Mangyan Family...The term 'sandugo' means 'kapatid' and as generations pass it evolves into a shorter term 'dugoy'
Mangyan Family...The term "sandugo" means "kapatid" and as generations pass it evolves into a shorter term "dugoy" or in a kanto term "'tol"
The term "sandugo" means "kapatid" and as generations pass it evolves into a shorter term "dugoy" or in a The term "sandugo" means "kapatid" and as generations pass it evolves into a shorter term "dugoy" or in a kanto term "'tol" The term "sandugo" means "kapatid" and as generations pass it evolves into a shorter term "dugoy" or in a kanto term "'tol" kanto term "'tol"
Handmade bags by the Mangyans
Handmade bags by the Mangyans
Ayu-pit bags made by the Mangyans
Ayu-pit bags made by the Mangyans
In preparing betel nut for chewing, upland people mix it with apog, or lime powder, before wrapping in a litlit leaf. While chewing, heat spreads throughout the body, keeping it momentarily warm in the upland chill. The apog gives the betel juice its red coloring when chewed.

History  of the Mangyans (scroll down for a Mangyan lawyer)....

    The pioneer settlers of the Mindoro Islands were the Aeta, referred to in the early Spanish accounts as the Chichimecos. It has been theorized that when the Malay immigrants arrived in Mindoro, they pushed the Aeta deep into the interior. The former, however, did not completely isolate the latter and instead continued bartering their commodities with forest products which were in turn traded with foreign merchants plying Philippine seas.  

    The Mangyan settled along the shores of Mindoro Island approximately 600-700 years ago.  It is believed that they had come from the southern regions of the archipelago. They were gradually forced to leave their coastal settlements by more aggressive groups. It appears that the Mangyan have traditionally been an unwarlike people, choosing to give up an area uncontested rather than fight for it.  

    The earliest accounts, which mention Mindoro and its people, are found 13th century Chinese dynastic records. A number of Chinese state documents, particularly those written in the Sung and Ming dynasties, suggest that before the coming of the Spanish conquistadors, commercial trade was flourishing between the inhabitants of Mindoro and Chinese merchants. Objects unearthed on the island, such as ceramics, porcelain, large earthenware, beads, and glass object are evidence of precolonial trade, which contributed to the shaping of an indigenous material culture among the early inhabitants of Mindoro.  

    The island was a viable and busy trading port, one of the many islands regularly visited by Chinese merchants. Chao Ju-Kua's Chu Fan-Chi, written in 1225, mentions the island of Ma-i, believed to be the ancient name of the present day Mindoro. Other names associated with the island include Mait, Minolo, Min-to-lang, Mang-Yan San, and Ka-Ma-Yan. "Mait" is believed to be an old Chinese term meaning "gold". Chinese references to the term " Mangyan", or 
that which sounds like the present day word, could be evidence that it existed in earlier times.  

    In the 16th century Spanish colonizers overran the native settlements of Mindoro and reduced the island to vassalage. Spanish accounts describe the inhabitants of the coast as a well-dressed people who "wore showy headdresses of many colors turned back over their heads", and who, more significantly, casually wore gold on their bodies. The conquistadors attacked villages, destroyed settlements, and pillaged the inhabitants of their possessions. The Spaniards exacted heavy tributes, imposed onerous monopolies and demanded forced service  from thesubjugated people. As a result, the people of Mindoro fled to the mountains.  

    Yet the natives were not completely defenseless or given to passive surrender. There existed native forts, which were surrounded  by moats. The local warriors also used metal weapons, a fact, which surprised the Spanish forces. Excellent knowledge of metallurgy and martial skills characterized the defenders of Mindoro. But predictably, the technological superiority and firepower of European weaponry carried the day for the marauders.  

    One factor that could explain the outright hostility of the Spaniards towards the inhabitants of Mindoro was the presence of an old foe: Islam. Preacher-traders from southern Philippines had earlier succeeded in spreading the Islamic faith among a number of Mindoro natives. Spanish chroniclers relating events in Mindoro referred to the people there as the "Moros of  Mindoro".  

    The colonialists imposed the Christian faith and their political will with much harshness and taught the Mangyan the ways of loyal subjection to the faraway European monarch.  

    Muslim incursions into Spanish-held territories intensified in the 17th century. For the European colonizers, the encounter with Islam in the Philippines was but a continuation of the centuries-old conflict in Europe and in the "holy Land". For the Muslims on the Philippine archipelago, however, the wars with the Spaniards were simply a reaction to European incursion in the islands where Islamic influence had built up and spread over a long, evolutionary period of conversion and commerce. Branded as piratical attacks in some accounts, the Muslim expeditions were mainly responses to Spain's occupation and control of Muslim territories.  

