Bugkos Dagay holding a carved Hanunuo writing
Bugkos Dagay holding a carved Hanunuo writing

The island of Mindoro is also home to the indigenous people of Mangyan. There are eight tribes scattered around the island, from Oriental to Occidental Mindoro. I’ve encountered several tribes already from my past visits and wrote extensively on the Buhid and Iraya Mangyans. Won’t be repeating the same general information from them but rather focus on our visit with the Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement at Manansalay. This time we take a glimpse on the life and culture of the Hanunuo Mangyans.

A Hanunuo Mangyan lady welcomes me at her home
A Hanunuo Mangyan lady welcomes me at her home

Hanunuo Mangyans

The Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement is located in the uplands of Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro, a municipality north of Bulalacao. This tourist-friendly community of at least 500 Hanunuo Mangyans was developed by Antoon Postma. He is a Dutch anthropologist and paleographer who has lived with the Mangyans since 1965. Together with his Mangyan wife, Yam Ay, they worked together in documenting and preserving the Mangyan heritage.

Hanunuo means “genuine” or “true”. When asking a Hanunuo what differentiates them from the rest of the Mangyans, they claim to be the true Mangyan as they have remained faithful to their old traditions. This includes the use of Hanunuo script which is a descendent of an ancient Sanskrit alphabet. Writt The Hanunuo Mangyans may also be distinguished by their rutay (clothing). Men usually wear a ba-ag (a loin cloth) and balukas (shirt) while the women wear a ramit (indigo-dyed short skirt) and lambung (blouse).

Balay Lako, their gathering place
Balay Lako, their gathering place

The Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement

We came in a drizzly morning at the Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement. It’s a small community with a basketball court, a school, a chapel and native nipa huts where Mangyans traditionally live. Unlike other Mangyans, the Hanunuo aren’t nomadic. Family are tightly knit and they value the sense of togetherness in their community. They have no written laws but are guided by counsel and advice passed down by their elders verbally. Dispute settlements between Mangyans are usually done in the presence of their elders. The elders also serves as the judge who give appropriate punishment for the offender.

We visited Balay Lakoy, a gathering or a communal house. A wooden elevated house with a Hanunuo script carved at the facade. The place has served different purposes throughout the generations. Aside from being a meeting place for elders, it is also a place of worship. Mangyans believe in a higher being called Maha na Maako who watches over them. Some of the Mangyans also embraced Christianity as evidenced by a opening up a set of doors to reveal a small room room that serves as an altar. Paganism still lingers as they still believe in dwelling spirits.

Oriental Mindoro | The Hanunuo at Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement
Hanunuo mangyans value family and community

Mangyan Culture

The Hanunuo are very welcoming. Despite just showing up, they were able to accommodate us and set up a small presentation to showcase their culture. The Hanunuo are very poetic and has a way with words. In fact, most of their Hanunuo writings are love songs. The community made a three-part performance. First part was an ensemble of male and female performers in a musical joust. A merry performance where a couple dances around the ensemble banging gongs.

The hanunuo in their traditional garb
The hanunuo in their traditional garb

Then there was a very short song performed. We couldn’t understand but it sounds like sweet and wooing song. The aged yet lovely Bugkos Dagay also played a taghup, a whistle mad out of bamboo. Lastly, she carved a Hanunuo script on a bamboo. It was amusing to see how fast she was able to do it. She wrote an ambahan, a poetry.

Oriental Mindoro | The Hanunuo at Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement
Bugkos Dagay

Much like the Buhid Mangyans I immersed with in San Jose, Hanunuo are quite crafty. They also love bead works as seen from their personal accessories and souvenirs they sell.

Oriental Mindoro | The Hanunuo at Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement
Bead headwear

Visiting the Settlement

The Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement offers a glimpse of Mangyan life. Visitors looking to immerse and interact with Mangyans would find this a worthwhile side-trip when visiting Bulalacao.

Bulalacao Municipal Tourism Office
Contact numbers: 0917-8831339 / 0998-9901869 / 0975-8901711
Facebook: My-Bulalacao
[email protected]
[email protected]

Accredited Tour Guide Association
Bulalacao Tours Association (BulTourA)
Agnes F. Sabulao, President
Contact: 0946-5413588 / 0927-1678995

Oriental Mindoro | The Hanunuo at Panaytayan Mangyan Settlement
Hanunuo script
Dagay and her grand daughter
Dagay and her grand daughter
Portrait of a male Hanunuo
Portrait of a male Hanunuo
The ambahan etched on a bamboo
The ambahan etched on a bamboo
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Ferdz
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.