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Mansaka Tribe of the Philippines: History, Culture and Arts, Customs and Traditions [Davao Indigenous People | Ethnic Group]

Mansaka Tribe of the Philippines: History, Culture and Arts, Customs and Traditions [Davao Indigenous People | Ethnic Group]

The word “Mansaka” means “people of the clearings,” from the word saka, which refers to the farming fields. The name has been erroneously interpreted by Visayan migrants who arrived in Mindanao during the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s as “people who go up” because saka means “to go up” in Visayan. The Mansaka were first called Manlorowa, meaning “people who dwell in the forest” (Limikid 2002), possibly because historically, they were driven into the forests by raiding Kalagan Moros. Majority of the Mansaka reside within the three Davao Region provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, and Compostela Valley, specifically Tagum, Nabunturan, Mawab, Maco, and Pantukan. Compostela Valley is home to the most number of Mansaka (32,052 in 2000) comprising around five percent of the entire population of the province (NSO 2002). Pantukan is presumed to be the main Mansaka center from which the group expanded to other places. A recent estimate by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies puts the Mansaka population at around 56,507 (Reyes et al 2016).

The Mansaka group of languages is often classified under the Manuvu linguistic group, which includes the dialects of the Tagakaolo of Davao del Sur, the Davaoeño of Davao City, the Mansaka and Mandaya of Davao del Norte, and the Isamal of Samal Island. The language is lexically similar, by almost 90 percent, to Mandaya ( 2021).

History of the Mansaka Tribe

The racial development of the Mansaka might have progressed in three phases. From 3000 to 500 BC, the Indonesians came and intermarried with native women, begetting the Manobo. The migration of the Malays from 300 to 200 BC and their intermarriage with the Manobo produced the Mansaka. In the 13th century, the Chinese arrived and contributed further to the racial and cultural development of the Mansaka.

Mansaka women in their traditional attire
Mansaka women in their traditional attire, 2014 (Jojie Alcantara, Francis Gilbert Mansaka Archive)

The island of Mindanao resisted Spanish rule until the second half of the 19th century. However, Spain slowly expanded her control in the beginning of the 17th century. In 1851, Davao was made the Fourth Military District of Mindanao. One result of the Spanish conquest was the substitution of the Muslims by the Christians in the coastal commerce with the native highlanders. Although slavery, as practiced by some Islamized groups, was effectively halted, a new form of economic exploitation by the Spaniards was introduced.

The Mansaka have often been identified as a branch of the Mandaya, differentiated only by some dialectical peculiarities. Much of their history is similar. Like the Mandaya, the Mansaka were a warrior group that ran into frequent conflict with the Dibabawon and Mangguangan. However, like many lumad (indigenous) groups of Mindanao, the Mansaka were also fragmented and were thus frequently targeted by the Kalagan Moros of Iho. The separation of the different Mandaya groups may have been caused by the uneven Islamization of Mindanao. One myth has it that the Mansaka escaped into the mountains because of their resistance to circumcision. Another myth has it that they resisted Islamization because they refused to give up pork in their diet.

In the mid-1600s, a treaty between the Spaniards and the Maguindanaon of Sultan Kudarat placed Iho under Maguindanaon rule. Hence, the Mansaka residing in this part of Kudarat had to pay tribute to the Maguindanaon. This period of vassalage lasted for several centuries well into the 1950s, when the collection of tribute from the Mansaka and other interior groups finally ended. The Muslim raids in the 17th and 18th centuries drove the Mansaka into the forests and dispersed them across various areas in Mindanao.

In the early decades of the 20th century, there was an influx of Visayan settlers from Bohol and Leyte in Mindanao. They attempted to rename Mansaka lands as the “New Leyte.” Initially, they beguiled the Mansaka with new plant varieties but as communications between the lumad and non-lumad communities increased, the Mansaka gradually lost their land by bartering parcels of this for small novelties such as sioktong (Siu Hoc Tong, a locally produced wine), tobacco, and sardines. Displaced, the Mansaka tried to move to lands higher up the mountains but finding no place to transfer, they returned to the flatlands, only to end up as serfs to the settlers.

The American colonial government was more successful than Spain in penetrating Mindanao. It opened Mindanao lands to settler-colonists and used the military to quell opposition from the indigenous natives. President Manuel Quezon of the Commonwealth government encouraged the further influx of settlers in a call to develop the “Land of Promise.” These laws that liberalized Christian migration to the area changed the lifestyle of many Mansaka. They were encouraged to work in coastal plantations and adopt the lifestyle of Christianized natives. Land resettlement policies of subsequent governments continued to encourage mass migration of settlers in Mindanao, in large part to secure Mindanao as part of the emerging state. Roads were built and plans drawn up to carve up what the state dubbed as public lands to, legally or otherwise, bring them under private control. The spike in population inevitably resulted in the rapid depletion of forest and water resources.

The American effort was helped by Japanese businessmen, who developed the abaca industry by introducing new ideas and technology into the area. In the 1940s, the Mansaka were hired to work in Japanese abaca plantations, intensifying the “peasantization” of the lumad population. Subsequent decades saw rapid changes in the life and culture of the Mansaka as contact with settlers increased. In the 1960s, literacy programs among the lumad were initiated by the Catholic Church.

In the years of the Marcos dictatorship, wealthy families and large corporations took advantage of the Timber License Agreements, thus causing further losses for the Mansaka and the destruction of their lands. Settlers and outsiders carved out parcels of Mindanao for logging and open cut mining. Even government institutions became suppliers of timber for underground tunnels and were financiers of logging activities as well. Gold processing, which necessitated copious amounts of mercury, contributed to the pollution and degradation of the rivers. By the 1990s, large mining corporations were using cyanide and blasting methods to extract precious resources from the mines, adding to the impoverishment of the Mansaka and destruction of Mansaka lands. Compounding the internal colonization of Mindanao was the heavy militarization of the hinterlands during the 1970s and 1980s as clashes between the Philippine military and the New People’s Army increased. These armed conflicts also forced the Mansaka to evacuate elsewhere and consequently lose their lands.

The Mansaka have lost much of their traditional culture due to continuous displacement and interaction with settlers and Christian migrants. They continue to struggle with the effects of induced poverty, high illiteracy rates, and political marginalization. Land grabbing, logging, and mining activities by large corporations remain unabated. The polluted waters have caused health problems amongst Mansaka communities. Their long history of displacement has caused the disruption of Mansaka communal life, the breaking of social and cultural ties, and their dislocation from their ancestral lands and places of worship. Consequently, four of the major issues faced by the Mansaka at present are cultural erosion, lack of education, environmental degradation, and lack of access to health services.

