Saturday, September 06, 2008

Mangyan Exhibit at Davao Museum

The Davao Museum is hosting a Mangyan exhibit for the whole month of September. Featured are examples of Mangyan script and poetry, craftwork, and artifacts.

The Mangyan are the indigenous peoples of Mindoro. Mangyan is actually the generic term for the tribes living in the area, eight groups in all. They are notable for their syllabic script which predates the arrival of the Spanish by at least 300 years.

The oldest written artifact found in the Philippines was a copper plate with Mangyan script discovered in Laguna in 1989.

I attended the opening of the exhibit last Thursday, thanks to an invite from my fellow Davao Reader Chi. It felt a little odd to be rubbing elbows with the alta sociedad of Davao, and me in my everyday work clothes. But what the hey, right?

Anya Postma, daughter of Dutch archaeologist Anton Postma, was the special guest at the opening. She recited Mangyan poetry and taught the guests how to write their names in Mangyan script.

Some words about her father: Anton Postma is the acknowledged authority on the Mangyan, having spent several years of research in the area. He went back to the Netherlands once, then returned to Mindoro for good. Anya was born in Mindoro and lived there her whole life.

This map shows the distribution of the tribal areas in Mindoro.

Mangyan musical instruments.

Weaving occupies a special place in Mangyan culture. Only married women are allowed to weave, and when they do so, they weave using a special back plate which connects them to the loom. This makes them one with their work.

An example of Mangyan poetry. All Mangyans participate in this art form. Of the specimens I read, what they had in common were nature motifs with themes of arrival, departure, friendship, love, and day-to-day activities.

There is a Mangyan web site,, which goes into more detail about Mangyan culture. But, of course, a visit to the museum to see the exhibit would enhance your experience. Catch it while it's there.

Davao Museum is at the Zonta Bldg., Insular Village Phase I, Lanang, Davao City. It is open from Monday to Saturday, 9:00am - 5:00pm.