    During the Spanish colonial period, tremendous pressure was brought to bear upon the lives of the Mindoro natives, who found themselves the object of contention between two armies fighting for their spheres of influence. As a result of the Moro-Christian wars, the Mangyan of Mindoro were taken captives, sold as slaves, and sometimes killed without mercy. The island went through a period of depopulation. Trading deteriorated badly. A plague of malaria made conditions even worse. The rivalry of Christian and Muslim forces in the island of Mindoro went on intermittently for most of the 333 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines, such that the Mangyan suffers extreme pain and privation.  

    The Spanish regime ended, but the colonization of the Mangyan continued --- and their marginalization with the rest of the other Philippinegroups grew apace with the imposition of the American colonial rule in the archipelago. American arms came with American anthropology. As with the Spanish derogation such as "savage" and "infidels", the concept of "pagan", "minority" and "non-Christian" entered  current usage, referring to tribal communities in the Philippines such as the Mangyan.  

    The shy, withdrawn, and hardworking nature of the Mangyan  came to the attention of the American entrepreneurs who saw their potential as a labor force. Such traits were valuable for an American-owned sugar estate that was to be established in Mindoro. When Secretary of the Interior Dean C. Worcester, who had an explorer's background, approved the purchase and lease of a large piece of land to an American company, he set off a process of economic exploitation that perpetuated the pattern of colonial extraction started by the Spanish government. Worcester's activities didn't go unnoticed. Nationalist writers of the El Renacimiento denounced him in a celebrated editorial. "Aves de Rapina" (Birds of Prey), which gave rise to a controversial suit in 1908. The editorial pilloried the American colonial administration, and Worcester in particular, for exploiting the tribal peoples of the country in guise of "benevolence".  

    The racist tribal policies adopted by the Americans abetted and perpetuated the discrimination against non-Christian indigenous groups in the Philippines. The Mangyan were forced to live in reservations, much like those created for the native American Indians, and relocated to areas far from lowland settlements inhabited mostly by the Tagalog. The American government favored such an isolation since "a people divided cannot effectively press for freedom" (Lopez 1976).  

    The cumulative effect of centuries of exploitation is being felt to this day. Wily lowlanders time and again have tricked the Mangyan intodubious debts, barters, labor contracts, and often succeeded in displacing the natives from their ancestral domain with the use of spurious land titles. It is no wonder that  the Mangyan have become only too wary of the damuong, non-Mangyan, the transgressor. Displaced and dislocated, the various Mangyan groups sought peace and freedom from the harassment in the deeper and higher parts of the mountainous interior of Mindoro, but their life has continued to be precarious. Natural disasters, inclement weather, limited food supplies, difficulties in taming the wild and rugged land, have exacerbated their subsistence level of life. "Illiteracy" has prevented them from coping with the challenge posed by "mainstream" society in terms of legal issues concerning land as well as development schemes that threaten their culture and ecosystem, and therefore their survival as a people.  

    The process of cultural disintegration and ethnic extinction appears to be irreversible, if proper intervention is not effected soon. Counterinsurgency campaigns, economic exploitation of Mindoro's natural resources, landgrabbing and speculation, and the more gradual but potentially erosive influx of modernization and assimilation into lowland cultures are constant threats to the survival of the Mangyan and their centuries-old folkways.  

    Characteristically, the Mangyan avoid trouble at all costs, even losing territory they have long occupied. In the process, they continue to face instability in their living conditions and economic dislocations. Sadly, this process of dislocation and dispossession continues to the present. After Christian settlers came the loggers, and then the mining corporations. Today the 
Mangyan find themselves with increasingly less space in which to conduct their age-old subsistence activities.  

Religious beliefs and practices    

Since the Mangyan are swidden farmers, their spiritual beliefs are related to their means of livelihood. Agricultural rites suggest the importance of farming and the belief in spiritual beings or forces that can influence a good harvest.  

    The Hanunoo Mangyan believe in a Supreme Being who is referred to as the Mahal na Makaako, who gave life to all human beings merely by gazing at them. They believe that the universe, called sinukuban ("that which is covered) or kalibutan ("the whole surrounding") has a globular shape "like a coconut". All beings, visible or invisible, live in this space. The stratum of the earth is called the usa ka daga. The daga (land) is  surrounded by a border area, which is dagat (sea). Beyond the dagat is the katapusan, the edge of the universe, covered with thick woods and rocks. Nothing lies beyond it. This is the home of  the labang or the horrible creatures and evil spirits greatly feared by the Hanunoo. The labang can take on animal and human forms before killing and eating their victims. They are believed to roam the areas they used to frequent during their mortal existence until they move on to dwell in Binayi's garden, where all spirits rest. Binayo is a sacred female spirit, caretaker of the rice spirits or the kalag paray. She is married to the spirit Bulungabon who is aided by 12 fierce dogs. Erring souls are chased by these dogs are eventually drowned in a caldron of boiling water. The kalag paray must be appeased, to ensure a bountiful harvest. It is for this reason that specific rituals are conducted in every phase of rice cultivation. Some of these rituals include the panudlak, the rite of the first planting; the rite of rice planting itself; and the rites of harvesting which consist of the magbugkos or binding rice stalks, and the pamag-uhan, which follows the harvest.  

