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Mt. Iglit Part 2: The Mangyan Indigenous People of Mindoro

June 27, 2014 Fredda Ruth 1 Comment

Let me digress for a moment and reflect on the Mangyan indigenous people I encountered on the trail to Mt. Iglit.

For much of the Philippines, indigenous peoples have retreated deeper and deeper into the jungles. Their encounters with modern man proved to be ultimately destructive. Those that managed to survive have done so from their own inner strengths and extraordinary geographic locations.

We of the modern world tend to view them as romantic heroes clinging to the last wilderness frontier, like poets and artists or hippies and New Age fanatics. The latter, I contend, are merely reacting to our increasingly chaotic world. We can instead liken indigenous peoples to children who are content to respond to their immediate environments, oblivious of the progress all around them. For shamans and pilgrims, who in their self-imposed separation from humans act as intermediaries between local communities and the great untamed powers of nature,  there is a denial of progress and chaos – the retreat to the inner jungle is a symbol of retreat into the inner soul. For the proud and peaceful  Mangyans, there is no fleeing  in time, only a gentle, silent remaining and being-in-the-present.

Despite or perhaps because of their material and technological inferiority, they have a deep symbiotic and non-neurotic relationship with nature. It is clear that if we are to rescue our planet, we must learn from indigenous and early peoples, for they understood instinctively that we are human species among living species in a dynamic and enchanted living world. It is only through a a holistic and global approach that we can solve our most pressing problems including environmental degradation, poverty, and wars; acting merely as a part of a cultural, linguistic, tribal, political, national or economic group runs runs counter to our advantage.      

Even though we always idealize and exoticize them, in the form of documentaries (e.g., National Geographic), through anthropological studies, museums, commodified “authentic” cultural displays for the benefit of tourists and spectators, and in my case, ethnic bracelets with which I like to adorn myself; the fact is, we have oppressed and treated them so unjustly. It seems that we of the civilized world would not stop until we have despoiled their rivers, mined gems and gones from their mountains, wrung the lifeblood and enchantment from their lands, made tourist attractions of their burial customs; there’s no stopping us until we see them as stressed, depressed and neurotic as we are, tolerating constant abuse from fellow men in the form of social institutions we have created and inhaling toxic fumes on a daily basis…  They are the outcasts of the world, made grotesquely fascinating by our collective delusions, but some of us look up to them there, in the playground of the gods and the tamaraw, blessed by the sun and stars, while here we are baking under corrugated tin roofs in our crumbling empire…

*   My trek guide Jonji taking a "selfie" so that the Mangyans will appear in the picture. Manyans do not like to be photographed.

My trek guide Jonji taking a “selfie” so that the Mangyans will appear in the picture. Manyans do not like to be photographed.

*   Mangyans, the indigenous people of Mindoro, encountered in the trail to Mt. Iglit

Mangyans, the indigenous people of Mindoro, encountered in the trail to Mt. Iglit

For the next part of my Mt. Iglit Adventure write-up, please click here: Part 3: The Hike to the Summit.

Mangyan Heritage Center has an excellent sample of ambahan”, Mangyan poetry which is carved into bamboo and give a fascinating glimpse of their worldview and mores. 

*   bamboo-grove-ambahan

Jacob Maentz from Jacobimages.com took gorgeous photos of his trip to a few Mangyan villages during a medical mission.

To know about the various sub-groupings and tribes among the Mangyan, you may check out this Facebook link.

To find out more about their culture and art, check out this short article by Artes de Las Filipinas.

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Previous PostMt. Iglit in Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park, Mindoro Part 1: The Trail to Base CampNext PostMt. Iglit Adventure Part 3: The Hike to the Summit

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