The Sama may be described as cohesive and peace loving people. They express themselves by means of words more often than physical means. They are also known as Samal and they speak a language called Basa Sinama.
The Sama has sub-cultural groups which reside at different parts of Mindanao. They are from Tawi-Tawi, Southern islands of Mindanao, Southern Palawan, Basilan, Davao, Zamboanga and Sulu. Some are in North Borneo, in Kuta-Kinabalu, Sanpurna, Kalimantan, Samarindaand Celebes.
The original ancestors of Sama lived among Timbakkung which is a kind of tree.They were scattered along the shorelines of Simunul particularly Buhi Indangan. Ma-as=Malakituk first met Muslim missionaries who reached Simunul by way of Tunggusung isaland. The first mosque built in this land is credited to the Sama who used Timbakkung trees fro construction. Intermarriage between Sheik Makdum and local natives might have taken place. Some claimed they descended from Sheik. This is because of their Arab features.
Each of Sama subgroup has different origin, characteristics and beliefs. They were identified according to ther name of of their coastal settlement. From Tawi-Tawi the different sub groups are Sama Simunul, Sama Balimbing, Sama Tawi-Tawi, Sama Sibutu and Sama Ubian. Each of them varied ancestral backgrounds and outlook in life.
The Sama Simunul descended from the ,ixture of Arab and native blood. This is evident from their skin complexion and physical traits. The Sama as a whole are suspicious of strangers especially those who are wearing shoes. If the visitors are friendly, the rapport is easily established. The congenial, hospitable visitors wre extended the best of family’s welcome. Usually, delicious food were served to them. They wre also allowed to sleep on the only bed of a Sama family. Sama are God fearing people. They believe man should submit to no one but Allah.
Sama Tawi-Tawi descended from Johore. Their ancestors crossed ocean through small out riggers. Their forefathers are powerful men who have supernatural powers to invite the unsen spirit called “Jin”. Graveyards of their ancestors are highly reverd and believed to possess “busung” force which cause incurable sickness.
Sama Tibutu descended from another Makdumin-Mukthar. They possess ilmuh or knowledge of Jinism or spiritism.
The Sama Ubian descended from Sea Dayak. They are known to be fierce fighters. They were the underwater commandoes. However, they do not submit to vengeance. And also they peacefully co-exist with the other Sama.
In Siasi, there are also Sama known as Sama Manubul and Sama Laminusa.
The Sama Manubul have appearance similar to those of Sama Sibutu. They are stocky ans short with brown complexion. They love aquatic sports like swimminr and rowing. The Sama Manubul are jolly, friendly people. During moonlit nights they enjoy staying at the beach and dancing pangay to the sounds of kulintangan and gongs.
The Sama Laminusa are proud and aristrocratic people. They era descendants of Jamiyon Kulisa who was the chief aide of Alexander the Great. Jamiyon Kulisa was believd to have fled to Nusa island, east of Siasi and established leadership there.
Aside from Siasi, Sama people are also inhabitants of Jolo. They are known to be Sama Tapul, Sama Panguturan and Sama Kainga-an.
The Sama Tapul have fizzy hair. They are reserved individuals but aggressive fighters. They are from the Kasalipan (sharifs) who are men of nole blood.
The Sama Panguturan is the subgroup who is generally losing the identity. This was due to the influx of Tausug. The younger generation of this subgroup prefer to be called Tausug rather than Sama.
The Sama Kabinga-an has a touch of Chinese physical trait. They have lighter skin color. They were known to be thrifty, artistic and diligent. They usually shy away from social and political conflicts.
The ancestral backgrounds and cultural differences do not cause disunity among them. The chief source of cohesiveness is the Islam.
The Sama people were fond of golden jewelries. They usually wear sing-sing or ring; gallang (bracelet); kut-kullung (necklace) and aritis (earring). They wear Sambra (short sleeve summer blouse), Sawwat (long loose pants), Badjukuput (tight fiiting blouse), Sablay (long sleeve blouse), Tadjung (wrap around). For the women’s make up, they ue atal (lipstick) and madda (powder).
The Sama are a maritime people, with fishing being their major economic activity. They also engage in seafaring trade and some farming. Throughout much of the area, copra (dried coconut meat yielding coconut oil) is the major cash crop. However, copra holdings are small, and most families are unable to support themselves entirely from copra sales. Thus, trade also occupies a central place in Sama society. Maritime groups were historically valued for their navigational skills as seafarers and suppliers of dried fish, trepang (sea cucumbers), pearls, pearl shells, and other items.
Their houses were usually built along coastal settlements for sanitation. The tide washes away their wastes. Another reason is to secure them from enemies.
The economic life of the Sama is quite progressive. The common source of income of the Sama is fishing and farming . aside from these they also engage in seaweed farming known as Agal-Agal. On the other hand, more and more Sama had joined government and privete institutions. However, there are still more farmers than educated or college graduates. Though. Some earn a living as sales worker and clerks. Other members of the community were housekeepers, students and family helpers.
Fishing, boat building, and iron working are primarily male occupations, while weaving mats and marketing pottery are jobs for women. Both men and women engage in farming and trade. The Sama are known for their traditional dances, songs, percussion and xylophone music, dyed mats and food covers, and wood carvings.
The Sama have different organization. One of these is the Barbangasa or the nobility. The Mahardika are the freeman who are free to exercise their basic rights over ptivate properties and professed religion. They are the professional, college degree holders and the rich and poor people. They usually hold the position of the Imam. The Imam, Khatib and Bilal are the ones responsible for enlightening the Sama with regards to his religious duties. The Burbugsa were classified to Kasalipan and Kadatuan (datu), The Kasalipan were descendants of Muhammad, “Sutsu Sin Rasul” by virtue of the so called Seven Makdum.
The Sama are almost all Sunni Muslims. Those who are knowledgeable in religious matters, such as the imans (Islamic leaders) and other mosque officials, are called paki or pakil. They preside over all important ceremonies and act as religious counselors. Friday prayers are performed in the parish mosque, climaxing a weekly cycle of daily prayers. Also, an annual religious calendar is observed, celebrating Ramadan (yearly Islamic fast) and the birthday of Mohammed. The Sama still retain some of their traditional ethnic religious beliefs. Spirits of the dead are thought to remain in the vicinity of their graves, requiring expressions of continued concern from the living. Some graves have reportedly become the sources of miracle working power. During the month of Shaaban, it is said that God permits the souls of the dead (roh) to return to this world. To honor them, the living offer special prayers to the dead and clean the graves.
The Sama believe in Sulga(heaven) and in narka(hell). Their belief is the effective mechanism in controlling their napsu(desires) to preserve their lyman (faith).