Friday, August 31, 2018

Suitcase Delights

TESS GOT FOR ME on her recent trip to Mindoro (through a nephew studying in Calapan) this rare copy of Antoon Postma's monumental book Annotated Mangyan Bibliography, 1570-1988 for less than the price of a bagful of Pinamalayan banana chips as reading companion. And a score of other Pinoy expatriate collector's books, mostly from New Day Publishers, for less than $40. Thanks for these awesome pasalubongs, Mom!

A thriving Pinamalayan enterprise

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Monkeys and Morals

FLASH FORWARD TO more than two centuries later with Dean Worcester's visits to Mindoro between 1887-1893, where he perceived Mangyans as monkeys upon initial contact: "Here were the dreaded head-hunters and cannibals, of whom we had heard such alarming reports. We kept a sharp eye on them at first, but our concerns were entirely needless. They were as harmless as children. They were far more afraid of us than we were with them, but after we had won their confidence, they furnished us endless amusement. It proved a simple matter to entertain them. We extemporized rattles for the women, by putting a few shot in some of our old metal cap-boxes. They would play with them by the hour, shaking them and laughing as contentedly as so many babies. We gave one of the men a hand-mirror. He did not recognize his own reflection, but acted precisely as I have seen the Philippine monkeys do under similar cirscumstances."  And on one of his last visits, Worcester made this expiatory comment about Mangyan morals, criticizing the church and the influences of civilization on the Filipino soul (which, ironically, he advocated for as the reason why the US imperial government should stay in the Philippines when he became part of its machinery in 1899): "One might imagine that morality would be at a low ebb among a people whose women are almost without modesty, and where all alike agree that there is no future life, nor any sure retribution for evil deeds in this. Nothing could be further from the truth. Such a thing as a faithless wife is almost unknown. Again and again we left, wholly unprotected, enough property to make a dozen of them very wealthy according to their standards, yet they never stole a penny's worth from us. On the whole, after making somewhat extensive observations among the Philippine natives, I am inclined to formulate the law that their morals improve as the square of the distance from churches and other so-called 'civilizing influences.'" There you go, Mr. Worcester. Not a single banana was stolen by your monkeys. How about your people and civilization?

Worcester's camp on the Baco River with a carabao skull trophy on a corner of the roof, 1891

A Mangyan woman photographed by Adolf Bernhard Meyer in 1904
A Mt. Worcester in Mindoro?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Beeswax Wreck

AND SPEAKING OF BEESWAX, the summer 2018 special issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly entitled “Oregon's Manila Galleon” features the research done on the mysterious "Beeswax Wreck."  Thought to be that of Manila galleon Santo Cristo de Burgos which left Manila in 1693, the wreck carried a large load of beeswax (used by churches in the Spanish colonies to make candles) much of which washed ashore and contained wings of bees native to the Philippines. I am sure that some, if not most, of those beeswax were gathered by Mangyans from the mountains of Mindoro. And if some Pinoy crewmembers survived the shipwreck as the video suggests, then they would be the second oldest group of Filipinos in the US, after those that arrived in Morro Bay in 1587. 

To order a copy, contact Andrew VanDerZanden, Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Avenue, Portland, OR 97205, phone (503) 306-5230, email

