MGA AHONG TA TAGOLWAN: Concerning the Meaning of Higaunon

By Anijun Mudan-udan

Some people claim that the Higaunons are those who “moved away” from the sea towards the interior. They say that the word Higaunon/Higaonon came from the rootword “gaun/gaon”. They say that “gaun/gaon” is the same as the action of taking the pot away from the fire. Or like moving away from water. It is their understanding that the Higaunons are the people who moved to the jungle from the sea.

What is my view regarding these things?

For me, such kind of belief/recognition about the Higaunon is a big mistake. In my humble view, our elders before would not attach a silly meaning into such a name. Especially since it is the name of their tribe.

So I cannot accept the meaning that some people ascribe to the Higaunon. I will try to show here why that kind of ascribing meaning is lame and utter foolishness. For I believe that the skillful way of the elders in performing their dasang could give us a glimpse on how good they are also in imbuing names with meaning.

Now, let us trace the source of my own narrative. But before that, I will first untie the knot that they had bound on meaning of Higaunon.

Yes, “gaun/gaon” could also mean “moving away from water” or “taking the pot off the fire/stove”. But I am convinced that that is not what our ancestors meant when they named the “Higaunon/Higaonon.” Just think about this: why would the Higaunons be called those who “moved away from the sea” and into the jungle/mountains when many of them are still living in the coasts? The coasts from Tablon to Rogongon are Higaunon banuwas. Even Iligan was a Higaunon banuwa way back then. According to oral lore, even the island of Camiguin is part of the Higaunon homeland.

So how can you ascribe to them the meaning that moved away from the coasts when they continue to live there? Is it not a clear contradiction?

It would be good to understand that our ancestors before did not confine themselves to just one place. They have dwellings in their sakum and dwellings in the settlements. Those who lived in the coasts also have areas in the mountains since they usually go to the mountains to hunt especially when Magbangal’s constellation is prominent.

What then if they went to the mountains for some period? It does not mean that they had abandoned/ given up their rights to their lands in the coasts. Even if we are going to do a survey nowadays, many HIgaunons would be found living in the coasts.

So if we look at it carefully, the ascription/claim that Higaunons are those who moved away from the coasts is untenable.

For even the Dumagats moved away also from the coasts. But can we call them Higaunons too?

Now that we had untied the knot they placed on the meaning of Higaunon, I will make a knot of my own.

If we would like to trace the narratives of our ancestors, it would be good to understand that there are words that have different meanings depending on how it is used. As they say, rivers may have different sources.

So let us go back to the word “gaun/gaon”. If you still can remember, the word “gaun/gaon” also means “long time ago”, “ancient times” or the “time of our ancestors”. All of these meanings stand on being “ancient” or a very long time ago.

Now, I would like to trace my narrative about the Higaunon in this vein. In my own understanding, Higaunon means “they who have been here since time immemorial”, “descendants of the ancient inhabitantsof the land” or “they who came from the ancients”.

In my view, this rightfully explains the meaning of the Higaunon as a group of people.

Now if you will ask what this narrative is standing on, then hear this. If we come to think of it, we can safely say that our ancestors were truly the ones who dwelt in the lands of Mindanaw for a very long time. For if we investigate, many of the names of the banuwas were named by our ancestors. For our ancestors are the ones who named the island of Mindanaw.

For is it not true that Mindanaw was coined from the words Amin Danaw? We can add even more like Iligan which came from Iliyan and many more banuwas.

Are these not proof that our ancestors have been here since time immemorial? That we, their descendants, are descendants of the ancients who founded the banuwas of Mindanaw?

The word “gaun/gaon”, when viewed as “a very long period of time”, perfectly fit  the name Higaunon.

(MGA AHONG TA TAGOLWAN or Echoes from Tagolwan, is Bukidnon News’ section in the native language. Tagolwan refers to the Tagoloan River Valley, historical home of the Higaonon, Bukidnon, Talaandig and other tribes in Northern Mindanao. Anijun Mudan-udan is T.S. Sungkit Jr, a novelist from the Higaonon tribe.  He writes and farms at the same time. He will edit this section as well as our Literary Section. Send your contributions to, write “Mga Ahong ta Tagolwan” in the subject line.)