Sambal People - History


The Sambal are the original Austronesian inhabitants of the province of Zambales in the Philippines. They speak Sambal, Bolinao, or Botolan, all of which are Sambalic languages. The Sambalic languages are most closely related to Pampagan and to an archaic form of Tagalog still spoken in Tanay in the province of Rizal. This has been interpreted to mean that the Sambal originated from that area, later being displaced by migrating Tagalogs, pushing the original inhabitants northward to what is now the province of Zambales, in turn, displacing the Negritos.

The Spanish, in their first encounters with the Sambal, supposedly found them to be highly superstitious and who worshipped the spirits of their ancestors. To this day, most Sambal still believe in superstitions and mysteries. This is said to be the origin of the name Sambal—the Spanish who first encountered them called them the sambali, coined from the Malay word sembah, which means "to worship." The term was later castilianized as zambal.

Like the Moros, the culture and customs of the Sambal are different from that of neighboring groups. This is evident in their traditional dress, which consists of a single-shoulder short-sleeved shirt, paired with short trousers. Usually worn at the chest and shoulder areas of the shirt are badges that resemble multicolored crosses.

The Sambal were known to be fierce warriors, notorious for their bloody raids on Christian settlements. They have been occasionally recruited by Indio commanders (indio was the term used for the Austronesian natives) in campaigns against the Spanish, who then governed the islands. The Sambal were also once known to have captured and enslaved Diego Silang as a child, eventually being ransomed by a Recollect missionary in Zambales.

It was recorded as customary for the Sambal to perform an execution as punishment for those who have taken another person’s life. Their manner of execution was to bore a hole at the top of the skull and then scrape out the brains.

During the first hundred years of Spanish rule, the Sambal, like most other non-Spanish groups in the Philippines during the colonial era, had their village structures reorganized and were forced into reducciones in order to assimilate them into Spanish cultural norms.

During the 1950s, hundreds of Sambals coming from Candelaria, Santa Cruz and Masinloc in Zambales migrated to an undeveloped and forested area in southern Palawan. They established a settlement which was later on named Panitian. Like in Masinloc, many residents of Panitian have their last names start with the letter E. Most common last names are Eclarino, Elefane, Echaluse, Echague,Español,Ebuen,Edquid,Edquilang,Ebueng,Ebuenga,Ebalo,Elfa,Eliaso, Elgincolin, Edquibal, Ednalino, Edora, Espinoza, Ecaldre and Ecle. Those who came from Santa Cruz have their last names usually begin with the letter M, foremost of which are Misa, Mora,Moraña Moralde and Meredor. Other common last names of Sambali people are Ángeles, Atrero,Agagas, Hebron, Hitchon, Hermoso, Hermosa, Hermana, and Hermogino. There are now approximately 6,000 Sambals residing in Palawan. Many of the Palawan Sambals have since moved to the provincial capital, Puerto Princesa, settling in Mandaragat and New Buncag, in particular, although a majority still resides in Panitian.

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