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Missions And Mentions

THANKS TO FR. RANDY FLORES, SVD of Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay for sharing this special issue of Diwa: Studies in Philosophy and Theology, devoted to Antoon Postma's research "Mangyan Encounters: East and West (1570-1985)". I was looking for Mangyan responses to Jesuit and Augustinian Recollect reduccíon during the 17th century to finish writing the story of Yanihan in "The Giant Clam of Sibale Reef", and given the dearth of information available within these parameters, I was glad to find valuable snippets of accounts in Postma's research. To begin with, the earliest mentions of Mangyans were those by Hernando Riquel (1570), the official scribe of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi's voyage to Luzon from Cebu in search of the prosperous trading settlement of Manila, who heard about a group of people that lived in the interior of Mindoro he referred to as "Chichimecos" (after a nomadic Aztec tribe in Mexico), and by Fray Martin de Rada (1577) who was first to mention the term "Manguianes" in a letter.  Fray Juan de Medina (1630) wrote about a group of indios who lived in the mountains that were "whiter than the Tagalos" and who collected an abundant amount of beeswax. "Especially do these Mangyans fear the sea. They don't pay tributo. They are afraid that the Spaniards force them to man their ships." In 1632, the Litterae Annuale (Annual Report of the Jesuits) of the Residentia Nauhana noted the Mangyan attitude that "Money made from gold or silver is looked upon as useless, but they consider it a fortune when they possess knives and pots for cooking their food."

Between 1665-1666, Jesuit Diego Luis de San Vitores (known for his work and martyrdom with Pinoy saint Pedro Calungsod in Guam) led a fairly successful mission in Naujan where he baptized a hundred and twenty or so Mangyans before heading for the Mariana Islands in 1668.  In 1679, seven years after San Vitores' terrific death in the hands of Chamorro leader Matapang, Fray Martin Diaz wrote about the loyalty of the Mangyan converts the priest left behind in Naujan: "I know for a fact that they maintain the chapels of straw that they had built at the initiative of the venerable Father Diego Luis de San Vitores. They repair these chapels, take care of them, clean them, and say that they are waiting for him. When they are told that this priest had died already, they say: "nevertheless, some others, like him, are going to come." None of the accounts about Mangyans, however, is more powerful than these remarks from the 1633 Annual Report of the Residencia de Nauhan, which describe the credibility of Mangyan morals that baffled even the Christians: "They told me that they want to be sure that their children will not end up becoming slaves once they have become Christians. One thing that has given us much consolation, admiration towards these pagans because notwithstanding (the negative aspects), they are a people who are very trustworthy. The Mangyans will never tell a lie. That is why, if you tell the Christians, 'that is what the Mangyan says,' they will answer, even if it is not in their favor, 'well, then it must be the truth.'"

Joris van Spilbergen map of Mindoro (ca. 1619) depicting a Mangyan woman in typical rattan waistwear

Simbahang Bato in Bancuro, Naujan, Oriental Mindoro built by Augustinian Recollects in 1680
Overgrown Fuerte de Bongabong or Kuta Fort built by Augustinian Recollects in the 17th century as defense against Moro raids, Anilao, Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro
Fray Diego Luis de San Vitores, evangelist to the Mangyans, 1665-1666

Friday, August 17, 2018

Missing The Point

REMEMBER THE SEVENTIES when aspiring Pinoy high school seniors had to tackle the NCEE to apply for college admission? As Sara prepares for the SAT, I exhumed this score report sent from the archives of the registrar of Ateneo de Manila University, where I spent my first two years of college before transferring to UP College Manila and eventually Diliman. I am sure that the test score helped me get that "for-needy-but-deserving-students" Ateneo Scholarship Foundation free tuition and residence at Cervini Hall (answering phone calls on some nights and weekends and relaying messages to dorm residents via intercom), until I had to leave the university as I suffered my promdi soul-searching in my junior year (See "One Hundred Years of Universitihood"). The NCEE was abolished in 1994 by, surprisingly, former president Fidel Ramos, who signed Republic Act 7731 to repeal an earlier presidential order that created it, prohibiting colleges and universities from denying admission to high school graduates who failed the nationwide test. Recently (and I think sensibly) however, there have been discussions to re-administer the NCEE, "to control the influx of undeserving students who flock to state-subsidized universities and colleges". Mona Valisno, who had rendered respectable service as Department of Education secretary in previous administrations, noted that re-implementing the NCEE would allow higher education institutions to accommodate more poor but deserving students, and observed that during her term, students who came from the "poorest of the poor” obtained 98 percent and above in the NCEE. I agree. And I think needy and gifted Pinoy students are inherently and independently studious, requiring no classes (unlike in the US) to prepare for these tests. Maybe the NCEE's return will have busy, hard-working Pinoy parents of talented children worrying less about college applications, as this credential will help their kids fend for themselves as they tackle academic frontiers beyond high school. Bringing the NCEE back, however, will require approval of the Congress as it has already been abolished by law.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Keepers Of The Range

