Mamburao Occidental Mindoro, PhilippinesMamburao Occidental Mindoro, PhilippinesMamburao Occidental Mindoro, Philippines

Mangyan Tribe

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Profile of the cultural communities of Occidental Mindoro


The province of Occidental Mindoro is located in the Western portion of Mindoro island bounded in the north by the Verde Island Passage, in the west and south by the Mindoro strait and in the east by Oriental Mindoro. Its terrain is characterized by successive ranges of mountains, intermittent valleys and elongated plateaus with rolling prairie land along the coastal regions. The province is composed of eleven (11) municipalities, nine of which is inhabited by the cultural communities.

The cultural communities in this province are known to be “Mangyans ”. their rootedness in its primitive ways is attested by the historical references to them as “savages”, “mountaineers”, “pagan Negros” and “wild tribes”. The early explorers and missionaries considered them the “ancient inhabitants” of the island with a “tail half a span long”. Their feature differentiates from a race of Negritoes to Mongoloid type and to pure Malay race. To date, they are still considered the indigenous tribal groups of Occidental Mindoro of which they are divided into two (2) main groups, the northern tribes and the southern tribes. The northern tribes are Iraya and Alangan and is said to possess a primitive way of life, while the southern tribes are Batangan, Hanunuo, Buhid and Ratagnon and knows weaving, blacksmithing and pottery-making. They are also ethnically grouped/ differentiated into six (6) sub tribal groups with distinct languages and customs, namely: Iraya meaning “man” or “human being” and occupies northwestern part of Mindoro Island, Alangan meaning one who lives along the river or valleys” and meaning “real, genuine, true” and occupies the southeastern part of the island, Ratagnon meaning “a mixture of Tagalog and Visayan people” and also occupies southeastern part. Buhid meaning “someone from the uphill or mountain” and occupies the south central strip of the island, and the Batangan meaning “wild” and also occupies the south central strip of the island.


The Mangyans live in the settlements that are considered public lands, that is, part of the government domain. As such, they are not to be appropriate to anyone else unless so authorized. Therefore settlements are classified as reservation. To date they are only five (5) mangyan reservations as found within the forest zones, that are forestlands with a slope of 18% or over, and therefore, classifies as inalienable and disposable. There are also settlements located in areas which are classified   as alienable and in disposable, but are titled to and occupied by lowlanders. With this, the ethnic groups are oftentimes deprived of their own land.

Within these settlements are the core settlements where houses cluster together. The chapel school multi-purpose building dominates the pattern. In other settlements, however there is only a cluster of houses with no chapel or school or multi-purpose at all.
A total of 20 to 60 households could be estimated in a core settlement.  A great majority of them are nuclear families. On average, a household is composed of five (5) members. Larger households have eight (8) to ten (10) members. In households with extended families the parents and their children, the children spouses the grandchildren live together. There are also households with childless couples or unmarried mangyans although it is rather exceptional for them not to marry. In fact, they get married at an early age. However, it should be noted that most of these people have no knowledge of their age.

III. Economy / livelihood

The Mangyans are identified as impoverished and underprivileged group of people not only in this province, but also of the country. These tribal groups engage in “slash-and-burn” cultivation which is characterized by the clearing of a swidden or kaingin by fire, and its discontinuous cropping. On the cleared plot, they plant crops until the declining yield shows that the soil is in exhausted. This type of cultivation is a practice of “field rotation” rather than “crop rotation”.

The mangyans have no concept of individual land rights. The land they cultivated belongs to the tribal community. Their right to use it comes from their membership in their community. The consequent right to plant crops is derived from clearing from swidden patch.

They have a method of selecting swidden rites. They use no maps or calendars, but simply let themselves be guided by botanical criteria that are flexible and highly relevant to their purposes. The method is encumbered with rituals because for the mangyans “land” is not only a source of “livelihood” but is also “sacred”.

At present, a handful is engaged in sedentary farming, which entails a shift to a profit oriented economy.

Aside from farming, some of their income yields from handicrafts (basket weaving), vegetables product and charcoal making. For subsistence they also depend on staple foods and root crops like bananas, cassava, camote and ginger and others on fishing activities. These days, there are also some of them who are employed by the department of environment and natural resources through mindoro upland community development project as forest guard and seedling planters on contractual basis only to name; the Irayas in abra de ilog and hanunuos of magsaysay towns. Other also engage in greenstone and yellowstone mining particularly the irayas.

Cooperative organizations is also being introduced among the tribal communities. This is aimed to alleviate their present economic condition through the introduction of business opportunities. As such, the operation of middlemen can be minimized or completely prevented which their mere presence provides threat to the tribal communities’ socio-economic development.

To date, there are two (2) existing tribal multi-purpose cooperatives belonging to the batangan and alangan tribes duly registered with the cooperative development authority (cda). These cooperative organizations have acquired loan from the provincial government to be utilized as seed money for their business pursuit. More so, the ilo-indisco through our office has provided a considerable amount of financial their agricultural undertaking (i.e. Banana and ginger production) handicraft project and provision of soft loans to member.

The government through this office and other agencies has its development programs for the tribal filipinos. Some have already benefited with this programs but others are still craving for a sustainable assistance. Difficulties are being encountered in the realization of a total development due to a meager operational resources/budgetary constraints.

Although some of them already have the capabilities at par with the lowlanders, they have still in the poverty level and majorities are living in a “hand-to-mouth” existence. Income of every family per annum averages from php 2,000.00 to php 3,000.00. Thus, even a 4 year old member of the family are made to go with the adults to assist in earning sustenance.

Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that existing/on-going programs play a vital role towards the sustainable development of the cultural communities.


These tribal people are considered the most illiterate and unschooled in the country averaging two percent (2%) in education. Although the younger generation has now the opportunity of going to school, the rate of literacy is still very low. While some parents are in favor of formal education, others are still against it for the following reasons: they would not like their children to be separated from them because it is contrary to their customs and traditions; there is no need of formal education in the mountains for their war of education is different from other cultures. The mangyan parents believe that experience is the best education or learning things by doing them. The parents will supply whatever they think in essential. Sound advice has to be given too, to prevent accidental or harmful experiences. Their essential part of education is parental scolding and telling a sorry event of an old story.

While those may be valid reasons for some of them the issue is economic and social not only cultural. They simply cannot afford to sent their children to school. Moreover, they feel their children are not fully accepted in the lowlands. Which indicated that the process of integration is a painful one and will still take a long time.

It is in this premise that our office through the support of the provincial government has initiated literacy program, titled edukasyon at kalusugan para sa etnikong pamayanan (ekep poject), envisioned to upgrade the literacy level of the tribal communities. Classes are being conducted reight in the far-flung tribal settlements by well-trained tribal para-teachers. To date, impact of the literacy program is now being seen considering noteworthy increase in literacy rate among the tribal communities.

The literacy program is on-going with 19 para-teachers conducting classes in the different tribal settlement of this province.


The mangyan world is controlled by a complex of omni-present spiritual forces. These spirits are the good and the bad. They greatly influences their everyday way of life and colorfully exemplified by their rites and ceremonies. To an observer, these may be irrational or looks strange, but for the mangyans, these are important aspects of their life.

Each mangyan tribe have their own distinct beliefs and practices. Thus it will be discussed by each tribe.

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