Ubian people

One foot at sea, another on land

The Ubians have traditionally been a nomadic, seafaring people, depending on the sea for trade and subsistence fishing.

They reside on and around islands in the Southern Philippines, as well as around Kudat and Semporna in Sabah, Malaysia.

Often living in houses erected on stilts, Ubian people travel using handmade boats which they sometimes live in. They make a living from fishing, agriculture, boat-making, while some work as civil servants.

With the growth in trade of trepang, or sea cucumber, Ubians have recently expanded their presence in the region.

Spiritual ways

On the east coast of Borneo, many Ubians have kept their seaborne lifestyle, along with the relics of traditional pre-Islamic beliefs. Some revere local sea spirits known as Jinn.

Among the boat-dwellers in particular, community spirit mediums are consulted at least once a year for a public séance and nightly trance dancing.
 / ©: WWF-Malaysia/ Myezana Ismat
Cooking tapioca on Mabul Island
© WWF-Malaysia/ Myezana Ismat
 / ©: WWF-Malaysia/Angela Lim
Lepa-lepa regatta, 2007
© WWF-Malaysia/Angela Lim

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