The Livelihood of Mansaka People

The main economic activities of the Mansaka are farming, hunting, and fishing. Farming produce include humay (rice), batad (corn), paruda (sweet potatoes), wakag (tubers), coffee, and hemp. When it is time to plant humay or batad, the field is divided into two parts and everybody helps in the planting. To till the soil, the men use the tutudaka, a wooden pole on which is attached bai, a species of coconut plant, and spades, which are made from a species of coconut plant. The women sow the seeds and the children use the wawaris (bamboo brooms) to cover the seeds with soil. Rice planting culminates with an offering to agricultural diwata (spirits)—the tagamaring (diwata of the bodbod or balete tree), dalagping, and dalagpian —to ensure a good yield. Unlike rice and corn, which are harvested and stored, wakag and paruda are only dug from the backyard of a Mansaka household when they are to be consumed. Cash crops include coffee and hemp which command a good price in the lowlands.

Ugmad Festival celebrating the harvest in Tagum City, Davao del Norte
Ugmad Festival celebrating the harvest in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, 2014 (Thristine Sangco Collection)

The Mansaka are sensitive to the laws of nature when farming, and they follow the ecological calendar in the stages of planting. They observe the moon, stars, trees, seas, and other signs in nature to guide them to a good harvest. The time for paggaras (the clearing of the field) is during a pagkarayon (full moon). The Mansaka believe that opening the land when the moon is full would bring good luck and a bountiful harvest. The pagsunog (the burning of debris and weeds) is conducted during kabdos (first quarter moon). Pagtanum (sowing grains) is best during the pagkabitay (new moon) because there are fewer pests during this time. Farming activities end on the kamatay (last quarter moon), and the farmers could then rest.

The trees and the seas are also observed as basis for a good harvest. It is time for paggaras when the takong tree sheds its leaves and pagtanum when the tree produces new leaves. If the Mansaka are far from the sea, they monitor its movement through the eyes of the koko (cat). It is high tide when the cat’s pupils are large and low tide when the pupils are narrow. Pagtanumis best conducted during low tide so that the rice grains will be timgas (of good quality).

Some Mansaka communities at present plant permanent crops like durian, rambutan, lanzones and cacao because these crops are more resilient, especially to disasters brought by armed conflicts in the area. Every time there is a crossfire, the people evacuate their lands and return to their farms to find their rice and corn crops already harvested or damaged by the warring parties. The permanent crops resolve this problem because they require minimal intervention and, if the fruits are harvested, the trees remain to bear fruit again.

Interactions with Visayan migrants have also influenced their farming methods. The Mansaka now use pesticides and chemical fertilizers, but these reduce the soil’s capacity for renewed use. Some Mansaka, who are not involved in farming, work as laborers in banana plantations and mining areas, or as workers in various institutions.

The Mansaka have developed various ingenious methods of fishing: the yamangot, or the use of naturally hooked rattan shoots to catch mudfish; the gabukad, or the debris-cleaning method to make fish surface; the longyab, or the hole-digging method to trap fish; the ligwat, or the use of arawas placed under rocks to trap fish; the yaaraw, or the setting of a bamboo fence across a stream to make a catch; the yobas, or the stream-draining method to catch fish; the tuba, or the use of the poisonous vine lagtang (Anaminta cocculus) to make a catch; the bingwit (angling); and the saranaw, another mudfish-catching method. Bows and arrows are also used in fishing. The arrow used for fishing is a meter-long bagakay stick on which is attached two steel prongs.

The main Mansaka weapons for hunting birds are the tuklo (spear with a blunt point) and the sumpitan (blowgun). Traps are also very popular among the Mansaka: the purot, a stick coated with paste from the tegep tree; the utotan, a whistle that simulates the sound of the limokon, a dove-like bird believed to carry omens, and is used with the purot; the litag, a trap consisting of bai pegs, chicken decoy, and movable rattan rings that entangle chickens; the katal, a trapper’s basket used to contain the catch; and the arejas, an arched rattan twine which uses fruits as bait.

The Mansaka typically go hunting with a tumawan, a hunting dog trained to track the scent of possible game. The baratik, gahong, and suyak are used to catch large animals like deer and wild pig. Lagot is used to catch monkeys. Once the traps are installed, the mandodoot (hunters) proclaim dumot, which prohibits people in the community from going to the place specified by the hunters. After three days to a week, the dumot is lifted, and hunters would check the traps for the catch. It is during the fruiting of the barangas (rambutan) tree that wild pigs are most abundant. When the fruits of the barangas begin to fall, herds of pigs settle near the tree to eat.

The Mansaka farm, fish, and hunt mainly for subsistence. From their harvest, many dishes can be made. From the wakag, paruda, humay, batad, iahas (pork), usa (venison), manok (chicken), katumbal (pepper), and isda (fish), 19 recipes can be made: the liorot, pork cooked in fresh tamboorang, which is a bamboo tube that has been lined with siapotan or kalapi leaves; the liogoan, minced meat cooked in fresh tamboorang; the siapotanan, kalapi-wrapped fish cooked in tamboorang; the yobol, washed rice cooked in tamboorang; the lioon, boiled rice; the bianigan, rice cooked in clay pot lined with leaves; the tamo, cereal prepared from rice boiled in a rectangular balico (basket); the kiabidak, humay, wakag shoots, and katumbal cooked together; the kiaradoy, boiled wakag shoots and roots seasoned with pepper; the yapay, boiled wakag shoots; the miaratok, iahas and manok cooked together; the liaga, boiled iahas or manok; the tiora, soup; the bibog, native gruel; the biaki, boiled paruda shreds wrapped in banana leaf; the kiodkodan, boiled shrimps with corn wrapped in agikik leaves; the piasagan, boiled fish or meat; the ginipsaw, boiled minced meat in a specially designed bark container; and the lioroban, minced meat cooked in a pot.

Another economic activity among the Mansaka is metalcraft done in the pandayan (blacksmith’s shop), where weapons such as the tuklo, bolo, knives, arrows, and one-shot rifles are forged. An industry that may soon disappear is weaving, an occupation in which Mansaka women excel.

Today, the Mansaka’s economic activities are severely compromised by the thinning and denudation of the forest because of large logging companies and land developers. These activities disturb the proliferation of wild flora and fauna in Mansaka forests, making hunting for animal and plant species meager and unproductive. The depletion of nutrients from the soil due to erosion, pollution, and landslides from legal and illegal mining activities have also affected the productivity of Mansaka farmers. Apart from large-scale mining activities, small-scale gold mining has also emerged as a source of livelihood for some Mansaka families.

Cash economy is now firmly in place among many Mansaka communities, even those in remote areas. Increased accessibility to city centers like Davao and Tagum due to roadways have also caused shifts in the career choices of the younger Mansaka populace. With the improved mobility of Mansaka residents, younger generations are exposed to more varied fields of work and study. Nevertheless, they do take into account the needs of their communities, making career choices that would benefit their communities, such as medicine or education.

