The Visayans or Visayan people (Visayan languages: Bisaya)[A shortened form of the Sanskrit endonym: Sri-Vijaya "विजय" meaning, "Shining Victory"] are a Filipino ethnic group whose members share a great extent of cultural, historical and linguistic affinity stretching across islands within the Visayan Sea. The people are speakers of one or more Visayan languages, the most widely spoken being Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Waray-Waray. They live in the Visayan island group and in many parts of Mindanao. Some have migrated to other parts of the Philippines, including Luzon. The Visayans, as one ethnolinguistic umbrella and notwithstanding the population exclusive to that of Visayas, are the largest ethnic group in the country, numbering at around 33 million as of 2010.
According to H. Otley Beyer and other anthropologists, the term Visayan was first applied only to the people of Panay and to their settlements eastward in the island of Negros, and northward in the smaller islands, which now compose the province of Romblon. In fact, at the early part of Spanish colonialization of the Philippines, the Spaniards used the term Visayan only for these areas, while the people of Cebu, Bohol, and Leyte were for a long time known only as Pintados. The name Visayan was later extended to these other islands because, as several of the early writers state, albeit erroneously, their languages are closely allied to the Visayan "dialect" of Panay. The impression of these similarities was in fact carefully analyzed by David Zorc, who, while able to linguisticallyclassify the Austronesian subfamily termed Visayan languages, noticed their overall connections as one dialect continuum. However, these must not be confused to dialects, since not all Visayan languages contain a unified set of features.
Grabiel Ribera, captain of the Spanish royal infantry in the Philippine Islands, also distinguished Panay from the rest of the Pintados Islands. In his report (dated 20 March 1579) regarding a campaign to pacify the natives living along the rivers of Mindanao (a mission he received from Dr. Francisco de Sande, Governor and Captain-General of the Archipelago), Ribera mentioned that his aim was to make the inhabitants of that island "vassals of King Don Felipe... as are all the natives of the island of Panay, the Pintados Islands, and those of the island of Luzon..."
The earliest settlements in the Visayan islands were from valley-dwelling Austronesians and highland-dwelling Negrito dated around 30,000 BC. These early settlers were mostly Animist tribes. In the 12th century, Hindu-Animist descendants from the late empire of the Sri Vijaya, Majapahit and Brunei, settled the islands. By the 14th century, Arab traders and their followers who ventured into Maritime Southeast Asia, converted some of these tribal groups to Islam. These groups practiced a mixture of Islam, Hinduism and native Animist beliefs, although there were also groups that were varied: some groups exclusively practiced Islam or Hinduism or Animism. There is also evidence of trade and immigration between other Asian peoples in the area as early as the 9th century. The Tumandok people of the mountainous region of Panay island are the only Visayan group to maintain pre-Hispanic Visayan culture and beliefs, due to their geographic isolation from lowland Visayan groups.
Left to right:  Images from the Boxer Codex illustrating an ancient kadatuan or tumao (noble class) Visayan couple of Panay,  the Pintados ("The Tattooed"), another name for Visayans of Cebu and its surrounding islands according to the early Spanish explorers,  possibly a tumao (noble class) or timawa (warrior class) couple of the Pintados, and  a royal couple of the Visayans of Panay.
Although thought to be a hoax due to some content modifications, a compilation of transcriptions by Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro known as the Maragtas attempts to retell the origins of the present-day Visayan people based on folklore revolving around ten datus of Borneo. It was said that they originated from an area occupied by the thalassocratic empire of Sri Vijaya during the early 13th century. In an attempt to escape the despotic rule of a Rajah Makatunaw and the subsequent fall of the empire, the chieftains, led by Datu Puti, fled eastwards to what is now the island of Panay. The island at that time was ruled by an Ati chief Marikudo who was later given a golden sadok and a necklace for his wife, Maniwantiwan, in purchase of the Borneans of Panay for new settlement. It was said that the name for the inhabitants, Bisaya, was derived from their original land, Sri Vijaya.
The 16th century marks the beginning of the Christianization of the Visayan people, with the baptism of Rajah Humabon and about 800 native Cebuanos. The Christianization of the Visayans and Filipinos in general, is commemorated by the Ati-Atihan Festival of Aklan, the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo, and the Sinulog festival and the feast of the Santo Niño (Holy Child), the brown-skinned depiction of the Child Jesus given by Magellan to Rajah Humabon’s wife, Hara Amihan (baptized as Queen Juana). By the 17th century, Visayans already took part in religious missions. In 1672, Pedro Calungsod, a teenage indigenous Visayan catechist and Diego Luis de San Vitores, a Spanish friar, were both martyred in Guam during their mission to preach Christianity to the Chamorro people.
