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A Visit With the Mangyan People of Mindoro Philippines

September 19, 2017
Mangyan People

A Trip to Mangyan Village

Traveling is all about coming across the unexpected, at least for us. Usually, we plan our trips as best we can but we like to leave a little room for spontaneity. On our planned trip to Talipanan Falls, we stumbled upon something we didn’t expect – Mangyan Village. Here we had the opportunity to meet the Mangyan people and get a glimpse of what life was like in the village.

As we were on our trek up the mountain, we could not help but take notice to all the beautiful bamboo huts and the Mangyan People going about their day – basket weaving, washing their clothes in the river, and even playing basketball. We were enchanted and it wasn’t long before we started to ask questions. Who are these people? What are their stories? What is the history behind Mangyan Village? Luckily for us, one villager decided to take us on a journey through the village for a nominal fee. We even had the chance to visit his home along with his wife and children.

Quiet and slightly remote, this settlement is the perfect place for travelers with a penchant for culture and art.

A Few Things Learned About the Iraya-Mangyan Tribe

Mangyan People

The indigenous people of Mindoro, the Mangyans, consists of eight ethnic sub-groups, the Iraya being one of them. This tribe prospered in a mountainous region called baryuhan (barrio).  Apparently, a major battle between government forces and communist rebels in the 90s forced the tribe to leave their homes and squat in the lowlands. There, they faced discrimination and neglect.

A New Home in Mangyan Village, Barangay Talipanan

Mangyan Tribe

Situated at the foot of Mt. Malasimbo, 9 kilometers from the town proper, lies Mangan Village in Barangay Talipanan. It was founded by philanthropists Jaime Zobel De Ayala and his wife Bea Zobel in the 90s, and was built to preserve the indigenous culture of the Iraya-Mangyan Tribe who were displaced from their land.

In 2007 the Zobel de Ayalas acquired additional land and began developing the village  – complete with a medical facility and 69 2-bedroom houses (with electricity, beds, furniture and kitchen). They also sought the help of the Department of Education to build a elementary school for the tribe. Since then, the village has produced a number of successful graduates, licensed teachers & community workers.

Arts and Crafts of Mindoro

Arts and Crafts of Mindoro

The Irayas are skilled in nito-weaving. Both men and women, gather to weave nito strands (native vine) into souvenirs and trinkets for sale. We stopped by one of their stands to pick up a few pieces of our own. We found items such as jars, trays, plates and cups of varying sizes. Each trinket had its own intricate design and were too beautiful to pass up. When it comes to souvenirs, we appreciate bringing something home that is cultural, hand-made and meaningful. Purchasing these handcrafts is one of the best ways to give back as it is one of the Mangyan’s primary sources of income.

According to various sources online, many of the finished nito products are brought to Makati City where the Ayalas opened two stores. The Mangyan people receive shares from the sales and 4 kilos of rice every week. The foundation also provides livelihood training in dressmaking, beading, masonry, electrical wiring and agriculture, among others.

Mangyan Village

Other Interesting Facts about the Iraya-Mangyan People:

  • Being coastal dwellers at first, they moved into mountainous regions to avoid the influx and influence of foreign settlers.
  • The Iraya language is an Austronesian language belonging to the northern Mindoro group. The known dialects of Iraya are Abra-de-Ilog, Alag-Bako, Pagbahan, Palauan-Calavite, Pambuhan, and Santa Cruz.
  • Their written language is called Hanunuo & Buhid Mangyan
  • Historians suggest that the Mangyans may have been the first Filipinos to trade with the Chinese
  • During ancient times, the Iraya traditional attire was made of dry tree bark, pounded to make it flat and soft. The women usually wore a blouse and a skirt and the men wore g-strings made of cloth.
  • The diet of the Iraya consists mostly of rice, banana, beans, papaya, corn, squash, sweet potato, and other root crops.

More Photos from our Trip to Mangyan Village

Mangyan People

Mangyans of Mindoro

Mangyans of Mindoro

Mangyan People


Mangyan Village

Mangyan Village

Mangyan People


Talipnan Falls

Spending an afternoon with the Iraya Mangyan People was both a unique and eye opening experience. It gave us a glimpse into the past and present. Their way of living was both simple and refreshing. Their smiles and hospitality will not be forgotten.

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  • Reply
    October 20, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    magical! and an intriguing history as well. thank you!

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