MUCH IS KNOWN and has been written about the Hanunuo Mangyans, thanks to the dedicated work of Dutch missionary Antoon Postma, but little about the group more kindred and familiar to this writer--the Taubuid Mangyans (sometimes known as Batangan Mangyans), the pipe-smoking group that calls the mountains of Sabang, and beyond, the cordillera of my town of Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro home. So I was glad to find studies done by American anthropologist F. Douglas Pennoyer, Dean of Cook School of Intercultural Studies at Biola University, who documented their fascinating lifestyle in Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society and Anthropos. My mother, a schoolteacher, supported a promising Taubuid kid named Celso Yayag from the village to the elementary school in town until he graduated, but was recalled thereafter by his parents to help with the farm work, and the last time we heard, he also became a teacher. Maybe one day he can also contribute to the knowledge about his people. For a pictorial tour of the present Taubuid Mangyans with their solar lamps and cell phones and their role in wildlife conservation, read World Wildlife Fund's article. The tamaraw skulls, I presume, came from specimens that died natural deaths, and are kept more as venerated relics than as trophies. To visit the Taubuid community in Pinamalayan, follow these MHC guidelines or contact Job Lusnawan, President, Tagfasadi Fagayu Taubuid, Barangay Safa, Sabang, Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro. But make sure to bear in mind Pennoyer's words, which I only know too well: "Fear is a pervasive force among the Taubuid and is greatly intensified during confrontation with strangers, spirits, and even members of the same hamlet. The biggest obstacle to an in-depth study of fear in interior Taubuid society is the fear itself, which virtually precludes prolonged contact with the outside world."

Pipe-smoking Taubuid Mangyan as ranger guarding Mts. Iglit-Baco against poachers. Photo by Gregg Yan

My mother's grade 6 class with Celso Yayag (last row, third from right)

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Reeds Speak

GRACIOUS PRESIDENT of Mangyan Heritage Center Lolita Delgado Fansler, on her recent trip to the US, asked me if I could promote the book Bamboo Whispers in this blog, and I am only happy to oblige as it has been the plan all along, and is long overdue. A collection of 100 Hanunuo ambahan poems originally written on bamboo reeds in surat Mangyan, a pre-Hispanic syllabic script which is also translated in Tagalog, English and Spanish, the book showcases the pristine sensibility of this forgotten group of indigenous people of Mindoro. The blurb supplied by Executive Director Emily Catapang, who led the publication of the revised version of A Primer to Mangyan Script, summarizes the essence of the book, which is available for purchase worldwide through the center's website. (They are planning launches at the Philippine Embassies in Washington, DC and New York City this year, hopefully with the help of The Asia Society.) For an introduction to ambahan, read the late Dutch missionary Antoon Postma's articles in Asian Studies and Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society. Which brings back a lot of memories. Growing up in Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro, my family had a 17-hectare or so farm on the hills of Barangay Safa, Sabang from where one of our Taubuid taos named Pani would come to town on Sundays to bring us red morado plantains and crayfish from Pula River (the aligi enormous beneath their carapaces), and dew-heavy fern fiddleheads wrapped in banana leaves, to report if they were doing sulib, dulok or pukan--mountain dialect that refers to various stages in the kaingin work. Ms. Fansler's haunting ambahan quote from the reeds beckons to the expatriate:

                                                 "You were once passing this way
                                                 It's not long since you've been here
                                                 Your footprints are still around..."

MHC President Lolita Delgado Fansler