A Map of Mindanao c. 1900, made by the US Army in the Philippines, showing the different tribes of Mindanao, and their respective Ancestral Domains and traditional homeland. Most of the northern and eastern, as well as some southern coastal regions have been traditional homeland of Visayans; Islamized tribes dominate the western and some southern coasts; and the Lumads have been dwelling in the inland and highlands.
By the end of the 19th century, the Spanish Empire weakened after a series of wars with its American colonies. The surge of newer ideas from the outside world thanks to the liberalization of trade by the Bourbon Spain fostered a relatively larger middle class population called the Ilustrados or "the Enlightened Ones." This then became an incentive for the new generation of educated political visionaries to fulfill their dreams of independence from three centuries of colonial rule. Some prominent leaders of the Philippine Revolution in the late 19th century were Visayans. Among leaders of the Propaganda movement was Graciano López Jaena, the Ilonggo who established the propagandist publication La Solidaridad (The Solidarity). In the Visayan theater of the Revolution, Pantaleon Villegas (better known as León Kilat) led the Cebuano revolution in the Battle of Tres de Abril (April 3). One of his successors, Arcadio Maxilom, is a prominent general in the liberalization of Cebu. Earlier in 1897, Aklan fought against the Spaniards with Francisco Castillo and Candido Iban at the helm. Both were executed after a failed offensive.Martin Delgado and Juan Araneta led the rebellion in neighboring Iloilo. With the assistance of Aniceto Lacson, Negros Occidental was freed. The latter would be called the Negros Revolution or the Cinco de Noviembre. The other half of Negros was rallied by Diego de la Viña. Movements in Capiz were led by Esteban Contreras with the aid of Alejandro Balgos, Santiago Bellosillo and other Ilustrados. Meanwhile, Leandro Locsin Fullon spearheaded the liberalization of Antique. Most of these revolutionaries would continue their fight for independence until the Philippine–American War. There was also a less heard and short-lived uprising called the Igbaong Revolt which occurred in Igbaong, Antique steered by Maximo and Gregorio Palmero. This revolt, however, was secularly-motivated as they clamored for a more syncretic form of religion based on ancient Visayan rituals and Christianity.
Present-day Cebu City, the "Queen City of the South", is the de facto economic center of Southern Philippines
Throughout centuries, Spaniards, Japanese, Chinese, and other groups have settled in Visayan cities like Bacolod, Cebu, Dumaguete, Tagbilaran, Iloilo, Ormoc and Mindanao cities like Cagayan de Oro and Davao. Many of them have intermarried with Visayans and their descendants have taken on Visayan as their primary language. Many highland Negritos, locally called as ati, have also been assimilated into mainstream Visayan society.
Visayans have likewise migrated to other parts of the Philippines and abroad. A large part of Mindanao is populated by Visayans. In Metro Manila, many are of Visayan descent. The Visayans have also followed the pattern of migration of Filipinos abroad and some have migrated to other parts of the world starting from the Spanish and American period and after World War II. Most are migrants or working as overseas contract workers.
Upper white square covers the Visayan ethnolinguistic heartland or locally called Kabisay-an while the lower square around Mindanao is the extent where Visayans have historically migrated and have become the dominant population
Visayans refer to their respective languages as Binisaya or Bisaya. The table below lists the Philippine languages classified as Visayan by the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Although all of the languages indicated below are taxonomically classified as Visayan, not all speakers identify themselves as ethnically Visayan. The Tausūg, a Moro ethnic group, only use Bisaya to refer to the predominantly Christian lowland natives of which Visayans are widely considered to belong to. This is a similar case to the Ati to delineate ethnic Visayans from fellow Negritos.
According to a survey made in 2000, majority or 86.53% of the population of Western Visayas were Roman Catholics. Aglipayan (4.01%) and Evangelicals (1.48%), followed, while 7.71% belonged to other religious affiliations. According to the same survey, 92% of the household population in Central Visayas were Roman Catholics. This was followed by Aglipayans (2%) and Evangelicals (1%). The remaining 5% belonged to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Iglesia ni Cristo or other denominations. For Eastern Visayas, majority of the total household population in were Roman Catholics. More than 93% of the total household population were from the aforementioned followed by Aglipayan (2%) and Evangelicals (1%). The remaining 15% were in Iglesia ni Cristo, the Baptist church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Islam and other religions.
