Tag Archives: Indigenous People

Hanunóo: Learning the Basic

The Philippines aims to eliminate illiteracy in the country. As an intervention, the Alternative Learning System ( ALS) was then created.

ALS is spearheaded by the Department of Education. It is a free education program that benefits those who cannot afford formal schooling and follows whatever is their available schedule. The program provides a viable alternative to the existing formal education instruction, encompassing both the non-formal and informal sources of knowledge and skills.

Educating Hanunóos

In partnership with the Department of Education, the Armed Forces Philippine has continued educating the Hanunóo. Hanunóo is  a Mangyan  sub-tribe living in the mountains of Oriental  Mindoro, Philippines particularly in the municipality of Mansalay.

Native smiles from Hanonoo women.
Member of the Philippine Army faces a new battlefield, not armed with guns and cannons but with sticks and books. His new task now is not to protect the country sovereignty but impart knowledge to native Filipinos.
A helpful text book for starters.

Empowering Hanunóos 

Towards social development, the program aims to improve the quality of lives to the native sectors as it adheres to the government’s end goal of eliminating illiteracy and eventually will result in poverty reduction.




Aside from education alone, livelihood programs for Hanonoos were created where women manufacture baskets and weave cotton into clothing and blankets. 

Hanunóos sample products ready to be traded off.

Achieving the Goal

The road to societal change seems too long, rough, and maybe impassable.




However, success is made of sweat and determination. ###


Living the Mangyan way

I am posing a question: “What do you think it will look like if we’re not colonized by the Spaniards?”

Thinking all possible answers, I would assume that I don’t have the concept of a computer, internet, and blogging. Maybe, I am not able to understand nor write English.

Giving satisfaction to this query, then I am giving scenarios to help you imagine how it will look like if we are not once colonized. Definitely,  my experiences with these Indigenous People will provide with you answers to the above-mentioned question. I hope I can describe it justly.

Mangyan: A native tribe

The mountains of Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro are inhabited by the  Mangyans. Extensive tribal settlements of Mangyan in the municipality belong to sub-group known  Iraya. The Mangyans are simple people. They have dark skin and curly hairs but some of them have straight hairs.  History revealed that they were once coastal dwellers driven into the mountains to avoid religious conversion by the Spaniards, raids by Moro pirates, and the influx of recent migrants.

Municipal Hall
The Municipal Hall of Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro

The travel

It is our goal to reach the native community. Maybe you are wondering what’s with this travel? Well, I am part of that government project which advocates the right of these  Indigenous People.

So let’s start then.

At early dawn, I think that was 4:00 in the morning when we started the journey. Tiring and sweaty, these two words are just a few to describe our travel to Sitio Lagnas, Lumangbayan Abra de Ilog,  where a community of Iraya exists.

Our team climbing this mountain at early dawn. Extreme.

On the way, there are hills after hills, mountain after mountain. Walking and hiking is something new we have to endure.  After hours of travel, the sun had started to climb to its zenith and we felt terribly hot and totally exhausted. We are craving cold water and of course for a rest. To add the agony, the heat of the sun is burning our skin. But we have to move on, there’s no room of turning back.

Though the travel is tough, yet we have that chance to enjoy the bird’s eye view of the whole town of Abra de Ilog.
Of course, you can see how terrible travel is. But if you are looking for an extreme activity like this, then better climb the mountains of Abra de Ilog.

The place called Hasaan

Around 3:00 in the afternoon,  we have arrived Hasaan. We can now see the fog and sort of clouds going down the mountains.

“Hasaan” is a local term for whetstone. The place is located between the two mountains with stream and brook with different sizes of sort of black marble rocks. The rock formation is another fascinating feature of the place.

Hasaan is derived from the word ‘Hasa’ which means to sharpen. According to locals, during World War II, the Japanese army used the place to sharpen their bayonets.

These are the sample of the rocks that were scattered in Hasaan.

Our team has decided to build tents in Hasaan. The availability of water supply is what we considered.

The parallel view of Hasaan.
This little tent shelters us from rain and cold for almost 5 days during our stay.

Exciting challenges

During our stay, here are some remarkable things hard to forget. First,  coping with food and water. The sardines, noodles, dried fried, Fish Paste “Bagoong” and edible fern (paco)  saved us from extreme hunger.

 The water we drink came from the spring with an unusual size of tadpoles (measuring head-size of 1-2 inches diameter ) swimming in it. Safe or not? We don’t mind what is important is to quench our thirst and to survive.

Have you seen cooked rice put inside a sack? There you go, in the absence of kitchen utensils, we have to maximize what’s available. Note: it is still delicious.
food 2
The noodles played a vital role in our existence in Hasaan.
Imagine without dried fish (tuyo), then we have no protein at all. I am thinking, I’ll be malnourished for once.

Second, the Alimatik or leech (Hirudina medicinalis)  attack. This little pest is sucking our blood. And the problem is, we have no clue it’s there because we feel nothing. Gross.

This little pest is now full of blood. And “Alimatik” loves to suck the soft part of a human foot. Ewwww.

Third, the place gave us no choice but to use open defecation for our sanitation. Fourth, the very cold place that could kill us. Shocks, we are almost chilling to our bones.

This bonfire warms our bodies and helps ease the cold evening.

Knowing Iraya

Irayanons look very primitive though their culture of wearing ‘bahags’ has faded. They are chewing the mixture of buyo locally known as ‘nga-nga’. Their lifestyle has been modified with technology. Few of them are already using cell phones for entertainment.

An Iraya man looks very prominent in his community.
A simple way of caring- this father has to carry his son.

We can observe that they live in simplicity and now they value the importance of education. Though most of their tribe members have no grade completed.

Irayanons are all farmers in occupation. Vegetables like , squash also sweet potatoes are their main productions.  They are also engaging in making grass brooms.

These Iraya men have to walk for two days from their community before reaching the Abra de Ilog town proper to sell their products.
Sweet potatoes- the fruit of the native’s labor.

This experience made me realized that I am lucky enough to live in the urban center and experiencing the fruit of civilization compare to these native people.

So these are the answers to the question: What do you think it will look like if we’re not colonized by the Spaniards?”

At a young age, this woman has already kids. And I learned from them that there are incest cases. Unfortunately.
If still we are not civilized, maybe we all look like him.

Withdrawing from our comfort zones is helpful in many different ways. This makes us grow, motivate, inspired, and sometimes experience the freedom that we are dreaming of. As said by Brian Tracy, “You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” ###