They are known to be peaceful and respectful as shown in their manner of greeting. They are also watchful of strangers especially those who who wear shoes. Top be friend them, a visitor has to join them in betel nut chewing ritual (mang-upa). Yakan are also frugal people. They speak of a language related to that of Badjao annd Sama but of different intonation. This is called Bahasa Yakan.
They have brown complexion and black straight hair. The Yakan men usually wear multi-colored pants (sawwal kuput0 tightened with a 25-meter red colored and tassled kandit (waist wrap around); pira (weaponry) and lutuan (brass betel nut container). They also wear baju (polo shirt) decorated with gold plated or brass buttons. Toghtened to his head is a pis (headkerchief). They walk around with no shoes at all. The women wear the same tight fitting suits. They do not wear kandit instead they wear dikat (wrap around). Along with these is ulos (blanket), sapotangan( head band), and dons bansil (gold plated tooth) for beautification purposes.
The Yakan remained in the interior, hostile to lowlanders. But in the year 1842, a fugitive from Cavite named Pedro Cuevas escaped to Basilan where he fought and killed a Yakan chieftain named Datu Kalun (also spelled Kalung and Kalum). Cuevas then adopted the name of Datu Kalun (Haylaya 1980:43). The Yakan accepted Cuevas as their leader because he embraced the Yakan religion and way of life, married one of their women, and instituted meaningful sociopolitical changes in their lives. Datu Kalun consolidated the Yakan, led battles against the invading rulers from Jolo, and rid Basilan of pirates and marauders. In 1844, the French government tried to occupy Basilan, intent on establishing a network of naval stations to protect French trade. The inhabitants of Basilan fought against the French for a year, resulting in a French withdrawal, as formalized in a proclamation dated 5 August 1845. During the same year, a US survey mission studied the potentials of the Sulu archipelago, but American intervention did not start until 1899. In 1895, the Sultan of Sulu sent his bravest general, Datu Julkanayin, to regain control over Basilan, only to be defeated by Datu Kalun's forces. The ensuing peace encouraged more Christians to settle in Basilan. Thus, the Spaniards now considered Cuevas/Datu Kalun an ally and pardoned him for his earlier offense. By this time, the Katipunan (revolutionary organization) had been gaining momentum in Luzon. In Mindanao, Muslim resistance contributed greatly to the weakening of Spanish colonizers. Moreover, the Spanish campaigns against the "Moros" - the derogatory term used by the colonialists against the Muslim Filipinos - caused heavy casualties and depleted Spanish resources by millions of pesos. One example is the Muslim attack on the Spanish garrison in Jolo, which dealt a heavy blow on the Spanish forces in Mindanao in 1897. The military attack is considered an important anti-colonial revolutionary effort, although the Muslims themselves did not join the Katipunan (Haylaya 1980). While Zamboanga and Sulu were the centers of Spanish-Muslim hostilities, Basilan inhabitants, especially the Yakan, remained fairly unaffected by the social upheavals. Still, the Yakan were among those natives called Moros by the Spaniards (Jundam 1983:8-9). The arrival of the Americans in 1899 changed the situation in Mindanao. The American strategy of integration was more acceptable to the Muslims than the Spanish strategy of conversion. The new colonizers were received openly by the Muslim elite. On 19 May 1899, American troops took over the Spanish garrison in Zamboanga, one of the last strongholds of the Filipino revolutionaries in Mindanao. By December 1899, the Americans led by Col. James S. Petit occupied the Spanish naval base of Isabela de Basilan. In Basilan, an old and sickly Datu Kalun (Pedro Cuevas) supported the new colonizers.
The Yakan are art lovers. Most of their materil cultureare artistically designed and colorfully painted. They live in luma (Yakan house). The house has a porch called pantan where visitors are entertained. Sometimes they use the pantan as resting place at a particular time of the dayThey serve food in talam(brass tray). 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.
After a hard work on a farm, lilla(boys) rest for a while on porch playing musical instruments (kulintang) and brass drums. Yakan grandmother known as papu’dindi prepares lokot-lokot(native food). The Yakan tends to buold their house far from each other because of the great distance between farm. Their houses are huge with hogh posts and roofing, rectangular and elevated on piles, having steep thatched saplaw(roofing).
Yakan are agriculturist. The land they inhabit is rich of all sorts of trees and plants. Coconuts, abaca, lanzones, rice, cassava etc. were the common source of their income. They believe that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are good working day and the rest are bad working days. Of all the crops
, rice is most valued by the Yakan. The first seed to be planted at the center of the rice field should be done by the Imam. The Imam is also responsible for the prayer before planting and harvesting. The miniature house is built at the center of the rice field which will be the house of Apu-Sin (elder spirit). This spirit was believed to be safeguarding the field. At the four corners of the rice field, incense were burnt to keep vigil during first day of planting.
Yakan men are good hunters and Yakan women are good weavers. 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. Jural obligation is a vital factor that leads to the cohesiveness of the kin. In times of crisis, they are expected to help each other. Each of individual can rely on one another.
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.
To Yakan, the Quran is the Divine revelation of Allah addressed to all mankind, regardless of race, region, or time. Islamic doctrines are learned formally in madrasa (school)or listening to the Khutba (sermon) during Fridays. They believe in Surga (heaven) and in hell(narka). People who are elgible to enter heaven are infants who dies at birth, mother who dies during delivery, martyr who die in defense of Islam and pious ulama (scholar). Those who committed sins even if he is an Imam will be punished in hell. But miracles that canm save them from hell is the Quran and Muhammad.