Mansaka Tribal System

The Mansaka have unwritten laws based on their traditions—laws that emanate from their customs and beliefs which have guided the political leaders in judicial, social, and political matters. Traditional leadership revolves around the following: the matadong or matikadong (old wise man), who has great influence in community decision-making; the bagani or maniklad, a member of the warrior class who assists in leading the community with help and advice from the matadong; and the balian or balyan, who leads the Mansaka in religious rites. The matadong are also assisted by mangkatadong (elders), who help the matadong with plans and schedules.

Mansaka Blessing of the chieftain
Blessing of the chieftain, 2015 (Ida Nanette Damo)

The Mansaka matadong are held in high esteem; they are seen as figures of wisdom and authority, who embody their cultural pride. Despite the adoption of the barangay system of governance, many of the Mansaka remain loyal to the elders, seeing them as symbols of cultural life, particularly their religious beliefs and environmental practices. In some areas, the elders are so highly respected that children cannot utter the name of an elder. The esteem for the matadong also extends to their family, who are considered “royal-blooded” because they are descended from him. The matadong are expected to be industrious and helpful, with utmost concern for the family, the community, and the environment. They are expected to be paragons of good behavior, stability, and health. They are well-versed in indigenous laws and implement them; and they protect the community from incursions, whether by intruders or ill-intentioned businessmen.

Conflicts in the community are resolved through the intercession of the matadong. Offenses such as killing and kidnapping of women are deemed particularly grave. Territorial incursions are settled as quickly as possible to avoid the escalation of conflict into a pangayao (tribal war). An investigation is conducted, penalties imposed on the offenders, victims compensated, and negotiations carried out to ensure peaceful settlement.

Killing is part of the justice system of the Mansaka, although it must be strongly justified and done humanely. Justifications for killing are the violation of the Mansaka traditions, self-defense, defense of the land, and protection of the community. If a warrior has killed 12 or more persons in the name of a noble cause, he is called a bagani. A bagani is inducted through a special ceremony that entails the sacrifice of animals by the balian and the placing of a marogang (headdress) on his head. In the olden days, an enemy would be tied to a stake as an offering. Wearing the marogang, the new bagani would kill him and then drink the fresh blood of a pig to gain the blessing of the blood spirits as he conducted his duties as a warrior.

The balian, who is usually female, serves as a mediator between humans and divine beings. She holds the knowledge for the cure of illnesses and obtains her knowledge from elder balian and spirits through dreams. With the help of an abyan (spirit guide), a balian is able to treat illnesses caused by displeased evil spirits. For the Mansaka, the balian must be patient, kind, even-tempered, helpful, friendly, and virtuous. One becomes a balyan when he or she is chosen by an anito (the spirit of a dead person) through a dream; when parents who are balian pass on the knowledge to their offspring; or by befriending the spirits. During healing rituals, the balian is possessed by his or her abyan and goes into a trance, and this is manifested in a frenzied dance, with incantations.

In the 1920s, as the traditional settlements were transformed into barrios, the Americans abolished the bagani or maniklad class and replaced it with the office of the tenyente (barrio lieutenant). Today, the Mansaka have adapted to the political structure of the national government. The community is led by the barangay chairman, a purok (district) leader, and their councils. Although the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Republic Act 8371) mandates representations of the various communities through their chosen leaders, the power of governing the community is still held by the barangay and purok councils. The positions in mandatory representative positions are vulnerable to manipulation by local politicians and by extractive corporations like mining.

Mansaka Tribe Social Organization, Culture, Customs and Traditions

Social organization among the Mansaka depends on kinship ties, which regulate the interrelationships between families and between members of a family. Kinship ties are indicated in the Mansaka vocabulary: ama (father), ina (mother), iso (child), anakun (niece or nephew), arayon (parent’s relatives), asawa (wife), babo (aunt), bana (husband), bapa (uncle), barai (child’s spouse’s siblings and parents), bayaw (brother-in-law), bilas (spouse’s sister- or brother-in-law), ginikanan (parents and grandparents), katagsa (cousin), indas (husband’s sister-in-law), ipag (sister- or brother-in-law), kimod (last child), lomon (brother, sister, or cousin), mataranak (family), ogangan (parents-in-law), ompo (grandparent, grandchild), ompotood (great grandparent), ompotaringa (great great grandparent), panganay (first-born child), taganak (parents, aunts, uncles), tamisa (only child), and tud tud lomon (brother or sister of the same father and mother).

Mansaka wedding ceremony on Valentine’s Day, Davao City
Mansaka wedding ceremony on Valentine’s Day, Davao City, 2015 (Thristine Sangco Collection)

People living in the same household are called sangkamaguya. Neighboring households are called mga nag-uya sang banwa. Villages close to each other are called matig-uya sang banwa, and the residents of the community are called kautawan na mag-uya sang banwa. Males who possess commendable skills and traits are called giusugan. Females whose conduct and skills are exemplary are called gibubayan. Generally, they are called giutawan.

Video: PAGBARUY (Mansaka Wedding)

The Mansaka are polygamous; a man is allowed to marry more than one woman as long as he can afford to support them. Sons are preferred because they are the heirs; daughters rarely inherit properties or objects of value. Traditionally, marriages are arranged by parents through a practice called buya. It begins when the boy’s parents seek the family of the girl he wishes to marry in an act called panumbay. After three days, the boy’s family returns for the mamoka, where the final arrangements for the wedding are made. The negotiation for the gaos (dowry) may be arbitrated by the matadong. Daughters of bagani command the highest dowries, which include multiple allang (slaves), patakia (brass dowry boxes), and agong (brass percussions). The date of the wedding is decided during the betrothal, either by the number of full moons, signifying the months before the wedding, or by a number of notches carved into two pieces of rattan sticks, signifying days. Once the details of the marriage have been decided, the boy’s parents give the girl’s family a gift called toos as a sign of their mutual agreement. In some cases, the boy serves the girl’s parents for a period before the wedding can take place. The wedding ritual is conducted with a simple exchange of food between the bride and groom. A celebration of marriage among the Mansaka could last for four days or until the food runs out.

Bonong (baptism) is conducted by having the mother, father, and relatives take turns holding the child and having the child step on some prepared food. The balian takes her turn last.

Women have full charge of the household and are solely responsible for instilling in their female children proper values and behavior. They pass on valuable knowledge of traditional culture by showing younger female members of the family how to make native handicrafts, beadwork, and embroidery. These are duties that men cannot interfere with. However, Mansaka women have asserted equality with the men in decision-making.

