• Pre-Entry
  • Pre-Evangelism
  • Evangelism
  • Discipleship
  • Phase-Out
  • Completed

About the People

The Tawbuid are the most numerous of the Mangyan group of indigenous peoples and live in the isolated interior central highlands on the island of Mindoro, Philippines. Mountains in this region tower over 6,000 feet high. About a two-day hike from the coast, the Tawbuid villages are much further inland than those of the Alangan.

The Tawbuid are called “batangan” by the lowlanders, which means “trunk of a felled tree” and a “place,” referring to a place where felled tree trunks may be found, probably a swidden field. The main economic activity of the Tawbuid is slash-and-burn farming. Other names used to refer to them are Bukid, Bu’id, Buhid, and Buhil, even though there is a separately identifiable group to the south, the Buhid. Local subgroups include the Bayanan and Saragan.

A few of the less traditional of the Tawbuid live near the coast, have been converted to Christianity, and send their children to school. However, this is more the exception than the rule.

Outsiders are generally forbidden, though an occasional visit to an outside Tawbuid village is not unheard of. The Tawbuid are very shy and will usually run away if they see you coming, as they have been taught that foreigners might eat them. Any trade done with the outside world is generally through the neighboring Alangan villages. Their diet consists only of fruits, plants and vegetables, as well as any animals they can kill by hunting. The Tawbuid are terrified of outsiders for several reasons. Originally, they lived on the coasts but were driven inland hundreds of years ago when the Spanish first invaded their territory. Later, Filipino immigrants drove them away to secure more farmland. Today, mining operations and occasional incursions by rebels continue to threaten this group’s existence. Added to this is the animistic view of nature and the fear of spirits who will punish them for even slight infractions of their rules.

About the Project

The Tawbuid people are a sister tribe to the Alangan living deep in the mountains on the island of Mindoro, Philippines. In 1994, church-planting missionaries Tim and Dawn Holbrook had taken the gospel to the Tawbuid and built up a thriving church, still growing today. Their son John spent his childhood there, learning the customs, language and culture of this remote people group. Seventeen years later, John Holbrook is taking the gospel to the unreached neighboring Tawbuid people. John‘s mission is a God-thing, directed by the Holy Spirit from the start.

One day several years ago, the Holbrooks had a conversation with Ramone, an elder in the local church in Pandurukan, about taking the gospel to neighboring tribes. It was a completely new concept to Ramone, and he thought deeply about its implications. That night he had a dream. God showed him the Tawbuid people on an island that was burning up. They were crying and pleading to him for help, for Ramone was standing with the Alangan on a safe island nearby. Then he saw a log lowered between the two islands, and he was told that this log represented Jesus. Months later, he had another dream—he and an AFM missionary were taking the gospel to the Tawbuid. More recently, Ramone had yet another dream in which God showed him a map of the world and what places the time was right to introduce people to the gospel. Those that were ready were shaded in green. Those that needed to wait were shaded in red. Then the map zoomed in on the Tawbuid, and the color was a brilliant green. The window of opportunity to reach the Tawbuid is now, and John is that AFM missionary breaking the ground with this remote tribe.

The Tawbuid are animists. They believe that the spirits control every part of nature, and they spend most of their lives in fear, trying not to offend any of them or, at best, trying to manipulate them. In these tribes, there is usually one witch doctor for every village or two. With the Tawbuid, one in every ten people is a witch doctor. Satan has a grip on these people, and he controls them at his will. Many warriors from this tribe have special spiritual armor provided by the spirits, where knives and even bullets will not harm them, and neighboring tribes and national armies alike fear them.

The Tawbuid are very shy and protective of their land, and they hire people from neighboring tribes to keep out all visitors. However, after observing the Alangan and the positive changes that have taken place in this tribe since the missionaries first arrived, they have allowed Alangan and anyone accompanying them to visit them as long as an invitation is given. Today, John Holbrook is working within these parameters to try to spread the gospel to the Tawbuid and give them hope and peace.

For further information on this remote tribe, Ed Vallance, an avid travel blogger, offers a secular view of the Tawbuid. His account includes photos, a video, and a blog.

People-Group Facts

  • Population: 15,000 (aerial surveys) up to 36,000
  • Language: Tawbuid (Batangan)
  • Trade Language: Tagalog
  • Religion: animist


Frontier Stories

Hold On!

When God calls you, though, you can trust Him no matter where He leads and no matter what happens.

By: Jomar Matay (presented by John Holbrook)
December 01 2023, 8:59 am | Comments 0


“Jesus,” I prayed, kneeling on the damp ground. “I have given my life to You, and I trust You. If it is Your will, please bring our child back to life.”

By: John Holbrook
October 01 2023, 10:27 am | Comments 0

Freely Give

“God is faithful!” Abel breathed, sinking down on the bench. “When we were faithful to share the little that we had, He multiplied it. Let’s never again fear to give of the little that we have to help others in need.”

By: John Holbrook
August 01 2023, 11:00 am | Comments 0

The Shaman’s Dream

He doesn’t understand the subtleties of theology, but he knows that God loves him, so he waits patiently until the day that Jesus will take him to the heaven that God showed him in that dream so many years ago.

By: John Holbrook
June 01 2023, 3:41 pm | Comments 0

The Miracle of the Picture Roll

“It must be true!” he said in awe. “Everything they taught us about God must be true after all!”

By: John Holbrook
April 01 2023, 2:48 pm | Comments 0


No matter what pain, suffering, or conflict swirl around us, the Christian’s heart is calm and at peace, resting by faith in Jesus.

By: John Holbrook
December 01 2022, 3:09 pm | Comments 0

Ramon’s Lamp

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV).

By: John Holbrook
October 01 2022, 9:38 am | Comments 0

Fruit of Our Labors

Tears well up in my eyes as I remember that night, years ago, when I came so close to giving up. The Lord would not let me leave, though, and now I have proved Him faithful who has promised, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please” (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV).

By: John Holbrook
July 01 2022, 11:38 am | Comments 0

Guardian Spirit

Isn’t it comforting to know that God’s Spirit guards all of His children, even when they cannot take care of themselves?

By: John Holbrook
April 01 2022, 3:20 pm | Comments 0

The Little Mission Truck

Yes, our poor little mission truck has served God’s work well. But we’ve come to the point where we need to replace it as it is too expensive and dangerous to keep driving it.

By: John Holbrook
January 01 2022, 2:46 pm | Comments 0

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