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Who are the Mangyan indigenous people - funded by Brighter Brains Institute?

Posted: Sat, May 03, 2014 | By: Philippines

by Rosalina Melendres (director of the Mangyan school, San Lorenzo Ruiz Academy)

At present the Mangyans live in public lands in five Mangyans forest zones in Oriental Mindoro, The Philippines. Out of 100,000 Mangyans in Mindoro 70% live in the forest zones and 30% are in the lowlands. Regarding religion - 70% are Catholics 25% belong to different faith denominations like Jesus is Lord, Church of Christ, Salvation Army and other religious sects, and 5% are without any religion [animist]. Religious faith does not matter - they all get along well with Mangyans of different religious sects.

The San Lorenzo Ruiz Academy (supported by the Brighter Brains Institute) is located in the heart of Banilad Community in Dulangan 3 in the municipality of Baco, just before the jungle at the foot of Mount Halcon, ten kilometers away from Mount Halcon proper. It is hilly but not too steep. It takes us 3 days and 2 nights by walk to reach the top of Mount Halcon. Some of the Mangyans work as guides to the top of Mount Halcon.

Leeches are rampant in the jungle and worst in the rainy season (June to December). The leeches live on the leaves of plants and trees. You do not feel the presence of the leech; you only see it after it finishes sucking your blood. This parasite leaves the skin after it gets the desired amount of blood that it wants from its victim. To avoid this parasite we wash our skin with detergent soap.

In the jungle there are also poisonous snakes - two species of cobra - and pythons.

The majority of the Mangyans nowadays are not in the jungle, most of them are in the lowlands where they work with the “Tagalogs”. They earn more money grass cutting, fruit picking, palay harvesting and other tasks…

Mangyans’ are peace - loving people. If you listen to their conversation you might think they are quarrelling, but they not. They speak loudly but that’s normal with them. Due to extreme poverty there were a few Mangyans involved in crimes like thievery, but very few. They can mingle with “Tagalogs” and other nationalities. They even approve photo taking with them.

Mangyans rarely bathe, especially couples. I am speaking based on my experiences with the Alangan Mangyan Tribe. Jealousy occurs between a husband or wife if one takes a bath or cleans himself or herself. Each has the suspicion that the wife or the husband has been with other man or a woman.

Carabao is a large hoofed animal in Mindoro. Both “Tagalogs” and “Mangyans” use this animal in farming. Carabaos were never hunted by Mangyans. Mindoro also has the “Tamaraw” - which is similar to carabao except the carabao is bigger than tamaraw and the carabao horn is bigger than the horn of a tamaraw. The carabao is also a tame animal while the tamaraw is wild. Tamaraws were hunted but it’s strictly prohibited by the government nowadays since there were only a few tamaraws remaining in Mindoro. The Mangyans have no guns but they have bows and arrows for hunting wild pigs (baboy damo), wild cats (musang) and hawks (uwak).

The majority of Alangan Mangyans are no longer in the jungles of the mountain. Most of them are in the lowlands or on hilly but not steep locations like the San Ignacio Banilad, Baco area.

The majority of the Mangyans (I am now speaking off all the eight Mangyan Tribes in Mindoro) live in public lands in five reservations/forest zones in Oriental Mindoro. A total of 80 to 100 households are within a core settlement composed of 7 to 8 members.

In San Ignacio Banilad 143 families settled in the place with an average number per family of 5 to 7 members.

“Nomads” by nature, they stay from one place to another depending on the availability of food for the family i.e rats (not poisonous) root crops like camote, cassava or gabi.

In our case, the Mangyan residents in San Ignacio, Banilad, left the house early in the morning and return back home in the evening because of their children who are studying from Monday to Friday in our school.

Hank: Manyan food in your mission - they eat rice? Also I have read that they eat snails - ? Do they cook them? What do Mangyans also eat? There are wild roots that they eat - what is their name? Also wild greens? The Mangyan practice slash-and-burn agriculture… what do they plant? root crops? Ube? Manioc? tomatoes? Peppers? Do they also have bananas? coconuts? citrus? I have read there is a lot of citrus in Mindoro. I just need a list of everything the Mangyans eat, both in the jungle and at your mission. I read they eat rats, true? How do they catch the rats? Do they also eat insects and grubs and wild birds, etc? Can you give me specifics?

Rosalina: Yes, those were before (from the start up to 1980’s). There were several cases of land grabbing between the Mangyans and the Tagalog lowlanders during those times. Majority of the land in Baco, including the forest zones( I really do not know how did it happened but the Tagalogs were able to put the piece of lands meant for natives but they were able to put on into their names). One of the concrete example was the piece of land that the school were able to acquire through your help, if you recall, we bought that piece of land to Natividad Gutierrez (tagalog).