Idarog or idawat (friendship) is expressed through exchanges of visits, valuable things, and domestic animals. A ritual of reconciliation called kadayaw is conducted when a relationship is broken or if there are bad feelings between people. With the matadong officiating the ritual, the accused butchers a pig or a chicken and offers it to the complainant with native wine. During the banquet, the accused also offers a gift called saging-wara to show his or her sincerity in asking for forgiveness. When the apology is accepted, another sugda (banquet) is held, this time by the complainant, and the complainant also gives the offender a gift. There is dancing and feasting to show that the grudges are gone. In another reconciliation ceremony called tagpod-bura, a length of rattan is cut to signify the end of the conflict and the start of a renewed relationship. In a durok, the matadong negotiates with the victim’s family for an exchange of goods such as allang or domestic animals that can settle the conflict.

Burial rituals among the Mansaka entail covering the body of the dead with a native mat. The body is placed in a hollowed-out log that serves as a coffin. There is no wake. The body is left in the house or buried far from the home of the relatives of the deceased. If the body is left in the house, the residents need to transfer to a new residence for years and return only when the corpse has completely decomposed.

Native medicines have been used traditionally to address ailments of the body. For wounds, the Mansaka mix crushed marabiga roots, chewed sakati sprouts, pamantigi leaves, and oiled lenek; for headaches and stomach troubles, heated kepet leaves, roasted baganga fruit, boiled aribetbet roots, boiled buds, and sterilized sara saps; for boils, crushed darupang flowers and scraped pitugu fruit; for pinkish eyes, scraped tambabasi stalks; for constipation, ground warasiman and boiled anuring; for malaria, the bark of the bagol tree; for fractures, the bark of the arit tree; and for a Mansaka mother’s first bath after giving birth, agosais ,basikay ,gapas ,and bay. Today, the Mansaka employ herbal remedies for various sicknesses, apart from healing prayer rituals. They use akapulko for fungal and skin infections as well as kidney problems; kalabo ,buyo ,and sambon for cough and fever; tawa-tawa and bosikad concoctions for fever and antibacterial treatment; lansones bark for hepatitis; and tuba-tuba for sprains and bone dislocation. Many of these herbal remedies have been found viable as methods of treatment.

The effects of formal education on lumad communities have significantly influenced the culture and interests of the younger generations of Mansaka. Nevertheless, the older generation, while recognizing the need for increased literacy and education for economic security, continues to believe that a complete education includes the preservation of native culture and tradition, which would serve as a basis for effective interaction with non-lumad communities.

Mansaka Religious Beliefs and Practices

The Mansaka believe that Magbabaya is God and the source of everything on earth. Mansaka manaog or manaug (domestic gods) are represented by wooden statues standing on a parangka (pedestal). Manaog have sexes that can be discerned through the sculptures and ornaments on the statues. Offerings are given to the manaog after rice planting, harvest, and before death.

Rituals may be conducted either indoor or outdoor. If indoor, the balian places rice, wine, chicken, lime, tobacco, and betel nut on a siklat (a square bamboo platform suspended from the ceiling). If outdoor, the balian constructs a siklat with the use of four wooden poles arranged like an Indian teepee skeleton. A manaog, about 30 centimeters high, is placed at the foot of the siklat. The manaog of the balian are kept on a high place near the kitchen ceiling, where they turn black from the smoke.

Many older Mansaka still believe that sickness is caused by supernatural beings and thus, they make offerings to the gods. To address especially sudden ailments, healing rituals, which can be either a pangapog ora pinagtagpodor, may be conducted even without the mediation of a balian. In a pangapog, betel-nut quid is offered to Magbabaya; in a pinagtagpodor, the neck of a chicken is cut to drive away evil.

The panawagtawag is a healing ritual conducted by the balian. The balian prepares a white-feathered chicken, a cooked egg, betel nut, lime, and cooked rice as offerings. Fragrant smoke is stirred up to call attention to the spirits. A piece of wood carved into a human figure is held to the painful parts of the sick person’s body as prayers are uttered. It is believed that the prayers transfer the illness of the sick to the wooden figure.

Before a Mansaka goes hunting, he sends a pagpangantad or pangantad (prayer) to ask for blessings from Magbabaya and the spirits dwelling in the forests. Before and during the hunt, the Mansaka is always cautious of omens. If on the night before a hunt, the hunter dreams that he was given mamaon (betel nut), he is certain that he would have a good catch.

To choose an area for tilling, the Mansaka conduct the ritual of bitas. Before clearing the area, the Mansaka conduct a pangantad to ask the spirits for permission for the undertaking. They present ritual offerings to the deity Magbabaya, the tagamaring, Saitan (the spirit in the termite lump), and the tumaaw (spirits in the rocks) to help them have an abundant harvest.

Pyagsawitan is the celebration for thanking and sharing the harvest. The thanksgiving ritual is offered to Magbabaya and to Daragpo and Layoyo (the deities of harvest). The head of the family tastes the cooked rice first and leads the prayer to Magbabaya and the deities to drive away hunger and avoid stomach pains. The host’s wife then serves the food to the guests. After the celebration, the guests are given the padara (food to bring home).

Christianity has been accepted by many Mansaka, but it has not totally eradicated the manaog cult. The Mansaka believe in the saving grace of the Christian God but remnants of the old religion, as in many ethnic groups, persist. The Mansaka belong to various Christian denominations, often at the same time. In 1973, close to 95 percent of the Mansaka were Catholics while also members of other Christian sects like the Baptist Church or the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Christian churches have contributed much to the loss of Mansaka culture and belief systems. Many of the balian have given up their spiritual practices because their work is often dismissed by pastors and church leaders as the devil’s work. Many Mansaka have adopted the Catholic religion due to the influence of Visayan settlers. Many have been instilled with the idea that the Mansaka culture is inferior and shameful, resulting in the corrosion of their cultural values. To become Christian, the Mansaka must take away anything that is a reminder of their identity as a people who are bearers of an “evil culture” (Limikid 2002, 19).

Mansaka Houses and Community

Early Mansaka houses were built on treetops or bamboo groves as a precautionary measure against surprise attacks and raids. Also for defense, bamboo spikes were installed around the houses, and weapons stocked in the houses. These houses were connected to each other by bamboo bridges to facilitate inter-household assistance. The bagani’s house had an upper balcony that doubled as a watchtower.

