Philippine Halo-Halo: The Mangyans of Mindoro

20 February 2009 (lecture to Museum Volunteers Philippines, Manila)

Presented by Lolita Delgado Fansler, President, Mangyan Heritage Center

You once were passing this way
It's not long since you've been here
Your footprints are still around

(Hanunuo-Mangyan ambahan)

I. Statistics

  1. 370 Million indigenous peoples (IPs) in the world, comprising 4% of total world population but 96% of its cultural diversity
  2. 12 Million IPs in the Philippines, 13% of its 90 million total population
  3. 110 IP Groups in the Philippines
  4. Mindoro is the 7th largest island in the Philippines
  5. 100,000+ Mangyans in Mindoro, 10% of the total population of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, 70% animists and 30% Christians
  6. 8 distinct Mangyan groups inhabit the central mountainous regions of Mindoro, from north to south.

II. Mangyan contributions

  1. Hanunuo and Buhid Scripts – Together with the Tagbanwa and Palaw'an scripts from Palawan, these four pre-Hispanic scripts were declared National Cultural Treasures in 1997, and inscribed in the Memory of the World Registers of UNESCO in 1999. Like RP neighbors, these are Indic-derived ancient scripts.

  2. Ambahan - A rhythmic poetic expression with any number of seven-syllable lines and rhyming end-syllables. Often chanted without musical accompaniment, its purpose is to allegorically express life experiences through entertainment while educating the youth on various customs such as courtship, decorum and death.

  3. Urukay – is another form of Mangyan poetry using mostly 8-syllable lines and a more recent vocabulary originating from the Bisaya. It has musical accompaniment and is sung with a distinct melody, the style varying from individual to individual. The Urukay is often performed during courtship, or to bring cheer to other occasions such as feasts and litigation meetings.

  4. The Mangyans are a peace-loving people who would rather run away than fight. They don’t have a word for war in their languages. This is PEACE in their respective tongues.

    1. Alangan – kaalenan
    2. Bangon – kapiyan
    3. Buhid – kafiyaan
    4. Hanunuo – kahusayan
    5. Iraya – kapiyaan
    6. Ratagnon – kasadyaan
    7. Tadyawan – mapya
    8. Tau-buid – mabayan

III. Uniqueness of each Mangyan group

(Each has its own language. Their only mutually intelligible language is therefore Tagalog.)

