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Waray people

Warai / Waray-Waray
Total population
3.2 million
(4.05% of the Philippine population)
Regions with significant populations
23x15px Philippines
(Leyte, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, Biliran, some parts of Masbate, Southern Leyte, Surigao del Norte and Sorsogon, Metro Manila)
Waray-Waray (mother tongue), Cebuano (second language), English, Spanish
Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Other Visayans

The Waray are a subgroup of the Visayan people whose primary language is Waray-Waray, an Austronesian language native to the islands of Samar, Leyte and Biliran, which together comprise the Eastern Visayan region of the Philippines. Waray people inhabit the whole island of Samar and there they are called Samareños while on the island of Leyte they are called Leyteños. On Leyte island, Waray people occupy only the northern part of the island as it is divided by a mountain range in the middle of the island. Hence the language division between the Waray-Waray speaking people in the northern part and the Cebuano speaking people in the southern part. On the island of Biliran, Waray-Waray speaking people live in the eastern part of the island facing the island of Samar. They are commonly referred to using the Waray-Waray term Biliranon. On the island of Ticao, which belongs to the province of Masbate in the Bicol region, Waray-Waray speaking people live in most parts of the island. They are commonly referred to as Ticaonon. However, the Ticaonon have their affinity with the Bicolano speaking people of Masbate island as it is their home province. The Bicol and Waray-Waray languages are more similar in vocabulary to each other than to the Cebuano language.


The Waray people form the majority of the population in the provinces of Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, (Western) Samar while they form a significant population in Leyte and Sorsogon.


The Warays are descendants of the Austronesian-speaking immigrants who came to the Philippines during the Iron Age. In 1521, the Warays were the first Filipinos to be sighted by Europeans under the leadership of Ferdinand Magellan. The Warays were among the first Filipinos converted to Christianity. Paradoxically, they are also among the last Filipino ethnicities to retain traditional pagan practices alongside their practice of Roman Catholicism. From the Spanish Colonization onwards, they have been considered the underdog of Filipino ethnicity.

The ancient Waray tribal folk of Samar, Leyte, and Pintuyan Island were masters of the sea. Many of whom became pirates who attacked and raided coastal villages of present day Bohol, Bool, Cebu, the Luzon coasts and Mindanao. They utilized a form of indentured servitude to those who they captured in their raids and forced them in agricultural slavery even in forming ranks of their war parties. The ancient Waray tribal folk hold similar semblance to the Vikings of Northern Europe.


The Waray people are one of the most religious people in the Philippines. Most of them belong to Roman Catholicism, while others have been converted to various Christian denominations/groups, and still a small percentage of the population practice other religion (sometimes alongside Catholicism) such as Buddhism for a few Chinese descendants in the area. Their religious devotion is very evident in their celebrations like feasts honoring their patron saints, the "Santa Cruzan" and many more.


The Waray people speak the Waray-Waray language, a major Visayan language. They also speak Cebuano as their second language. Some people who are of Waray descent also speak Waray-Waray as their second or third language, especially among emigrants to Metro Manila, other parts of the Philippines and in other parts of the world. Other notable foreign languages spoken include English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese which is spoken by its community and among others.


Many Waray traditions can be traced to pre-colonial times. For example, the Kuratsa dance is a very popular traditional dance of the Waray-Waray at many social gatherings, especially weddings. It is very common throughout Samar. The couple who dances the Kuratsa are showered with money by the people around them. The belief is that the more money showered upon them, the more blessings will come their way.


Tacloban City in Leyte is home to a campus of the University of the Philippines. Leyte Normal University is also located in Tacloban. There are numerous state universities serving the region, including Eastern Samar State University, Eastern Visayas State University, Samar State University and the largest both in terms of land area and curricular offerings in the whole region, the University of Eastern Philippines located in Catarman, Northern Samar. There are also other colleges in (Western) Samar like St. Mary's College of Catbalogan, formerly Sacred Heart College and Samar College. Northwest Samar State University, formerly Tiburcio Tancinco Memorial Institute of Science and Technology and Samar State College of Agriculture and Forestry, offer courses that are needed in technology and business community.

Perceptions in other parts of the Philippines

The Waray-Waray are often stereotyped as brave warriors, as popularized in the phrase, "basta ang Waray, hindi uurong sa away" (Waray never back down from a fight.) In addition they are known as contented people, such that, during the Spanish era, they were often called lazy, due to their sense of contentment, of living in simplicity as farmers, and for making tuba from coconut nectar.

Warays are also known for their love of music, one form of which is the Kuratsa, a courtship dance, with music based on native and Hispanic influences; some local artists tend to create Waray versions of popular songs, such as "An Bahal nga Tuba" which was based on a Mexican song.


The most important crop and major source of income for many is the coconut. Other major agricultural products include rice and corn, while sugarcane, abaca, and tobacco are also grown. Cassava and camote (sweet potato) are grown as supplementary staple crops. Pineapple, banana, mangoes, and other fruit are grown year round, as are many vegetables and peanuts. In Eastern Samar, a root crop known as "palawan" is grown. It is not common outside of that area, except in some parts of (Western) Samar like Basey and Marabut. Leyte is a big producer of bananas.


Farming and fishing provide much of the livelihood of the Waray-Waray. There is an impressive variety of seafood available.

Native Wines

Native wines are produced in the area, as in many places in the Philippines. The most common of these wines are tuba, extracted from the coconut palm, and pangasi, made from fermented rice.

Famous Warays