A reconstructed Mansaka Uyaanan house in Tribu K’Mindanawan Crocodile Park
A reconstructed Mansaka Uyaanan house in Tribu K’Mindanawan Crocodile Park, 2017 (Photo courtesy of the City Government of Davao)

Today, the most common Mansaka dwelling is a one-room house raised above the ground on four poles. Sasal (chopped bamboo tubes) make up the four walls that are topped by a roof made of tinaksi (wooden tiles). The flooring is constructed from bai. The ladder is made of a terraced trunk, which rests on the door base. A less common Mansaka dwelling is the four-room house resting on 10 or more posts. Reached by a ladder, the front door of the four-room house is raised from the ground while the back is at ground level. The house is made of bamboo and wood, has two windows and a Muslim-inspired roof. The four rooms consist of the bedroom, the living room, the storeroom, and the kitchen, which contains low-constructed stoves doubling as heating systems. The Mansaka used to sleep with their feet toward the stove; they had no blankets and pillows. Only recently were these introduced by the Visayan settlers.

Mansaka Traditional Costume and Weaving

Before the advent of modern textile products, the Mansaka made their dagmay (abaca cloth) from a loom of the same name. The process of making a dagmay using this traditional method is extraordinarily tedious. The dagmay is woven with three types of abaca fibers: the bintok, prepared from knotted abaca fibers boiled in the extracted red dye of the plant sikarig; the sikarig, prepared from unknotted abaca fibers boiled in the red dye of sikarig; and the kanarum, prepared from abaca fibers boiled in the black dye of the same plant.

Mansaka women in traditional wear
Mansaka women in traditional wear (Photo courtesy of Francis Gilbert)

Dagmay designs are varied—squares, human forms, laron na opat (crocodiles), and dots. The most common designs are the laron na opat, which has an aesthetic and religious significance for the Mansaka. Squares, dots, and other geometric designs appear on clay pots and patadyong (wraparound skirt); human-figure designs are available but rare. The colorful designs and embroideries are called yatikup na dagum.

Detail of a Mansaka textile embroidery
Detail of a Mansaka textile embroidery (Mario Feir Filipiniana Library)

Mansaka women wear the dagum, a blouse similar to the Chinese shirt, which is half-open in the upper and bottom front. Running across the shoulders from the back are two panahi or strips of finely embroidered cloth contrasted with color-stitched seams. Mansaka women can opt for four types of skirts to match the dagum. These are the pula or ordinary cotton skirts produced by and bought from the Visayans, and the piamuntakan, saragboy, or dagmay, all painstakingly made by the Mansaka and worn only on special occasions.

Visayan influence in terms of clothing is more marked with Mansaka men than women. Traditionally, Mansaka men sport a shirt with an embroidered cross at the back, panahi strips across the shoulders, and red cloth on the hem. The shirt is closed by rattan twines, which are also used to hold up the trousers. Men also wear short pants called syarawtanan, which is made from abaca cloth. Sarakob hats made from tamboorang are used to protect them from the heat of the sun. A mamaan (betel-nut container) attached to a string tied to the waist forms part of the man’s garments. Until the class was abolished, the bagani or maniklad had worn punod (brass bracelets) and bells on their legs, and red or white pudong (headbands). The sinturon (loose belt) was used more for ornamental than practical purposes.

Both Mansaka men and women don jewelry and other accessories to match their colorful costumes. The women wear the pislitan or belt with round marble buckles to hold up their skirts. Mansaka barikog (earplugs), which are gold-plated rubber discs about 0.6 centimeter thick and 2.5 centimeters in diameter, dot the ears. The size of the holes on the earlobes is determined by the size of the barikog. The barikog may have a sampad (gold-plated outer covering). Attached to the barikog are liaog (bead strands) of various colors. Barikog (also necklaces) include the parotgot (choker) made of beads strung and woven together; the balliug, which extends to the navel and is made of beads, rubies, and crocodile teeth; and the linangkaw (necklace made of crocodile’s teeth). Mansaka women have three kinds of bracelets: the pamurang, made of white marble and worn in fours; the sagay-sagay or black wooden ring which can only be worn by itself; and the punod, also worn by male Mansaka. Women may also wear taklay (arm bracelets) or tangkil (anklets). Very distinctive among the Mansaka is the paratina (silver breastplate), 15 centimeters in diameter. Female balian carry tungkaring (bells), which are placed at the back of the shirtwaist and are used in ceremonial dances to placate angry gods.

The Mansaka, like the Mandaya, are known to have filed and blackened the teeth of their young. The Mansaka believe that only animals have white teeth. This practice has largely fallen out of favor among the youth of today because the latter want to escape from prejudice and economic depression. The Mansaka youth today dress more like the Visayan lowlanders.

Mansaka Crafts

Mansaka weapons include the following varieties of spear: the piaransan, a spear with a blade attached to it; the tuklo; and the budjak, a spear with a leaf-like blade. In the past, Mansaka warriors carried the karasag (wooden shields) with their spears; nowadays, only two of these karasag remain. Other weapons include those that require the use of arrows: the sumpitan and the busog, a bow made of bamboo stick with a rattan twine strung to its ends.

Mansaka wood carving art is exemplified by the wooden statues of their manaog, which can be classified into male and female. The eyes of the male manaog are made of two red glass beads, the ears of earplugs with pendants, and the nose and mouth of short lines carved at the appropriate places. The jaw and neck are bloated, as though the image had mumps. The female manaog sports a comb and a long necklace and has apelike features with big ears. The sides of both types of manaog are profuse with dark and diagonal lines for decoration. The shape of the manaog is akin to the shape of some stone burial jars discovered in the caves of western Mindanao, particularly those carved to look like a human figure sitting on the jar, arms and feet carved in relief on the cover or the body, with the upper torso rising out. This has led to speculation that the Mansaka once practiced secondary burial.

The Mansaka are famous for producing finely woven baskets and scythe-like bolos with scabbards wrapped in woven fiber. Basketry, pottery, and brassware are not only art forms for the Mansaka but also functional containers. Examples are the mamaan, a brass box meant to hold chewing ingredients; patakia, a brass dowry box; coron, a hemispherical clay pot decorated with dots and triangles; tibud, an earthen jar to store biais (wine); bikat, a rattan travelling basket with shoulder slings, and waist and head belts; bakotal, a cylindrical mudfish container; ababa, a finely woven needle box with wooden linings inside; cabebeng, a cylindrical rattan cage; kambol, a flat baroy bag; kayad, a clothes container; limot, a coffee-bean container made of bark; kampipi, a wallet made of baroy strips and decorated with panahi; bakag, a clothes or cereals container; sapia, a container used to measure rice or corn; pugonan, a corn receptacle; saboy, a dried gourd to store rice or biais; and kabong, a bamboo container to store nails. The Mansaka also make functional and decorative barakas, small drinking containers made of palaspas (palm leaf fronds). The Mansaka make their sarong (lamp) by wrapping dried lauan sap in abaca leaf and tying this cover with rattan twine. When burned, it exudes the smell of incense.

