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by Joel Velasquez

"Mandaya" derives from "man" meaning "first," and "daya" meaning "upstream" or "upper portion of a river," and therefore means "the first people upstream". It refers to a number of groups found along the mountain ranges of Davao Oriental, as well as to their customs, language, and beliefs. The Mandaya are also found in Compostela and New Bataan in Davao del Norte.
Scholars have identified five principal groups of Mandaya: the Mansaka or those who live in the mountain clearings; the Manwaga or those who lived in the forested mountain areas; the Pagsupan or those who make a living in the swampy banks of the Tagum and Hijo rivers; the Managusan or those who live near the water; and the Divavaogan who are found in the southern and western parts of the Compostela (Bagani 1980:30; Cole 1913:165).
    The Mandaya generally have high foreheads, prominent cheekbones, broad noses, thick lips and angular features. They are generally fair (Valderrama 1987:6-7). Population estimate in 1988 was about 22,000 for the Mandaya found in Davao Oriental, and about 33,000 for the whole country (Peralta 1988:8).
    Mandaya Warrior

Valderrama (1987:5-6) hypothesizes that the Indonesians, who came to the Philippines in a series of immigration waves from 3000 to 500 BC, intermarried with the native women and begot the Manobo of eastern Mindanao. The Malays, who migrated to the Philippines between 300 to 200 BC through Palawan and Mindoro, intermarried with the Manobo and begot the Mandaya. The Chinese came in the 13th century and through intermarriage contributed further the racial development of the Mandaya.

The Spanish conquest brought about Christianity and an inducement for the Mandaya to settle in villages. The Christianized Mandaya who have resettled intermarried with Visayan and other emigrants. Because of frequent Muslim raids, however these Christianized Mandaya were forced to return to the mountains and their old way of life.
Americans brought with them a form of political participation that was inaugurated by the Christian political leaders when Davao was made into a regular province in 1922. American planters in the Davao area did encourage the Mandaya to work in the coastal plantations and adopt the lifestyle of Christianized natives. Many of the Mandaya who did so eventually returned to the mountains armed with new ideas and technology. This led to further changes in the lifestyle of many Mandaya districts (Gagelonia 1967:259-260).

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Religious Beliefs and Practices

Many Mandaya have been Christianized by the Spaniards. The Christianity that they profess, however, is a mix of traditional Catholicism with their own indigenous beliefs and practices. According to the Spanish missionaries, the Mandaya consented to be converted only if their beliefs and customs would not be interfered (Bagani 1980:24). Thus, the Mandaya's attachment to animism was the problem of the missionaries. Their idols called the Manauag are made of wood from the bayog tree; the eyes are taken from the fruit of the magobahay. The idols are painted from chest up with some kind of sap. These wooden figures have no arms; the male manauag is distinguished from the female in that the latter is adorned with a comb. These idols are set in canopied altars in the Mandaya house (Bagani 1980:21).
They are also influenced by the bailana. This is true especially during the months of famine when nightly ceremonies are held. The bailana dances three or four times around the manauag while supper is being prepared. This repeated until supper is served (Bagani 1980:21-22).
The pagcayag is a ritual performed to ward off sickness. A bobo or fish trap together with seven buyo, and a pitcher of tuba in which are placed seven crabs, are covered with leaves. These are left in the middle of the house for three days. On the fourth morning, amid shouts, these items are hacked into pieces and kicked out of the house (Bagani 1980:22).
The Mandaya believe that the limoken is a bird of omen. If it sings to the left of the person, this is a good omen. However, if it sings to the right, the person must prepare for a possible attack from enemies. If it sings right in front, there is danger ahead. If it sings while a person is between trees, an ambush is waiting. If a person encounters a dead animal, death could befall him or her; the person should return at once to where he/she started. Stomping one's right foot on a pile of ashes may neutralize these bad omens. It is believed that a serpent eating the heavens causes eclipse. The Mandaya gods include Mansilatant and Daty, father and son, who are good gods, and Pudaugson and Malimbong, husband and wife, who are evil gods (Bagani 1980:22-23).