    Batangan cosmogony is less clear. They believe in four deities, who are all naked. Two come from the sun and are male; two come from the upper part of the river and are female. They are believed to be children (Kikuchi 1984: 7). The paragayan or diolang plates play an important role in Batangan religious practices. These plates are owned by only a few families, and are considered heirlooms. They are essential in summoning the deities to all religious and curing rituals (Kikuchi 1984: 7).  

Visual arts and crafts  

    A common attire for the Mangyan groups is the ba-ag or loincloth worn by males. Clothing is considered by the Mangyan as one of the main criteria distinguishing them from the damu-ong. A Hanunoo Mangyan male wears his ba-ag, topped by a balukas or cotton shirt. A female wears the ramit, an indigo-dyed short skirt, and a lambung or blouse. Their traditional shirt and blouses have on the back an embroidered motif called pakudus, from the Spanish word cruz, 
meaning "cross", which bears its shape. This motif is  common on their bayong, bags made from the palm leaf buri and the black fern nito. Miyamoto believes that the pakudus motif might also be explained by the sacred number four and the mandala symbol often seen in Southeast Asian art.  

    Hanunoo men and women wear the hagkus or willed rattan belt with a pocket. Women wear the hulon, a belt made from nito, around their waist. They wear their hair long, and sometimes wear a headband made of beads or buri or nito. Hanunoo Mangyan of all ages and both sexes are fond of wearing necklaces and bracelets made from beads. These beads are used not only for decoration but also for magical, religious and judiciary purposes. They are used as adornments by lovers, in curing a sick person (white beads only), in rituals presided over by 
the pandaniwan, and for paying fines, the quantity depending on the severeness of the wrongdoing.  

    Among the Iraya, males wear bahag or loincloth fashioned from a tree bark, the kaitong or belt, and the talawak or headband. The females wear the tapis or skirtlike covering made from bark, the lingob or belt, and the sagpan or pamanpan to cover the breast. They wear necklaces called kudyasan, made from tigbi seeds, and the panalingnaw or earrings.  

    Some Ratagnon males still wear the traditional loincloth, and the women wear a wraparound cotton cloth from the waistline to the knees. They weave a breast covering from nito or vine. The males wear a jacket with simple embroidery during gala festivities and carry flint, tinder, and other paraphernalia for making fire. They also carry betel chew and its ingredients in bamboo containers. Strings of beads or copper wire may adorn their necks. Both men and  women wear coils of red-dyed rattan at the waistline.  

    Among the Hanunoo, men forge and repair blades for knives, axes, bolo or long knife, spears, and other bladed instruments. Women traditionally spin, dye, and weave cotton cloth for clothing and blankets. Tailoring and embroidery of garments is usually women's work, while men carve the handles and scabbards. Woven basketry is mainly women's work, but sewn goods, twisted cordage, and other goods are craftedby both sexes.  

    Basketmaking is well developed among the northern Iraya and southern Hanunoo groups. Lane (1986: 141-144) describes the various kinds of Mangyan baskets.  

    The Iraya have the hexagonal household basket, which is always made in small sizes, from 18-20 cm in diameter. The materials used consists of soft and narrow strips of the buri palm leaf, which are then overlaid with nito strips. Another Iraya basket is the open grain basket made from bamboo strips, which are first blackened and dried. Variations in the weaving process produce the many designs of the basket.  

    The Hanunoo baskets are small, fine, and leatherlike in texture. Various designs such as the pakudus or cross pattern are created with split nito or red-dyed buri laid over strips of buri. The base of the basket is square but the mouth is round. Other types of Hanunoo basketry include purses and betel-nut carriers which come in round, polygonal, or other shapes. The covers fit snugly with the container.  

Performing arts  

    The musical instruments found among the Mangyan are the gitara, a homemade guitar; the gitgit, a three-string indigenous violin with human hair for strings; the lantoy, a transverse nose flute; the kudyapi, a kind of lute; and the kudlung, a parallel-string bamboo tube zither. Most of these instruments are used by a male suitor in wooing a Mangyan female. A young man and his male friends strum the guitar and play the gitgit to announce their arrival at the house of the woman. The Hanunoo use the guitar to play harmonic chords and interludes between verses sung in one or two tones.  

    The Hanunoo use several kinds of flute. The transverse flute has five stops (unlike the Buhid's palawta which has six), and is tuned diatonically. The pituh is a flute which is diatonically tuned, has finger-holes, but no thumb  hole. The bangsi is an external duct flute, which has a chip glued on to the tube of the flute. Another type of aerophone, aside from the flutes, is the budyung, a bamboo trumpet which is also found among the Mandaya in Mindanao.  

    Two idiophones are used by the Hanunoo: the buray dipay, a bean-pod rattle used in ensemble with other kinds of  instruments , and the kalutang, which are percussion sticks played in pairs to produce harmonies on seconds, thirds, and fourths (Maceda 1966: 646).  

