Dutch ex-missioner gets tribal award

Photo of four people on a stage; the second from right holds an award.
Anton Postma's daughter Anya accepts the award for her father
Madonna Virola, Oriental Mindoro
November 16, 2011

A Dutch anthropologist who lived with the Mangyan tribal people in the northern province of Oriental Mindoro for 53 years has received an award for outstanding contribution to the promotion of indigenous culture.

Anton Postma, 82, a former missioner of the Divine World (SVD), was given the Alay Katutubo Award on Monday by local officials in Baco, Oriental Mindoro. The award was accepted on his behalf by his daughter Anya.

The award coincided with the launch of a heritage museum and the 61st anniversary of the founding of the province.

"My mama (father in Hanunuo language) extends his gratitude for this recognition. He could not come because he is not as fit as before," Anya said.

Postma is best known for being the first to decipher the inscription in a controversial copper plate found in Laguna province. Dated at 900 AD, it is the earliest written document found in the Philippines. He is also known for his comprehensive documentation of the Hanunuo Mangyan tribe.

He first came to Mindoro as a priest in 1958, became interested in the uniqueness and wealth of the Mangyan heritage, and devoted his life to it, including publishing books and articles on the Mangyan culture.

In 1989, he left the priesthood and married Yam-ay Insik, a Hanunuo Mangyan. They have four children.

He made the Surat Mangyan, one of the remaining three asyllabic writing systems in the country, appreciated by both Mangyans and non-Mangyans.

Postma is fondly called Bapa, which means "uncle" in Hanunuo.