Mangyan is the generic name for the eight indigenous groups found on the island of Mindoro, southwest of the island of Luzon, the Philippines, each with its own tribal name, language, and customs. The total population may be around 280,000, but official statistics are difficult to determine under the conditions of remote areas, reclusive tribal groups and some having little if any outside world contact.

The ethnic groups of the island, from north to south, are: Iraya, Alangan, Tadyawan, Tawbuid (called Batangan by lowlanders on the west of the island), Buhid, and Hanunoo. An additional group on the south coast is labelled Ratagnon. They appear to be intermarried with lowlanders. The group known on the east of Mindoro as Bangon may be a subgroup of Tawbuid, as they speak the 'western' dialect of that language. They also have a kind of poetry which is called the Ambahan.

Mangyan people
A Mangyan woman
A Mangyan woman in traditional attire, c. 1912
Regions with significant populations
Buhid, Tawbuid, Hanunoo, Alangan, Iraya, Tadyawan, Tagalog, English
Animism (majority), Christianity (Predominantly Roman Catholic and Evangelical Protestant)


The Mangyans were once the only inhabitants of Mindoro. Being coastal dwellers at first, they have moved inland and into the mountains to avoid the influx and influence of foreign settlers such as the Tagalogs, the Spanish and their conquests and religious conversion, and raids by the Moro (they raided Spanish settlements for religious purposes, and to satisfy the demand for slave labor). Today, the Mangyans live secludedly in remote parts of Mindoro but eventually comes down to the lowlands in order to make usual trades. Their sustenance are farming for their own crops, fruits, and hunting. A certain group of Mangyans living in Southern Mindoro call themselves Hanunuo Mangyans, meaning “true”, “pure” or “genuine,” a term that they use to stress the fact that they are strict in the sense of ancestral preservation of tradition and practices.[1][2]

Before the Spaniards arrived in Mindoro, the people traded with the Chinese extensively, with thousands of supporting archaeological evidences found in Puerto Galera and in written Chinese references. A division was created among the people of Mindoro when the Spaniards came. There were the Iraya Mangyans, who isolated themselves from the culture of the Spaniards, and the lowland Christians who submitted themselves to a new belief system. These two groups only interacted for economic matters through trading forest goods from the Mangyan and consumer goods for the lowlanders.[3][4]

Despite being grouped as one tribe, Mangyans differ in many ways. In comparison to the technological advance between the two geographical divisions, the Southern tribes are more advanced as seen in their use of weaving, pottery and system of writing. The Northern tribes, on the other hand, are simpler in their way of living. Their language, as in the rest of the Philippines, came from the Austronesian language family. However, even if they are defined as one ethnic group, the tribes used different languages. On the average, they only share 40% of their vocabulary. The tribes have also varied physical and ethnogenetic appearances: Iraya has Veddoid features; Tadyawan are mainly Mongoloid; and the Hanunuo looks like a Proto-Malayan.

Another difference between tribes is the date of their arrival in the Philippines. A theory suggests that the Southern tribes were already present by 900 AD while the Northern tribes are believed to have arrived hundreds of years ahead of their Southern peers. The Spanish authorities had documented their existence since their arrival in the 16th century. However, historians suggest that the Mangyans may have been the first Filipinos to trade with the Chinese. Examples of this relationship are seen in the burial caves, as porcelains and other potteries abound. However, not much ethnographic research has been made except for the tribal and linguistic differences that may lead to the indication that the tribes can be treated separately.

Culture and practices

Iraya Mangyan Community Village 003
Handicrafts made by the Iraya people at the Iraya Mangyan Community Village in Talipanan, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. They are skilled basket weavers and produce crafts of high quality.

Mangyans lived in peaceful societies as compared to the head hunting tribes of North Luzon and the brave defiant warrior tribes of the South. Social scientists theorized that some societies become peaceful because their system of norms and values reward peaceful behavior but disapprove aggressive and impulsive behaviors. Peaceful societies are characterized by egalitarian social organization without status competition between men and without asymmetric relationship between men and women. Another theory posited that populations adapt, therefore, offering a more logical explanation why Mangyans preferred to retreat in the hinterlands. They accept peaceful submissiveness when they encounter lowland settlers, missionaries, traders and government officials.[5]

Mangyan are mainly subsistence agriculturalists, planting a variety of sweet potato, upland (dry cultivation) rice, and taro. They also trap small animals and wild pig. Many who live in close contact with lowland Filipinos sell cash crops such as bananas and ginger.

Their languages are mutually unintelligible, though they share some vocabulary and use Hanunó'o script to write: Tawbuid and Buhid are closely related, and are unusual among Philippine languages in having an /f/ phoneme; Tawbuid is divided into eastern and western dialects; Western Tawbuid may be the only Philippine language to have no glottal phonemes, having neither /h/ or /ʔ/.