  1. Iraya – live in Naujan, Baco, San Teodoro, and Victoria in Oriental Mindoro, and in Mamburao, Sta. Cruz, and Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro.
    1. Traditionally, Iraya attire was made from dry tree bark, flattened and softened by pounding. The women wore blouses and skirts, while the men wore cloth g-strings. Today most women wear white one-piece, off-shoulder dresses.
    2. Skilled in nito-weaving. Known for their nito baskets, woven into jars, trays, plates, cups and other handicrafts of different sizes and designs.
  2. Alangan – live in Naujan, Baco, San Teodoro, and Victoria in Oriental Mindoro, and in Mamburao, Sta. Cruz, and Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro.
    1. Women wear a skirt made of long strips of woven nito, wound many times around the lower half of the body. A pounded bark g-string keeps what looks like a “slinky,” from falling. The upper covering is made from the leaf of the wild buri palm. For modesty, single girls also wear a red kerchief over this strapless ulango. Men wear woven cloth g-strings with fringes in front.
    2. At the middle part of their houses is a "square-like box" which they call palangganan, built one foot lower than the floor. This is used as a fireplace. In an Alangan communal house called balay-lakoy (big house), where about 8-20 nuclear families live, the number of palangganan shows the number of families living in the balay-lakoy.
    3. Known for their striking female outfit, rattan weaving and house design.
  3. Tadyawan – found only in Oriental Mindoro: Naujan, Victoria, Socorro, Pola, Gloria, Pinamalayan, and Bansud.
    1. Traditionally, the women wound a red cloth around their chests, and wore a white skirt together with colorful beaded bracelets or necklaces. The men wore g-strings. At present, women are rarely seen wearing their traditional attire, though several men still wear g-strings.
    2. Known as skilled hat weavers.
  4. Tau-buid - live in Socorro, Pinamalayan and Gloria in Oriental Mindoro, but most of them live in Sablayan and Calintaan in Occidental Mindoro.
    1. Standard dress for men and women is the loincloth. In some areas near the lowlands, women wrap a knee-length cloth around their bark bra-string, while some men wear cloth instead of bark. Both sexes wear bark cloth as inner clothing and for headbands, women's breast covers, and blankets. Cloth is made by extracting, pounding and drying the inner bark of several different trees.
    2. Known as pipe smokers (even the children begin smoking at a young age) and basket weavers.
  5. Bangon – live along the Binagaw River and the surrounding mountains within the municipalities of Bongabong, Bansud, and Gloria in Oriental Mindoro and in Calintaan, San Jose, and Rizal in Occidental Mindoro.
    1. Men wear bahag (loincloth), but no recorded traditional attire for women who most likely wore bark cloth like their Tau-buid neighbors.
    2. Hunters and farmers who make pipes and winnowing baskets.
    3. Formerly considered a subgroup of the Tau-buhid Mangyans, the Bangons insisted on being a separate group because of distinctions in their culture, language, and writing system.
  6. Buhid – live in Oriental (Roxas, Bansud, Bongabong and Mansalay) and Occidental (San Jose and Rizal) Mindoro
    1. Women wear woven black and white upper coverings and black and white skirts. Unmarried women wear body ornaments such as braided nito belts; blue thread earrings; beaded headbands, bracelets, and long necklaces. Men wear g-strings; tight chokers; or long beaded necklaces and bracelets. Both sexes use a bag for personal items such as combs and knives.
    2. Known for their pre-Spanish syllabic writing system; and pottery.
  7. Hanunuo – the largest and best known of the 8 groups, they live in Mansalay, Bulalacao, and Bongabong in Oriental Mindoro, and in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.
    1. Men wear a bahag and jacket-style shirt; women indigo-dyed ramit skirts which they weave on back strap looms. Their hand-sewn tops are embroidered on the back with a cross-shaped design called pakudos. Both sexes wear twilled rattan belts with pockets around their waist. Men wear their hair long, tied at the back of the head with a cloth band. Women decorate their long hair with beaded headbands. They are fond of wearing beaded bracelets and necklaces. The pakudos design is also found in their jewelry and embroideries, and woven into their baskets and bags made of buri palm leaf and nito black fern.
    2. Skilled weavers of cotton and buri, and in blacksmithing.
    3. Best known for carving poetry (ambahan) on bamboo plants and slats, in their pre-Spanish syllabary script which is Indic in origin. Also known for their black and beige baskets and their pakudos design.
  8. Ratagnon – live in the southernmost part of Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro.
    1. The women wear a knee-length cotton skirt and a breast covering made from woven nito. They also wear accessories made of beads and copper wire. The men wear traditional g-strings and have an embroidered jacket, which they wear during special occasions. Both men and women wear coils of red-dyed rattan at the waist. They carry flint, tinder, and other fire-making paraphernalia in a bamboo container. Like other Mangyans, they also carry betel chew in a separate bamboo container or a hand-woven native bag.
    2. Speak a language similar to Cuyunon, a Visayan language spoken by the inhabitants of Cuyo Island in Northern Palawan.

IV. Commonalities among the Mangyan groups

  1. Similar traits and practices
    1. Five Mangyan groups have straight black hair, brown skin, and are shorter than most lowland Filipinos. Most Alangans have wavy hair, while Irayas have curly hair but are not as dark-skinned as the Aetas. The Hanunuos have fair skin.
    2. Family size - generally six children.
    3. They subsist on rice, bananas, sweet potato, taro, and other root crops.
    4. They chew betel nut to assuage hunger and as a form of socializing.
    5. They’ve been practicing sustainable swidden farming with fire-breaks and fallowing for generations. However, because land is now scarce, fallowing is no longer practiced.
    6. Livelihood - swidden farming, crafts making, work in lowlanders' rice fields
    7. Their homes are made of nipa, bamboo, and wood.
    8. Almost all the eight tribes practice beadwork.
    9. They have their respective tribal laws which are carried out by the Council of the Elders who are elected community leaders.
  2. Problems, similar to most indigenous peoples around the world
    1. Loss of land, livelihood, identity and religion
    2. Treated as second class citizens in the land which used to belong to their ancestors
    3. Poor formal educational opportunities
    4. Poor infrastructure
    5. Slow delivery of basic services by the government – i.e. healthcare, education
    6. The appeal of the modern world, intermarriage with, and covert discrimination by, lowlanders have resulted in a loss of cultural traditions.

V. Volunteers needed!

To visit libraries, museums, newspaper archives, antique stores, flea markets and dirty attics, in the Philippines and anywhere in the world! Scrounge for photographs, postcards, maps, books, and articles on these IPs and Mindoro. Check out these words: Mindoro, Tribal Filipinos, Minorities, Non-Christian tribes, Indigenous Peoples, Mangyan, Alangan, Bangon, Buhid, Hanunoo, Iraya, Ratagnon, Tadayawan, Tau-buhid. When appropriate or possible, please send the title/author/year of the books, magazines, clippings, video, etc. to the Mangyan Heritage Center.