Philippine Tribes: The Culture and Art of the Mangyan

A known ethnic group in the island of Mindoro, the Mangyan is a mighty tribe that can also be found in the Tablas and Sibuyan islands in Romblon and also in Palawan, Negros, and Albay. The tribe name generally means “man, woman, or person regardless of the nationality”. There were few groups who have documented the Mangyans into different major tribes. To differentiate them, first, you need to look through their geographical location because there are specific tribes in the north and in the south.


Although the Mangyans are grouped as one big tribe, they also differ in a lot of ways. The southern tribes are more advanced as seen in their various activities such as pottery and weaving as well as in their system of writing. In comparison, the tribes from the north are simpler in terms of living. Another difference between the tribes is the date of their arrival in the Philippines. According to some theories, the southern tribes arrived around 900 AD while the northern tribes are ahead of them for over hundreds of years.


Compared to the headhunting tribes in the Northern Luzon and the defiant and brave tribes in the South, the Mangyan tribe lived a peaceful life. As per the social scientists, theories show that societies become peaceful their system of norms and values favor peaceful acts but disagree with hostile and impulsive doings.


When it comes to their arts, the Mangyan tribe contributes a rich artistic heritage to the pre-colonial history of the Philippines. Their art is a means of social expression in the community. One of the many arts they have done is the “Ambahan” which is a rhythmic poetic expression with 7 syllables that are either recited or chanted. It has a variation called Urukay, with eight syllables instead of seven. The authors of this poetry are unknown and if you’re going to ask anyone from the tribe of where they learned the lines of the poem, they would say it was from their parents.


And like how most indigenous people are treated around the globe, the tribesmen are classified as second class people in their own country and are the ones that are commonly subjected to deprivation and abuse. Thus, it is important to give them the protection of their living as well as the preservation of their heritage in order to provide a life for them with the same equal rights and the needs in a fast-changing world.