Fewer Buid “tribesmen” have been begging in Calapan City, the capital of Philippines’ Oriental Mindoro province, during the current holiday season compared to previous years. A report from a correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, in the online news source Inq7.com, indicates that tribal peoples on Mindoro Island, especially the Bangon and Buid peoples—called collectively Mangyans—usually congregate in the city to beg at this time of year.
The news story follows up on one from December 31, 2003, on the same theme. Both stories quote a Bangon leader in the city, Yawin-ay Giayan, who evidently circulates among the various Mangyans that he finds, urging them to return to their homes in the mountains to resume farming. Giayan urges residents of the city to not reward the tribal people when they beg, “so that they would not be used to it.” Another city dweller urges the Mangyan “to stay in their land and develop it instead of asking [money] from people, which results in their being looked down on.”
Giayan’s concern, in the story from a year ago, seems genuine. Beggars get sick and the practice of begging is downgrading. The article this year speculates on possible reasons for the current decline in begging, such as illnesses and various fears the Mangyans may have.
Unfortunately, other than a somewhat supercilious attitude toward the Mangyans, the reports convey nothing to the newspaper readers about the Buid, their culture, or their traditional suspicions toward lowland Filipinos. Indeed, the story does not provide any analysis as to why the Buid (spelled Buhid in these stories) resort to begging nor what kind of government services may be provided in the mountains in return for the taxes the people pay each year.
The standard ethnography of the Buid by Gibson (1986) describes a pervasive Buid fear for the Christian Filipinos, and a reciprocal image by the lowlanders of the Buid as terrified, dirty inhabitants of the mountains. The lowlander’s pressure on the Buid to accept settled farming rather than their traditional, shifting agriculture, and the problems that those economic changes are producing in Buid society, are issues that Gibson analyses carefully in his book. The newspaper articles reflect these continuing issues.
Without a current field investigation by a competent anthropologist, it is impossible to sort out what is really happening to the Buid today, other than the obvious conclusion that there must be some serious social problems that prompt them to beg in the streets over the holidays.