I don’t think the piece of land has a gold or mineral deposits thereon, but, the thing that matter is possession (greediness) on the part of “other lowlanders or those who were in the political positions before. Yes, there were plenty of lumbers in the mountain most especially before, and those were wrapped up with different sad stories, with the Mangyans involved.

Before, the Mangyans are well discriminated. At present, they are not. Yes, we heard some cases like those before; bullying or killing and buying of the Mangyans piece of land at a very low or cheap amount.

Land grabbing remained to be a big problem for the Mangyans regardless of tribe, because the majority of the piece of land were not yet back to them until this time.

Hank: I read that Mangyan land is threatened by Tagalog because there might be gold and other minerals on the land. Is this true? Also, what about lumber companies? Do Tagalog dislike the Mangyan? Do they ever kill them? or just bully them and take their land? You wrote that the Mangyans were not happy going to school in Calapan City? Is there a reason for this? Are they teased by Tagalog? Do they not get good grades? DO they just miss the jungle?

Rosalina: Yes, the Mangyans eat rice. They ate rice most especially during harvesting season (April and May) and (September-October). On this season, the whole family go down to pick up the remaining palay on the stalks. They dried the palay under the heat of the sun and when they go home late in the afternoon they chop the palay with the use of their “lusong”. Yes, they ate snail particularly what we call “kuhol” from the ricefields and rivers. Yes, they cook the snails with salt and water. Re: root crops they simply ate cassava, camote and gabi.Yes, they do slash and burn agriculture through swidden or “kaingin system” a type of cultivation which practice “field rotation” after the soil is exhausted rather than that popular crop rotation being done by “Tagalog” lowlanders.

Yes, they have rootcrops “ube” “cassava” “camote” . . They have bananas, durians, lanzones, rambutan, green orange or what we call “sinturis, jackfruit, star apple, guava, “uloy””duhat”, polmelo, coconut, guayabano, santol, mango and atis.

Yes, exotic food like edible rats, frogs, bats, big snail or edible kuhol and snakes (sawa) are their favorite foods. They catch those animals with their bare hands. RE insects, yes they eat (“suhong”), a kind of insect with wings and tail and is almost similar to a grasshopper.

Yes, they eat birds like “tikling” (long legged with long neck and beak), “pugo”-a small bird like a chick, the young of a chicken (hiding under the grass).

Yes, there were plenty of citrus fruits in the mountain particularly calamansi.

Hank: I have read that 70% of Filipino children have intestinal worms. This suggests that the Mangyans - at least 70% would have them, maybe 90-100%. Is this right? Intestinal worms are caused by dirty drinking water and no toilets. Do the Mangyans have toilets? If not, where do they go to the bathroom? In the jungle? People get worms by stepping on feces. Are the Mangyan barefoot and does this happen?

Rosalina: Yes, 90% of the children in San Ignacio Banilad have worms. In 143 families 65 among them have toilets. However, due to lack of water they cannot use it. All the villagers go up to the forest for this purpose. Yes, the majority of the Mangyans are barefooted.

Hank: Do you presently have funding for anti-parasite medication?

Rosalina: All of them have lice on head and worms especially among children. NO, we do not have the funds for anti-parasite medication.

Hank: What clothes do the Mangyan wear? I have read that little children are often naked. Is this true? From the pictures it seems they wear t-shirts a lot and clothes made out of plants. Are there clothes washed regularly, or not at all? Do the Mangyan have jewelry?

Rosalina: Yes, the majority of the children were naked (boy/girl). Traditionally, Alangan Mangyan women wear a skirt called “lingeb” . This is made of long strips of woven nito (forest vines), and is wrap around the abdomen. This is worn together with the G-String called “abayen”. The upper covering is called “ulango”-made from the leaf of buri palm. Sometimes a red kerchief called “limbutong"is worn over the ulango. Men wear G-strings with fringes in front.

The T-shirt and other clothes that you saw in pictures were used clothes from the Tagalogs. No, they don’t wash clothes regularly either for 2 reasons (the villager has nothing for soap or he/she is too busy for survival).

NO, they have no jewelry of any kind but they have what we call “tigbi” that they got from he forest. They make this from thin nylon strip and place on their neck, ankle and hands. At present they can weave beaded jewelries. But, to do it they have to buy beads in Calapan City Proper.

Hank: I have read that in the Mangyan religion, their gods gave them the forest. Do many Mangyans still believe in their religion? What do the Mangyans who live in the jungle, think of the Tagalogs?