Their traditional religious world view is primarily animistic; around 10% have embraced Christianity, both Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism (The New Testaments have been published in six of the Mangyan languages).

Indigenous Mangyan religion

The Mangyan have a complex spiritual belief system which includes the following deities:

  • Mahal na Makaako – The Supreme Being who gave life to all human beings merely by gazing at them.
  • Binayi – Owner of a garden where all spirits rest.
  • Binayo - Is a sacred female spirit, caretaker of the rice spirits or the kalag paray. She is married to the spirit Bulungabon. The kalag paray must be appeased, to ensure a bountiful harvest. It is for this reason that specific rituals are conducted in every phase of rice cultivation. Some of these rituals include the panudlak, the rite of the first planting; the rite of rice planting itself; and the rites of harvesting which consist of the magbugkos or binding rice stalks, and the pamag-uhan, which follows the harvest.
  • Bulungabon – The spirit aided by 12 fierce dogs. Erring souls are chased by these dogs and eventually drowned in a cauldron of boiling water. He is Binayo’s husband.


The indigenous Mangyans offer a myriad of culturally rich artifacts that give insight into their culture and trade. The people living in Southern Mindoro during the pre-Hispanic era are exceptional in their weaving, pottery, and system of writing. Their clothing differs between genders. The male generally wears loincloths as covering for the lower body whereas the female would wear a skirt and a shirt for the top. The terms and materials would differ from tribe to tribe, but the exceptional designs would come from the Hanunó'os. Their textiles are dyed in indigo blue and has an embroidery design called pakudos at the back and can also be found on their woven bags.

Their system of writing, called Surat Mangyan, is a pre-Hispanic syllabic system and is believed to be of Indic origin. It is still practiced today and is still being taught in different Mangyan schools of Oriental Mindoro. The Hanunó'os also practice their own traditional poetry called the Ambahan, a rhythmic poetic expression with a meter of seven syllables presented through recitation and chanting or inscribed on bamboo.[5][6][7]


  1. ^ "Mangyan Tribes in Mindoro". Precious Heritage Ministries. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  2. ^ Non, Domingo. "Moro Piracy during the Spanish Period and Its Impact(Special Issue: Forests and the Sea in the Southeast Asian Maritime World)" (PDF). Kyoto University Research Information Repository. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  3. ^ Lopez, V. B. (1976). The Mangyans of Mindoro: An ethnohistory (1st ed.). Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
  4. ^ Bawagan, A. B. (2009). Customary Justice System among the Iraya Mangyans of Mindoro. AGHAMTAO: Journal of Ugnayang Pang-Aghamtao, Inc. (UGAT), Volume 17, 16.
  5. ^ a b Santos, Jericho Paul. "The Culture and Art of the Mangyan". Artes de las Islas Filipinas. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Mangyan Syllabic Script". Mangyan Heritage Center.
  7. ^ "Ambahan". Mangyan Heritage Center. Retrieved 29 December 2014.

External links

BRP Mangyan (AS-71)

BRP Mangyan (AS71) is an auxiliary ship of the Philippine Navy, formerly the freight supply ship U.S. Army FS-524, built for the United States Army during World War II.

Benjamin Abadiano

Benjamin Abadiano (born February 11, 1963) is a Filipino lexicographer who has worked in the country's highlands with the Mangyan, Lumad, and other indigenous peoples. He did volunteer work for nine years in Paitan, Oriental Mindoro, and later in Mindanao. He was awarded the 2004 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership.Abadiano compiled the first Tagalog-Mangyan dictionary.

Abadiano started the forum Advocacy Photographers in 2009.

He is currently the President of the Assisi Development Foundation, Inc.

Buhid language

The Buhid language (Buhid: ᝊᝓᝑᝒ) is a language spoken by Mangyans in the island of Mindoro, Philippines. It is divided into eastern and western dialects.

It uses the Buhid script, which is encoded in the Unicode-Block Buhid (Buid) (1740–175F).

Ginaw Bilog

Ginaw Bilog was a Filipino poet who was recognized as a National Living Treasure by the Philippine government.Born on January 3, 1953, Bilog was a Hanunuo Mangyan who was a native of Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro. He was known for his efforts in preserving the mangyan poetry tradition of ambahan.Then-President Fidel V. Ramos, conferred the National Living Treasure Award to Ginaw Bilog on December 17, 1993 in recognition of his people's preservation efforts of the ambahan poetry which is recorded on bamboo.He died in June 3, 2003 at age 50 due to a lingering illness.

