Pagdaloy, Flow of Life

picture of Mandaya


Into the Heart of the Mandaya

A Journey through the Wilds of Davao Oriental

The Mandaya are a complex group that can be referred to by different terms: Mangwanga, Mangrangan, Mangosan, Magosan, Pagsupan, Divavaonon, Dibabaon, and Mansaka. Members reside in Davao Oriental. They are concentrated in the municipalities of Caraga, Manay, Cateel, Lupon, and Tarragona. The known subgroupings are: (1) Mansaka, (2) Pagsupan, (3) Mangwanga (Mangrangan, Compostela), (4) Managosan, (5) Divavaon (Dibabaon, mixed Manobo Mandaya), and (6) Karaga.

The Mandaya occupy upstream areas, practicing slash-and-burn cultivation in highly dispersed settlements. In addition to a wide range of cropping for domestic consumption, abaca is cultivated as a cash crop. Rice, various tubers, and bananas form the bulk of their diet. Communities are dispersed usually near swiddens. Two or three family units usually occupy houses, and these are usually within sight even if dispersed. Proximity of these houses constitutes a neighborhood, which is loosely organized into a larger discrete domain with all of the households related through various kin relationships. Families are either nuclear or polygynous.

Traditionally, each domain has a headman, bagani, whose word is considered law and who wears distinctive red clothing. He is the recognized protector of the community. His rule is tempered by an advisory council, angtutukay, usually composed of community elders. With the disappearance of the bagani social structure at present, the civil structures of the barangay prevail. There still exists, however, a conflict between the established civil authority and the informal authorities.

The Mandaya/Mansaka women are famous for their distinctive dresses and ornaments. Their tie-dye weaving and embroidery are intertwined through a sophisticated symbolic art system that evolved design motifs that each have names. The binulanbulan motif, for instance, consists of nested circles representing the moon, and suksuk ng kasili represents fish scales. These motifs are embroidered on blouses against a contrasting red or black background. The beadwork and silver craft on body ornaments mark this group as one of the most noteworthy in terms of art. Unique among Filipino ethno-linguistic groups are the women’s large ornate silver breast ornaments (platina), their multiple fossil shell arm bracelets, and their embroidered blouses. The men wear a distinctive narrow hat constructed from the shaft of a palm frond.

▶ Play Video 2. Into the Heart of the Mandaya A Journey through the Wilds of Davao Oriental

This episode was first aired on Filipino television on November 16, 1995. This episode has been modified from its original format.

Animals were offered in the context of the Mandaya cultural ritual.