Rosalina: Yes, in the olden times they believed “Amboao” - the powerful god of lands who gave them the forest, river and other wonderful creations.

In the olden times, they were very much afraid with the Tagalogs- being cruel, and all the negatives…. At present those who were in the lowlands were no longer afraid with the Tagalogs. They can work and even mingle Tagalogs.

In the community most of the Mangyans are working with Tagalogs, they being worker or tenants of the Tagalog’s Farm, Tagalog’s grass cutter, fruit picker and others…

Hank: I have read that the Mangyans - despite all their misery - are very happy people. Is this true? How do they do this? Do they have close families? Are there marriages good? Is the relationship between genders good? Do they marry early in life? Do they love their children very much?

Rosalina: Yes, I also admire them for that. They can even consume the whole day or evening for what we call “barugi” - setting aside all problems and misery and set or lie down in the house laughing for happy past incidents in their lives even without eating, just listening to other members of the family stories…

Yes, they have close family ties too. Yes, their marriages by Alangan Mangyan Ritual is good. The eldest in the Tribe unite them with the use of “pisaw” = bolo in english; the man and woman hasto bite the bolo together and sleep together also in a mat with the bolo.

Yes, the relationship between genders is good and couples love children very much. This is sad, but YES, a girl of 12 marry. “Matandaan” or arrange wedding is very common until this time.

Hank: Do the Mangyans at your mission learn enough to go to high school in Calapan and elsewhere? Do they often go to colleges and universities? Are there often “successful” ones that move to Manila or elsewhere? Are there any skills that they have that they are respected for? Or just as hunters and guides? Do they work for Tagalogs as gardeners and cleaners and crop-pickers?

Rosalina: Yes, from 1992 up to present we have more or less 300 graduates in Elementary; all fully equipped to study and go to high school. However, the majority stopped going high school, they were forced to work for survival; others particularly females marry at an early age.

From the above number we have twenty 20 Alangan high school graduates that can go to college but they can’t because they have children and own family to attend to at present. We have 1 Mangyan Graduate of Automotive he is Victor, he is a married man with 5 children and 2 second year college students but both have own families too. After all we have 1 female Fourth Year College Student, still single to graduate on March 2015 with the degree of Bachelor of Arts major in Psychology. She is Creizel Leviste. After Elementary grade in the mountain, she stayed in my house in Calapan to complete his High School (4) until college. Her family is very happy of course.

Yes, they work with Tagalogs as grass cutters, farm tenants, fruit pickers or have they own piece of land to work with in the forest or the lowlands.

Hank: I read an article that said Mangyans like to eat sardines in tomato sauce and then they put the sauce in their hair. Is this true? Are there any other delicacies that they like to eat? Like Spam? Or Coca-Cola? Do the Mangyans smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol? I have read that they like betel nuts. Is that healthy? I read that the betel nuts make them “not hungry” and chewing betel nuts are a social activity.

betel nuts
betel nuts

Rosalina: Based on stories of the present Mangyan elders- in the olden times, the Mangyans special food is sardines, yes they can even put the sauce on hair. But, this is not true, nowadays. They ate what is on the forest like yam, green oranges, other root crops wild yam like “namie” and fruits.

Cigarettes and alcohol were all influenced by the Tagalogs since 1984. For them said influence is also good because it help themselves on cold or on rainy season.

Taking betel nut is not healthy but like cigarettes and alcohol this makes them stronger (they did not easily get hungry) ; and persevered more in work if they chew this. Yes, betel nuts is being used in courtship-if the woman offered the man betel nut that means that the love offered is accepted; and it is being used also on other social activities.

Hank: The Mangyans in your mission often have tuberculosis. Do they often die of it? Do the children all live, or do many die in childhood? Also, do many of the Mangyan have diarrhea? I have heard that diarrhea can kill young children. It is also caused by dirty water. What else kills Mangyans at a young age? Are there other diseases, like measles, fever, or the flu? Do they have “traditional” medicines?

Rosalina: YES, tuberculosis is a very common illness in the community. Yes, many died of it particularly in the olden times. The children live but were malnourished or under nourished. Yes, some causes of death among Mangyan children in Banilad is diarrhea, bronchomonia.

The other kinds of illnesses among children and adults were measles, chicken fox, fever, flu, cough and colds, sore eyes, skin diseases like “buni” “an an” oars of different kinds. Yes, they have traditional medicines like ginger, “sambong”, “camaria”” yerba buena” “kataka-taka” “mam-in” lemon grass or “salay”

Hank: The Mangyans in the jungle live in simple “houses” that seem to be made out of branches and leaves and maybe bamboo. Can you tell me what the houses are made out of? It seems like these houses can’t keep the rain out. Is that right? Do the Mangyan get wet every time it rains?