    The Hanunoo also have an agung ensemble, which consists of two light gongs played by two men squatting on the floor: one man beats with a light padded stick on the rim of one of the gongs. Both performers play a simple duple rhythms (Maceda 1966: 646).  

    Music for the Hanunoo is part of celebrating ordinary and festive occasions. Accompanying themselves on these instruments as they recite their love poems, the Hanunoo Mangyan pay court to the women. During the wedding rituals, songs are sung, musical instruments are played, food is eaten, and wine is drunk. The songs of the Mangyan are lullabies, recollections of war exploits in the distant past, lamentations, lovelyrics, and stories based on persona.  

The Mangyans were the only inhabitants of Mindoro before they were driven from the coasts into the mountainous areas by invading Tagalogs. They are a mixture of Austronesians, proto-Malays, Indian settlers and Malays. They once populated the whole island including the coasts. Since 150 years they have by and by been driven to the mountainous areas of the island by invading Tagalog settlers. Today their settlements can be found mainly in central cordillera and in secluded areas of Oriental Mindoro. There are now about 50,000 Mangyans living in Oriental Mindoro. The term Mangyan is a generic name for the diverse groups inhabiting the mountains and foothills. Individually, the groups identify themselves by other names. 

"Mangyan" is a collective name of uncertain origin for several tribes of which the main groups are: 
ALANGAN  6,000 to 7,000 (1991 SIL). North central Mindoro, around Mt. Halcon 
IRAYA 10,000 (1991 OMF). Northern Mindoro from Baco to Mamburao 
BUHID (BUKIL, BANGON, BATANGAN) 8,000 . Southern Mindoro 
TADYAWAN (PULA, TADIANAN, BALABAN) 2,000 . East central Mindoro 
HANUNOO (HANONOO) 10,000 to 12,000. Southern Oriental Mindoro 

Some Mangyans in remote areas have conserved their traditional lifestyle - hunting with bows and arrows and gathering food. The majority though practices small-scale and self-supporting agriculture and exchange of products. Tagalog planters employ them for "dirty work" such as cleaning the plantations from unwanted plants or even converting forests into plantations - which contributes to further reduction of their habitats. 

The Hanunoo tribe seems to be less affected by influences of the Tagalog speaking population - maybe also because their settlements in  the mountains are located in an area dominated by the New People's Army guerilla.

Their way of living
Most of them rely on planting rice, corn, vegetables and hunting wild animals to support their every day living. A male at age 16 can become a family man if he can build his own house. A house made up of coconut leaves, bamboo, tree for its pillar,  and other materials. 

During Christmas season, they go down to lowlands with some of their handicrafts to sell of exchange for anything such as clothes, foods and others. 

A mangyan is very much willing and happy to give their live chicken in exchange for a can of sardines. For them, sardines is a very special food. 


Few years ago, the government passed a law declaring some mountains of Mindoro a National Park and Prohibits the hunting of the Tamaraws.... 

... the Mangyans became angry because they felt ignored and instead (animals) Tamaraws were given more importance. They  said "Buti pa ang hayop, may batas para sila ay pangalagaan samantalang kami ay balewala"



Hanuno Mangyans can be found within the territorical jurisdiction of the towns of Mansalay and San Pedro (Bulalacao) along the periphery of Southeastern Mindoro. Their population is approximately 66,132. 

Hanuno means "true," "real" or "genuine." According to Conklin, when he asked the what kind of Mangyans they were, the Mangyans' answers to his queries were nothing else but their claim to be true, real and genuine Mangyans. True enough because among the Mangyans they have remained faithful to the traditions of their ancestors. 

A traditional Mangyan 'milling machine' 

 The Hanunuos are fairly tall in structure, and their bodies are slim and well proportioned. They have oblique eyes, flat nose, prominent cheekbone, flat forehead, and olive skin. Men have their custom of sporting a long braided hair in the upper part of their head with the rest of their hair cut short, if not shaved. Women hang up their hair behind their heads, sometimes held in place by a beaded band, which serves as ornament.They have a small, even set of teeth caused by their common practice of filing their teeth while young. 

A mangyan woman weaving cloth in 
a 'weaving machine'

Being more stationary than the other Mangyans, their houses are more permanent structures made out of light materials, elevated up to four or five feet from the ground, supported by bamboo posts or sturdy forest lumber and roofed with nipa materials or cogon grass. The whole house is one big room used for sleeping, eating, workroom, etc. 

Majority of the Hanuno men still cling to the age-old custom of using the G-string, but those who have intermarried with the lowlanders substituted G-string with short pants. The women cover themselves with a rectangular pieces of the cloth with both and sewn them together which serve as skirt. They both wear an upper garment, a long sleeved, tight-fitting shirt called the balukas for men and lambong for women. For everyday use, they have a short sleeved one that they call subon for both sexes. They us a woven belt called nito and wear beaded band around their necks and arms. 

