Tugdaan: Mangyan’s seedbed of hope
In Paitan, there live gentle people who know not the ways of war, people the color of clay, shy and swift like the deer, mountain-sturdy, brothers and sisters to the vanishing tamaraw.
I wrote that in 1988, I visited Paitan, a village in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, where a community of 250 Alangan Mangyan families lived. I stayed at the 220-hectare Paitan Mangyan Reservation. I was there to find out and write about their endangered lives and ancestral domain, and also to immerse myself, even for a short time, in their way of life. I listened to their myths, legends and everyday concerns.
I went there upon the invitation of Sr. Victricia Pascasio, a Missionary Sister of the Holy Spirit and social action veteran whose heart, mind and soul are attuned to the concerns of indigenous peoples (IP).
My piece came out in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine (“Reclaiming a Lost Eden,” 4/7/1988). It was about the intrusion of non-Mangyan into their territory that had been declared ancestral domain and the threat to their lives (a leader had been slain) and peaceful ways.
I did go back to Mindoro some years later to write about yet another Mangyan community, the Tadyawan. The Mangyan of Mindoro Oriental and Occidental are grouped into Alangan, Tadyawan, Bangon, Buhid, Iraya, Hanunuo and Tau-buid.
In 1989, Ben Abadiano, a young anthropology graduate, came to Paitan, stayed for a couple of years to put up Tugdaan (Alangan word that means seedbed) that would later expand as Tugdaan Mangyan Center for Learning and Development. The Holy Spirit Sisters were there to lend a hand. Abadiano went away for a few years because he thought he might become a Jesuit, but he did find out soon enough that his calling was with the IP communities. Tugdaan was waiting for his return.
Tugdaan, the seedbed, grew. It now occupies four hectares in the 220-hectare Alangan Mangyan’s Paitan reservation. It has a junior and senior high school, food processing centers, a heritage center and library, a training center, gardens, and more.
For his groundbreaking work that is Tugdaan, Abadiano, was awarded the 2004 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership. He was 39 then. Abadiano, now president of Assisi Foundation and the Philippine Equity Foundation, also founded Ilawan Foundation and Pamulaan — which also means seedbed — a college for IP students from all over the Philippines. The school is inside the University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City. He also set up Advocafe, an entrepreneurial offshoot of IP endeavors.
I was in Tugdaan last week for the turnover of the new training center donated by the Embassy of Japan. Atsushi Kobayashi of the embassy’s economic section came. An Alangan Mangyan elder conducted a “tawtaw” ritual to bless the structure and offer it to Kapwan Agalapet (God the Creator), while the students, all in their Mangyan finery (girls in intricately braided “yakis” skirts, boys in G-strings), sang songs. It was a proud day for the Mangyan leaders, particularly for Ligaya Lintawagin, director of Tugdaan and head of Samahan ng mga Nagkakaisang Mangyan Alangan. Representatives of the Hanunuo Mangyan were also present.
At the center of the training hall is the “palangganan,” a sunken square area which is a feature of Mangyan dwellings that shelter entire clans or neighborhoods. Here members of the clan place food and farm products for everyone to partake of.
Changes will happen in Tugdaan in the coming months. Soon to be housed under one food processing center are the production of virgin coconut oil, calamansi concentrate, hibiscus concentrate, coffee and cacao products, etc.
Tugdaan (with the Department of Education) has published a beautiful booklet on IP education as implemented among the Alangan Mangyan of Paitan. Tugdaan’s Balay-Lakoy Research Center for Mangyan Culture has published children’s books as well as a compilation of Alangan words and phrases. By the way, the Mangyan are among the few indigenous groups in the Philippines that have an ancient syllabary or system of writing. Efforts have been made to preserve and make the young Mangyan proud of it.
Being in Tugdaan and with the Alangan Mangyan this time around was a wow moment for me.
More another time.
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