The Mamanwa can be found in Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Panaoan Island, and in the mountains of Southern Leyte. The Mamanwan dialect is bordered on the north and east by Suriganon; on the west by a mixed vernacular of Surigaonon and Cebuano; on the southwest by Butuanon; and on the southeast by Bislig Kamayo. Mamanwan is typologically an Austronesian language classified as a member of the Visayan language family tree of the Southern Philippines (by Dyen 1965). According to comparative studies made by Pallesen (1985), the Southern Visayan language family, historically, has two dominant branches which are Proto-Surigao and Proto-Mansaka; from Proto-Surigao are ascended the Mamanwa, Surigaonon, Butuanon, Kamayo, and Tausug.
One of the oldest and still extant tribes in the Philippines is the Mamanwa tribe, who bear a striking physical resemblance to the Negritos. Their other name is Mamanwa Negritos and are believed to be descendants of the original settlers of the Philippines. Leadership is accorded to the eldest and most respected males in their community to lead the Mamanwas; once chosen, the role as tribal leader(s) cannot be passed down onto the next of kin. Communes comprise of three to twenty households arranged in a circle atop a high ridge or deep within a valley. The incursion of heavy industry into their heritage lands had forced many to settle in the hinterlands, where they continue to practice their customs and traditions. Hence, some practices have fallen by the wayside, such as traditional hunting by bow and arrow. The Mamanwas receive some of their subsistence from other groups with whom they have forged labor agreements.