Hanunuo possess a system of writing which is a descendant of the ancientSnaskrit alphabet. In the Mangyans syllabary, there are eighteen characters, three of which are vowels and the other fifteen characters are written combine those vowels. For writing materials, they use the siyaw or a bolo-shaped kinife for inscribing and the bamboo, either split or whole, for paper. 
During merrymaking, the musical joust is the participated in both sexes. Gitgit, Kudyapi, Kinaban, all string instruments are usually played by men while those played by women are the lantuy (a bamboo flute), taghup or tanghup (a whistle made out of bamboo). Like the music, the ambahan (a poem of lines of seven syllables) has found its place as a tool for courting women. 

Social life among the Hanunuos revolves around the family. Mangyan girls marry at an early age. During courtship, a young man convinces the girl of his intention through the use of ambahan. In between the recitations, he plays his subing, a three-star guitar. Marriage plans are done by both parents including the dowry. The actual wedding is short, the greater part consists of admonitions, and advises dispensed by a magdadniw a kind of minister. 

Relation of the individual to the community is one dominated by the spirit of cooperation and togetherness. They have no written laws. Their elders verbally in the form of counsel or advice have handed down whatever they have in the form of laws to them. In some cases, when troubles arise, the disputants settle their differences in the presence of an elder, the judge who decides the matter. Justice is then meted out to the offended parties. Different offenses are given different punishment. 

Hanunuos have two burial occasions. The first takes place soon after death. The second after a year or two years when the bones have to be exhumed. They believe in a Supreme Being called Maha na Makaako who watches over them and love them. They also believe that their Supreme Being has a son called Presidents who executes his father's command. They also believe in evil spirits and in immortality. 

The term iraya is said to mean "man" or "human being." The Iraya are the Mangyans of Mindoro who occupy the northwestern part of Mindoro Island. The estimated population of the Iraya-Mangyan is 10, 689 distributed around 141 settlements in the Municipalities of Abra de Ilog, Mamburao and Paluan.

According to the Iraya customs and traditions, the family is considered as the basic unit of production and consumption. Their kindred system is traced to both the father and mother's links which their system refer to us guruan. The nuclear family is referred to us talnakan wherein their already exists a social order. The eldest takes the place of the parents during their absence and is one considered the second parent. He/She is likewise considered the intermediar between the parents and the younger siblings. 

A Mangyan wearing a G-string and a t-shirt.

Among the Iraya, leadership is provided by the puon-balayan, in the local group referred to as sanguraan composed of closely related families. Moral and legal problems are referred to the puon-balayan for decision. Any criminal act or offense done is corrected with the use of either the pangaw or tige. Pangaw is the Iraya's version of the detention cell. Tige on the other hand is a punishment wherein the suspects of a particular offense are called and are ordered to immerse their right hand in a pot of boiling water to pick up the white stone at the bottom of the pot. Anyone of the susupects whose right hand gets burned is considered to be the guilty party. It is believed that the innocent parties will not get burned in this particular test because Apo Iraya will protect them from harm. 

The Ratagnon who are sometimes called the Latagnon or Datagnon occupy the southernmost tip of the Mindoro Island facing the Sulu Sea. The Ratagnon of the Occidental Mindoro has an estimated population of 17, 562 scattered in around 200 Ratagnon settlements

Like all the other Mangyan communities, the Ratagnon are engaged in swidden agriculture. Their villages are not formally developed and settlements of four to five houses per settlements are located apart from each other. A typical Ratagnon house is made of indigenous materials - mostly of wood, bamboo, and nipa. 

Some of the male members of the Ratagnon community still wear their traditional dress which consists of a loincloth as a lower garment. The women wear woven cotton used as wrap-around matched with an upper garment made of handwoven nito just enough to cover the breasts. 





You can help us rejuvenate and promote the rich and distinct Mangyan cultural heritage! 

  • ?  Be a volunteer and get to know the Mangyans better
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The Executive Director
Mangyan Heritage Center
B. Finnemann Compound
Calero, Calapan City
5200 Oriental Mindoro


Tel: +63 43 288-5318
Fax: +63 43 441-0565

The Hanunuo Mangyan Tribe ....
Members of the Hanunuo Mangyan tribe in the Philippines do not leave their dead in the grave for long, digging up the remains of loved ones in an unusual revival ritual that itself is slowly dying out.

The "kutkot" ritual is a tradition of bringing the dead back to life. A Filipino word for "scratch" or "unearth," it entails dressing up the remains of the dead in cloth so that they take on a human form again.

Many of the nearly 100 indigenous peoples' groups across the archipelago hold rituals for the dead, but very few among the 25,000 Hanunuo Mangyans remaining in the central island of Mindoro still practice kutkot, which has fallen victim to modern influences.

For some, kutkot is an obligation that tribal members must perform, in keeping with clan practice or honouring a dead relative's request.

A year after tribesman Hulyong Antonio was buried, six of his children and other relatives travelled to his grave and unearthed his coffin to perform kutkot.

"This man told his children, 'Whatever happens to me, you have to do the kutkot ritual, in the same way that you did for your mother,'" Baryos Gawid, Antonio's nephew, said.

