Teaching of Surat Mangyan and Ambahan in Hanunuo Mangyan Schools

            PH NatCom’s Education Committee contributed to an ongoing initiative began by the Mangyan Heritage Center (MHC) in 2012 which seeks to keep alive Surat Mangyan and Ambahan by teaching these in schools servicing the Hanunuo Mangyans of Oriental Mindoro. The Hanunuo Mangyans are Mindoro’s upland tribal communities, and Surat Mangyan is their own (pre-Spanish) syllabic script which they used to inscribe their traditional chants/poetry known as Ambahan on bamboo tubes and plants.

            As increasingly younger generations of Mangyans attend contemporary schools and are exposed to modern lifestyles and influences, there is a real possibility that their Surat Mangyan and Ambahan would disappear in coming years. Although young Mangyans may grow up speaking their native language, they are not taught to read and write in this.

            Recognizing the importance of language, both in spoken and written form, as a vehicle that embodies and transmits a people’s knowledge of themselves and their community, history and culture, religious missions, cultural workers, schools and other sectors have embarked on programs to promote and preserve traditional languages and writing systems.

            MHC’s project of Teaching Surat Mangyan and Ambahan in Hanunuo Mangyan Schools was initially supported by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Ala-Ala Foundation, and the US Embassy- Manila.

            The PH NatCom grant has enabled MHC to expand the project to train more teachers and develop instructional materials on Surat Mangyan and Ambahan, and to cover more schools. The PH NatCom phase of the project began in July 2014 and will continue through March/April 2015. It covers a total of 13 schools, 10 elementary and three secondary schools.

            This project has the endorsement of the Department of Education Indigenous Peoples’ Education Office and enjoys the support of local groups and organizations including the Mangyan Mission, the Hanunuo Mangyan Peoples Organization – Pinagkaisahan sa Hanunuo Daga Ginurang.

            MHC reports that students have been eager to learn their traditional script and poetry for the first time in schools, and that they are now able to write simple words in Surat Mangyan and chant Ambahans. At the end of the project, MHI expects a much better integration of these aspects of Mangyan culture and heritage into the regular school system, and for the young Mangyans to have a deeper appreciation of their identity as a distinct people/group, that along with the numerous ethno linguistic groups in the country, make up the Philippines, diverse cultural heritage.

Photo taken during one of the Mangyan classes.

A student practicing Surat Mangyan.

A teacher demonstrates Surat Mangyan.