Communing with Iraya-Mangyan

Jean Eguilos of ATI 4B taught by Nanay Lucia of the Iraya-Mangyan Tribe on handicraft making. Photo by: Rose Ann Nilo

“It’s not easy to go out of your comfort zone but then if you remain restrained in that comfort zone, nothing will change in your life and you can do nothing that would help in the betterment of your fellow.” -- Dr. Asterio P. Saliot of Agricultural Training Institute (ATI).

Iraya is one of the seven subgroups belonging to the Mangyan Tribe of Oriental, Mindoro. Most of their food comes from the mountains and the soil they cultivate. They have high reverence to nature and are bound to take good care of it as it has been part of their daily lives. Mangyans do not only make use of the environment as a source of livelihood but also as a means to communicate with one another. They also believe that all food which they call “kabuhayan” have spirits.

These were just a few of the many customs, traditions and beliefs of the Mangyan Tribe witnessed and experienced by the Volunteer Leaders' Association of the Philippines (VLAP) during their stay in the Iraya-Mangyan Community as part of the VLAP National Convention. A mass wedding or “kasalan ng bayan” of the Mangyans also took place aside from the games and showcase of talents.

Expressing his sadness, Saliot lamented over the fading culture, music and dances of the Filipinos citing the death of a head weaver in Cotabato, the absence of young Muslims in Kabacan who are supposed to take over in playing of the musical instrument “gong.” “If all these will be gone, what are we called? Can we still be called Filipinos?,” he questioned.

Saliot was thankful for the presence of the VLAP and urged them to continue striving to realize the goals of the organization. He wanted the participants to deeply understand the Mangyan culture and know why they are doing what they do. He looked forward for the tribe to also learn from the customs of the Bisaya, Muslims, Ilocano, Waray, Bicolano or of any other region where the VLAP participants come from.

With the exchange of experiences, Saliot was hopeful that the bonds established with the host families will not be broken even upon leaving the community. “Let your connection with each other linger on so you may realize that we are one as Filipinos. One country with one spirit, one faith, and one aspiration and may you embody what ATI really means in reaching out, building dreams, and changing lives.”