The family members cleaned the skeleton, then wrapped the parts in a large cloth.

The ritual involves an elaborate process of draping the cloth around the bones in such a way that it resembles a sort of mannequin, called a "sinakot."

Mangyan mastery

Only a few Mangyans have mastered this skill.

The cloth must be tied taut with a string and bulked in certain areas to create a human shape, much like a mummy, only in this case wrapped after the corpse is exhumed.

"To this day, we have not forgotten our culture. It has remained alive," said Bapa Amando, one of Antonio's children.

To humanise the sinakot, family members dress up the bulked up remains with clothes and jewellery, with each son or daughter making a contribution.

A year after his death, Hulyong Antonio was welcomed back in his village with the sound of gongs and a traditional dance.

The family keeps the remains in a hut for about a year, then transfers them to a cave, where other "sinakot" are housed.

As more Hanunuo Mangyans migrate from Mindoro's coastal villages to search for jobs in cities, rituals like kutkot are fading, along with other unique cultural practices.

"The younger members of the tribe are not interested in performing this ancient ritual of ours. They don't know how to do it," Gawid said.

The survival of ethnic communities in the Philippines is threatened by industrial developments such as mining, logging and commercial plantations encroaching their ancestral land.

A Mangyan lawyer in Manila
By Ann Corvera (The Philippine Star) Updated December 25, 2005 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

"Ma-Mangyan Mangyan ka naman" is a phrase sometimes used to refer to a person acting stupidly or foolishly.

"There is the tendency to generalize," says Zosing, a Mangyan, as he recalls the discrimination he used to get as a teenager, although he admits he has "selective memory" when it comes to such bad experiences. But remembers he used to "feel like a freak" in public.

Born in the mountains of Oriental Mindoro, Zosing comes from the Hanunuo-Mangyan tribal group. He adds that being poor further fueled the prejudice.

But neither destitution nor bigotry stopped him from excelling in school. A valedictorian when he went back to the highlands for high school study, he turned humiliation into an impetus for him to become an advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples.

At 32, Renato Zosimo Evangelista is a full-fledged lawyer, the first Mangyan to accomplish the distinction, according to the Mangyan Heritage Center of which he is a board member. As an advocate of the law, Atty. Zosing, as he is fondly called, vows to fight for the civil liberties of the Mangyans, who are among the hundreds of original inhabitants of the land. Sadly, however, they are now being driven out of their homes to allow for development.

Atty. Zosing is a managing partner at the Crisologo, Evangelista and Associates Law Office, currently working on a reservation land case in Paitan, Naujan in Oriental Mindoro.

"I have accepted to represent the Paitan Mangyan in the reservation case. A proclamation in the 1930s made a reservation for Mangyans in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro," he says.

He has acted as legal adviser on Mangyan issues, and handles mostly property related cases.

"It’s not really my specialty. It just so happens that we have a lot of those cases. But we also handle criminal cases, as well as pro bono cases," he tells Starweek at his office in Quezon City.

During the morning interview, Zosimo was worrying over the latest development in an eviction case –the court sheriff was in the house of a client, sequestering items.

"We have a newly-referred case wherein a client is trying to secure a temporary restraining order. It’s like an eviction case although there are still other legal issues that need to be threshed out," Atty. Zosing explains. "It’s hard for us (to secure a TRO) since the only remedy is to go to the court of appeals and it’s not that easy."

"As a lawyer, we can only protect our client to the extent of what is allowed by the law," says the Mangyan lawyer, who got his law degree in 2000 from the Manuel L. Quezon University in Manila, with an excellence award in legal education and the "best in commercial law" honor. He passed the bar a year later.

Zosing says he didn’t encounter any discrimination when he moved to Manila to realize his dream of becoming a lawyer.

He was a student leader in a Mangyan community high school and brought his leadership skills to college.

"Mangyans are always presumed not to know how to count or read. They give us a hard time whenever we go shopping and I think not much opportunity is given to Mangyan students to shine in school," says Zosing, who was orphaned at the age of 13 when his mother, Juana, died of broncho-pneumonia. He never really knew his father, a non-Mangyan, because his parents’ relationship was "unacceptable" at the time. "They had to be separated," he says. "That’s how the story was told to me."

Zosing says his mother worked hard not only for her only child, but also for her profession as a teacher. She was also active in the local church as pianist. Zosing inherited this skill and her natural talent in music.

Zosing was a typical awkward teener trying to find his place in the world but he knew he could accomplish more. He says Mangyans were sometimes "treated like savages."

"That’s how I see it. That when you hear the phrase ‘Ma-Mangyan-Mangyan ka naman’, that means you are stupid or illiterate or without manners," he laments, recalling that he became the butt of jokes and teasing for his heritage when he was just a boy.

Since his teens, Zosing knew he could be more, beyond what people judged him to be.

And education, he points out, "is empowerment."