Greater Central Philippine languages

The Greater Central Philippine languages are a proposed subgroup of the Austronesian language family. They are spoken in the central and southern parts of the Philippines, and in northern Sulawesi. This subgroup was first proposed by Robert Blust (1991) based on lexical and phonological evidence, and is accepted by most specialists in the field.Most of the major languages of the Philippines belong to the Greater Central Philippine subgroup: Tagalog, the Visayan languages Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray; Central Bikol, Maranao and Magindanao. On the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, Gorontalo is the third-largest language by number of speakers.

Hanunuo language

Hanunuo, or Hanunó'o, is a language spoken by Mangyans in the island of Mindoro, Philippines.

It is written in the Hanunuo script.

Hanunuo script

Hanunuo, also rendered Hanunó'o, is one of the indigenous suyat scripts of the Philippines and is used by the Mangyan peoples of southern Mindoro to write the Hanunó'o language.It is an abugida descended from the Brahmic scripts, closely related to Baybayin, and is famous for being written vertical but written upward, rather than downward as nearly all other scripts (however, it's read horizontally left to right). It is usually written on bamboo by incising characters with a knife. Most known Hanunó'o inscriptions are relatively recent because of the perishable nature of bamboo. It is therefore difficult to trace the history of the script.

Iraya language

The Iraya language is a language spoken by Mangyans on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines. Zorc (1974b) places the Iraya language within the North Mangyan group of Malayo-Polynesian languages, though Jason W. Lobel notes that it shows "considerable differences" to Tadyawan and Alangan, the other languages in this group. There are 6,000 to 8,000 Iraya speakers, and that number is growing. The language status of Iraya is developing, meaning that this language is being put to use in a strong and healthy manner by its speakers, and it also has its own writing system (though not yet completely common nor maintainable).

Ethnologue reports that Iraya is spoken in the following municipalities of northern Mindoro island.

Mindoro Occidental Province: Paluan, Abra de Ilog, northern Mamburao, and Santa Cruz municipalities

Mindoro Oriental Province: Puerto Galera and San Teodoro municipalitiesBarbian (1977) also lists the location of Calamintao, on the northeastern boundary of Santa Cruz municipality (7 km up the Pagbahan River from the provincial highway).The language is not well documented, though a translation of the Bible is available locally.


Mindoro is the seventh largest island in the Philippines by land area with a total of 10,571 km2 ( 4,082 sq.mi ) and with a total population of 1,331,473 as of 2015. It is located off the southwestern coast of Luzon and northeast of Palawan. Mindoro is divided into two provinces Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro. San Jose is the largest settlement on the island with a total population of 143,430 inhabitants as of 2015. The southern coast of Mindoro forms the northeastern extremum of the Sulu Sea. Mount Halcon is the highest point on the island, standing at 8,484 feet (2,586 m) above sea level located in Oriental Mindoro. Mount Baco is the island's second highest mountain with an elevation of 8,163 feet (2,488 m), located in the province of Occidental Mindoro.

Mindoro bleeding-heart

The Mindoro bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba platenae) (Mangyan: kulo-kulo also lesser known names as la-do, manatad, manuk-manuk, punay, and puñalada) is bird native to the Philippines solely found on the island of Mindoro. It is an endangered species. The Mindoro bleeding-heart is a type of ground dove. It is threatened by habitat loss, especially for marble extraction.

National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (Philippines)

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) is the agency of the national government of the Philippines that is responsible for protecting the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines. The commission is composed of seven commissioners. It is attached to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Northern Mindoro languages

The Northern Mindoro (North Mangyan) languages are one of two small clusters of languages spoken by the Mangyan people of Mindoro Island in the Philippines.The languages are Alangan, Iraya, and Tadyawan.

Ronald Himes (2012) and Lawrence Reid (2017) suggest that the Northern Mindoro languages may group with the Central Luzon languages. Both branches share the phonological innovation Proto-Austronesian *R > /y/.

Philippine languages

In linguistics, the Philippine languages are a proposal by Zorc (1986) and Robert Blust (1991, 2005) that all the languages of the Philippines and northern Sulawesi—except Sama–Bajaw (languages of the "Sea Gypsies") and a few languages of Palawan—form a subfamily of Austronesian languages. Although the Philippines is near the center of Austronesian expansion from Formosa, there is little linguistic diversity among the approximately 150 Philippine languages, suggesting that earlier diversity has been erased by the spread of the ancestor of the modern Philippine languages.

Ratagnon language

Ratagnon (also translated as Latagnon or Datagnon, and Aradigi) is a regional language spoken by the Ratagnon people, an indigenous group from Occidental Mindoro. It is a part of the Visayan language family and is closely related to other Philippine languages. Its speakers are shifting to Tagalog, and it is nearly extinct.