Mansaka Riddles, Epic Poems, Myths and Folktales

Mansaka tutukanon (riddles), aside from providing a form of relaxation in the evenings after work, express how the Mansaka see the world. Subjects are drawn from familiar things in nature such as food, flora and fauna, body parts, household implements, and natural phenomena. Spirits and supernatural creatures are rarely, if ever, part of the Mansaka riddle. The Mansaka consider riddling a form of relaxation and pleasure, and inclusion of the supernatural realm may bring the participants of the tutukanon bad luck or even death. Mansaka tutukanon are expressed in a pair of unrhymed but rhythmic verses (Fuentes and dela Cruz 1980):

Sang kaban
Yamakmo nang tigib.

(It is a chest
Full of chisels.

Budbud ya panga-panga
Sangmararan yang kumorang.

(It is a lush tree, but
Felled with fingernails.
[Grass onion])

Pagsumbingay (jokes) employ metaphorical expressions to add subtlety to humor. Examples are buburong sang kuagut (salve for the cold), used to refer to a newly married girl who goes to bed with her husband during cold evenings; luwa sang kagang (saliva of the crab), used by Mansaka teenagers to refer to a drink when the Visayans are around; and hunungan sang garung (left behind by fast-flying time), used to refer to old bachelors.

The diawot (epic poems) of the Mansaka narrate the customs and traditions of the tribe. They consist of seven-syllable verses that are either sung or chanted, and employ linda (rhetorical devices), such as the use of synonyms for repeating ideas in successive lines, part-whole identification, and end rhymes or identical sound patterns. The hulubaton is a diawot in verse form—the Mandaya have the same word but they use it to refer to the narratives making up the epic. In Mansaka, it is applied to the prosaic form of the diawot, which is usually chanted or sung.

Before reciting the epic, the native bards invoke the help of friendly spirits. This invocation is not part of the epic proper but is recited so as not to displease the spirits. Following is a translation of one such prayer (Fuentes and dela Cruz 1980):

Dweller of the balete tree,
Composer of songs,
Attend to my prayer.
Rock yourself before me,
Teach me your music.
Instruct me carefully.
So as not to commit mistakes.
Alimokon, bird of the balete tree,
Blend your voice with mine
Lest I become harsh and croaky,
Lest I become a laughingstock.
Do not consider me presumptuous
I did not volunteer to sing.
Someone ardently desires to record
your song
As legacy to our children.
Let me proceed with the song.
Skipping a long portion of the beginning,
That I may tell only of the story of Sugan.

Another type of Mansaka folk speech is the binabalian or oracion, prayers recited when making an offering after planting or harvesting:

Di da kaw magkadaman kay umpo.
Wara tuyoa na olitarowan kaw antak
kami matigam sang ka-mayo kaluwa
daw mun-muno kay kaniwa pa a-katigam
sang kamayo pagtuo adto sang Tagallang.

(Do not get angry, Grandfather, for
we are not taking your picture because
we want to see how it is. We do not really
know what the Lord thinks of this.)

Below is another example of the oracion related to rice planting:

Laong niini gabutangan ko ako
manwagtag na magalay ako na maga-
tanom ako niini humay ko.
Kamong tagama-ring kamo ang magtag
iya ining tanom ko an-tak mabuhi
Yagala-ong ako titaway ado sa tagmaring.
Kamong tanan kanaan tu-nga yang
pawa. Ako yang apog ako yata-wag
ako yang kaasaron.

(I am telling you I am offering something
and calling all of you. I, the one offering
you this bounty, am planting rice. Help me grow
my crop. You inhabitants of the balete shall own
my crop so that it will grow. I am telling
you inhabitants of the balete tree that I own
half of the clearing. I am the old man,
and I am the one calling and promising.)

The young boy Manggob raised by a giant
The young boy Manggob raised by a giant (Illustration by JC Galag)

The most popular of the Mansaka diawot is the Manggob, consisting of some 15 episodes tied into the main plot filled with supernatural objects and creatures such as the magic necklace, the magic sword, the fighting shadow, and the magic handkerchief. Literary devices like the deus ex machina are used. For example, the three gods, Macawlang, Mangaway, and Magbuburangin, are used to resolve tribal problems and conflicts. A synopsis of the diawot Manggob follows (Magaña 1972).

Shortly after he is born, the epic hero Manggob is abandoned by his parents, Alimpuros ng Bagyo and Pagsinangan, and is raised by a giant. Manggob sets out for Mapandan in search of his parents, who warmly welcome him. However, his elder brother Makaranos refuses to accept him and challenges him to a fight. Manggob wins and Makaranos relents. After some time, Manggob sets out in search of his fortune. He leaves his parents a vine that is supposed to indicate his death should its leaves wither. Some years later, Manggob returns as a bagani, with news of an impending tribal war. During the preparations for the war, Makaranos falls into a deep sleep and is awakened by Manggob’s golden top. Makaranos angrily throws the golden top into space. Manggob goes in search of the top, which he finds in Subangnon. The Subangnon chief refuses to relinquish the top, so a fight ensues. Manggob wins back his top in the end.

After Manggob returns to Mapandan, he and his brother decide to attack Conogcogan. In Conogcogan, they discover that their enemies have sent a typhoon to destroy Mapandan and have captured their sisters Gabon, Ubang, and Buliaon. Enraged, Manggob massacres most of Conogcogan’s inhabitants. Manggob’s sisters are released and returned to Mapandan. Manggob goes to Yubagan to challenge Mabayaw, who is in Mapandan to cut down the tree Burarakaw for the hand of his bride. Munggo, the Burawanon chief, has asked Tibay for the same bride-price for the hand of Masadya. Manggob returns to Mapandan and discovers the Burarakaw cut and made into biday (boats). He destroys all the biday, but Tibay offers him a truce, which Manggob readily accepts. He then helps Tibay with his courtship of Masadya.

When the day of the wedding arrives, Manggob lures Tibay away and marries Masadya. Tibay is angered, and a tribal war ensues. The gods Macawlang, Mangaway, and Magbuburangin intercede. Manggob agrees to cease hostilities on the condition that Burarakaw is restored. The wish is granted, and peace finally comes. Makaranos marries Masadya, Tibay marries Manggob’s sister Gabon, and Munggo marries Ubang. Manggob goes to Biudburan and marries the chief’s daughter Allag. Mawngat, Allag’s brother, marries Buliaon. Hence, the peace pact is further strengthened by these intertribal marriages. After Manggob’s retirement, his son Libaynon rules effectively and with dignity.

In another version of the story, Manggob tries to wake the soundly sleeping Dawmon with his golden top. He spins the toy so that it produces a whirring sound that shakes all of Kabayamban. Dawmon awakes, thinking that they are under attack. Discovering that it is just Manggob’s top, Dawmon hurls it into the forest. Manggob goes on a quest to retrieve his golden top.