As an orphan living with his relatives, Zosing earned ten pesos transporting sacks of bananas, mangoes and calamansi some 10 kilometers to the market. "I would also help in harvesting. It was enough to cover my allowances and transportation," shares Zosing, who was always on the honor roll, thus his tuition fee was subsidized.

Things changed though when he came to the big city. "When I went to Manila and took up college, people didn’t care if I was a Mangyan," he shares.

According to the Mangyan Heritage Center website, "Mangyan" is a general term that refers to eight ethnolinguistic groups occupying the mountainous region of Mindoro Oriental and Occidental.

"The Mangyans are the original inhabitants of Mindoro, the seventh largest island in the Philippines. The Mangyan population is estimated close to 100,000, about 10 percent of the total population of the island."

Zosing notes that though society is changing and more Mangyans are working and sending their children to school, "not more than a third" of their population are able to finish their studies.

"I want to help my fellow Mangyans," says Zosing, as he notes with gladness that more Mangyans are now trying to follow his footsteps. "Becoming a lawyer somehow boosted the confidence of my fellow Mangyans," he says.

After passing the bar, he became an associate of a law office and worked for Nokia Philippines, reviewing contracts on site acquisitions for the firm’s installation towers. A year later, Atty. Zosing was hired by the law office of the late Sen. Raul Roco.

"Their office called me up because one of their clients, former agriculture secretary Sonny Dominguez, referred me to them," recalls Zosing, who explains he and Dominguez have a common friend who is a fellow board member at the Mangyan Heritage Center.

He stayed with Roco, Capunan, Migallos, Perez and Luna Law Offices until 2004. He moved back to his home province when the governor asked him to be his provincial legal officer.

That year, he also applied for a graduate study grantin international human rights laws in England under the British Chevening Scholars program, which he read about in The STAR.

Among the hundreds worldwide who applied for the grant, Zosing made it to the small four percent who were chosen.

"It was a very tough decision because at the time we were putting up this law office and I was also working as a provincial legal officer," recalls Zosing. This was around August last year and he was given four hours to decide.

Zosing left for England in September and the year that followed proved to be fruitful for the Mangyan lawyer.

"The experience broadened my horizon. I met a lot of people from different countries, different cultures and I learned to appreciate our country better," he says.

At the University of Essex where he obtained his masters degree in law, Atty. Zosing met former deputy minister of Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim during a human rights symposium.

"During the symposium, I introduced myself to Mr. Anwar Ibrahim as the only Filipino in that university," he shares.

Zosing readily showed his intellectual skills and diligence during the Chevening scholarship program. His research paper on trade related intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples was given a "distinction mark", one of only six out of 70 students that received distinction marks on their research papers.

Zosing also wrote a dissertation paper about terrorism and counter-terrorism measures, particularly in the gray area of handling terror suspects, including issues of alleged abduction and torture. During the study grant, Zosing was in the company of "United Nations’ experts" in the fields of torture and minority issues, human rights including rights concerning trade agreements between countries.

Extremely proud of his heritage, Zosing dreams of being a good advocate not only of the law but of Mangyan rights.

"My greatest concern as an indigenous person, a citizen and as a lawyer is good governance for the country wherein the poor–to which 90 percent of indigenous people belong–will be empowered and heard," Zosing tells Starweek. "Most especially, I want the indigenous people to be literate and liberated from poverty. It’s hard to put a hierarchy on the issue of the Mangyans, but primarily what I see is for the government to address foremost the issues of poverty and illiteracy."

After his study grant in England, Atty. Zosing says he has become "more of an activist."

This early in his career, Zosing says he doesn’t know what awaits him, but "for now, I only want to be a good practitioner and a good advocate of the law for the masses."

Mindoreños celebrate ordination of 1st Mangyan priest - 04/23/2007

 As a typical Mangyan kid, he went from one tree to another using forest vines, or barter mangoes and cassavas, for a notebook, with lowlanders.He dreamed of becoming an agriculturist or engineer, for he was good in math. But Hanunuo Mangyan Gabayno Calinog Oybad ended up being the first Mangyan priest after he was ordained on April 17 at the Sto. Nino parish Cathedral here, to the delight of the community.

“I’m a proof that a Mangyan, when given the opportunity and support, and despite poverty, can succeed in any undertaking with perseverance. We’re all equal before God, anyway,” he said.

Although Father Oybad wanted a simple ordination, he could not prevent the people from flocking as they felt proud of the historic event.Volunteers, Mangyans and non-Mangyans, pitched in.

“This is an event for the whole Catholic church,” said Fr. Ewald Dinter, director of the Mangyan Mission-Oriental Mindoro.


Dinter was beaming with happiness.

“This is important for the enculturation of the message of Jesus,” he said, adding a quote from John Paul II: ‘A faith that does not become culture is a faith which has not been fully received, not fully lived.’”

Less than a hundred priests concelebrated the Mass, all of them with a red piece of cloth wrapped around their forehead, in special solidarity with the Mangyan.

The stage was decorated with indigenous materials.

