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Prayer Profile
The Yakan of the Philippines

[IMAGE] The Yakan are probably the original inhabitants of Basilan, an island just off the southwestern point of Mindanao. They live mostly in the central and southwestern mountainous interior. Basilan has a tropical climate with a rainy season from April to October, and a dry season from November to April. There is also a small Yakan community on Sacol Island.

The 71,700 Yakan make up less than half of Basilan's population. In some respects, they are culturally related to the other South Philippines Muslim groups, not merely in religious affiliation. However, they still have their own identifiable culture.

Although the Sultan of Sulu once claimed Basilan as part of his possession, Christian occupation started in 1842 when the Spanish government established a fort on Basilan's northwest coast. Today, there is still a sizable Christian population on the island. During the 1970's, unrest in the southern Philippines hit the Yakan, and many were evacuated.

What Are Their Lives Like?
The Yakan are primarily farmers who use plows drawn by water buffaloes to cultivate the soil. Rice is their main crop; cassava and coconut are also grown. Sadly, few people grow enough rice to last from season to season.

There are no major Yakan villages. Instead, the Yakan live in settlements that are based on mosque affiliation. The mosque is considered the center of the community. Yakan houses are usually scattered among the fields, and it is difficult to see where one settlement ends and the next begins. The inhabitants of a settlement may or may not be of the same clan.

Nuclear families usually live together in rectangular-shaped homes built on stilts. Homes were traditionally built with thatched roofs, but, today, corrugated iron may be used. A house usually has only one large room with no special quarters for the women. A kitchen adjoins the house.

There is no marked division of labor among the Yakan. The men usually cultivate the gardens while the women tend to household chores. However, the women also help with the farming and the men help with the household duties.

As Muslims, the Yakan are allowed to have as many as four wives, but this practice is becoming rare. Formerly, marriages were arranged, but now the children's wishes are considered. A bride price is still paid to the bride by the groom or his family. Newlyweds usually live with the parents of the bride or the groom. Later, they form their own household on land belonging to either of them. Divorce is common, and may by initiated by either the man or the woman.

The nuclear family, which consists of the husband, his wife, and their unmarried children, is the most common domestic unit. Property is divided equally between children, in spite of teachings in the Koran, which state that a daughter should only inherit half as much as a son.

The Yakan enjoy playing musical instruments. Flutes, Jew's harps, and percussion instruments are played at births, weddings, and funerals. Music is also played toward the growing rice in hopes of "making it happy." The Yakan believe that this will help them have a bountiful harvest.

What Are Their Beliefs?
The Yakan are primarily Muslim. The imam is the religious leader of the community and conducts various ceremonies. The Yakan follow the Islamic calendar and celebrate the annual Muslim feasts, such as the birthday of Mohammed. Ceremonies are also held in connection with births, completion of Koranic studies, weddings, and burials.

The Yakan have incorporate many of their traditional animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects have spirits) into their Islamic rituals. They believe in evil spirits that sometimes attack people. One such devil is believed to attack and torture people during the second month of the Muslim year.

What Are Their Needs?
The Yakan have strong religious traditions. Currently, there are very few Christian resources available in their language. Additional laborers and evangelistic tools are needed. Prayer is the key to seeing them reached with the Gospel.

Prayer Points
  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to live and work among the Yakan.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are currently targeting the Yakan.
  • Pray that the Jesus film and Christian radio broadcasts will soon be made available in the Yakan language.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Yakan through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that God will give the Yakan believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Yakan bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Yakan church for the glory of His name!

See also the following related groups:
of Indonesia, the Bajau and Joloano Sulu;
of Malaysia, the Bisaya, Northern Sinama, Southern Sama, and Tausug;
of the Philippines, the Bajau, Bajau Kagayan, Central Sama, Kalagan, Magindanaw, Northern Sinama, Pangutaran Sama, Southern Sama, and Tausug.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Yakan
  • Country: Philippines
  • Their language: Yakan
  • Population: (1990) 64,500
    (1995) 71,700
    (2000) 79,100
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Shafiite) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 72
  • Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 3
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 20,900 (30%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 3,700 (6%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 17,200 (24%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 50,800 (70%)
  • Country: Philippines
  • Population: (1990) 60,779,000
    (1995) 67,581,300
    (2000) 74,575,400
  • Major peoples in size order: Tagalog 20.5%
    Visayan 19%
    Ilocano 11.1%
    Hilgaynon 9.3%
    Waray-Waray 4.6%
  • Major religions: Christian (all types) (92.2%)
    Muslim 6%
    Ethnic religionist 0.6%
  • Number of denominations: 151

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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