term "Mansaka" derives from "man" meaning "first" and "saka" meaning "to
ascend," and means "the first people to ascend the mountains or go upstream."
The term most likely describes the origin of these people who are found
today in Davao del Norte, specifically in the Batoto River, the Manat Valley,
the Marasugan Valley, the Hijo River Valley, and the seacoasts of Kingking,
Maco, Kwambog, Hijo, Tagum, Libuganon, Tuganay, Ising, and Panabo (Fuentes
and De La Cruz 1980:2). The Mansaka are generally fair with bridged
noses, brown hair, and oval faces. In 1972 the population estimate
of the Mansaka was around 4,000 (Magana 1972:347).
scholars have classified the Mansaka as a Mandaya subgroup (Bagani 1980:30;
Cole 1913:165; Fuentes and De La Cruz 1980:1). Linguistically at
least, the Mandaya-Mansaka group of languages is often classified under
the Manuvu linguistic group which includes the dialects of the Tagacaolo
of Davao del Sur, Davaoeno of Davao City, Mansaka or Mandaya of Davao del
Norte, and Isamal of Samal Island (Bagani 1980:95).
(1987:5-6) hypothesizes that the racial development of the Mandaya-Mansaka
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 300-200 BC and the intermarriage with the
Manobo produced the Mandaya-Mansaka. In the 13th century, the Chinese
arrived and contributed further to the racial and cultural development
of the Mandaya-Mansaka.
island of Mindanao had eluded Spanish rule until the second half of the
19th century. 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 practised by some Islamized groups,
was effectively halted, a new form of economic exploitation by the Spaniards
was introduced (Bagani 1980:121-122).
reduccion was only partially successful. Many Christianized Mandaya-Mansaka
who have intermarried with the Visayan, eventually returned to the mountains
and to their old way of life. This was due to the frequent Muslim
raids in the 17th and 18th centuries (Gagelonia 1967:259).
Americans were more successful. The Mandaya-Mansaka were encouraged
to work in coastal plantations and adopt the lifestyle of Christianized
natives. The American effort was helped by Japanese businessmen,
who developed the abaca industry by introducing new ideas and technology
into the area. During the Commonwealth, laws liberalizing Christian
migration to the are further changed the lifestyle of many Mandaya-Mansaka
(Gagelonia 1967:259-260; Bagani 1980:123).
BELIEFS AND PRACTICES
manaog or domestic gods are represented by wooden statues standing on a
parangka (pedestal). Manaog have sexes which can be discerned on
the sculpture and ornaments on the statues. Offerings are given to
the manaog after rice planting, harvest, and before death. The rituals
can be either indoor or outdoor. If indoor, the balian places humay,
wine, manok, 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 1 m wooden poles arranged like an Indian
teepee skeleton. Either way, a manaog about 30 cm high, is placed
at the foot of the siklat. The manaog of the balian are kept on the
ceiling near the kitchen, where they become black from the smoke.
has been introduced and 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. Curiously the Mansaka belong to various Christian
denominations, often at the same time. For example, in 1973, close
to 95% of the Mansaka were Catholics at the same time that they were members
of other Christian sects - the Baptist Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses,
and so forth (Magana 1973:15, 26-27).
Mansaka religious beliefs persist in native medicine. 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 baay (Magana 1973:27).
traditional medicine is rarely used even by the children of the balian,
who go to the Christian town doctor. But the older Mansaka still
believe that sickness is caused by supernatural beings and thus make offerings
to the gods (Magana 1973:28).
ARTS AND CRAFTS
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 plant of the same name. Dagmay designs are varied --- squares,
human forms, laron na opat (crocodiles), dots, among others. The
most common designs are the laron na opat which holds an aesthetic and
religious significance for the Mansaka. Squares, dots, and other
geometric designs appear on clay pots and patadyong (barrel skirt);
human-figure designs are available but rare (Magana 1973: 24-25).
women wear the dagum (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 Visayan, the piamuntakan, saragboy,
and dagmay, all painstakingly made by the Mansaka and worn only on special
occasions. The last is made of dagmay or stamped young abaca fibers
(Magana 1973: 16-17; Fuentes and De la Cruz 1980:3).
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, and panahi strips and red cloth lined across the shoulders and hem,
respectively. The shirt is closed by rattan twines which are also
used to hold up the trousers (Magana 1973:17).
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 skirt. Mansaka barikog (earplugs),
which are gold-plated rubber discs about 0.6 am thick and 2.5 cm in diameter,
dot the ears. The size of the holes on the earlobes is determined
by the size of the barikog. Attached to the barikog are liaog or
bead strands of various colors. Barikog (necklaces) include the parotgot
or 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 or 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 or brass bracelet also worn by male
Mansaka. Very distinctive among the Mansaka is the paratina (see
logo of this article) or silver breastplate 15 cm in diameter. Female
balian also carry the tungkaring (bells) which are placed at the back of
the shirtwaist, and are used in ceremonial dances to placate angry gods.