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Visual Arts and Craft

The clothes of Mandaya are considered by many as among the most beautiful in Mindanao. In general, the Mandaya costume motifs are characterized by block designs, line patterns, rickracks, scrolls, curvilinear motifs, and diamonds and crosses (De Los Reyes 1975:62,65). Another popular motif is the crocodile done at various levels of abstraction (De La Cruz 1982:60).   
  Present day Mandaya lass with a flower on her hair deftly weaves Dagmay, an abaca cloth with pale decorated stripes. Davao, ca 1990. (Cultural Center of the Philippines Library Collection).
  The dagum nang usog or man' blue collar less shirt has sleeves which may be long or three fourths in length and embroidered with lenama. The front of the dagum is open to the hipline and the edges are trimmed with contrasting colors. Men's trousers are either long or short. The pantot trousers are usually 5-7.5 cm above the knee. The long trousers are loose on the hipline but tight from the thighs to the ankles.
Mandaya women wear cotton blouses called dagum. These are usually red, blue, and black and decorated with animal and geometric designs at the back, front and sleeves. Mandaya women also wear blue gingham blouses. Old women and Christianized bailana wear black blouses. The bado nang bubay (woman's dress) is as ornately designed as the blouses and betrays Chinese influence (Valderrama 1987:7-8).
Traditional skirts are usually made of dagmay, adored in an almost A-style and pleated on one side. The waist is held by small piece of coco negra. Some old women wear the patadyong (tubular shirt) and younger girls, the cooton skirt. Poki or women's underwear is made of coconut shell, which is finely cut to prevent injury. Strings are inserted through the corner holes and tied to the waistband (Valderrama 1987:8).
Mention must be made of the Mandaya hat made of guinit.the designs are turned into the concave shape hat. In some cases, colored feathers are found at the back of the hat. When worn, thongs are attached to keep the hat in place.
The Mandaya metal craft includes the fashioning of weaponry. Among these are the balladaw (steel dagger), kakala (bolo), likod-likod (single bladed kakana) and wasay (ax for cutting wood or for self-defense).
Mandaya jewelry may be made at home when materials are available. Jewelry measures the social and economic status of the Mandaya women, no young Mandaya woman, whether single or married, goes out without donning a piece of jewelry (Valderrama 1987:8). Silver is used often for jewelry and brass casting is copied from the Muslims.
Metal jewelry includes the sampad or earrings with a silver covering and carved round with a intricate design in the center; the balyug which a type of necklace which covers the breast, and made of tiny glass beads sewn in several rounds with silver coins or crocodile teeth serving as ornaments; the patina which is an heirloom made of round gold attached to the necklace; the sangisag or metal bracelet worn by both men and women; and the tungkaling or brass trinklets worn by women on the waistband to notify people of their presence (Valderrama 1987:8-12).
Example of nonmetal jewelry include the suwat or wooden combs; the balikog or earrings made of balatinaw wood; laog or earrings made out of glass beads; pamullang or ivory and black colored necklaces; the linangaw or male necklaces representing his battle with the crocodile; and the timusug or bracelet made of rare vines and rubber (De Los Reyes 1975:66).
The Mandaya are known to carve wooden idols. An example is the Manauag, a 12.5 cm idol made of palm wood. The asho-asho is a larger Mandaya idol that represents a cock or bird, and is kept in the house together with crocodile's teeth, roots and other charms and offerings.
A practice among the Mandaya is the filing and blackening the teeth of the young. Between the ages of 10 and 12, Mandaya children pass through an initiation in which their upper and lower sets of teeth are filed evenly. Instead of brushing their teeth, the Mandaya habitually chew tobacco pellets moistened with juice of am-mong vine. This practice has strengthened their teeth (Valderrama 1987:12).  

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Performing Arts

Some example of Mandaya musical instruments are the kobeng or slender piece of bamboo resembling a Jew's harp, and played while dancing the gandang; the kudlong or a two stringed instrument similar to the kudyapi of the Maranao; the gimbal or native drum made of tree trunk or deer skin, and played to accompany a dancing bailana; the nakuyag or instrument resembling a Spanish tambourine, played to accompany the gimbal; the bonabon or instrument resembling a flute (Valderrama 1987:51-53).
Like the riddles and proverbs, Mandaya folk' songs reflect the people's collective attitude towards life and the world. Two types of folk songs have remained within the native repertoire - the oyog-oyog (lullaby) and the bayok (love and adventure songs). The former deals with childhood and parental love; the lyrics and poetic and often center on maternal love and aspirations. The music is soothing (Fuentes and De la Cruz 1980:25).