Rosalina: Yes, the houses were made of very light materials like bamboo and nipa. It can bear simple rains but cant resists typhoons and strong wind. It easily fell down on the ground with those kinds of weather.

Hank: Are the Mangyans learning to read and write at your school? Are the jungle Mangyan all illiterate, but the Mangyan at your Mission are not? How do you find your teachers? What Catholic order do you belong to? Dominican? Franciscan?

Rosalina: Yes, the majority of the Alangan Mangyans in San Ignacio Banilad, young and old can read and write, at present. They can cast their votes and can even do or hold simple sari-sari store in the community because they can also compute.

At present there were more or less Twenty Alangan Mangyan families in Mount Halcon proper. All of them are illiterates. There were also some Mangyans illiterates in the community that we are serving, those who spent the whole day working for survival and have no time to sit down with us for this purpose.

The SVD (Society of the Divine Word) Priest is holding a Holy Mass for the Community ones in a month. After him is Kalo Efrin Calabio a Mangyan who do Sundays Devotion on Sundays without a priest.

Hank: You have to teach hygiene to the Mangyan. what does this mean?

Rosalina: Teaching Personal Hygiene means teaching personal cleanliness to all; from the importance of washing of the hands, regular taking a bath brushing of the teeth, combing of the hair, cleaning of the ears and other parts of the body, PSYCHO SEXUAL education or gender sensitivity seminar….

Hank: what special holidays do the Mangyans celebrate? Can you tell me anything about their customs? Do they have special songs, dances, stories?

In the olden times they do not have holidays. All holidays were only influenced by Tagalogs like, Christmas, New Year, All Saints Day and Holy Week.

YES-“marayaw” is what we call mangyan favorite song. This can be a love song, a baby’s lullaby or a way of healing a sick person by a Mangyan faith healer.

RE: Dance-their one and only dance is “tiktiko” accompanied by a sound produced by sticks or bamboo. It can be danced singly or without a partner.

Hank: What do your Mangyans do for water? Where do they get it?

Rosalina: The only source of water in the village is a natural small spring at the foot of Mount Halcon. The Mangyan elders constructed a rough cemented water reservoir on the spring and fixed with #5 plastic tube. From this they constructed another small water reservoir connected with small tube dimension (#2 tube), that supplies water in the whole village including the school.

Those water reservoirs were not covered with roof. Both were totally exposed to rainwater, fallen dried leaves from the trees and eggs of parasites; and we presumed that those were the root causes of diarrhea and intestinal problems of the villagers particularly children. The water is always mixed with tiny bits of soil most especially on rainy days.

Hank: Are there nutritional deficiencies in your community? Is there enough iron, iodine, protein, and fat? Can you tell me what you need in the diet to improve the nutrition? Like, how many eggs a week, etc?

Rosalina: YES, actually this is the main problem-VERY POOR NUTRITION and they lacks iron, iodine, protein and most of all fat.

YES I think it is good to provide them egg but it is much better to provide them with a chicken that will give them egg.

We also need other sources of iodine and iron like leguminous food and other yellow and green vegetables.

Hank: What is your educational budget? How much money does it cost to sponsor each child for a year, and how many children are there? What is the total budget for teachers, books, supplies - divided by number of children?

Rosalina: RE: EDUCATIONAL BUDGETTeacher Salaries and Benefits - we have to have 4 teachers in the Mangyan School: 1 kindergarten Teacher, 1 teacher for Grade 7, 1 Multi- grade Teacher to take care for our Grade 1 to 3 Pupils, 1 Multi- grade Teacher to take care of our Grade 4 to 6 Pupils.

Each teacher must receive 8,000 every month. This amount must be divided into 1into two for his/her salary and basic benefit like SSS, Philhealth and PAG-IBIG every 15th and 30th of the month. The total Budget for Teachers for one year including 13th month is 264,000.00

We have 140 students for this school year 2014-2015 in San Lorenzo Ruiz Learning Center Baco, to meet the needs for teachers salaries and benefits each student must have a Foster Parent to sponsor the child’s education per month amounting to 188.5 to a total of 1,885/student every year.

For Paper and books, we have already some good donors of those items from the PAPER ONE INCORPORATED, Valenzuela, Philippines.

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES ON THE MANGYAN (with information on how to provide assistance)

Wish List for Mangyans: chickens, anti-parasite medication, clean water, student sponsorships

The Mangyan of Mindoro - disease and poverty among the “poorest of the poor”

These Mangyan Students Need Sponsors - only $5/month for the School Year 2014-2015


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