“Yes, I’m a Mangyan, a civilized Mangyan” – my high school teacher always says, so I am, too!
Mangyan is one of the ethnic groups in the Philippines, mainly from the province of Oriental Mindoro. They are considered as the shy tribes. They have brown skin, black hair, gentle eyes and medium height. As I roam around the learning commons of La Salle, I discover something that creates a sincere understanding of who they are through the images, poetry and crafts that express their innate wisdom and authentic beauty. With this, I found the myth and meaning of the Mangyans of Mindoro made by the Mangyan Heritage Center which aims to celebrate the value they possess and correct misleading myths about them. Let’s find meaning and a new sense of home in this unique Filipino heritage.
Some say, “Mangyans destroy the environment.”
Mangyan agriculture is a model for subsistence farming. Vegetation is seen with respect to its past, present and future agricultural use. This holistic and highly sustainable system is timed in accordance with the varying positions of constellations and other celestial bodies. This reverence for the environment enables them to successfully grow a diversity of agricultural products. In addition to rice, some communities grew over 280 specific food crop types in their swidden farm.
Some say, “There are white Mangyans.”
There is no white tribe of Mangyans. In fact, there are eight different Mangyan indigenous groups. These can be segregated into three primary geographic clusters: The Iraya and Alangan in Northern Mindoro, the Tadyawan and Taubuid in the central areas and the Bangon, Buhid, Hanunuo and Ratagnon in the South. Each indigenous groups has its own distinct language and culture. Despite their differences, they uphold similar values such as non-violence, honesty, sensitivity to ecology and the sanctity and preservation of the community.
Some say, “Mangyans are beggars.”
Mangyans are proud people, and it is considered morally and socially inappropriate for them to beg. They pride themselves on the independence of their community and on their self-sufficiency. Although economic inequalities and difficulties have driven some villagers of one tribe to beg, this is frowned upon by the majority of Mangyans. Only some villagers in one tribe are known to beg. In November, in their agricultural cycle, they have some time to go to the lowland . The early groups brought orchids in exchange for food. They noticed that Christians were very friendly in preparation for Christmas. This encouraged others to go to the lowland as well.
Some say, “Mangyans are uncivilized.”
The Mangyans of Southern Mindoro protect a distinctive literary heritage passed down to them by ancestors long forgotten on distant shores. Ambahans are written in the Baybayin syllabary and shared with other Southeast Asian cultures. Simple yet eloquent, these ambahans of the Buhid and Hanunuo Mangyans express a wisdom derived from the ages. All the other Mangyan tribes have a rich literary heritage as well. Through the unmannered tenderness of their language and delicate perceptiveness etched in their crafts, the Mangyans illustrate their innate grace as well as their unity with their physical and and cosmic environment.
Some say, “Mangyans have tails.”
The most derogatory myth about the Mangyans claims that they have tails. It is believed that this prejudicial belief probably evolved from exaggerated descriptions of the g-string or bahag, worn by men and wrapped around the waist with the remainder hanging loosely at the back.
© Mangyan Heritage Center