Barbian (1977) provides lexical and phonological data for Ratagnon.

In contrast to Cuyonon, Ratagnon dropped the schwa /ë/ sound, instead opting for a “u/o” sound. It too borrowed lexical terms from the languages of its Mangyan neighbors and to a lesser extent Spanish It is notable in Barbian's "Mangyan - English Vocabulary", 1977 that by that time, Ratagnon might have already experienced heavy Tagalization, present in words such as "heart", "tagiposon" in Cuyonon, albeit "puso" in Ratagnon, same with Tagalog's "puso". The word "why", "ayamo" in Cuyonon is noted as "bakit" and "basi" in Ratagnon, "bakit" being a loan from Tagalog and "basi" a Hanunuo Ambahan term (hayga being non-Ambahan), perhaps inferring that "basi" is a loan from Ratagnon, as Ambahans have been known to use archaic Hanunuo terms and loans from various languages, one being Ratagnon. This phenomenon is also observed in the Hanunuo traditions of Urukay, perhaps closely related to the Erekay of the Cuyonons, both being a form of "Balagtasan". Ratagnon also have terms specific to their lowland river surroundings which are not present in modern Cuyonon, most of which are borrowings from Hanunuo and Buhid, whereas a few are either archaic Cuyonon terms or innovations made within the Ratagnon language. Aside from the aforementioned differences from the Cuyonon language, the two languages are still very much mutually intelligible.

Differences from Cuyonon would include:

The usage of the "t" sound over the "d" sound, present in:

Usage of the "k" sound over the "g" sound:

The aforementioned dropping off the schwa for the "u" sound present in:

The preference to the "l" over the "r" sound

There are some words that have differed in meaning from Cuyonon to Ratagnon, this is most observed at the terms specific to their respective surroundings, these have created false friends that have almost the same meaning but still differ.

Ratagnon people

Ratagnon (also transliterated Datagnon or Latagnon) is one of the eight indigenous groups of Mangyan in the southernmost tip of Occidental Mindoro and the Mindoro Islands along the Sulu Sea. The Ratagnon live in the southernmost part of the municipality of Magsaysay in Occidental Mindoro. Their language is similar to the Visayan Cuyunon language, spoken by the inhabitants of Cuyo Island in Northern Palawan.

The Ratagnon women wear a wrap-around cotton cloth from the waistline to the knees and some of the males still wear the traditional g-string. The women's breast covering is made of woven nito (vine). They also wear accessories made of beads and copper wire. The males wear a jacket with simple embroidery during gala festivities and carry flint, tinder, and other paraphernalia for making fire. Both sexes wear coils of red-dyed rattan at the waistline. Like other Mangyan tribes, they also carry betel chew and its ingredients in bamboo containers.. Today only around 2 to 5 people speak the Ratagnon language, which is nearly extinct, out of an ethnic population of 2,000 people.


May-as, also called Mangyan tagabukid, is a term for the indigenous people of the island of Sibuyan, in the Philippines.

Sibuyanon is the name of the dialect of Romblomanon spoken on the island of Sibuyan.

The local people commonly refer them to as “Mangyan”. the Indigenous people, however, prefer to call them “Sibuyanon”, the way the other inhabitants in the island are called. This is because they are aware that the term “Mangyan” carries with negative connotations among lowlanders. It is unsure if they are even related to the Mangyans of Mindoro island to the northwest.The May-as are clustered in groups of two to four houses, scattered throughout the rolling and hilly areas of Sibuyan Island. They are essentially farmers but they also extract resources from the forests and rivers.

Socorro, Oriental Mindoro

Socorro, officially the Municipality of Socorro, is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Oriental Mindoro, Philippines. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 39,099 people.Socorro is located at the junction of the Pola Road and is 61 kilometres (38 mi) from Calapan.

In the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, many roads were paved, the market rebuilt, and employment rose. Agriculture still provides the main industry with rice, fruits, and coconut products dominating. Citrus products like calamansi, dalandan and pomelo are also abundant here together with rambutan and lanzones. Fresh fish from Lake Naujan at the northern end of the municipality and Balut are also important products. There is a large Mangyan population in the more remote parts of the municipality, and programs of assistance for these people have been implemented.

Southern Mindoro languages

The Southern Mindoro (South Mangyan) languages are one of two small clusters of languages spoken by the Mangyan people of Mindoro Island in the Philippines.The languages are Buhid, Tawbuid, and Hanuno'o.

These are among the few languages of the Philippines which continue to be written in indigenous scripts, though mostly for poetry.

Tadyawan language

The Tadyawan language is a language spoken by Mangyans in the southern Lake Naujan in Oriental Mindoro, Philippines.

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