Visayans are known in the Philippines for their festivities such as the Ati-atihan, Dinagyang,Pintados-Kasadyaan, Sangyaw, Sinulog festivals. Most Visayan festivals have a strong association with Roman Catholicism despite apparent integration of ancient Hindu-Buddhist-Animist folklore particularly the tradition of dances and the idols in the image of the Child Jesus commonly named as the Santo Niño. The oldest Catholic religious image in the islands still existing today is the Santo Niño de Cebú.
The MassKara Festival of Bacolod, Negros Occidental explores more on the distinct cultural identity of the city. Since Bacolod is tagged as the City of Smiles due to its fun-loving and enduring people, the city government inaugurated the festival in 1980.
Some of the earliest known works documented by a Spanish Jesuit named Ignacio Francisco Alzina during the Spanish colonial Philippines. Among these literary pieces from ancient Eastern Visayas were candu, haya, ambahan, canogon, bical, balac, siday and awit which are predominantly in Waray. There were also narratives called susmaton and posong. It was also described that theater played a central role in performing poetry, rituals and dances. The Western Visayans also shared nearly the same literary forms with the rest of the islands. Among their pre-Hispanic works were called the bangianay, hurobaton, paktakun, sugidanun and amba. These were all found to be in Old Kinaray-a. Some of the widely known and the only existing literature describing ancient Visayan society are as the Hinilawod and the Maragtas which was in a combination of Kinaray-a and Hiligaynon. The Aginid: Bayok sa Atong Tawarik is an epic retelling a portion of ancient Cebu history where the Chola dynasty minor prince Sri Lumay of Sumatra founded and ruled the Rajahnate of Cebu. It also has accounts of Rajah Humabon and Lapu-Lapu.
From the 40's to 70's, Visayan movies particularly Cebuano experienced a boom. In the mid 40's alone, a total of 50 Visayan productions were completed. The decade after, nearly 80 movies were filmed. This wave of success has been bolstered by Gloria Sevilla, billed as the Queen of Visayan movies, who won the prestigious Best Actress award of the 1969 FAMAS for the film Badlis sa Kinabuhi and the 1974 Gimingaw Ako. Among the other veteran actors who gained recognition from Visayan films were Caridad Sanchez, Lorna Mirasol, Chanda Romero, Pilar Pilapil and Suzette Ranillo.
Rock emerged dominant in the Philippine music scene in the 80's. Among the bands from Visayas are Urbandub and Junior Kilat. Another subgenre also sprung a few years later called BisRock which is a portmanteau of Bisaya and rock.
Ethnic dances from the region are common in any traditional Filipino setting. Curacha or kuratsa (not to be confused with the Zamboangueño dish) is a popular Waray dance. Its Cebuano counterparts are kuradang and la berde. There is the liki from Negros Occidental and the well-known tinikling of Leyte. Other Hiligaynon dances are the harito, balitaw, liay, lalong kalong, imbong, inay-inay and binanog.
^ "Central Visayas: Three in Every Five Households had Electricity (Results from the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, NSO)". National Statistics Office, Republic of the Philippines. July 15, 2003. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
G. Nye Steiger, H. Otley Beyer, Conrado Benitez, A History of the Orient, Oxford: 1929, Ginn and Company, pp. 122–123.
Zorc, David Paul. The Bisayan Dialects of the Philippines: Subgrouping and Reconstruction. Canberra, Australia: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, 1977.
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Paul Morrow (1998;2007). "The Maragtas Legend". Retrieved 2014-04-17.Check date values in: |date= (help)
Maria Christine N. Halili (2004). Philippine History. Quezon City: Rex Bookstore, Inc. pp. 9–10. ISBN 971-233-934-3.
Celedonio G. Aguilar (1994). Readings in Philippine Literature. Quezon City: Rex Book Store, Inc. pp. 64–67. ISBN 971-231-564-9.
Rasul, Jainal D. (2003). Agonies and Dreams: The Filipino Muslims and Other Minorities. Quezon City: CARE Minorities. p. 77.
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Funtecha, Henry (15 May 2009). "The great triumvirate of Capiz". The News Today. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
Funtecha, Henry (16 May 2007). "The Babaylan-led revolt in Igbaong, Antique". The News Today. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
"Western Visayas: Eight Percent of the Total Population Were From Western Visayas (Results from the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, NSO)". National Statistics Office, Republic of the Philippines. July 15, 2003. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
"Eastern Visayas: Population to Increase by 149 Persons Per Day (Results from the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, NSO)". National Statistics Office, Republic of the Philippines. January 17, 2003. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
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