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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.