Two SVD (Society of Divine Word) priests -- Jigs Orcino and Among Ricafort -- helped decorate the stage with indigenous materials.

Mangyan gong, flute and sticks were played to mark the highlights of the program. Their sounds penetrated the heart.

The cathedral was almost full, with Mangyan folk from different sub-tribes and towns, and even some foreigners supportive of the Mangyan.

“It’s the fruit of Mangyan Mission’s journey with the Mangyan towards the fullness of life with God and their active response to participate in and ultimately lead the journey,” said Fr. Rod Salazar, an SVD member and executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous People.

The parish of the Risen Christ, which looks after the pastoral concerns of all Mangyan Catholics in Oriental Mindoro province, was also jubilant.

Smiling and unassuming, Father Oybad drew a spontaneous response from the smiling community for his words of thanks at the end of the Eucharistic celebration.

Although he had his list of people to thank, he decided to speak from the heart after feeling overwhelmed by their support.

Unfortunately, he forgot to cite Bishop Warlito Cajandig, who presided over the ordination.


But Bishop Cajandig didn’t mind and was instead supportive to add the choir and the seminarians to the list.

He called Oybad a “GM,” a genuine Mangyan, a genuine Mindoreño.

Oybad celebrated his Thanksgiving Mass the following day in his community in a mountain in Bulalacao, province’s southernmost town.

He wore the g-string before and after the solemn Mass, which was said in Mangyan dialect with Dinter, Orcino and Liung Maliksi.

Asked how he felt now that he is a priest, he said: “I am overwhelmed with the love of God.”

Oybad graduated first honors in a public elementary school and proceeded to a Catholic school.


In high school in Victoria town, he had to balance his studies with his work as a convent boy.After high school, he took Philosophy at the Christ the King seminary in Quezon City.Oybad proceeded to Theology for two years at the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay. Then he taught for one year at the Mangyan Educational Center in Bait, Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro.

He pursued Pastoral Sociology at the Asian Social Institute (ASI) in Manila. “I felt my skills were not enough, I wanted to be practically equipped in working with the Church and the communities,” he said.

His defense of his thesis on the effects of money on the Mangyan was a delight to ASI president Mina Ramirez and panelists because it was Oybad’s community in Sitio Binli, Barangay Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro, who defended his thesis.

“My work has been to document my community’s experiences, thoughts and feelings,” he said. Oybad was hooked by the community life he shared during the vocation campaign of the St. Augustine Minor Seminary in Calapan.

“He wanted to quit when he was completing his Theology at the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay. But we gave our full support because we saw in him the right disposition typical of a Mangyan -- openness and humility,” said Fr. Mimo Perez, one of the formators at the St. Augustine Major Seminary, also in Tagaytay.

It came out that out of 14 seminarians in his first year at the St. Augustine Minor Seminary, only Oybad became a priest.

Oybad is clear about the kind of priest that he wants to be known.“Simple, close to people, balanced by prayer,” he said.

It may be unfortunate that his parents did not see him garbed in white. But the Mangyan community found a fortune in Oybad.

Meet the Mangyan

LEGEND has it that the Mangyans are a “white race” and “tailed-people” who lived in the island of Mindoro.

But in meeting Betty Ungay, a 21-year-old Mangyan, Thomasians saw neither a white-complexioned nor a tailed native. Instead, they saw an ordinary Filipina who is deeply attached to her culture.

Ungay was a volunteer in an interactive exhibit on the Mangyans last Aug. 23 to Sept. 2 at the Beato Angelico Gallery. The 10-day exhibit was organized by the Center for Intercultural Studies (CIS), Beato Angelico Gallery, and Mangyan Heritage Center (MHC).

“As a research center, we need to make Thomasians aware of different Filipino cultures by knowing the natives themselves,” CIS director Cynthia Luz Rivera told the Varsitarian.

“Mangyan” is the general name for the eight tribes in Mindoro, namely Ikaya, Alangan, Tadyawan, Tau-Buid, Bangon, Buhid, Hanunoo, Ratagnon. There are an estimated 100,000 Mangyans in Mindoro. Since most of the island is mountainous, there is little knowledge about the Mangyans.

“UST is the only university that has an interactive exhibit where students can meet a Mangyan. For example, we have asked Ungay to teach students how to weave. We are also the first university to put up a lifesize Mangyan syllabic writing,” Mary Ann Bulanadi, supervisor of the Beato Gallery, told the Varistarian.

The exhibit also displayed basic demographic information about Mangyans; their native clothing like the linggon and the ramit; hunting tools such as spears; musical instruments like the gitgit, a three-string indigenous violin with human hair as strings; Mangyan poetry or the Ambahan; and syllabic writing that is closely similar to Indian writing. There was also a video presentation on discrimination against the Mangyans.

“I love my culture and that is the reason why I have reservations about modernity,” Ungay said. Ungay came from the tribe of Hanunoo and has been working as a cashier at the MHC for three months. She graduated from a three-year course on technology at the Filipino Academy of Scientific Trades.