staged the most numerous revolts against Spanish colonization, and were also among the earliest. One such revolt was that of Tagalog Apolinario de la Cruz (Hermano Pule), which was religious in orientation. Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero from Calamba Laguna, is Tagalog-Chinese.
Since Aguinaldo, four other Tagalogs assumed the presidency: Manuel L. Quezon (who was a Spanish-mestizo with mostly Tagalog native ancestry), Jose P. Laurel, and Corazon Aquino (partly of Tagalog descent, from her maternal side). Early Philippine history has always been dominated by the struggles and triumphs of the Tagalog people and the Tagalogs came to dominate the present Philippine economy and politics. Tagalog prominence in the national character is well-founded, as Philippine history has always shown Tagalogs to be in the frontlines, persevering and always forwarding the Filipino spirit.