Manggob battling a typhoon
Manggob battling a typhoon (Illustration by JC Galag)

During his quest, Manggob reaches the territory of Mamigad, where he meets Panayo Burobaynon, “queen of the moon and stars,” the sister of Subangnon chief Tibay, and Dawmon’s love interest. She has been whisked away from her home by a powerful bagyo (typhoon). She asks to go with Manggob, who refuses. On his journey, Manggob battles a fierce storm and acquires all of its power. Next, he rips a crocodile’s jaws apart; he casts one piece into the ocean, which turns into an island, and the other into the mountains, which becomes a lake. Then he kills a giant that wants to eat him. In Ugsuban, which is the deepest part of the ocean, a whirlpool threatens to pull him underwater. He is saved by the bird Manauvl, whose duty is to remove logs and sea plants that the whirlpool sucks into the sea floor.

Back on land, Manggob encounters a giant, whose blade Manggob offers to sharpen for him. He deliberately grinds the knife so thinly that the giant breaks it. Manggob defeats the giant in a spear fight. Inside the giant’s den, Manggob finds his long-lost sister Abugaygay and another lady, Dailaw (the highest star). The giant offers to free Abugaygay if Manggob will marry Dailaw. He also offers Manggob his treasures: a golden guitar, a conch, a boat, and Manggob’s own golden top. Manggob agrees and leaves the giant with his beautiful companions. Manggob plays the guitar and the conch to steer the oarless boat pulled along by an invisible bird.

Through oral prose, the Mansaka babarawon (origin myth) recounts the origin of things. One day, while the god Taganlang was sitting on a rock, he thought of enlarging the universe. He sent his bird Oribig to collect soil from the farthest corner of the universe. Taganlang kneaded the soil and placed it on a rock. The kneaded soil became the world from where nature emerged. Taganlang then fashioned the first man and woman from kasili and bangoy wood and taught them the names of animals and things.

Another Mansaka babarawon is the flood myth, which tells of the peopling of this world after a flood destroyed the earth. A long time ago a flood destroyed everything on earth except a pregnant woman living on the top of Kandaraga Mountain. The woman gave birth to a son who became her husband. Later, they begot six children—three boys and three girls—who married one another. One couple went out to sea, the other to Maragusan, and the third disappeared. The cause of the flood was the absence of Manaul, the bird guarding the sea passage, which was clogged by driftwood, forcing the water back. When Manaul returned, he tried to remove the clog but broke his leg instead. His mother then removed the clog. Everything returned to normal. The woman with her son-husband and their children descended from Kandaraga to multiply and people the earth.

A Mansaka myth tells of how the goddess Eboll came to rule the lowest part of the universe, where dead souls go. Long ago, the gods Diomabok, Eboll, and Mansilatan descended from the heavens to end the terrible battle between half-mortal baganiof Pandadagsaan and Pangpang. During the settlement, Diomabok offered a drink to all gathered, but the wine accidentally spilled on Eboll’s skirt. She washed it at the head of the Hijo River, poisoning all the fish. After the rites of reconciliation, the deities returned to heaven. Halfway up, Eboll dropped her sinawingan (knife). Mansilatan refused to go back for it, and so Eboll decided to split domains with Mansilatan, saying that she would reign in bilibolan (dark world) while he ruled in heaven. She descended as if sucked in by her knife, which had bored into the ground. Mansilatan tried to grab her but her finger snapped, and this was why she came to be called Eboll, meaning “amputee.”

The babatukon or human-human (folktale) embodies the Mansaka’s value system, attitudes, and worldview. The human-human is recounted in prose, accompanied by facial and bodily expressions, and usually begins with a formula phrase like “once upon a time” or “long ago.” One of the most famous tales told among the Mansaka is of Kimod and the swan maiden, a folk narrative that they share with the Mandaya.

“Tinampikan” tells of the wisdom of age-old traditions and the dire consequences when these are not followed, no matter what the reason. Traditionally, a newlywed couple stays with the husband’s family until after the first child is born. However, Maison’s impoverished parents urge him and his wife Tinampikan to be on their own as soon as the wedding festivities end. Three days after moving into their own house, Maison and Tinampikan find that its roof leaks. While Maison is up on the roof, Tinampikan hurries into the kitchen to have a banana all to herself. In her haste, she chokes on it and dies. Maison comes down and reproaches the body of his dead wife, saying that he would have given her the whole banana had he known. At the funeral, Tinampikan’s relatives are embarrassed by the cause of her death.

Mansaka Music and Folk Songs

The Mansaka possess a wide array of musical instruments that give life to their songs and dances. Examples of Mansaka musical instruments include the agong, a round brass percussion instrument, and the tarabon, a larger version of the agong that was used to give war signals. The kudlong, or two-stringed guitar which resembles the Maranao kudyapi (lute), comes in two varieties: a binudyaan or a two-string, eight-fret guitar that has the shape of a boat with a curved neck at the end, and a binarig, which has only four frets. Another Mansaka string instrument is the four-stringed takol, which is made of bamboo about 60 centimeters long and has pieces of wood placed under the string for tuning and pitch control. The kubing (mouth harp) is carved out of bamboo and produces a soft melody when vibrated. Wind instruments include the parundag (saxophone), which is a bagakay tube with five holes; and the bamboo flutes, of which there are two types: the longer bonabon and the shorter lantoy, which resembles the flute. A Muslim contribution is the kulintang (gong ensemble), consisting of several graduated gongs. A popular Mansaka instrument is the gimbal, a drum made of bahi and animal hide, the best of which is either doeskin or male deerskin. The Mansaka believe that animal hide that has not been properly aged for at least five years will not produce the right sound. A musical rendition where the gimbal is played is the lisag, a 10-minute instrumental piece performed by a man and a woman each playing the instrument. The woman assumes the feminine role when playing, and the man takes on the masculine role. A percussive instrument used by the Mansaka for practical purposes is the koratong, a slit drum carved out of bamboo. It is hung by a window or door or outside the house and struck to summon the neighbors.

Mansaka kulintang ensemble
Mansaka kulintang ensemble, 1980 (Felicidad A. Prudente Photo Collection)

Mansaka folk songs are expressive of the group’s culture, folkways, and traditional beliefs about the world and themselves. There are two identified forms of Mansaka folk songs: the saliada, which is similar to the ballad, and the bayok, extemporaneous, conversational chants. Sentimental music is called agumatay. The saliada resembles the ballad in style, that is, it employs refrain and repetition. An example of the saliada is “Amanda,” which tells of a protagonist who wakes up one morning, leaves his wife, and decides to marry another woman. A portion of “Amanda” follows, spoken by Amando, the voice of the thunderbolt (Magaña 1972):

Yang kay laong nang Amando
Tingug nang leomakilat
Babay da sang karim ko,
Bayda sang kadigi ko.
Nay panday kadyag ko

Kaubayan kaubayan
Siding buntod panday
Sang banaybanay.
Kaubayan si Nogonon
Panday si Lintawanan.

