Mangyan Village in Puerto Galera: Discover Indigenous Arts and Crafts of the Iraya-Mangyan

The Philippines as a holiday destination offers a curious mix of the indigenous combined with the modern. In Puerto Galera, a village was built to preserve the indigenous culture of the Iraya-Mangyan Tribe.

Mangyan Village Iraya Tribe weaving Nito Plates
Mangyan Iraya Tribe weaving Nito Plates

While it does not have the colorful tribes of Africa nor the modern bustling metropolitan allure of Singapore, the Philippines, in particular Puerto Galera, has tropical forests at their most natural, an indigenous tribal culture at its best along with modern beaches and resorts and it is visited with great enthusiasm by local and foreign tourists alike.

Mangyan Basket Weaver
Mangyan Basket Weaver

In addition to some great beaches and superb coastal cuisine, Puerto Galera’s other interesting attractions include a day trip to the Mangyan Village. The Iraya Mangyan Village is located at the foot of Mt. Malasimbo in Barangay Talipanan about 9 kilometers from the town center.

This village was founded by philanthropist Jaime Zobel de Ayala and his wife Donya Bea in the 90s, and today it provides shelter and sustenance to many Iraya-Mangyan families who have been re-settled here (“Mangyan” is a collective name for the native people of Mindoro, the 7th largest island in the Philippines).

Iraya Mangyan weavers at work
Iraya Mangyan weavers at work

Spending a relaxed afternoon with the Iraya tribal people at the Mangyan Village is both refreshing and stimulating. It can give you a chance to experience first-hand what life in the village is like, as well as see (and buy) their traditional handicrafts and art, which is one of their sources of income.

Mangyan Handicraft Display Center
Mangyan Handicraft Display Center

Inside the village, a huge traditional hut serves as a gallery of finished woven handicrafts which are ready for delivery to its prospective clients while others are exported to other countries.

Mangyan Handicrafts
Mangyan Handicrafts

The village itself is a paradox with its simple modernity. Tribal women sit under a thatched roof, weaving local ‘nito’ vines or native vines into baskets, beer bottle holders and place mats amongst other eco friendly products, plus a construction site building a computer centre for teaching Mangyan children.

Mangyan Kid from Iraya Tribe
Mangyan Kid from Iraya Tribe

This is not an unusual sight here, and you’ll also find that Mangyans make boxes of all shapes and sizes, place mats, plates, trays, trinkets, bowls and baskets of all sizes all beautifully woven by hand-interweaving colorful vines to make traditional designs. The indigenous arts and crafts of the Mangyans are also transported for sale to two stores opened by the Ayalas at Makati City.

Nito Weave Decorative Jars
Nito Weave Decorative Jars

Mangyan art and heritage, including their written language of the Hanunuo and Buhid Mangyan – The Ambahan written in the Surat Mangay – have almost died out. These are the last remnants of their pre colonial traditions and handicrafts, which makes this experience even more unique for anyone who appreciates history. And at the same time, while the traditions are dying here, the products of the tribes’ work can often be found in many countries in Asia in particular India, Bangkok and Singapore.

While it is a very unique type of shopping trip compared to the one we would usually make to collect souvenirs from our vacation for family and friends back home, it was simply refreshing to see a community of indigenous people making a mark for themselves with their handicrafts. It’s a rare thing in life, and as our civilization progresses, it will sadly become even rarer and more unique.

Mangyan Traditional House
Mangyan Traditional House

Like most indigenous people in other parts of the globe, the tribesmen are usually taken for granted and not given equal opportunity but in Mangyan Village, they are recognized as an important part of the community. Aside from introducing them to modern technology, the village was also built to help in the preservation of Manyan’s language, writing, songs, poems, intricate weaving and art.

It’s definitely a good idea to experience it while you can, because a few decades down the road, who knows what kind of situation we’ll be in, and how much of that will be left for people like us to explore.

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