Mission Statement
About the Mamanua

The Mamanua, the only Negrito race of Mindanao, are indigenous to the province of Surigao del Norte. They live in the foothills of Anao-aon, Malimono, Mat-I; in the hinterlands of Bacuag, Claver, Gigaquit; and in the mountains surrounding Lake Mainit. They believe that these ancestral lands are sacred - a source of life and a gift from their magbabaya (God).

The Mamanua are short, small-framed people.They have dark skin, kinky hair and shy personalities. Their names are derived from nature - from mountains, bodies of water, trees, stones , wildlife. Basically, nomadic, the older men of the tribe still roam the forests of Surigao Norte to hunt for food, returning only to their territories to deliver their catch, which are shared by everyone. In recent times, the younger ones have begun to look for work at mining and logging companies, to earn money to support the needs of their young families.

The Mamanua are gentle and peace-loving people. They prefer to settle disputes amicably and pay the manggad (fine) for minor infractions and oyagaan (heavy fine) for serious ones rather than prolong conflicts. In fact, they only use their spears for hunting and as ornaments on ceremonial occasions.

The oldest tribe on record is the Cantogas of the Lake Mainit area. As with the other lumad (tribal) communities, they have occupied their ancestral domain since before the arrival of the Spaniards. To this day, they still practice some of their ancestral customs and traditions.

The Mamanua have their own indigenous political structure, which is distinct and autonomous for each tribe. Each community has its own laws transmitted orally from generation to generation and through actual practice. At the head of their political system is the dakula (leader), whose position used to be inherited. However, nowadays he is chosen for his ability to settle disputes within his tribe. He is advised by the malaas (elders). At the bottom of the hierarchy of power is the bagani (warrior), who is responsible for maintaining peace and order in the community.

For a long time, the Mamanua have resisted the "outside" world, living only in the dignity of their own culture. At present, due partly to the patient efforts of the government and some NGOs, they are slowly adapting to the changing world. They are starting to send the younger tribe members to school. They now allow the government to assist them with livelihood projects. They now welcome medical missions to inoculate their children and to work with their baylan (tribal doctor) in treating their sick with modern medicine. Lastly, they have found their political voice as a people, petitioning the government to grant them the legal rights to their ancestral domain.

Slowly but increasingly convinced of the benefits of better health and education, the Mamanwa are struggling to catch up, although centuries late. In this endeavor, they need help to survive and save their unique culture from extinction. Providing educational grants to their children is both invaluable and essential. A college education would enable Mamanua children to help their people escape poverty and develop their full potential.

 


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