The men wear the sarakob (hats made from tamboorang) to protect themselves
from the heat of the sun. A mamaan (betel nut container) attached
to a string tied to the waist forms part of the male costume. Until
the class was abolished, the bagani and maniklad had worn punod and bell
on their legs, and red/white pudong (headbands). The sinturon or
loose belt was used more for ornamental than practical purposes.
The Mansaka youth of today dress more like the Visayan lowlanders (Magana
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 (Magana 1973:18).
weapons include the following varieties of spear: the piaransan,
a spear with a 30-cm blade attached to it, the tuklo, a spear with a blunt
point 7.5 cm long, and the budjak, a spear with a leaflike blade, 10 cm
long and 7.5 cm wide. In the past, Mansaka warriors carried the karasag
(wooden shields 12 cm long) with their spears; nowadays, only two of these
karasag remain. Other weapons include those which require the use
of arrows: the sumpitan and the busog or bow made of a bamboo stick
with a rattan twine strung to its ends (Magana 1973:24).
wood carving art is exemplified by the wooden statues of their manaog which
can be classified into male and female. The male manaog stands on
a parangka and is about 15 cm high. The eyes of the male manaog
are made of two red glass beads, the ears, of earplugs with pendants, 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 (Magana 1973:26).
pottery, and brassware are not only art forms for the Mansaka but are also
used as containers. Examples are: the mamaan, a brass box to
hold chewing ingredients; the patakia, a brass dowry box; the coron, a
hemispherical clay pot decorated with dots and triangles; the tibud (an
earthen jar to store biais or wine), the bikat, a rattan travelling basket
with shoulder slings, and waist and headbelts; the bakotal, (a cylindrical,
30-cm high mudfish container), ababa (a finely woven needle box with wooden
linings inside), cabebeng (a 30-cm high 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)
Mansaka make their sarong or lamp by wrapping dried lauan sap in abaca
leaf, and tying this cover with rattan twine. When burned, it exudes
the smell of incense (Magana 1973:29).
Mansaka possess a wide array of musical instruments, giving life to their
songs and dances. Examples of Mansaka musical instruments include
the agong or round brass percussion instrument; a larger version of the
agong is the tarabon, which was used to give war signals. The kudlog
or two-stringed guitar which resembles the Maranao kudyapi (lute) comes
in two varieties: a binudyaan or a two-string eight-fret guitar which has
the shape of a boat with a curved neck at the end, or a binarig which has
only four frets. Another Mansaka string instrument is the four-chord
takol which is made of bamboo about 60 cm long and has pieces of
wood placed under the string for tuning and pitch control. The kubing
or jew's harp is carved out of bamboo, measures 12.5-15 cm long and 7.5
cm wide, and produces a soft melody when vibrated. Wind instruments
include the parundag or Mansaka saxophone which is a 60-cm 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 or gong ensemble consisting of several
graduated gongs (Fuentes and De la Cruz 1980:3-4, 116-119; Magana 1972:353;
kay laong nang Amando
da sang karim ko,
sang kadigi ko.
panday kadyag ko
pa kay mayninan,
gid ko pandugang,
was said by Amado,
voice of the thunderbolt,
is my love,
object of my affection.
want girls very much ---
is a woman
married, I want to marry again
tied, I want to be tied again.
is a woman;
married, I will love you;
married, I have affection for you.
is the only one I want for a companion.
is the only one I want
embrace in bed
to be my companion in marriage.
of the most popular Mansaka instruments is the gimbal or drum made of bahi
(betel nut) and animal hide, of which two are appropriate: doeskin and
male deerskin. The Mansaka believe that the animal hide which have
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 male's (Magana 1972:353; Magana 1973:25-26).
folk songs are expressive of the group's culture, folkways, and traditional
beliefs about the world and themselves. Magana (1972:356-357,373)
has identified two forms of Mansaka folk songs: the saliada, which is similar
to the ballad, and the bayok or songs of love and adventure. The
former resembles the ballad in style, i.e., it employs refrain and repetition.
An example of the saliada is "Amando" which tells of a protagonist who
wakes up one morning, leaves his wife, and decides to marry another woman.
A portion of the "Amando" follows (Magana 1972:357-362):
Magana (1972:373) mentions the existence of the Mansaka bayok, no samples
have been recorded.
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 assumes a more leisurely role. One such dance
is the anito balyan 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. Color is added with dancing
girls, waving palm fronds, and flickering lights. The japa kaunod,
tha Mansaka version of the courtship dance, is performed by a boy "dancing
in a path around the girl." The inamo na sayaw or monkey dance is
performed by two people, while the udol commemorates fallen warriors (Orosa-Goquingco
1980:136-137). l G.E.P. Cheng with notes from E.A> Manuel
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Vol. XC, (1961), 26-36.
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