The Asian Journal has just published a story about the culture of the Mangyan people, a generic term for the Buid and seven other Mindoro Island societies. The article in the magazine, a weekly published for the Western U.S. Filipino community, emphasizes the incredible human diversity of the Philippines. It cites the fact that of the 110 indigenous groups living on the country’s 7,100 islands, only four still use their own, non-Western, scripts. Two are groups on Palawan Island—the Tagbanua and the Palawan peoples—and two are Mangyan societies on Mindoro—the Hanunuo and the Buid.
The article points out that the Hanunuo are noted for using knives to carve ambahans—notes and poems incised on trees or bamboo slats. It fails to note that the Buid also make ambahans. The article indicates that the Mangyan peoples produce weavings, embroideries, baskets, and other craft works. They plant a variety of crops such as beans, corn, bananas, yams, and cassava.
The Mangyan societies still retain their old cultural practices and traditional beliefs, although some have converted to Christianity. Few Mangyans inter-marry with outsiders—there are few usable roads into their territories.
Furthermore, they are not accorded legal rights to their traditional lands, though to them the land is the source of their life and culture. Government supported development schemes and private business interests have invaded the Mindoro highlands, and illegal exploitation by outsiders often undermines their cultures.
Public education in the Mangyan areas of Mindoro is primitive: they have few elementary schools, and teaching is often sporadic. Many students have to walk for hours to attend a school. Those who want to attend a high school must go to one in lowland Mindoro, where they are faced with high expenses.
Few Mangyan communities have organized their own local governments, or barangays as they are called in the Philippines. Instead, they belong to barangays organized by the Filipino people in the lowlands. The Mangyans rarely participate in the local governments as officials or employees.
The article closes with an announcement about a new exhibit on Mangyan culture which was opened this Monday by the Mangyan Heritage Center at the GSIS Museum in Pasay City. It will run until April 20.