Oyog-oyog, mag oyog-oyog . . .
Masinga nang Bullawan
Diyanay yagadadallawon
Baan sumngaw makawong
Dumallaw makagwa
Walla kaw sa pangubsa
Walla kaw sa pangkawasa,
Nang mallugon diabongan mo
Magaon na siollambodan mo;
Malaygon sa gigiba
Pugtok sa llollumpasi.

Walla sa pangungubsa
Wa sa pangawasa;

Awson pagpaka-indo
Ubson magpakagawa.

La - la - la- la - larin - larin . . .

Among the protodramas found among the Mandaya are the ritual balilig and the one called "the making of a Mandaya Datu". The former is one of the highest forms of Mandaya worship performed by a bailana to cure illness believed to be caused by the busaw or blood thirsty spirits. It is believed that the busaw has taken the sick person's soul and has hidden it inside the sun. The balilig is performed to appease the busaw. In the course of ceremony, the bailana stares at the sun waiting for it to open and release the sick person's soul. The performance of the balilig is announced to the temporal and spiritual worlds the night before. At about eight in the evening, a deer hide drum is played. At sunrise, an altar is erected on which a pig is laid facing the rising sun. a branch of sallapaw tree, decorated with mama-on (betel nut) flowers, is placed beside the altar bending to the east of the pig (Nabayra 1979:45).
When people gather, the drummer starts with the basal beat and the women begin to dance. The beating gets faster and the dancing get more hypnotic. The bailana present each calls upon her favorite kallbas or mugbong to suck the blood of the sacrificial pig (Nabayra 1979:45-46). The ancient chant goes thus:
O Mugbong, pangayon ka
Kallbas, kagomon kaw;
Sang amabalik na balyan
Amawaon na danginan.

The climax of the ceremony involves the stabbing of the sacrificial pig at the right armpit. All the bailana present, even those who did not dance, take turns in sucking the blood and partaking of the raw flesh of the pig. It is believed that the bailana are only acting as the medium of the blood - thirsty busaw. After this, the chief bailana dips a brunch of the bagaybay or flower of the betel nut in the blood of the pig and anoints the right palm of the sick person with the line from the middle of the palm towards the middle finger.
Another ceremonial rite is the one called "the making of a Mandaya Datu". Before a candidate is proclaimed a datu, he dances about brandishing his kampilan (large sword). The climax is reached when the priest, carrying a sprig of betel nut flower, dances in front of a candidate and sprinkles water on his forehead.
Orosa-Goquingco (1980:139) mentions the "Courting Dance" which is described as having the fiercely beautiful movements of a mountain hawk. The dancers' feet make rapid movements, creating circular patterns around each other, as their arms spread out like wings of eagles. A similar dance is the kinabua performed by a man and a girl or two girls. The dance portrays the hawks' use of sweet songs to lure out the hen and the chicks that are then made into a meal.
Sampak is a war dance of the Mandaya. It requires great skill in the handling of a spear, a sword, and a shield. The sayaw is a dance performed originally by the bailana; nowadays, children may imitate the dance. Like the bailana, two young dancers are dressed completely in native attire. The tungkaling is fastened to the dagmay skirt, and a neckerchief is held on the right hand. The dance starts with a prelude called the basal wherein the gimbal is played slowly. Following the beat, the dance proceeds to the sinakay-sakay or slow swaying of the bottoms. As the beat becomes faster, the movement progress accordingly (Valderrama 1987:53).
Another Mandaya dance is the gandang, accompany by the kudlong or kobeng. It is a free dance for all and usually starts when the elderly get tipsy with wine during a tribal celebration. The dancers may create their own actions that usually follow the rhythm and mood of the music (Valderrama 1987:54).

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