Kadegi ko pandugang
Kadyag ko pandarugno
Kaubayan si Nogonon
Panday si Lintawanan.
Agad pa kay mayninan,
Misanay gid ko pandugang,
Yandang pagapawpot,
Yandang pagapadarit
Pagapadarit na timbang
Pagapawpot na timaroy.

(That was said by Amando,
The voice of the thunderbolt,
That is my love,
The object of my affection.
I want girls very much—

Girls, ladies, and
Living mountain girls
Of the mountain,
Nogonon is a woman
Lintawanan another one.

Though married, I want to marry again
Though tied, I want to be tied again.
Nogonon is a woman;
Lintawanan another one.
Though married, I will love you;
Though married, I have affection for you.
She is the only one
I want for a companion.
She is the only one I want
To embrace in bed
And to be my companion in marriage.)

Mansaka Ritual Dance

Mansaka man performing a traditional dance
Mansaka man performing a traditional dance, 1980 (Felicidad A. Prudente Photo Collection)

Other than literature and music, dancing is a source of pleasure and entertainment for the Mansaka. Various hand, arm, feet, and knee movements characterize Mansaka dances, which are expressive of rituals no longer performed; in such cases, the dance is performed for leisure rather than for ceremony. One such dance is the anito balian of Samal Island, Davao, an ancient ritual-dance for healing the sick. The ritual-dance consists of a medicine man and a female medium in a complex healing ritual involving the sacrifice of a chicken and the use of a human skull. Dancing girls waving palm fronds and flickering lights add color to the ritual. The japa kaunod, the Mansaka version of the courtship dance, is performed by a boy dancing in a path around the girl. The inamo na sa yaw or monkey dance is performed by two people. The udol commemorates fallen warriors. The sinakaysakay is danced by women or the balian to a soft and slow rhythm; the tinampa is danced by men to a heavier sound. The balian’s basal is a sacred dance performed during rituals. The sarub or sarud is a war dance performed by the bagani, or warriors, with the use of a spear.

Mansaka People as Feature in Media

The only three radio stations in Compostela Valley are all FM operating from municipalities just north of Pantukan. Stations DXPA-FM Radyo Serbisiyo of the Andres Bonifacio College Broadcasting System Inc. and DXWH-FM Radyo Natin of the Pacific Broadcasting System Inc. are both located at Nabunturan. In Mawab is DXMW-FM operated by DXRC-RMC Broadcasting Corporation ( 2021a). Almost all 11 radio stations in Davao del Norte are based in Tagum City. University of Mindanao’s DXDN-AM Radyo Ukay is the lone AM station; the rest are FM operated by private agencies and academic institution University of Mindanao ( 2021b). There are at least 11 radio stations in Davao Oriental, most of them based in Mati City ( 2021c).

Majority of local television stations in the Davao Region are based in Davao City. The rest are all in Mati City, Davao Oriental: Polytechnic Foundation of Cotabato & Asia Inc.'s Channel 22, Interactive Broadcast Media Inc.'s Channel 24, Rinconada Broadcasting Corporation's Channel 28, and Information Broadcast Unlimited Inc.'s Channel 46 ( 2016).

Video: Tribal sounds of the Philippines • MANSAKA

“Tribal Sounds of the Philippines: Mansaka” is a short documentary that shows glimpses of Mansaka contemporary-era dance and music, as well as musical instruments like the agong, gimbal, kudlong, and bonabon. With only raw footages (no narration nor subtitles), it features a ritual held outdoors and presumably led by a balian who prepares betel nut and several pieces of agong as offering and distributes wine to community members who take part in the ritual. Available in and, the film was shot in Tagum in early 2012 (Moon 2013).

Salida Talks on Mansaka Cuisine” is part of a series of talk show-type vlog produced by the La Filipina National High School, located in Tagum City, via its YouTube channel La Filipina NHS Salida TV. It features a traditional Mansaka dish called maruto. The episode’s main resource person, Bia Carmen Onlos-Dansigan who is also a balian, prepares and cooks the dish that is supposedly made for special guests only. The latter part of the film is dedicated to a deeper discussion on the role of not only the maruto but food as integral part of the Mansaka indigenous knowledge system and practice (La Filipina NHS Salida TV 2020).

Documentary photographer Jacob Maentz featured in his website some of the photos he took of the Mansaka in Compostela Valley in 2014. The collection available online includes Mansaka portraits, landscape, livelihood, and ordinary day-to-day experiences (Maentz 2014). Maentz is a member of the nonprofit organization Blue Earth Alliance that utilizes visual storytelling to bring to the fore important environmental issues and social concerns ( 2021).

Chuck Gutierrez's Iisa (As One), 2015, an entry to the Quezon City International Film Festival in 2015, is a full-length film about the aftermath of the destruction and death dealt by a severe storm in a lumad town in Compostela Valley. Relief comes late to the impoverished town that is also caught between a prolonged war between the government and the communist New Peoples Army (Gaspar 2015; Rooke 2016). Hunger and desperation drove the townspeople to steal food from a government warehouse. Some were shot dead by the military, but a lone soldier chose to carry one of the dead instead of finishing her companions off (Iisa 2015). Compostela Valley is among the worst hit areas in Mindanao when typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) hit in December 2012. Considered to be the strongest typhoon on record to hit Mindanao, Pablo left over 1,000 dead ( 2018).


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  • This article is from the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Digital Edition. Title: Mansaka. Author/s: Gary E .P. Cheng, with notes from E. Arsenio Manuel (1994) / Updated by Louise Jashil R. Sonido (2018), Dandan Masinaring (2018), and Gonzalo Campoamor II (2021). Publication Date: November 18, 2020. Access Date: September 13, 2022. URL:


  1. are they muslim?
    or christians helpppppp

    1. According to the article - Christianity has been accepted by many Mansaka, but it has not totally eradicated the manaog cult. The Mansaka believe in the saving grace of the Christian God but remnants of the old religion, as in many ethnic groups, persist. The Mansaka belong to various Christian denominations, often at the same time. In 1973, close to 95 percent of the Mansaka were Catholics while also members of other Christian sects like the Baptist Church or the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  2. The instruments shown in your photo (from the collection of Dr. Prudente) are not Mansaka instruments. But rather they are instruments from the north. Those are gangsa (flat gongs). Flat gong does not exist in the southern part of the Philippines. I suggest that you change that photo so as not to confuse the readers.


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